Hala’s Highlights from Session: Crossover Edition!

 

Happy Valentine’s Day! It’s fitting today is the day for love. Because if there’s one theme to represent our session this year, it’s a love for our Commonwealth. We’re showing affection for our environment by passing landmark energy bills. We’re showing our passion for our schools by supporting the Governor’s huge increase in education funding. And, of course, we’re protecting everyone’s ability to love whoever their heart desires!

This Tuesday was Crossover. Crossover is the deadline for the House to review and pass all of its legislation to send it over the Senate for consideration, and vice versa. This year, we passed a record 828 bills by crossover, including a number of my bills. Take a look at some of the highlights from this week!

Actions on My Bills this Week

HB 201: This bill that would establish same day voting registration just passed the House and is headed to the Senate! I’m looking forward to this bill’s passage. This legislation eliminates the arbitrary voter registration deadline and would allow any qualified voter in Virginia to register to vote or update their registration up to and including election day.  Link to bill: click here

HB 1092: This bill, which I am carrying on behalf of the Department of Motor Vehicles, would reorganize and clarify certain parts of our code that are outdated and related to the DMV’s responsibilities. It would also restrict the release of DMV issued photographs to government agencies and allows the DMV to maintain compliance with federal and state law. This bill passed the House 99-0 on Tuesday!  Link to bill: click here 

HB 1641: HB 1641 would require a utility to send a letter, listing all of the toxins found in coal ash and how and where to be properly tested, to residents living within a 1.5 mile radius of a coal ash site if their drink water comes from a well. This bill passed out of the House with bipartisan support.  Link to bill: click here

HB 1642: Like HB 1641, HB 1642 deals with coal ash. This bill would establish a medical monitoring program for residents living within a 3 mile radius of a coal ash site. This bill also passed House 75-22 and is heading over to the Senate.  Link to bill: click here

Record number of House bills passing

As was mentioned above, a record 828 bills passed the House of Delegates so far this session. But it’s not necessarily the number of bills that is important. It’s what they do. 

This session could possibly mark some of the most comprehensive and positive changes our Commonwealth has seen since the General Assembly first gavelled in more than 400 years ago. While Virginia has a very detailed history, it’s our future I’m looking forward to, and the bills we passed this year gives me a lot of hope!

 Here are some huge pieces that passed:

Women’s Rights

We have made a ton of progress this session by passing legislation to protect and advance women’s rights here in the Commonwealth. We started our session off by passing HJ 1, and finally ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. I have been fighting for the ERA’s ratification over a decade and was so honored to be a Chief Co-Patron this year. The ERA finally writes gender equality into the U.S. Constitution and is a huge step forward. The House also passed HB 980, which repealed burdensome regulations on a woman’s right to choose. This bill helps protect choice in Virginia and is a big leap forward for women’s rights in our Commonwealth.

Environment

A number of bills protecting our environment passed the House this year (two of them being my coal ash bills listed above!). One of the most comprehensive environmental bills that passed this session, and possibly in the entire history of this body, is HB 1526, the Virginia Clean Economy Act. This bill overhauls our regulatory system so it helps establish a much more sustainable environment in Virginia. One of the bill’s key features is the establishment of a plan to achieve 100% carbon free electric energy generation by 2050. A litany of other bills dealing with issues from promoting the use of energy efficient vehicles to encouraging investments in renewable energy like solar made it through the House as well!

Equality

The House also passed several measures to protect LGBTQ+ equality in our Commonwealth. These pieces of legislation include HB’s 581, 696, 1049, and 1663, which prevents discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing and employment. Equity and equality are the centerpieces of my legislative agenda. That is why I was so proud to finally pass these four bills with my colleagues this year. 

Criminal Justice

Just this Tuesday, the House passed HB 972,  a comprehensive marijuana decriminalization bill. This bill removes the criminal penalty for simple possession and creates a civil fine of $25. This is a major step forward in preventing low-level offenders from receiving jail time for a non-violent offense. 

Firearm Safety

The House passed 8 major pieces of gun sense legislation that will save lives. These pieces include universal background checks, red flag laws, and regulation on assault weapons. I am proud to have voted for these common sense gun safety legislation. We must make our communities safer by ensuring those with histories of violence do not have access to firearms and by keeping military-style weapons off the streets.  

Education

Among our landmark policy package for this session is a large focus on the Commonwealth’s students. The Governor’s budget, which I am proud to support, includes a huge $1.2 billion investment in Virginia’s education budget. Some parts of this funding include: $140 million for at-risk students, $145 million for a salary increase for our teachers, $10 million to pay for school breakfasts and lunches for students who qualify for reduced meals, $99 million to increase the amount of counselors at every grade level, and so much more.

Worker’s Rights

Last year, Virginia was ranked best for business while being ranked worst for workers in the country. Our House knows that for long-term economic growth, we must ensure that we are protecting worker’s rights. That is why we passed HB 582, which finally repealed a 2013 that banned public employees from collective bargaining. HB 582 allows public employees to negotiate for better pay and working conditions, so it is a big win for our Commonwealth. Additionally, we passed HB 395, which raises the minimum wage in our Commonwealth to $15 by 2023. Our workers deserve a living wage, and this phased-in increase will ensure that while giving time for businesses to acclimate. 

Voting Rights

The House of Delegates also passed several bills to expand voting rights. HB 1 establishes the no-excuse absentee voting program, which will expand access to the ballot box for Virginians. My bill, HB 201, creates a same-day voter registration program. Our Commonwealth is one of the hardest places to vote, and my same-day voter registration bill tackles this problem. HB 207 and HB 238 also passed the House this session. HB 207 establishes a vote by mail program, which has been very successful in other states to increase voter turnout. HB 238 creates an absentee ballot grace period of 3 days to ensure that every vote is fully counted. These reforms are critical to expanding access to the ballot box to all Virginians, which is why I was glad to support them. 

Office Visits

One of my favorite things is when constituents stop by the Pocahontas Building and advocate for issues that they deeply care about. This week, we had several groups of constituents and passionate advocates stop by.

We joined Delegate Luke Torian in welcoming the National Coalition of 100 Black Women of Prince William County to the General Assembly.  It was great to see so many familiar faces down here in Richmond while they were advocating legislation to help the minority communities in our Commonwealth. We are making progress to end the high maternal mortality rate for women of color and break up the school-to-prison pipeline. I’m so grateful for their group’s work over the past few years on these issues as our progress is built on their work.

I was also able to meet with some of my constituents with the Good Neighbor Care. These passionate care providers came in support of funding for people with mental and developmental services. It is important that our Commonwealth is an inclusive place for all Virginians, and their continued continued advocacy ensures that.

Additional Legislation

This session, legislation that I introduced has been sent to the speaker for further study. For instance, privacy was a huge topic of discussion this year given my background in national security.  Legislation introduced has passed out of the assigned committee(s) with a study prior to implementation.  

Here is a list of the pieces of legislation that will move on to a study until 2021: 

HB 322 Cybersecurity Advisory Council; created, report

HB 323 Criminal sexual assault; definition of intimate parts

HB 952 Digital services; protection for minors

HB 954 Cybersecurity; care and disposal of customer records; security for connected devices

HB 955 Children's online privacy protection

HB 956 Virginia Consumer Protection Act

HB 958 College and Career Readiness Steering Committee; Secretary of Education to establish

HJ 23 Voter records/election results; Dept. of Elections to study use of blockchain technology to protect

HB 1640 Obtaining records concerning electronic communication service or remote computing service; location data.

Here is a full list of all introduced legislation which can be found on the Legislative Information System (LIS).  click here

Emergency Contact Information

While we enjoy this time of year with our family and friends, it is always important to make sure we stay safe from inclement weather or any other danger.

Here is a link to Prince William County’s Emergency Services: PWC Emergency Link 

Additionally, you can find information on Prince William County school delays, closures or emergencies here: PWCS Closure, Delays, and Emergencies 

Winter Travel updates, suggestions and contact information: VDOT Winter Travel

NVRC Homeless Shelter List

Many of us aren’t so fortunate to enjoy the comforts the rest of us have. Things like shelter may be something a lot of folks don’t think about, but for many who don’t have stable access to it, it can very literally be life or death.

The winter months can be especially brutal to the homeless in our community. The Northern Virginia Regional Commission has updated their Homeless Services List. If you know someone who doesn’t have a home and needs shelter ASAP, please use their website to gain more information about homeless shelters in the region. You can visit the website here.

Thank you for your continued support!

I am so humbled to have been re-elected by the 51st District. I will continue to fight for you and keep the trust you have placed in me. As always, my door will be open to you should you need it. Thank you again for your support.

I take my legislative cues from you, the constituents who I represent every time I take a vote in Richmond. Your voice is an integral part of the 51st District’s well-being and betterment.

It is the honor of my lifetime to serve you, Looking forward to seeing you out and about in Prince William County! 

Sincerely, 

Hala Ayala