Representing Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax

Newsletter - February 10, 2020

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Chair, Public Safety

Committee Assignments:
Courts of Justice
Privileges & Elections
Public Safety
Health, Welfare, & Institutions



My Bill to Ban Sale of Assault Weapons

Bill on assault weapons ban passes through Virginia General Assembly committee

House panel backs assault weapons ban. Then police clear the room. 
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Controversial assault weapons bill moves forward

Police clear committee room after uproar following 12-9 vote for bill targeting assault weapons, high-capacity magazines
The Roanoke Times

Virginia lawmakers to debate assault weapon ban

Amended assault weapon bill passes first test in House; lawmaker promises 'no one has to give up a weapon'
The Prince William Times

Ban on sales of assault weapons advances in Virginia, stirring anger
Washington Post

My Bill to Elect the President by National Popular Vote

VA House advances bill to award electoral votes to national popular vote for POTUS

Old news:

Bill to give electoral votes to candidate who wins popular vote fails in Va. 
ABC 13 News

Bills that would award Virginia's electoral votes to popular vote winner fail to advance
Prince William Times

My Bill to Repeal Virginia's Fornication Law

Fornication repeal one step closer to law

Levine measure permitting fornication inches forward
Inside NoVA


With a big decision coming on redistricting reform, House Democrats fine-tune their options
Virginia Mercury


Ghost of Harry Byrd haunts Virginia Assembly
The Connection


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Here Comes Crossover...

We are two days away from Crossover! - Tuesday, February 11 - the halfway point of session and the deadline to have bills pass out of both House and Senate before heading over to the other chamber for approval. On Monday and Tuesday, we will be debating and voting on several hundred bills. These are the two busiest days of session on the Floor. 

Welcome to the longest newsletter of the year. (So long I had no room in the email software to send it all to you. More will come mid-week.)

Just as we did the previous week, the House of Delegates spent the first week of February passing transformative legislation that will improve the lives of millions of Virginians all across the Commonwealth.

This week's newsletter will be broken into two parts to account for the large amount of information contained within. This one will focus on the many bills of mine that passed the full House or are headed to a vote on the Floor. Part two will focus on the Not-Yet Successes of the session. Before diving into what happened with my bills this past week, I wanted to briefly run through an incomplete list of the great bills that passed the House in the last few days. I copatroned them all:

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, banning discrimination against pregnant workers and requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees


Capping insulin co-pays at $30 per month


Eliminating Lee-Jackson Day and replacing it with Election Day as state holiday


Requiring stamped ballot-return envelopes for people voting absentee by mail


Allowing localities to create a Ranked Choice Voting pilot program for their local elections


Allowing Driver's licenses for qualified undocumented Virginians


Banning "no compete" clauses for low-wage employees


Holding contractors responsible for non-payment of wages by subcontractors


Banning retaliation against employees who file wage nonpayment complaints


Allowing any state or local government agency to require project labor agreements on public works projects


Numerous bills to combat wage theft and misclassification of employees


Ending wealth-based driver's license suspensions for unpaid court fees and fines


Banning discrimination on the basis of a person's source of income to the list of unlawful discriminatory housing practices


Banning discrimination on the basis of hair type


Banning dangerous and abusive conversion "therapy"

Status of My Bills

THIRTEEN of my Bills

Sent to the Senate So Far

Eight passed this week.

Eight of my bills passed the House this week, all but two of them with broad bipartisan support. Five of my bills passed the House last week. Check out my previous newsletters to read about those or if you want to learn more about the eight bills described below and how they got to the floor. 

1. HB1049 -  the most comprehensive LGBT-non-discrimination bill ever introduced in Virginia history - passed with bipartisan support, 59-39. The bill adds "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to more than 70 places in the code. Wherever other discrimination is prohibited in Virginia, discrimination against rainbow Virginians will be prohibited as well. 
Housing, employment, public accommodations, banking, insurance, apprenticeships, contracts, credit, and much, much more is all included in my 39-page bill.

2. HB1663 - the Virginia Values Act - passed 59-35. HB1663, which incorporated my HB1050, will add much needed "teeth" to the Virginia Human Rights Act, protecting Virginians from discrimination in employment and public accommodations, bolstering the avenues for recourse when someone is discriminated against for who they are.

3. HB582, which incorporated my HB327, will allow public sector employees to collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions, passed 54-45. This was a key priority for labor unions this session.
4. HB416, which incorporated my HB326, prohibits a prospective employer from requiring as a condition of employment that a prospective employee provide or disclose the prospective employee's wage or salary history. It passed 58-41.

5. HB1150, which incorporated my HB244, passed 51-47. This bill repeals state law requiring local law enforcement to do federal immigration work, which puts at risk our immigrant communities and wastes local taxpayer dollars. 

6. HB245repealing the crime of fornication, passed 91-5. Fornication is the crime of unmarried consenting adults having sex. (They can be legally married to other people, but it's a crime to be unmarried!) You might also check out some of the news articles on this issue in the left-hand column.

7. HB180, which removes race from being unconstitutionally required on a Virginia marriage license or divorce record, passed unanimously. You may recall there was a story on this last year.

8. HB321, which will make it easier for local officials to attend meetings electronically when a family member is ill, passed 62-38. Alexandria Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker asked me to introduce this bill.

Reminder: five of my bills passed the House last week:

These bills were described in detail in last week's newsletter:

9) requiring courts to consider domestic violence in custody cases; 10) predatory lending reform; 11) increasing funding for law libraries; 12) allowing secular Virginians to perform marriage licenses; and 13) Virginia's first law on body cameras. 

Another Thirteen of my Bills

Passed Committee
and are Headed to the House Floor

The following bills passed out of committees this past week and should be voted on by the full House either Monday or Tuesday.

14. Teaching Teachers How to Handle
Disruptive Students with Compassion

HB894 passed unanimously out of the Higher Ed subcommittee on Monday and then out of the full Education Committee by a vote of 20-1 on Wednesday. This bill requires all of Virginia's incoming public school teachers to have training on best practices for conflict prevention and de-escalation. It will help schools avoid restraint and seclusion wherever possible when working with disruptive students. Thank you to Alexandria School Board member Meagan Alderton and Alex Sprague, who advocates for people with autism. They both helped me to formulate this proposal.

The House will vote on this bill on Monday.

You can watch the subcommittee hearing on the bill by clicking the image.

15. Fairness in Electoral Recounts (Shelly Simonds Law)

HB179, which prevents the unfairness of "discovering" a vote after a recount is completed, passed a subcommittee unanimously on Tuesday and then the Privileges and Elections Committee unanimously Friday.

Chief-copatroned by my friend Delegate Shelly Simonds, this bill closes a sleazy electoral loophole by which the Republicans mistreated Shelly in 2017. After Shelly was declared the victor by one vote in the 2017 recount, Republicans secretly unsealed an already counted balance box to "find" another vote. This vote was later ruled by a judge appointed by Simonds' opponent then-Delegate David Yancy to be in Yancy's favor. Shelly lost the election she had already won.

I made clear to the committee that now that this unfair practice had been used in 2017, it would be professional political malpractice for Democrats not to use the same dirty trick in the future, unless this unfair gamesmanship were clearly prevented by law.

Republicans agreed and voted unanimously with Democrats to close the loophole. If this bill becomes law, any concerns someone has with a vote would have to be addressed at the time a vote is recounted and not at a later time when it might serve some candidate politically.

The House will vote on this bill on Tuesday.

You can watch the subcommittee hearing on the bill by clicking the image.

16. Tie Vote = New Election

My HB178, which requires any tied elections to be resolved by a special election rather than by picking a piece of paper out of a bowl, was also inspired by the 2017 Shelly Simonds debacle. The bill was incorporated into Delegate Cia Price's similar HB198, which passed the Privileges and Elections Committee unanimously Friday.

The House will vote on this bill on Tuesday.

17. Protecting Animals from Inhumane Tethering

HB1552 outlaws inhumane treatment of pets by preventing tethering animals not well suited and equipped for an inhospitable outdoor environment. The bill was suggested to me by my constituents, including Boyd Walker who attended the hearing and testified for it. The bill passed out of the Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday.

Republicans intend to try to weaken this bill on Monday, but I will fight such amendments.

The House will vote on this bill on Tuesday as well.

You can watch the committee hearing on the bill by clicking the image.

18. Decriminalizing Marijuana

HB301, my marijuana decriminalization bill, was incorporated into fellow Alexandria Delegate and Majority Leader Charniele Herring's bill HB972. It passed out of the Courts of Justice Committee on Wednesday. While I still support legalization and regulation, this bill would take Virginia three quarters of the way there, with only a $25 fine for marijuana possession and no criminal record. It's a major step forward.

The House will vote on this bill on Monday.

19. Voter-Verifiable Paper Records

HB1053 ensures every vote in the Commonwealth is backed up a voter-verifiable paper record. When I first entered the legislature, many Virginians (including Alexandrians!) voted on unverifiable, hackable machines. One of my first bills I ever introduced was to require a voter verifiable paper record. Although that bill did not succeed under Republican control, Governor McAuliffe issued an Executive Order before he left office to require (machine-countable) paper ballots throughout Virginia.

This bill would codify this practice forevermore. It passed unanimously out of a Privileges and Elections subcommittee on Tuesday and then the full committee on Thursday. 

The House will vote on this bill on Monday.

You can watch the subommittee hearing on the bill by clicking the image.

20. Repeal Photo ID Requirement for Virginia Voters

HB190 is a very important bill to repeal Virginia's discriminatory Voter ID law and allow voters who do not have the proper unexpired photo ID to sign under penalty of perjury that they are who they say they are. It's virtually unheard of for folks to risk a multi-year prison term just to cast one vote. The bill was incorporated into Delegate Joe Lindsey's HB19 and passed out of the Privileges and Elections Committee on Thursday.

The House will vote on this bill on Monday.

21. Ban Surprise Health-Care Balance Billing

HB189 bans "balance billing," the practice by which hospitals after surgery bill patients for the balance of their surgical procedures, even when rendered by out-of-network providers they had no reason to suspect would be taking care of them. While you are under anesthesia and cannot object, a hospital can currently bring in a doctor or nurse outside your health care plan to charge you a fortune. When you wake up and see the bill, it might just put you back in shock!

My bill would end this practice. Delegate Luke Torian (HB1251) introduced an identical bill, so mine was incorporated into his, and it passed the Appropriations Committee unanimously on Friday. 

The House will vote on this bill on Tuesday.

22. Remove Virginia's Robert E. Lee Statue from US Capitol

HB181 sets up a Commission to remove and replace Virginia's Robert E. Lee statue from the US Capitol in Washington. I was the first lawmaker in Virginia to suggest removing him on the grounds that, whatever you think of Robert E. Lee, he is hardly Virginia's "second-greatest Virginian!"

My proposal was featured in the Richmond Times Dispatch in 2018. It failed that year under Republican control.

When my friend Delegate Jeion Ward wanted to present this identical bill this year, I deferred to her, thinking that the bill might better be presented by this well-respected African-American delegate. So my bill was incorporated into her identical bill, HB1406. It passed a Rules subcommittee on Monday and then the full committee on Friday. I was proud to see Delegate Ward adopt my long-standing idea of a commission to find a good substitute for Robert E. Lee.

The House will vote on this bill on Tuesday.

23. Protecting Domestic Violence Victims from Gun Violence

HB900, my bill to bar people with domestic violence convictions from owning or purchasing guns is also legislation I've introduced in the past. My friend Delegate Kathleen Murphy has also been a leader on this issue. My bill was incorporated into Delegate Kathleen Murphy's HB1288, which passed out of my Public Safety Committee on Friday. 

The House will vote on this bill on Tuesday.

24. A Bill to Elect the US President by the National Popular Vote

I've never been a fan of the Electoral College. I believe in democracy. One person should get one vote. And I don't think the citizens of Wyoming or DC are four times smarter than Virginians. Why should they get four times the power to choose the President we get?  Also the Electoral College prioritizes purple states over red and blue ones. If you vote for the losing candidate in an Electoral College system, your votes aren't counted at all. If we elected the President of the United States by the national popular vote, everyone's vote would count equally.

HB177 would join Virginia to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, a compact of 16 states and DC (so far) that currently totals 196 electoral votes. If Virginia adds our 13 votes and gets us to 209 votes, we are only 61 votes away from using the Electoral College to render the Electoral College obsolete.

The bill prevailed in my Privileges and Elections subcommittee a week ago Wednesday by a vote of 5 to 3.  Although you won't be able to see me make the arguments in the video, I think you'll enjoy hearing the arguments made by clicking here or the image below.

So far, so good. But when the bill reached the full Privileges and Elections Committee a week ago Friday, it met a different fate, losing by 11 to 10. I was peppered with questions about it. (How do you think I did?)

Click above to watch me argue the National Popular Vote in full committee.

This is one of the "bad news" bills that I did not have room to tell you about in my long email last week.

But if you know me, you know I don't give up easily. So I went to my Democratic colleagues who did not support the bill last week and lobbied them to change the bill this week.


Delegate Paul Krizek motioned to reconsider the bill, and it passed out of committee upon reconsideration by a vote of 12-9.  Three of my Democratic colleagues had voted against the bill in the previous meeting of the full committee, but I convinced two of them to change their no votes to votes of support, which ultimately led to the full committee giving it a second vote, which passed. 

Watch the National Popular Vote be revived by Delegate Krizek and the committee by clicking on the image below. You might also check out some of the news articles on this in the left-hand column.

You can watch the committee hearing on the bill by clicking the image.

25. Full Transparency for the Virginia Legislature

After founding the bipartisan, bicameral Virginia Transparency Caucus on my second day in office, I have been pressing relentlessly for full streaming and archiving of floor proceedings, committees, and subcommittees.

Every year, I moved the ball a bit further down the field.

In 2016, I founded the VTC, and floor proceedings began to be archived as well as streamed.

In 2017, my letter supporting full transparency was signed by a majority of members of both the House and the Senate.

In 2018, both the House and Senate agreed to our demand that committees fully streamed and archived. They also agreed to our demand that no bills be killed except by recorded vote.

In 2019, my letter supporting full transparency was signed by two-thirds of members of both the House and the Senate.

In 2020, upon my insistence, the House and Senate began streaming and archiving subcommittees, just like committees, in every room that had a camera installed.

To finish the job, I introduced HB182, the Transparency Act, to require every single official meeting of the House or Senate to be streamed and archived, with new cameras installed to monitor and provide closed captions to every single committee and subcommittee meeting.

I'm proud to say it was a success! The Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn committed to me to put full transparency in our official House Rules for next year. The Transparency Act was continued to next year to make sure it would happen.

If you want to want to watch any floor proceeding, committee, or subcommittee live, just go to the Virginia House of Delegates Committee Streaming portal. Following the conclusion of each meeting, the archived video of the subcommittee meeting is quickly made available in the same portal. The webcasts have simultaneous closed-captioning for constituents who are deaf or hard of hearing. 

You shouldn't have to be a lobbyist to know what your representatives are doing on your behalf. The work of the people should be open to the people. The days of the legislative process being hidden from the view of everyday Virginians have finally passed. What happens in the Virginia General Assembly must be transparent to the public it is supposed to serve.

You can watch the committee hearing on the bill by clicking the image.

26. Assault Weapons Restrictions

Last but certainly not least, my assault weapons restrictions bill that I'm carrying on behalf of Governor Northam, HB961, passed out of the Public Safety Committee on Friday in front of an especially strident group of gun enthusiasts. 

You can watch the committee hearing on the bill by clicking the image.

It was a tense meeting. NRA and VCDL members shouted out numerous times during the hearing that they would refuse to comply with the law. (Ironically, many others called themselves "law-abiding.")

After the vote, with the crowd growing irate and more legislative business to attend to, Committee Chair Patrick Hope ordered the room cleared by police so the committee could go about its business.

Read more from Ms. Friedenberger in The Roanoke Times by clicking here:  

Police clear committee room after uproar following 12-9 vote for bill targeting assault weapons, high capacity magazines

I am proud to be carrying this bill that will help save lives.

85% of mass murders over the last 40 years were conducted with assault firearms.

And during the federal ban on these weapons, fatalities were reduced by 70%.

There are a lot of news articles on this to read in the left-hand column.

Furthermore, the NRA and VCDL have sent thousands of people to my Facebook pages to troll me and try to intimidate me.

You may want to respond there yourself and let them know how much my constituents prioritize people's lives over magazine capacity.

I spoke with the relatively small number of gun owners who approached me respectfully on the bill and made substantial compromises. There won't be a ban on possession: only a ban on purchase or sale. There's an exception for law enforcement purchasing their service weapons. We took out the silencer ban. But there will still be a ban on large-capacity magazines (magazines holding more than 12 bullets).

In Tucson and in Nashville, lives were saved during mass murder because brave citizens were able to tackle the gunmen while they were changing their magazines. Hunters don't use these weapons, and people don't need them for self-defense. (If 13 people are coming to get you at once, it's highly likely you're the bad guy.) And shooters at the range can change magazines in seconds.

But this bill will lessen the fatalities from mass murder. 

HB961 will save lives.

If you are one of the intrepid folks who actually read every word of this newsletter, please let me know what you think. We work very hard on these newsletters. Did you play any of the videos?  Check out any of the news in the columns on the left? Please let me know if this extensive effort -- which takes my staff and me at least 6-8 hours each -- is worthwhile to you.

It is always my honor and privilege to serve you.

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