Newsletter: 2017 General Assembly Session -Volume 2

Last week was the first full week of the 2017 Session, and we began to address the thousands of bills filed. Committee assignments were also announced, and I was appointed to serve on the Agriculture, Conservation & Natural Resources; Local Government; and Transportation Committees.
On Monday, as we celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee reported on a party-line vote to increase the penalty for failure to leave the place of any riot or unlawful assembly after having been lawfully warned to disperse. Rather than a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $500, SB 1055 would make such an offense a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail, up to a $2500 fine, or both. Considering that many of the rights we enjoy today were the result of civil disobedience and unlawful assembly, I strongly oppose SB 1055. As noted by the ACLU in its opposition to the bill, it is often hard to hear police orders to disperse from a protest because of the noise. This bill would subject bystanders to a protest to jail time, particularly those recording the protest who are ordered to leave. This will likely be considered on the Senate floor today, and I intend to vote no. You can hear me explain my opposition to this bill to Clovia Lawrence here
The Senate Republicans also defeated bills in committee least week to increase Virginia's minimum wage (SB 785 and SB 979), remove unconstitutional TRAP regulations that require abortion clinics to meet the same standards as hospitals (SB 877), and to authorize the DMV to issue driver privilege cards to drivers who can prove that they pay Virginia income tax, have valid car insurance, and meet statewide driving and road safety standards (SB 1345).
Some good news came out of the House of Delegates last week when a subcommittee killed HB 1612, the so called Physical Privacy Act, which was nearly identical to the North Carolina "bathroom bill" that cost that state an estimated $600 million in business and led to the defeat of Republican Governor Pat McCrory. I strongly opposed this bill, and am glad to see it fail.
My 2017 Legislation
Due to the timing of my swearing in to the Senate, I am limited in the number of bills I can introduce this session. I have introduced 7 bills this year, which you can track here
SB 1475 calls for changes to the family life education curriculum guidelines that include age-appropriate instruction that increases student awareness of the fact that consent is required before sexual activity. I am carrying this bill on behalf of the Sexual Assault Resource Agency.
SB 1476  requires the Department of Education to develop and make available to each local school board, training for hearing officers in teacher dismissal hearings. I am carrying this bill on behalf of the Virginia Education Association. 
SB 1477 makes several changes to provisions relating to blind and visually impaired students, including (i) requiring a learning media assessment (LMA) to be administered as part of the initial evaluation and each reevaluation of each student with blindness or visual impairments or more frequently, if such student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) team so determines; (ii) requiring instruction in Braille reading and writing and accommodations for materials in Braille to be included in the IEP of a student with blindness or visual impairments commensurate with his IEP team's determination of his or her needs based upon the results of such LMA, and (iii) requiring the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired to assist the Board of Education and each local school board with ongoing professional development for teachers of students with blindness or visual impairments, including knowledge of and instruction in Braille and the administration and evaluation of LMAs. I am carrying this bill on behalf of the Association for Education and Rehab of the Blind and Visually Impaired. 

SB 1478 allows a court to modify a restitution payment plan or amend the amount of restitution due for good cause shown after a hearing in which the defendant, Commonwealth's Attorney, and the victim have been notified. I am carrying this bill on behalf of the Virginia Crime Commission. 

SB 1493 establishes the Computer Science for All Virginians Students Advisory Committee and Computer Science for All Virginia Students public-private partnership. I am carrying this bill on behalf of CodeVA.

SB 1494 allows brokers to arrange rides with transportation network companies (like Uber and Lyft) but with specific drivers whom they designate as their favorites.  The bill requires such brokers to be licensed by DMV and includes insurance requirements for TNC partner vehicles operating at the request of a broker. This bill was requested by UZERV, an innovative new business in the Richmond area.
SB 1519 adds meningococcal conjugate to the list of immunizations students must receive before entering sixth grade. I am carrying this bill on behalf of the Virginia Department of Health.
I am also co-sponsoring several bills, which I will highlight next week, and that you can track here.
To contact me on legislative matters or for help with a state agency contact the my office at (804) 698-7509 or
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