2019 General Assembly Session Update - Volume 2

We are now through week two of the 2019 General Assembly Session.  We began welcoming our newest Senator, Jennifer Boysko (D-33), who succeeded now Congresswoman Jennifer Weston.  
Last, we passed legislation prohibiting discrimination in public employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (SB 998 - Ebbin), bans-the-box requiring information on past conviction on an initial application for public employment (SB 1199 - Dance), and eliminates the death penalty as an option or a defendant in a capital case who had a severe mental illness, as defined in the bill, at the time of the offense (SB 1137 - Favola).  

Also last week my first bill of the Session passed unanimously.  SB 1108 clarifies that the Marsh Criminal-Traffic Division at Manchester General District Court has concurrent jurisdiction with the John Marshall Criminal-Traffic Division at Richmond General District Court over all matters arising in the City of Richmond. This bill was a recommendation of the Committee on District Courts.  

Two of my housing bills outlined in last week's newsletter also passed the Senate and now head to the House.  SB 1062  prohibiting localities from discriminating in the application of local land use ordinances/guidelines or in the permitting of housing developments solely on the basis that they include affordable units passed 36-4.  You can watch the Committee hearing on the bill here.

SB 1109 prohibiting discrimination on the basis of an individual's sexual orientation of gender identity under the Virginia Housing Act passed 31-9.  You can watch the Committee Hearing on the bill here. 

Unfortunately, two bills failed to report out of committee on a party-line vote.  

SB 1324 requiring the reporting of lost or stolen firearms failed to report out of the Senate Courts Committee on a 6-8 vote.  This bill was requested by the Richmond Police Chief for the past three years.  This year I was also asked to carry this bill by my constituent Latisha Sessoms, who's 18 year old son Kevonte was shot and killed in 2017.  Letisha attended the Committee hearing to support SB 1324.  Watch the committee hearing here.  

SB 1451 (The Repeal Act) eliminating the medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion found in the criminal code such as the ultrasound requirement and TRAP laws, failed to report out of the Senate Education and Health Committee on a party line vote. Senator Mamie Locke's billrepealing the ultrasound requirement was rolled into my bill, effectively killing it.  Watch the committee hearing here.

I also presented my budget amendments to the Senate Finance Committee, which you can find here.  For the 
second year in a row, I proposed a budget amendment lifting the cap on support personnel in the K-12 funding formula adopted during the recession. You can read about that here.  As an alternative, I've put in additional budget amendments to fund the Standard-of-Quality ratios for school social workers, nurses, psychologist, elementary principals, and assistant principals at levels recommended by the Board of Education in 2016.  Richmond School Superintendent Jason Kamras testified in favor of these amendments to the Committee.  You can watch the Committee hearing here
ERA Ratification Passes the Senate
Last week, Virginia took a big step towards becoming the 38th State to ratify the Equal Right Amendment when the Senate passed SJ 284 26-14.  I spoke in favor of ratification in floor remarks you can watch here.  The resolution now goes to the House of Delegates, where it faces a tough vote in the Privileges & Elections Committee.  

VARatifyERA has everything you need to make your voice heard in the House of Delegates on ratification.   
My Legislation

Last week I highlighted my bills dealing with criminal justice reform, education, and housing.  This week I focus on the rest of my bills that have not yet been heard in committee.  You can follow all my legislation here
Health Care
Currently health care professionals with prescribing authority are not allowed to dispense medications on site; a pharmacist must be employed to dispense medications. This presents an additional barrier to reproductive health care access, either through an extra step to get prescriptions like birth control pills by leaving the provider and going to a pharmacy, or by increasing costs by forcing reproductive health providers to employ pharmacists.  For the second year I have introduced SB 1452 to authorize the Board of Pharmacy to issue a limited license at a reduced fee to a prescriber in a nonprofit facility to dispense controlled substances and devices for contraception or treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.    
SB 1436 requires hospitals that report suspected child abuse or neglect resulting from prenatal substance exposure to (i) develop and document a written discharge plan and substance-abuse treatment referral for the mother and (ii) notify, subject to restrictions in federal law, the community services board of the jurisdiction in which the mother resides to appoint a discharge plan manager. The bill provides that such reports shall not constitute a per se finding of child abuse or neglect, but gives the Department of Social Services the ability to determine separately whether there is child abuse or child neglect and then mandates its report accordingly.  This bill fixes certain unintended consequences resulting from 2017 legislation conforming Virginia law to federal requirements relating to women's use of substances during pregnancy, including reporting data, and mandating that hospitals report infants born affected by any medications to local Child Protective Services, even when the substance used is legal and used appropriately as prescribed.  The 2017 legislation has resulted in some women with Substance Use Disorders (SUD) avoiding prenatal care altogether.
SJ 298 designates August 2019 and each succeeding August as Breastfeeding Awareness Month.  

SJ 299 designates November 17 in 2019 and in each succeeding year as World Prematurity Day.  

Redistricting Reform
On behalf of Governor Northam, I am carrying SB 1327 to establish in state law criteria by which Congressional and state legislative districts are drawn, including equal population, compactness and contiguity, racial and ethnic fairness, protection of racial and language minorities to participate and elect a preferred candidate, and respect for existing political boundaries and communities of interest.  The bill also prohibits the use of political data when drawing districts. 

Solar Energy
At the request of the Sierra Club, I introduced SB 1456 (The Solar Freedom Act) to eliminate barriers keeping Virginia's distributed Solar Industry from reaching its full potential. The bill ends restrictions that local governments, homeowners, and businesses face to install solar power, specifically solar installations that generate the electricity they use. 
In 2014, the General Assembly established a third-party Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) pilot program allowing energy consumers to contract with the developer of a renewable energy system.  The pilot program has proven to be a success and is likely to reach hit its aggregate cap of 50 MW before the end of 2019.  The pilot's success has drawn attention from new consumers throughout the state, but because of limits on individual project size and customer eligibility in some service territories not everyone can access it. I've introduced SB 1460 to raise the aggregate PPA caps and permits all public and private schools, colleges and universities in Appalachian territories to enter into PPA Contracts. 

At the request of a constituent, I introduced SB 1326 to require the State Board of Social Services to grandfather buildings in which a licensed assisted living facility was located as of February 1, 2018, from the requirement that no more than two residents reside in a bedroom. The regulations currently grandfather licensees as of that date, but if a grandfathered licensee leaves, significant renovations would be required to accommodate a new licensee or modify the building for any other use.    
SB 1439 mandates electronic filing of death certificates with the Electronic Death Registry System starting January 1, 2020. This bill is the result of stakeholder negotiations following legislation I introduced last year at the request of a funeral home director in my District.

SB 1435 gives the Commissioner of Social Services the power to issue a summary order of suspension of the license of any child welfare agency when conditions or practices exist that pose an immediate and substantial threat to the health, safety, and welfare of the children receiving care. Under the bill, the Commissioner can either suspend the license of the child welfare agency or only certain authority to operate, including the authority to provide certain services or perform certain functions that the Commissioner determines should be restricted or modified in order to protect the health, safety, or welfare of the children receiving care. The bill establishes notice, hearing, appeal, and posting requirements for such summary suspensions. The authority and process outlined in this bill is similar to what the Commissioner may currently do for adult assisted living facilities.

During the 2019 session, I am eager to hear from you on issues you care about. To share your views on legislation or identify individuals or organizations that should be commended in 2019, contact my office at (804) 698-7509 or district09@senate.virginia.gov.  You can also stop by my office in the Pocahontas Building, located at 900 East Main Street. My offices are located in E512.
You can also stay informed about General Assembly activities by following me on Twitterliking my Facebook page, and following me on Instagram
Jennifer L. McClellan
Senate of Virginia, 9th District

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