My Legislation

The General Assembly convened on January 10th for a 60-day "long session." During this time we will address thousands of bills and adopt the bienniel budget for the Commonwealth. 
 
I have introduced 27 bills and resolutions in the 2018 Session General Assembly Session. You can follow my bills and their progress through the General Assembly on the LIS website.

Criminal Justice Reform
 
Although Virginia abolished parole in 1995, Virginia juries were not instructed for another five years until the Supreme Court of Virginia held in Fishback v. Commonwealth of Virginia that they should be. SB 100 requires new sentencing proceedings for those defendants convicted of nonviolent felonies prior to the abolition of parole who were sentenced before the date of Fishback decision.  While this bill reported out of committee on an 8-7 vote, it failed to pass the Senate on a 19-20 vote when one Republican changed his vote and another did not vote at all. I plan to work with Governor Northam’s Administration to see if anything can be done through the clemency process to address these individuals. You can view the committee hearing on this bill here.

SB 734 is a measure I introduced in 2015 and 2016 to require law enforcement to record custodial interrogations where practicable, and require the Department of Criminal Justice Services to establish, publish, and disseminate a model policy or guideline for law-enforcement personnel for the recording of custodial interrogations.  Initially a recommendation of the Innocence Project and drafted in consultation with law enforcement, this bill addresses the growing concern over false confessions leading to the wrongful conviction of innocent defendants by codifying what is quickly becoming a best practice for law enforcement.  This year, the Roosevelt Institute at George Mason University, a non-partisan, student-run think tank focused on drafting and implementing policy proposals on the state and local level, asked me to introduce the bill again.  SB 734 failed to report out of committee on a party-line 6-9 vote. You can watch the committee hearing on this bill here.

Education

SB 101 strengthens my bill from last year adding information on the law and meaning of consent (including instruction that increases student awareness of the fact that consent is required before sexual activity) to high school family life education curriculum. That bill permitted the curriculum to include such criteria, while SB 101 requires it.  As amended by the Senate, the bill also allows he FLE curriculum to include age-appropriate instruction in (i) prevention, recognition, and awareness of child sexual abuse and (ii) the dangers and repercussions of engaging in sexually explicit texting or social media posts. You can watch the committee hearing on this bill here

SB 456 seeks to address the teacher shortage by requiring the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop and make available every other year to each public elementary and secondary school teacher in the Commonwealth a voluntary and anonymous school personnel survey to evaluate school-level teaching conditions and the impact such conditions have on teacher retention and student achievement. The bill also requires the Superintendent to report the results to the relevant General Assembly committees. Virginia is facing some very difficult decisions on how to manage our teacher shortage. There are two sides to this equation. The first side is how to encourage young people to become teachers, and to support their efforts to complete a high-quality teacher preparation program. The other side is how we keep our best teachers in the classroom. We know teacher salaries play a part in teacher recruitment and retention, but this bill will provide the data we need to inform state and local policies to address the crisis.

Health Care

SB 287 provides for the collecting of information about spinal cord injuries to allow the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) to develop and implement programs and services for persons suffering from such injuries.  Currently, the DARs receives data regarding brain injury from the Department of Health, but has not received spinal cord injury data since 2008.  This bill was requested by the United Spinal Association of Virginia, which was founded in 2015 to provide support and resources to those who receive a spinal cord injury.  This bill will allow them to reach the estimated 10,000 individuals across the state living with spinal cord injuries to provide support services. This bill passed the Senate unanimously and awaits House action. You can watch the committee hearing here.

SB 292 clarifies that when a woman who qualifies for state medical assistance reports to a public health agency that her pregnancy is a result of rape or incest, the Board of Health is required to fund an abortion without requiring any report of such rape or incest to law enforcement. This was requested by Planned Parenthood advocates of Virginia.  This bill was defeated on a party-line vote in the Senate Education and Health Committee.  You can watch the committee hearing here.
 
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. SB 293 authorizes on-site dispensing of controlled substances and devices without obtaining a license from the Board of Pharmacy, provided that such controlled substances and devices have been prescribed for the purposes of reproductive health and are dispensed in good faith within the course of his professional practice.  This bill was requested by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia.

SB 354 authorizes the State Health Commissioner to accept, review, and issue a certificate of public need (COPN) for the establishment of a new ambulatory surgery center located in Planning District 15 for the provision of ophthalmic services. This bill was requested by an ophthalmologist in Ashland who has found it increasingly harder for to use hospital operating rooms to perform eye surgery and the Virginia Coalition to Reform COPN. Virginia’s COPN laws require healthcare providers and facilities to obtain permission from the Department of Health before they can offer certain services, purchase certain equipment or expand their facilities.  COPN laws were originally implemented in the 1970s with the intent of controlling health care costs and increasing access to care. Unfortunately, the laws did not achieve this and the federal government and 15 states have repealed their COPN programs. According to the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, Virginia currently has the 11th strictest set of COPN laws in the country. As the state has unsuccessfully grappled with COPN reform over the past few years, the current COPN laws continue to block health care access and increase the cost of health care.
 
In 2004, the General Assembly passed a law prohibiting new methadone clinics from opening within 1/2 mile of a school or daycare.  The law grandfathered existing clinics. In 2014, I sponsored HB 722 to close a loophole in the law by prohibiting any existing clinic from moving to within 1/2 mile of a school.  However, the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority (RBHA) seeks to take over a grandfathered clinic and current law prohibits them from doing so. SB 455will provide a limited exemption for the City of Richmond, allowing RBHA to take over an existing grandfathered clinic.  This bill was incorporated into SB 329 (Dunnavant), which provided the same exemption for Henrico County.
 
SB 907 (The Reproductive Health Equity Act) codifies the no co-pay contraceptive drug, device, and procedure coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into Virginia law, safeguarding these essential benefits for all Virginians.  Since 2012, Virginians have reaped both economic and health benefits from the no co-pay comprehensive coverage of contraceptives defined by regulations as part of the mandated coverage of women’s essential health services coverage under the ACA. This provides a wide range of health benefits and helps hundreds of thousands of Virginians control whether and when to have children. However, the Trump Administration and congress are trying to undo the ACA and have already acted to undercut the contraception coverage mandate.  

SB 910 (The Whole Women Health Act) will reverse some of the damage that has been done to reproductive health access in Virginia over the past few years and codify Roe v. Wade. Currently, anyone seeking an abortion in Virginia must undergo a medically unnecessary ultrasound, whether she wants one or not, must be given an option to view the image, and then endure a mandatory 24-hour waiting period before the procedure.  Virginia Health Exchange Insurance plans are blocked from covering abortion, so many women must pay out of pocket. Legislators have also prohibited Medicaid funding for most abortions — virtually cutting off a vital health service for low-income women.  You can read more about this bill and its importance in my column that appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on January 21, 2018. The bill was defeated on a party-line vote by the Senate Education and Health Committee. You can watch the committee hearing here.

Housing
 
"Inclusionary Zoning" is a term used for zoning ordinances that encourage or require the creation of housing that is affordable to people of all income levels.  Virginia refers to these ordinances as "Affordable Dwelling Unit" ordinances, and in one code section (15.2-2305) the General Assembly has authorized very limited use of these ordinances through a confusing and cumbersome process that applies only to land subject to rezoning or special exception applications.  However, in a different code section (15.2-2304) a few jurisdictions have much greater freedom in crafting affordable dwelling ordinances.  These localities are free to pass straightforward ordinances that require all developers to create a certain number of affordable units in exchange for density bonuses.  SB 290 applies code section 15.2-2304 to all jurisdictions in Virginia, providing more flexibility in the authority granted to localities to pass affordable dwelling unit ordinances and increase the stock of affordable housing.  This bill was a recommendation of The Virginia Poverty Law Center.
 
SB 909 prohibits housing providers from discriminating against people with rental assistance vouchers and other types of lawful, non-wage income by making it unlawful for landlords to refuse to accept a tenant solely because he or she is paying with a rental assistance voucher or other type of rental assistance.  Too many low-income Virginians remain trapped in high-poverty neighborhoods, even when they have done everything to try to leave:  obtained employment, maintained or repaired their credit, been excellent tenants and waited for years to obtain a rental assistance voucher.  One thing that keeps these families in high poverty areas is their inability to find affordable homes in desirable areas because landlords can lawfully discriminate against people with vouchers and other forms of rental assistance. This bill was requested by the Virginia Poverty Law Center.

Public Safety

SB 288 requires lost or stolen guns (excluding antiques) to be reported to local law-enforcement or State Police within 24 hours. This bill was requested by the Richmond Police Chief Durham.  Stolen and lost guns pose a significant risk to community safety.  The lack of mandatory reporting of stolen guns also enables gun trafficking and straw purchasing by eliminating accountability and allowing individuals whose guns end up used in connection with crime to simply say that the guns were stolen, thwarting the ability of law enforcement officers to solve violent crimes. This bill was defeated in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee on a party-line vote. You can watch the committee hearing on this bill here.

SB 360 allows local governments to prohibit the possession or carrying of firearms, ammunition, or its components in public spaces during a permitted event, or events that should require a permit based on local permitting processes.  This bill is a recommendation from Governor McAuliffe’s Task Force on Public Safety Preparedness and Response to Civil Unrest, which was established through Executive Order 68 (2017) after the violent civil unrest that occurred in Charlottesville on August 12 when Neo-Nazis and white supremacists from 35 states descended upon the city as part of a “Unite the Right” rally, many with the intent to agitate the crowd or incite violence.  Large gatherings with the potential for violence pose significant threats to public safety, which can be exacerbated by the presence of firearms.  The After Action Review conducted of the state’s support of the City of Charlottesville leading up to and on August 12 identified that this type of event signals a new era of protests.  Event organizers are becoming more sophisticated, with some soliciting “professional agitators”.  Accordingly, we must equip state and local governments and law enforcement with the necessary tools to prepare for these types of events and put necessary public safety precautions in place.  When a pro-Confederate rally occurred in Richmond a month later, the Commonwealth could ban firearms for any permit granted for demonstrations at the Robert E. Lee Statue on Monument Avenue because it is state property.  But the City of Richmond was powerless to do so anywhere else along Monument Avenue or elsewhere. This bill was passed by indefinitely by the Courts of Justice Committee. You can watch my presentation of SB 360 here

Transportation/Driving

SB 291 codifies language that has been in the budget since 1991 authorizing Department of Motor Vehicles to establish, where feasible and cost efficient, contracts with public-private partnerships to provide for simplification and streamlining of services through electronic means. The bill codifies electronic services that the Department of Motor Vehicles has created pursuant to existing budget authority to provide simple, fast, efficient, and secure titling and registration of vehicles for customers and lienholders. You can watch the committee hearing here.

SB 359 allows the DMV Commissioner to authorize retired local law enforcement personnel with the proper training and qualifications to teach driver education. Current law only allows the Commissioner to allow retired Virginia State Police officers to teach drivers education. You can watch the committee hearing here.   
 
SB 908 expands the authority of localities, public institutions of higher education, community colleges, and the State Department of Conservation and Recreation to install fee-based electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. This bill would facilitate increased use of electric or hybrid-electric vehicles among Virginia residents; the ability of visitors or employees of local government facilities, recreation centers, county and state parks, and university and community college campuses to charge their EVs on-site; and the opportunity for specified governmental and educational entities to finance the installation of expensive charging stations by collecting fees, thereby expediting the deployment of charging equipment.

Miscellaneous

SB 289 specifies that the Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council shall not redact from any document or form made available to the public any business name.

SB 353 authorizes the Department of Conservation and Recreation to convey certain real property adjacent to the White Oak Technology Park in Henrico County to the Economic Development Authority of Henrico County in return for the grant of an open space easement and the dedication of a natural area preserve on a portion of the White Oak Technology Park property.  This was requested by Henrico County.

SB 355 designates the areas that constitute the service territory of the City of Richmond's natural gas utility.  This bill was requested by the City of Richmond. At my request, the bill was carried over to the 2019 General Assembly Session to allow the City of Richmond and Columbia Natural Gas, which serves adjacent territory, to continue working on the bill.

SB 356 establishes an Office of Inspector General for Richmond City.  The inspector general shall be appointed by the council, and the duties of the inspector general shall be to conduct such investigations as are authorized by the Code of Virginia for a local government auditor.  This bill was requested by Richmond City Council.
 
In Virginia, individuals filing death certificates have the option to do so electronically or in paper form. SB 357 eliminates paper death certificate filings with the State Registrar in order to streamline the process of filing death certificates online only.  This bill was requested by a funeral home director in Charles City County.
 
Currently, local voting registrars must advertise every voter registration event they attend or sponsor.  SB 358 exempts registrars from the advertising requirement when the event is closed to the public (such as events at public high schools) or when the registrar is not the sponsor of the event, but rather an invitee.  This will open up opportunities for registrars to get more rising high school seniors registered and educated on the importance to vote.  Additionally eliminating the required advertising for events where the registrar is an invitee, allows him or her to more freely engage in events without the prohibitive costs of advertising.  This was requested by the Richmond Registrar to facilitate voter registration activities at high schools.  The bill was defeated on a party-line vote in the Senate Privileges & Elections Committee. You can watch the committee hearing here.
 
SB 906 creates the occupational title of "master barber" and requires the board to issue a license to practice as a master barber to any individual licensed as a barber prior to December 8, 2017.  This bill effectively grandfathers those barbers who were trained and licensed to provide certain services before the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation made certain changes to the barber licensing requirements.  

SJ 38 commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The resolution is a recommendation of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission, which I chair.

SJ 42 extends state recognition to the Wolf Creek Cherokee Tribe of Virginia within the Commonwealth.  This was requested by the Wolf Creek Cherokee, who reside in Eastern Henrico.
 
As always, if you would like more information or to express your thoughts on legislation before the General Assembly, please 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.
 
Click here to see my 2017 legistlationmy 2016 legislationmy 2015 legislationmy 2014 legislation, and my 2013 legislation. To learn more about my legislation from prior sessions, visit my "Member Bio" page on the General Assembly website. 

Follow Jenn on:

Get Involved: