Chair, Public Safety
Courts of Justice
Privileges & Elections
Health, Welfare, & Institutions
MARK IN THE NEWS
Push for redistricting reform still alive in Virginia
GOP Gunman at Mark's House...
Gun-toting Hopewell GOP Chair protests outside delegate's house
Virginia Public Radio
Police investigate Hopewell man protesting with shotgun at Virginia delegate's Alexandria home
Regulating Assault Weapons
Virginia Senate panel puts off assault weapons ban until next year in setback for Northam
Assault Weapons Ban Fails In Democratic-Controlled Virginia Senate
Virginia Public Radio
Virginia lawmakers reject assault weapons ban
CBS 6 News (WTVR)
Virginia lawmakers reject weapon ban
The Sumter Item
PHOTOS: Monday, February 17 at the Virginia General Assembly
Or by mail and phone:
900 East Main Street, Suite E208
Richmond, VA 23219
301 King St
Alexandria, VA 22314
Before I dive in, please note:
Mark's Monthly Meetup is Tomorrow
Sunday, 1pm - 3pm at Los Tios in Del Ray
Tomorrow, Sunday, February 23, from 1-3pm, I will be hosting Mark's Monthly Meetup at Los Tios in Del Ray (2615 Mt. Vernon Ave.).
Come talk with me about what matters to you, get an update on what's happening down in Richmond, and ask me any questions you may have.
No RSVP necessary. You can come late or leave early.
I hope to see you there. But if you miss it, there's always March or April. I've been hosting Mark's Monthly Meetups since I was first elected five years ago.
Now, for the newsletter...
The Politics of the Personal
Politics, whether we like it or not, is often personal.
This past week, I experienced both the best and worst of personal politics.
Many of you know that my family's story, my sister's story, is one the main reasons I ran for office.
It's why I fight for vulnerable people.
It's why I'm so attuned to issues of domestic and sexual violence.
It's why injustice rankles me so much.
It's why I believe that passive acceptance of injustice is dangerous.
It's why I fight so hard, despite personal and political risks, to stand up for people being abused or mistreated.
It's why I don't back down when threatened.
Thursday, February 20, would have been the 57th birthday of my sister Janet, who was murdered by her husband in 1996.
I honored her on the House Floor. I spoke little of her death. I spoke all about her life. I wanted everyone who didn't know Janet to get an inkling of how special she was to me and to everyone she knew.
You can watch my motion to adjourn the General Assembly in my sister Janet's memory by clicking the image below.
Considering how deeply I care about reducing domestic violence and protecting vulnerable people, it was only fitting that during the same week I celebrated Janet's birthday, the Senate unanimously passed HB861, my bill to ensure that courts take into consideration a parent's history of domestic violence and child abuse when making child custody determinations.
As the version the Senate passed is different than the one that passed the House, we will have to go to conference and hash out our differences. But I will never retreat from my lifetime commitment to protect survivors of domestic abuse and violence... and their children.
He came to my house with a gun...
There's another side to politics being personal.
Sometimes, politics being personal is a bad thing.
Last Saturday afternoon, the Chair of the Republican Party Committee of Hopewell, Virginia drove more than two hours from his town south of Richmond to come to my residence in Alexandria with a powerful assault weapon. As he made clear in a video manifesto he posted online, his goal was to harass me personally at my home with his guns. He wanted to intimidate and coerce me into withdrawing my bill regulating assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and bump stocks (HB961). He refused my invitation through police to visit me at my Richmond office, where we do not allow guns.
He brought a particular assault weapon with him to my home: a powerful 12-gauge shotgun loaded with a large extended magazine (looking to be at least 20 rounds). It appears to have had enough firepower to blow my townhouse into smithereens. It's one of the assault weapon whose future purchase or sale would have been restricted by my legislation. We later learned he carried a second gun as well.
Obviously, he did not bring his guns outside my home for self-defense.
Or for hunting or target shooting.
I took this photo from my kitchen window.
The man stood next to my property with his assault weapon for about two hours. In an online post, he encouraged hundreds of others to join him at my home as well, all with the express goal of trying to intimidate me into violating my promise to you, my constituents, to do my best to reduce the scourge of gun violence. Luckily for the Alexandria Police and for me, only two people showed up. (Apparently, a third person who intended to be there turned around and left when he saw police.)
In the man's video manifesto posted online, he repeatedly shared my home address. He threatened both Democratic lawmakers and local police, saying that if we successfully passed legislation that required him to give up his weapons, the police and lawmakers (including me) who did it had better kiss our wives, our husbands, and our children goodbye, because we would then face the "business end" of his guns.
Knowing he could never convince Alexandrians or our elected representatives to ignore the threat of gun violence, the man tried, in effect, to overturn our democratic elections by threat of force.
He used the implicit threat of gun violence
to try to get me to stop working to reduce gun violence!
This was not this jerk's first visit to Alexandria. You may recall that he disrupted our farmers' market in September when he, along with a half dozen of his gun-toting buddies, marched into Old Town. There, at our usually delightful weekly gathering in Market Square, filled with hundreds of families with children and dogs looking over fresh produce and tasting homemade jams from local farmers, he and his goons paraded with their loaded assault weapons in order to disrupt this 200-year-old pleasant custom we enjoy.
When the gunmen arrived, armed to the teeth, many market-goers grabbed their children and scattered. Most kept their distance from him. Some called the police. But the police were unable to stop the Hopewell Gun Crew from ruining our farmers' market because the laws in Virginia are currently insufficient to do so.
Virginia Republicans have traditionally prioritized the right of gun fetishists to terrorize urban crowds with mass-murder weapons over the rights of Virginians to be free from the scourge of gun violence. And given their former majority in the legislature, those priorities are reflected in Virginia's current laws.
You elected me to change these laws, and I've been hard at work at it all session long. I'm hopeful we will succeed, and you should contact members of the Senate to encourage them to support such legislation. But even if we do, our new laws won't go into effect until July 1, 2020.
How ironic that I -- a candidate elected in part to keep gun-toting thugs from terrorizing our city -- would myself be personally threatened by the leader of these thugs, trying to get me to reject my constituents' wishes or otherwise face his guns at my doorstep!
The same gunman who visited my home last weekend disrupted
our Old Town Farmer's Market last September with his gun-toting friends.
They didn't buy anything.
But they achieved their primary goal:
disrupt our market, ruin business, and terrorize Alexandria.
The man told news reporters at the time that his goal was to teach Alexandria a lesson. We learned our lesson well and mobilized to elect representatives that would pass laws to prevent armed men from invading our streets to threaten our peaceful way of life.
I received more emails last September from constituents to stop this gunman and his ilk than on any other subject ever. And now, as I'm working to do so, the same man has begun to threaten me personally at my home.
But I will not back down in the face of these threats.
You elected me to do a job, and I'm carrying out your wishes.
As I said above, I offered, through police, to meet this man in my office in Richmond, just as I have met a large number of reasonable gun enthusiasts there who disagree with me. But this guy and his supporters -- like the thousands of NRA and VCDL folks who have prioritized nastiness in emails, phone calls, and social media over reasoned discourse or civil conversation -- had zero interest in discussion, conversation, debate or protest.
They prefer to use their assault weapons,
not for self-defense hunting, or target practice,
but to compensate for their lack of power at the voting booth.
Obviously, this guy and his supporters don't believe in our constitutional democracy, where the majority of voters decide how to regulate dangerous weapons within the framework of the Constitution and the rule of law. Instead, they support policy being made with a gun.
On Monday, in a speech on the House floor, I made clear that threatening me -- or any elected official -- with a gun is not the appropriate way to convince us to change our minds:
By trying to intimidate me into violating my oath of office and my trust to my constituents like you, this man instead provided a very clear example of why laws like my HB961 are necessary.
Assault weapons with large-capacity magazines are unnecessary for any legitimate use. As our courts have repeatedly noted in describing why assault weapons bans are constitutional, these weapons of war are designed for the battlefield. They are not designed for civilian use.
This man was using his assault weapon solely to terrorize: to threaten force to achieve political goals he could not otherwise achieve through representative democracy. The threat of mass murder from a weapon designed for mass murder is real. In fact, some local elected officials have confided that they voted for pro-gun resolutions only out of fear from violence from those supporting these resolutions. Think about that: lawmakers subjecting our families to gun violence so they themselves could avoid gun violence to their families.
I consider such conduct to be a grave threat to our democracy and even more than insidious than a bribe. Just as it is illegal to pay an elected official to vote a certain way, it should be similarly illegal to threaten violence to a elected official to vote a certain way. Such a threat is a threat not just to the elected official, but to democracy itself.
I now realize that Virginia law is woefully insufficient to prevent these threats. That's why I'll be working in the spring, summer, and fall of 2020 to craft laws to protect your democracy and your vote by making it far easier to imprison anyone who comes to our homes with loaded weapons in order to "persuade" elected officials to change our minds on legislation. I hope to pass such legislation in 2021. Stay tuned.
Senate Committee Rejects
Assault Weapons Regulation
On Monday, I presented my HB961 to the Senate Judiciary Committee. It was the Governor's bill and the only legislation this session presented by anyone to regulate the sale of assault weapons or the sale or possession of high-capacity bullet magazines.
Four Senate Democrats - Creigh Deeds, John Edwards, Chap Petersen, and Scott Surovell - joined Republicans in voting to defeat the legislation. The committee voted to study the assault weapons bill for another year.
We already know weapons of war don't belong on our streets. I fear there will be another mass murder with these weapons between now and then.
The Democratic policy platform on guns was clear when we were elected to the majority in both the House and Senate. The House has kept its promise. The Senate has not. We will be back.
Now the Good News:
Six of My Bills Pass the Senate;
An Additional Six Pass Senate Committee
Four of my bills passed the Senate this week and will soon be headed to the Governor for his signature:
HB245, repealing the unconstitutional crime of fornication, passed unanimously.
HB1053, which requires voter-verified paper ballots, passed the Senate unanimously.
HB179, which closes a loophole that allowed the GOP to rig the 2017 Shelly Simonds recount, passed the Senate unanimously.
HB246, which will be Virginia's first state law on the use of body-worn cameras by law enforcement, passed 36-3.
Two of my bills passed the Senate this week, but there are House/Senate differences we have to work out in conference.
HB861, the bill I mentioned above to ensure that courts take into consideration a parent's history of domestic violence and child abuse when making child custody determinations, passed unanimously.
I hope you noticed something that may come as a surprise to some: these bills got bipartisan support. Five of the six that passed this week passed with a strong majority in both parties. Four of them passed unanimously.
The interior of the Virginia Senate
In addition, the following SIX of my bills passed out of either full committee or subcommittee in the Senate and are due for more votes in the Senate next week:
HB183, which permits localities to raise more funds for their law libraries, passed out of the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee 11-1.
HB1552, to limit inhumane tethering of pets, made it out of a Senate Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee subcommittee on Thursday.
HB180, removing race questions from marriage applications, passed the Senate Education and Health Committee unanimously. It has yet to receive a single no vote.
HB789, the Fairness in Lending Act, which incorporated my HB184 (reigning in predatory payday loans with absurdly high interest rates), passed the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee 11-4 and will be heard next by Senate Finance and Appropriations.
The following five bills will be heard next week in Senate Committee:
- HB894 (training teachers on de-escalation) on Monday
- HB863 (making it easier for non-clergy to perform marriage ceremonies) on Monday
- HB177 (National Popular Vote)
- HB1049 (LGBT+ nondiscrimination)
- HB321 (electronic meetings for local officials)
The following eight bills have yet to be on a docket for a Senate committee or subcommittee but will likely be heard next week:
The Virginia House of Delegates
Passes the Most Progressive Budget
in Virginia History
How we raise and allocate resources is a reflection of our values. The House budget for fiscal years 2021 and 2022 makes clear that the Democratic majority supports equity, justice, inclusion, and prosperity. I'm proud to say that the budget we passed what may very well be the most progressive biennial budget in the history of our Commonwealth. It also delivers on key priorities for the 45th District.
I voted for the budget, which passed 75-24 (ending July 2020) and 67-32 (two-year budget from July 2020 to July 2022).
The House budget not only provides for new investments in education, healthcare, raises for teachers & more: it also will give the Commonwealth it's highest "Rainy Day Fund" in history. We will have more than $2.2 billion in reserve to protect Virginia against a future economic downturn.
To be clear, this is not the final budget. We still need to reconcile the differences between what passed the House and what passed the Senate. We have to work with the Governor as well, who will supply his suggested amendments at the reconvene session in April.
For resources that will help you learn more about what's in the House budget, please check out the Appropriations Committee's website. It has powerpoint presentations, briefs, and more. Also, the Commonwealth Institute did a side-by-side comparison of the budget proposals of the Governor, with the House and Senate versions.
Highlights of the House Budget:
Investing in Education
The House continues the university tuition freeze.
No increases in tuition for Virginia families through 2021!
The House version of the budget would provide almost $900 more per student in our public schools above the Governor's proposals each fiscal year. The Governor proposed about $6300 per year, which we increased to $7200 per year.
The House budget funds a 2% raise for teachers in both FY21 and FY22.
Additions to the teacher retiree health credit plans include $4.9 million in 2021 and $5.2 million in 2022.
The House budget proposal provides significantly more funding for schools with a higher percentage of low-income students. The proposal sets aside $70.1 million for additional resources, including lunches, school supplies, and books. This will significantly help Alexandria, as a majority of our public-school students come from low-income families. I've championed this policy for years. What a pleasure to help make it happen!
- Both House and Senate budget include $500,000 for an initiative I championed to provide funding to teach teachers how to de-escalate conflict and avoid restraint and seclusion in public schools. One of my bills (HB894) would require universities to teach future teachers these necessary classroom skills so that we have a pipeline for future teachers.
Investing in our Workforce
The House set aside over $11 million for state agencies and universities in order to raise the minimum wage.
The House budget includes a $500 million increase in compensation for police, state and university employees, state-supported local employees, grade-school teachers, and higher-education instructors. This increase will take place within both fiscal years.
- The House budget includes better funding the State Employee Health Insurance Program and employee retirement plan.
Investing in Healthcare
Almost ten years after the passage of the Affordable Care Act made it possible, the House budget establishes a State Health Benefit Exchange to lower health insurance costs.
The House budget proposes higher spending on medical reimbursement to encourage community based mental health providers to participate. These services will include funding for outpatient treatment, mobile crisis units, and veterans services.
The House budget includes $36 million in 2022 in Central Appropriations to fund a reinsurance program to subsidize health insurance carriers participating in the Virginia Health Benefit Exchange, in order to stabilize rates and premiums.
The budget also leaves room for funding multiple pieces of legislation which have passed the House, including $1.9 million set aside for vaccinations for school children under HB1090.
The House budget includes the sorely-needed Medicaid waivers for Virginians with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD) recommended by the Governor, and it also adds $125 million to build and maintain capacity in our communities to deliver the services needed, raising Medicaid reimbursement rates for an array of providers who can assist ID/DD individuals to realize their full potential.
The House budget addresses racial disparities in maternal health as a top priority: requiring Medicaid Managed Care Organizations to cover midwifery services and extending Medicaid coverage 12 months postpartum.
- The House budget also adds $9.4 million for alternative options to address overcrowding at state-run hospitals.
And that's not all, folks...
we brought home the bacon for Alexandria as well.
One of the biggest priorities for the City of Alexandria has been getting robust and fair funding for its Combined Sewer Overflow overhaul.
The House budget includes $25 million in FY2021 for Alexandria's Combined Sewer Overflow overhaul and $40 million promised in the coming years. Combined with last year's allocation of $25 million, these investments would bring total state investment in the project to $90 million, which would bring us roughly in line with what other localities have received for similar projects.
In a newsletter I sent back in December, I told you how excited I was that Governor Northam included in his proposed budget the $2.4 million we requested to help the City of Alexandria purchase the Freedom House Museum, located at 1315 Duke Street in Old Town. The intent is to transform this former headquarters of the American slave trade to become an internationally-renowned museum. At my encouragement, along with that of fellow Alexandria Delegate and Majority Leader Charniele Herring, the House kept this $2.4 million in the budget.
I am sure you have questions about other priorities: green energy, our elections infrastructure, and our transportation systems. I will hold off on sharing more details of the budget until we actually finalize it. But I am excited about what we are doing. And I look forward to sharing more once the numbers are final.
Pictures from Session
It was great meeting with constituents from VOICE,
Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement.
"Where is Gunston? I'm in Parkfairfax."
Meagan Alderton, Alexandria School Board Member and special education teacher, came to Richmond to speak for a bill we worked on together, HB894.
Delegate Kathleen Murphy shares my sister Janet's birthday.
I gave her some of the daisies I bought for Janet, because Kathleen is one of the strongest advocates for victims of domestic violence in Virginia.
I am grateful for her leadership and our friendship.
TOMORROW! DON'T FORGET!
Sunday, February 23
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Mark's Monthly Meetup
2615 Mt. Vernon Avenue, Del Ray
I thank you again for the honor and privilege of representing you.
Delegate Mark Levine
Serving Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax in Virginia's 45th District