Meet Senator Jennifer McClellan
Jennifer McClellan's legislation is signed into law
Jennifer McClellan at the General Assembly
Jennifer McClellan accepting the VEA Legislative Champion Award
Jennifer McClellan supporting funding for Public Broadcasting

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Between 2004 and 2013, around 4,500 children under the age of 18 were married in Virginia. Of that 4,500, more than 200 were 15 or younger. Finally, last Friday, authorities introduced new legislation that updated rules that had, until then, made it entirely legal for girls aged 12 or 13 to be married so long as they had parental consent and were pregnant.


And shockingly, people were actually utilising the law. Figures show that between 2004 and 2013, 4,500 children under 18 were married, and of those 200 were younger than 15-years-old. 90% of those marrying underage were girls, and in most cases they married men age 21 or older.


Youtube prankster Coby Persin recently took to Times Square to photograph himself and his ‘wife’, who was 12 years old, in order to raise awareness of the long-standing legality of young marriage in Virginia. As a result, New Yorkers were stunned at the obscenity, and thus the state of Virginia has now passed a bill that update previous laws on marriage, which until now made it legally sound for girls aged 12 or 13 to be married, on the grounds of parental consent and of them being pregnant. The legal age has now been amended to 18.


Between 2004 and 2013, around 4,500 children under the age of 18 got married in the state of Virginia. Of these girls, more than 200 of them were aged 15 or under. Last week, the authorities in the state introduced new legislation that updated rules that had until then made it legal for girls aged 12 or 13 to get married if they had parental consent and were pregnant. The changes - a move that campaigners said brought Virginia’s laws into the 21st Century - followed a long fight by activists who said the change was aimed at curbing forced marriage, human trafficking and statutory rape disguised as marriage.

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Jennifer McClellan

We are now two weeks into the 2017 Session, and the pace has picked up dramatically. As we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday and ushered in the Trump Administration, the Senate considered several bills introduced by Republican Senator Richard Stuart that increase penalties for civil disobedience. These bills are part of a troubling trend by Republican legislators in several states to quash civil disobedience and curb First Amendment rights in the wake of the Black Lives Matter Movement, Trump Presidency protests, and the recent Women’s March on Washington. In addition to Virginia, similar bills have been introduced in Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Washington.

Three of the bills considered in the Virginia Senate were killed in the Courts of Justice Committee on MLK Day: SB 1056 would have increased from a Class 3 to a Class 1 misdemeanor for crossing or remaining within police lines or barricades without proper authorization; SB 1057 would have doubled the maximum jail time to 10 years in prison for participating in civil disobedience that causes harm to a person or property; and SB 1058 proposed felony charges against protesters who block any road in Virginia, punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

The final bill reported out of the Committee and was debated on the Senate floor Monday. SB 1055 increases penalties 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, such an offense would be a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail, up to a $2500 fine, or both. Given how broadly unlawful assembly is defined, this bill went too far.

Considering that many of the rights we enjoy today were the result of civil disobedience and unlawful assembly, I strongly opposed SB 1055, and spoke out against it on the Senate floor. 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. Fortunately, the bill was defeated on a 14-26 vote.

Senate Republicans also defeated bills in committee last 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 DMV to issue driver’s 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.

To sign up for email updates or learn how you can follow me on social media, visit If you would like to share your views on any issue, or would like assistance with a state government matter, please do not hesitate to contact me at or (804) 698-7509.

Tomorrow marks the half-way point of the 2017 General Assembly Session, known as "Crossover," when the House and Senate must complete work on their own bills.  Over the next two days we will debate and vote on hundreds of bills on the Senate floor covering a wide variety of topics such as immigration, voting rights, school discipline, student loans, Airbnb, the regulation of property carriers, and public procurement.  My Op-Ed in yesterday's Richmond Times Dispatch discussed some of the school discipline bills we will address.
You can watch the Senate floor sessions live or find archived video from earlier floor sessions here

Last week, the Senate passed a significant portion of the Governor's criminal justice reform package, which I was proud to co-sponsor.  SB 1188 (Sen. Edwards) ends  the policy of automatically suspending a person's driving license for a non-driving related offense. People whose licenses are suspended under these circumstances often have to choose between driving on a suspended license (risking further penalties) or not going to work to support their families. This currently affects 650,000 Virginians who have suspended licenses for non-payment of fines and a further 200,000 who have suspended licenses for non-driving violations. 
In a string of party-line votes the Senate passed several bills imposing further restrictions on voting.  First,SB 872 (Sen. Chase) requires voters submitting an application for an absentee, mail-in ballot to submit a copy of a photo ID. I voted against this bill because it does nothing to prevent voter fraud, as there is no way for local registrars to verify the validity of the ID and imposes additional barriers on the elderly, sick, or military personnel who may not have the ability to obtain a copy of one of the authorized photo IDs. 
Second, SB 1105 (Sen. Obenshain) requires local electoral boards to investigate whenever the number of registered voters exceeds the voting age population based on estimates calculated by the Weldon Cooper Center at UVA.  Unlike the US Census, the Weldon Cooper Center estimates do not represent an actual accounting of the population. Moreover, the estimates are only provided once a year, and are seven months old when released. These estimates do not provide an accurate basis for determining the voting age population on election day. 
SB 1455 (Sen. Black) makes it a Class 6 felony for any person who gives, offers, or promises any monetary payment to another in exchange for that person registering to vote, while making it only a Class 1 misdemeanor for the person who solicits or accepts any monetary payment from another in exchange for his registering to vote. No rational was given for treating the payer and the payee differently.
My Legislation
Three of my bills reported out of committee last week and will be voted on the Senate floor this week.


SB 1475 adds to the family life education curriculum guidelines regarding sexual assault age-appropriate instruction that increases student awareness of the fact that consent is required before sexual activity. It also adds instruction on the importance of family relationships. The bill reported from the Education and Health Committee 14-1.


SB 1494 establishes a legal framework to allow companies such as UZERV to pre-arrange rides with transportation network companies (like Uber and Lyft) or to request specific drivers whom they designate as their favorites. Without this legislation, companies such as UZERV cannot operate in Virginia. 


SB 1493 establishes capacity for Virginia to train K-12 teachers to teach computer science through a public-private partnership between Northern Virginia Community College and a non-profit.

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

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