Representing Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax

Newsletter - April 1, 2019

The Governor of Virginia signed 819 bills into law from the 2019 session. He vetoed 17 bills and recommended amendments to 46 bills and the budget, on which he suggested 40 amendments. You can see a summary of the Governor's non-budget actions by clicking here and his budget actions by clicking here

This Wednesday, April 3rd, the Virginia General Assembly will reconvene in Richmond for our "post-veto session." It will be up to us, when we reconvene, to decide whether or not we agree with the Governor's approximately 100 decisions (63 bills and 40 budget amendments).

 

You play a role in my decision-making as well. If I represent you and you have a view on any of the 64 bills up for determination on Wednesday, please don't hesitate to email me to share your views.
 

Caucus Goalie
 

Devoted readers of my newsletters know I take my role as “Caucus Goalie” (officially, Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Caucus) -- defending the people of Virginia from bad laws -- very seriously.

Because of that, in many ways, the immediate aftermath of session is all aboutdefense. Much of my time for the past five weeks has been spent advocating to the Governor and his staff about what he should do on specific bills and organizing my colleagues to support the Governor when he does the right thing.

I recommended to the Governor that he either veto or amend 27 different bills that passed the General Assembly this past session, and I gave him the reasons for my suggestions. I am grateful to the Governor for acting in agreement with my suggestions on 18 of those 27 bills, including virtually all the bills on which I held strong views.

Some of the bills that I championed for and received a veto on included bills expediting concealed carry permits for non-Virginians, forcing local police to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement deport our neighbors, and making voting more difficult. We talked about these bills in prior newsletters.

 

 
 

I Jumped in Front of the Goal for Seven Bills this Year:

Shepherding them from Unanimous Support
to Almost Certain Defeat
 

In my role as Caucus Goalie, my staff and I devote long hours to poring over bills on the “uncontested calendar" just before they go to the floor for a vote of all 100 delegates in the House. Bills get on the uncontested calendar when no one votes against them (or abstains) in committee. In other words, these bills have only gotten yes votes and are speeding their way to becoming law unanimously, with no roadblocks in front of them. Hundreds of bills pass by us uncontested in a flash, including more than 100 on our busiest day.

Most of the time, these bills are solid and uncontroversial. (That’s why no one votes against them in committee.) But every now and then, you find a really bad bill that, in the rush of getting business done, escaped scrutiny.

That's where I come in.

It’s my job, as I see it, to catch the bad bills and put up any necessary roadblocks.

I read the uncontested bills very carefully, and, when they are complicated, I do my best to double-check with experts on the issues involved. Sometimes the experts are my fellow delegates. Sometimes it’s affected groups. But I do my best to be crystal clear as to exactly what each bill does in all its aspects. Given the fast pace with which we work, voting on more than 1000 bills in just a few short weeks, it’s kind of like searching for a needle in a haystack. But I feel a duty not just to review the regular (contested) dockets where someone saw a problem in committee; I also feel a strong duty to thoroughly examine the uncontested docket with as much rigor as time permits.

Any delegate can "pull" a bill off the uncontested calendar to vote against it, to speak against it, and/or to try to recruit their colleagues to vote against it. This year, I believe I moved more bills from the uncontested to the regular (contested) calendar than any other delegate in the House.

Some of my efforts succeeded, and some failed.

This year, I had a new personal record for stopping bills that would have passed the House unanimously had I not flagged them.

I know I stopped at least seven bills from being passed unanimously. At least two bills I removed from the uncontested calendar in the House died in the Senate:HB1947 (mandatory minimums for children convicted of making a school threat) andHB2127 (a badly written child-custody bill). One bill on which I was originally the lone no vote died in committee: HB2043 (a bill that made it easier for bad child-care providers to escape background checks).

With the help of the Governor, I now know that four more bills I removed from the uncontested calendar are likely to be defeated. All of these bills were sailing from the Senate to the House and out of House Committees when I stepped in front of their goal line. After removing these bills from the uncontested block, I lobbied my caucus to oppose them and encouraged the Governor to veto or, in one case, amend them.

And I’m proud to say the Governor followed my suggestions on vetoing or amending these four bills:

SB1782, which would have permanently banned people with certain felony convictions from being a public notary. (I’ve written about this previously. It would have barred the Executive Director of the Fairfax Democratic Party, among others, from serving as a notary). Below is a photo of me with Frank, my friend and notary, when he notarized my petitions to get on the ballot for re-election.


SB1150, which would have limited the authority of our magistrates to arrest police officers;

SB1592, which would have expanded the state's already way-too-broad definition of "small business" (a definition important for determining taxes and state contracts) in a way that would have allowed an employer with 500 half-time employees to still count as a small business; and

SB1581/HB2234, Delegate Roxann Robinson's and Senator David R. Suetterlein's bill on paid family medical leave (PFML). The final version of this Republican bill attempted to weaken the Governor's executive order providing PFML benefits to state workers by excluding foster parents from accessing the benefit. The Governor did exactly as I encouraged him to do: amend the bill to put foster parents back in the bill and give them the same leave that other parents had.

As for the Governor's vetoes and amendments, I’m confident I will support the vast majority of them. Perhaps, as in some past years, I will support all of them. We will see. But here are some I know I will support:

Governor's Amendments I Will Support

  • Language that would stop the suspension of driver's licenses for Virginians who fail to pay court fees and fines and that would reinstate driving privileges to roughly 627,000 Virginians whose licenses were suspended solely due to non-payment. We shouldn't be suspending someone's driver’s license because of their financial circumstances. In addition to unfairly punishing poor people, it makes it virtually impossible for many Virginians to keep a job and pay their fines back!
     
  • $1.5 million to promote the Census and better ensure that each person in Virginia is counted. An accurate census count is critical to guaranteeing everyone in the Commonwealth receives all of the federal representation and funding we are due
     
  • An additional $4 million for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund, a critical tool for addressing affordable housing in the Commonwealth
     
  • Making Virginia’s tax code fairer by ensuring that low-income taxpayers with tax credits (149,000 taxpayers with incomes of less than $50,000) can receive the same refund as others
     
  • Two amendments to reverse the unnecessary restriction of state funds for critical healthcare currently provided to Virginia women
     
  • Two amendments to remove language that would restrict the Commonwealth’s ability to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and use proceeds from it to address the negative effects of climate change
     
  • Numerous amendments to increase funding to enhance the efforts of our Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity to ensure that small, woman-owned, and minority-owned businesses receive needed support and the chance to successfully compete for procurement opportunities in the Commonwealth.

TONIGHT at 7:30-9 pm!

George Washington Middle School

Alexandria Delegation Debrief of 2019 Session

Come to the Alexandria Democratic Committee's (ADC) meeting tonight to hear a legislative update from the five members of Alexandria's delegation in the General Assembly. 

We will be at George Washington Middle School's Cafeteria (1005 Mt. Vernon Ave.). You can enter through Door 35 in the back of the building. 


In the Community

 


Delivering meals to seniors for Meals on Wheels and Senior Services of Alexandria. 
 


Speaking with constituents after the Governor's announcement on an amendment
to strengthen SB1768 by making it a hands-free driving bill for all of Virginia's roadways. 


     
Agenda Alexandria's panel discussion on the history of Del Ray. I love history!


With McArthur Myers at the unveiling of the historical marker on Mount Vernon Avenue to commemorate the 174th anniversary of freemasons' Universal Lodge #1. 


Supporting Delegate Hala Ayala's re-election bid
with some of Alexandria's finest Democratic activists.



With our Democratic LeaderEileen Filler-Corn, former Mayor Allison Silberberg, and others at 
"Civic Activism: Women Leading the Way" hosted by the Alexandria Commission for Women. 
(Sorry for the blur.)


At my monthly meetups, some folks like to combine their civic engagement with a margarita.


Upcoming Events

Please Join Me!
 
(I personally participate in the events in red)
 
Monday, April 1
7:30 pm
General Assembly Report
to the Alexandria Democratic Committee
George Washington Middle School
1005 Mt Vernon Ave, Arlington

 
Wednesday, April 3

12:00 pm
Reconvened Session
for Vetoes and Amendments
 Virginia State Capitol 
1000 Bank St., Richmond

Friday, April 5

7:00 - 9:00 am

Leadership Center for Excellence Legislative Breakfast
Army Navy Country Club 
1700 Army Navy Drive, Arlington

Tuesday, April 9
7:00 - 8:00 pm
Alexandria Delegation Post-Session Wrap Up


Alexandria City Hall, Council Chambers
301 King St., Alexandria

 
Saturday, April 13
2:00 - 3:45 pm
League of Women Voters of Arlington
Post-Session Legislative Forum
Arlington Independent Media 
2701-C Wilson Boulevard, Arlington

 
Saturday, April 13
5:00 pm
Equality Virginia Gala
Greater Richmond Convention Center
403 N 3rd St., Richmond 

It is always my honor and privilege to serve you.

Delegate Mark Levine
Serving Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax in Virginia's 45th District