Newsletter: 2017 General Assembly Session- Volume 3

We're nearly one-third of the way through the 2017 Session.  This week is the last week Senate and House committees will act on bills before crossover, so we are in for long days.  

On Monday, the Senate considered SB 1055 increasing the penalties for failure to leave the place of any riot or unlawful assembly after being lawfully warned to disperse. I highlighted my opposition to this bill  in last week's newsletteron the radio, in my most recent Richmond Free Press update, and spoke against the bill on the Senate floor.  I'm pleased to report the bill was defeated  14-26.  You can watch my floor remarks opposing the bill  here.

In a victory for equality, the Senate passed SB 783 (Sen. Ebbin) prohibiting discrimination in public employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and SB 822 (Sen. Wexton) prohibiting such discrimination in housing.  I was proud to co-sponsor both bills, which passed 25-14. Unfortunately both face an uphill battle in the House.  
The Senate also passed several bills that I co-patroned to strengthen relations between law enforcement and communities, align Virginia with the rest of the nation in punishment for theft, and assist former felons who reintegrate into society after completing their sentences:    
  • SB 1047 (Sen. Lucas) expands mandatory training for law-enforcement officers to include fair and impartial policing, verbal de-escalation, and the needs of special populations;
  • SB 816 (Sen. Surovell) increases the grand larceny felony threshold from $200, currently one of the lowest in the nation, to $500; and
  • SB 1171 (Sen. Dance) "bans the box" by removing questions pertaining to criminal background from the initial job application for state employment and allowing localities to do the same. The prohibition does not apply to applications for employment with law-enforcement agencies, certain positions designated as sensitive, or in instances where a state agency is expressly authorized by a specific federal or state law to inquire into criminal history for employment purposes. Agencies may consider criminal history later in the process, but this bill removes a significant barrier for many to even be considered for employment.   
The Senate also passed 36-3 legislation to regulate predatory online loans.   SB 1126 (Sen. Surovell) makes clear that Virginia's consumer finance laws apply to internet loans made to Virginia residents or any individuals in Virginia, whether or not the person making the loans maintains a physical presence in the Commonwealth.
My Legislation

Unfortunately, last week I had to strike two of my bills  to address concerns raised by stakeholders that could not be resolved in the short amount of time left before crossover: 
  • SB 1476 addressing training for hearing officers for teacher dismissal hearings; and
  • SB 1477 addressing assessments to determine the best learning media for blind and visually impaired students.   
I will work with stakeholders over the next year to address their concerns and potentially bring these bills back next year.  

I also struck SB 1519 meningococcal conjugate (MCV4) to the list of immunizations school children receive prior to entering sixth grade. The House version of this bill sponsored by Delegate Hope ( HB 1533) failed to report 5-6 in a House subcommittee, and my bill was sure to face a similar fate.  

Despite its unanimous recommendation by the Virginia Crime Commission, SB 1478 allowing courts to modify a restitution payment plan or the amount of restitution owed for good cause shown failed to report out of the Courts of Justice Committee. Delegate Herring carried the House version ( HB 2083), which met a similar fate.

You can track the progress of my legislation through the session  here. 

To contact me on legislative matters or for help with a state agency contact the my office at (804) 698-7509 or
You can also stay informed about General Assembly activities by  following me on twitter and  liking my Facebook page