Representing Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax

Newsletter - February 7, 2021

Friday, February 5, was Crossover, the date by which a bill has to pass in its chamber of origin in order to be considered by the other chamber. In other words, other than the budget bills, Friday was the date by which House bills had to pass the House, and Senate bills had to pass the Senate for each of them to have a chance of becoming law. 


By Friday, every bill had to pass its house of origin to survive the legislative process.
For the rest of February, each chamber will consider the other's bills.

In years past, that's meant marathon sessions on the House Floor, up to 400 bills addressed in a single day that began at 9 am and concluded close to midnight. This year's pre-Crossover Floor session was much tamer. On no single day did we address more than 80 bills. And on the last day, we voted on a mere 45--a record minimum.

This has a lot to do to with the expert management of the pace of legislation by Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn and the various committee chairs and subchairs. (I chair both the Public Safety Subcommittee and the Constitutional Amendments Subcommittee.) We got our work in the House of Delegates done early and efficiently by hitting the ground running on our very first day. It also has to do with the record-low seven-bill maximum imposed upon us due to our first regular virtual session in Virginia history. 

Even though the pace was even, the bills we passed were truly historic.

I'll dive into some of our historic successes later in this newsletter. 

We will finish our work -- reviewing bills from the other chamber, reconciling differences in legislation between the chambers, and passing a budget -- in the Special Session called by Governor Northam which begins on Wednesday, February 10. As I've described in past newsletters, the Special Session is necessary to give us the regular 46 days of session we normally have. Although the Republican minority tried to limit our session to 30 days, they put little more than a speedbump in our path.

Where My 10 Legislative Agenda Items
Stand after Crossover:
8 Successes, 1 Pending, 1 Stopped

As I shared details about my legislative agenda in past newsletters, I won't dive into extraordinary detail here. But it has been a very successful first few weeks of session. I had ten policy items I was working on this session. Eight of them have met success so far. 

We'll begin with the successes.

Seven Measures Sent to the Senate:
One Constitutional Amendment and Six Bills

My constitutional amendment for marriage quality -- and three of my bills -- passed with bipartisan support:


1. On Thursday, my Marriage Equality Amendment began its long trek to become part of the Virginia Constitution. An identical version passed the Senate as well. To succeed, it must now (1) pass the House and Senate again in 2022; and (2) be approved by a majority of Virginia voters in November 2022.

I'm pleased to say both House and Senate approved the substantive language I wrote repealing Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage and putting in its place an affirmative right to marry for all Virginians. And I appreciated the preamble Delegate Mark Sickles added declaring marriage a "fundamental right."

On Thursday, HJ539, my Constitutional Amendment was incorporated into Delegate Sickles' HJ582 and passed 60-33. It was an honor to chair the Constitutional Amendments Subcommittee and have this pass through my own subcommittee.

As I said prior to our vote on the measure in the Privileges and Elections Committee, this has been a long time coming and is the culmination of decades of work and advocacy. 

Watch me speak on the need to enshrine marriage equality in Virginia's Constitution by clicking here

News on this (quoting me):
Supporters Ask General Assembly to Legalize Marriage Equality


2. My Virtual Meetings Bill (HB1931), increasing local elected officials' ability to meet virtually, passed unanimously prior to this week. It was described in the last two newsletters. The bill passed the House in 2020 but failed in the Senate last year. That was pre-COVID. I'm confident the need for virtual meetings will be better understood in 2021.

3. HB1948, my Good Apples Bill, passed on a bipartisan 57-42 early in the session. Two Republicans joined all Democrats in voting for the bill, also described more fully in an earlier newsletter. This was another measure that had passed the House but not the Senate in 2020 (during the 2020 Special Session). If you want to lobby for Good Apples in the Senate, please let us know.

4. HB2082, my Redistricting Transparency Bill passed 55-41 on Friday. Again, two Republicans joined all Democrats in passing the bill (except the four House members of the commission who abstained). More transparency + more public input = fairer maps. The bill passed in subcommittee last week and in full committee on Wednesday. Click below to see how I described the bill on the House Floor:

Describing my Redistricting Transparency Legislation

Three more of my bills passed the House solely on Democratic votes:

5. HB2081, my Safe Elections Bill, banning guns in polling places and vote counting centers, passed 53-47 on a party-line vote (with two Democrats joining Republicans). It passed prior to this week and was described in past newsletters.

News on this (quoting me):
Assembly considers new gun proposals

Galax Gazette

6. HB2295, my Safe Capitol Bill, banning guns in the State Capitol, Capitol grounds, and state government buildings, passed 51-45 on Monday. I had to pare it back a bit to allow folks to carry tasers and stun guns, but all firearms are still prohibited, and that is the heart of the bill. You can see the vote below. All 51 yes votes were Democrats. One Democrat voted no and three didn't vote. Republicans all voted no, except one who didn't vote.

News on this (quoting me):

After stripping prohibition on stun weapons, Va. House passes Capitol area gun ban
Virginia Mercury
Virginia's about to legalize weed and ban the death penalty
The American Independent

7. HB1932, my "Don't Make Virginia Fund Adoption Discrimination" Bill, passed 53-43. All the yes votes were Democrats. All the no votes were Republicans.

Since 2012, Republicans have forced Virginia taxpayers to fund adoption agencies that discriminate against prospective parents simply for being gay, even though it harms foster kids.

The law actually requires taxpayer-funded religious bigotry of all kinds and would require Virginia to fund agencies that discriminate against Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, or even members of a specific race if the agency's racism stemmed from religion. Although it hasn't been used that way in Virginia, it could be: a virtually identical law in South Carolina was used by a state-funded agency to deny Jewish families the right to adopt.

The bill would repeal the 2012 law that prioritizes bigotry over children. We had a painful Floor debate on this bill. Republicans -- including Minority Leader Todd Gilbert, who introduced the 2012 law that HB1932 repeals -- argued that Virginia's foster kids should age out of care, rather than be adopted by loving gay families.

You can watch me passionately stand up for foster children and the loving families who want to adopt them below:  

Watch me defend placing children in the best loving homes.
No child should age out of foster care, due to anti-gay or other religious prejudice.
When loving families generously offer to care for children in need, bigotry should never stand in the way.

8. We will Study Urban/Inland Flooding.

Flooding in Old Town Alexandria (shown here) happens far too often.
In 2020, we also had three so-called "100-Year Floods" in Del Ray as well.
Obviously, with climate change, the old models of flooding probabilities need updating.

As mentioned in prior newsletters, HJ552 would create a committee tasked with developing a comprehensive and coordinated planning effort to address recurrent flooding in inland and urban areas throughout Virginia. This study has bipartisan support. The chairman of the Studies subcommittee agreed to send a "letter" to the appropriate agencies to get it underway. It does not require Senate approval. 

One measure is pending.

9. Defunding Confederate Grave and Memorial Maintenance

I'm sure Trump thinks these are very fine people. But they shouldn't get state funding.

I don't yet know if my budget amendment to finally remove Virginia taxpayer funding of the United Daughters of the Confederacy's Confederate grave and memorial maintenance has made it into the House budget, but we'll know on Wednesday. Watch me present my budget amendment by clicking here

One measure will not pass in 2021.

10. The National Popular Vote for President

One of my bills did not pass: the National Popular Vote. Senator Adam Ebbin, who introduced the Senate version of the bill, struck the bill in committee, citing a lack of the votes needed to pass the Senate. This effectively derailed my bill HB1933, although I'm confident it would have passed the House of Delegates as it did in 2020.

On the bright side, I lobbied several Senators personally, and I think we are a vote or two away from success in future years. It will take more lobbying from you and by me to get the last Senator or two over the fence to the concept of "one person, one vote": the idea that every single American should be equal under the law and have equal power to elect the President of the United States. We need a President who serves all Americans and campaigns for all our votes, not just those few people who live in five or six swing states.

The current Electoral College give voters in very few states a realistic chance to pick the President.
My bill would give every American an equal opportunity to choose our nation's leader.
May the candidate with the most votes win!

One day, with your help, I believe the United States will join the pantheon of dozens of democracies around the world where the majority of the People get to choose their country's leader. No more will we have to suffer the catastrophe of being ruled with an iron fist by Presidents who were solidly rejected by the American People, due to a quirk in a system designed to protect slaveholders and based on the Founders premise in 1787 that political parties would never exist--a premise proved false just nine years later in 1796 and in the 225 years thereafter.

James Madison said the Electoral College was designed at the last minute when the delegates to the constitutional convention were tired. Imagine how history would have been different if the American People had been able to choose the President of the United States. What if the United States of America were actually a democracy? What if the People's wisdom had prevailed? I'm confident President Al Gore would have taken major steps forward to slow the impact of climate change. And I'm equally confident that President Hillary Clinton would have competently guided us through the current pandemic. Just think of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who would be alive today if only we had a competent President in 2020, if only we had respected the will of the voters in 2016.

I realize that's not our current system. I realize the system we used was designed in 1787 to protect slavery and to disenfranchise the vast majority of ordinary Americans. And I say, with respect to my dissenting colleagues, that I sincerely think our country has changed since 1787.

I pray that one day, a majority of the Virginia Senate will have faith in democracy. One day, with your help, we can one day have a Government of the People, by the People, and for the People.

But sadly, not this year.

The Democratic Majority is Getting the Job Done

We did a lot in a few short weeks, working hard on behalf of all Virginians. While the details are not finalized -- we still have to get bills through the Senate! -- the list of bills passed by the Virginia House of Delegates is truly impressive. Here are my top 20 of the hundreds of bills we passed:

  • We passed a constitutional amendment through my subcommittee to automatically restore voting rights to people once they have gotten out of prison. At my suggestion, we agreed to restore voting rights to ex-prisoners still on probation as well.

News on this (quoting me):
Virginia Senate proposal lets inmates vote while incarcerated,
House version restores rights upon release

WRIC News Channel 11

  • Abolished the death penalty. 
    This may be the most emotional speech I have ever given on the House Floor:

    "I’ve seen evil, I’ve looked it in the face. I know evil exists, there is no dispute about that. But taking an innocent person’s life — that’s evil, and it would be evil done by this General Assembly."

Watch me speak on the need to abolish the death penalty by clicking here.

News on this (quoting me):

Virginia set to become 23rd state to abolish death penalty after state House passes bill
Virginia House and Senate bills advance to abolish death penalty
Roanoke Star

  • Legalized adult use of marijuana

News on this (quoting me):

Virginia Marijuana Legalization Bills Sail Through Committees As Key Friday Deadline Nears
Marijuana Moment

  • Passed emergency legislation to make it easier for Virginia to vaccinate its people. 
  • Rolled back the ban on abortion coverage in health insurance on the state healthcare exchange. 
  • Passed the Virginia Voting Rights Act
  • Protected domestic workers from exploitation
  • Renamed Jefferson Davis Highway to Emancipation Highway throughout Virginia.
    (I'm chief copatron.)
  • Banned domestic abusers from purchasing or owning firearms.
    (I'm chief copatron.)
  • Prohibited candidates from using campaign donations for personal use
  • Guaranteed Paid Sick Leave for essential workers. 
  • Protected ratepayers by strengthening the State Corporation Commission's ability to regulate Dominion Energy to prevent overcharges.
  • Strengthened protections from evictions.
  • Banned homemade "ghost" guns with no serial numbers. 
  • Made the Virginia Employment Commission and unemployment process easier for claimants. 
  • Allowed undocumented immigrants to get in-state tuition
  • Stopped requiring parents of kids in juvenile detention to pay for their child's incarceration.
  • Bolstered transparency requirements for prescription drug prices.
  • Created a Prison Ombudsman
    (I'm chief copatron.)
  • Protected Virginians with disabilities by adding them to the Virginia Human Rights Act.
    (I'm chief copatron.)
  • Allowed the redistricting commission to remove a commissioner for misconduct
    (I'm chief copatron.)
  • Banned the "gay panic" defense
    (I'm chief copatron.)
  • Established a process for the automatic expungement of certain non-violent convictions. (I've put forward several bills to this over many years since the first year I was elected.)

That's a heckuva lot of powerful progressive bills for one short session!

And that's not all folks...

While I spend most of my time on the bills I patron, I take a special interest in the bills I chief copatron and often shepherd them along the way. Here's the list if you want to click on them and find out more about them.

Legislation as Chief Co-Patron:


The list of bills and studies I've copatroned is even longer.
This includes more than 150 very good bills.
I also copatroned about 50 commending resolutions..

Click here for the list of the more than 150 bills that I have signed onto as a Co-Patron.

Vaccinations Update

Virginia ranks 9th among all states for percent of the population that has received at least one dose (9% of population), and 10th for percent of available doses administered. More than 8 in 10 available first doses have been administered. Virginia's COVID-19 Vaccine Summary updates its numbers daily.

While we had a bit of a slow start, particularly with data entry of completed vaccinations, the pace of vaccinations in Virginia has accelerated greatly. Centralizing vaccines under each local department of health has allowed vaccines to be delivered more efficiently so virtually none are sitting on the shelves.

On Friday, Governor Northam announced new systems and policies to get more people vaccinated, to get our children back in school, and to streamline the vaccination process so that localities will be ready when vaccine supply increases. We did our part in the General Assembly by passing emergency legislation to make sure we would have a large supply of vaccinators and vaccination locations ready when there was enough vaccine to warrant it.

The main issue at the moment is the low-level of vaccine supply coming from the federal government. Because the Trump Administration refused to buy 200 to 500 million vaccines over the summer (and purchased only 100 mllion instead), Virginia is now receiving only a little over 100,000 vaccines a week, despite Virginia's population of more than 8 million. At that rate, it would take a year and a half to vaccinate us all.

Luckily, President Biden is succeeding where President Trump failed and ramping up the federal purchase and distribution of vaccine. I spoke about this on the House Floor on the day President Biden was inaugurated.

Trump to Pfizer: "Keep your vaccines! We don't want them!"

Currently 50% of Virginia’s population (about four million people) are eligible to receive the vaccine. Demand among eligible groups is significantly greater than supply. The federal supply of vaccines is ramping up and should be here by early spring. Please be patient until a dose is available for you.

The Virginia Department of Health will soon launch a new statewide pre-registration system for vaccine appointments. In this new system, individuals will be able to confirm their status while they wait.

If you have already pre-registered, you do not need to do it again. The local systems will feed into the statewide system.

Thank You, Virginia Teen Democrats!

I thank you again for the honor and privilege of serving you.

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