Mark in the News
Virginia House Ends Secrecy in Committee Votes
US News & World Report - Best States
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900 East Main Street, Suite E208
Richmond, VA 23219
301 King St
Alexandria, VA 22314
Armed Only with the Constitution,
My 2018 Session Begins!
Virginia Gets a New Governor Tomorrow
Tomorrow at noon, Ralph Northam becomes Governor of Virginia. Our new Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax and our re-elected Attorney General Mark Herring will be sworn in as well. I know many residents of the 45th District will be joining me to celebrate these fine public servants as they begin their four-year terms leading our Commonwealth.
Backstairs Tour of the State Capitol
TOMORROW, Saturday, January 13th at 3 pm
Please join me after the Governor's Inauguration and parade on Saturday January 13th at 3pm for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Virginia Capitol. Our Capitol dates back to Thomas Jefferson and is rich with Virginia history. I'll be personally giving this free tour to any of you who are interested, so if you're coming down for Inauguration, please join us. I'll also briefly show you around the new Pocahontas Building that will house all General Assembly offices for the next four years.
To RSVP, email [email protected]
A Victory for Transparency
Session began on Wednesday, and I am hitting the ground running. On the very first day, we adopted the rules of the House that govern how we as a body will operate over the next two years. I'm pleased to report that, due to the efforts of the Virginia Transparency Caucus (VTC) I co-founded two days into my freshman year with Republican Senator Amanda Chase, the 2018-19 Rules will feature a substantial improvement from the 2016-2017 Rules: all committee and subcommitee votes are now required by the Rules to be recorded and reported!
This is a big victory for transparency in Virginia. For four hundred years, Virginia legislators killed bills in secret behind closed doors. Not anymore. Now residents will be able to know exactly who deep-sixed a bill and who wanted to move it forward. Furthermore, all committee hearings will, for the first time in history, be streamed live and archived, so you won't have to drive down to Richmond on the spur of the moment to find out what your legislature is doing.
I'm really proud of our efforts. After the Republican House Leadership killed the VTC bill to do this last year, the VTC circulated a letter signed by 60% of Senators and Delegates, a majority in both chambers, demanding the change. And we won!
But you know me. I'm not done. I won't rest until all subcommittees are streamed live and archived as well, and I have a budget amendment and a bill (HR 701) to do just that this year. Check out the first press article in the left-hand column that praises this new day in the Virginia Capitol.
The 51-49 House of Delegates
I'm proud of our bipartisan efforts. But I know, in order to really change Virginia, we desperately need two more Democrats in the House and one more in the Senate. As you probably know already, the Republicans currently control both chambers by the thinnest possible margins, 21-19 in the Senate and 51-49 in the House. The reason why is frustrating.
After Republican lawyers learned Democrat Shelly Simonds had won the 94th District by one vote in the recount, they rummaged through the already recounted and sealed ballot boxes that they had formally agreed in writing had been fairly counted and found a weird overvote (where the voter chose both the Democrat and the Republican Delegates). Even though Republicans had previously signed a statement agreeing this crazy ballot with weird ovals and slashes for several candidates couldn't be legally counted, they then changed their mind, and sent it to Republican judges. The judges then decided to ignore the express deadlines set out in the Virginia Code in order to favor the Republican Delegate who had put one of them on the bench. Counting this disputed ballot contrary to law made the race a tie, which was then determined by lot by picking film canisters out of a bowl. To our chagrin, the Board of Elections picked the canister with the Republican Delegate's name on it. And this is why Shelly Simonds, who legitimately won her election by one vote, will sadly not be joining us in the 2018 Session. I suspect she will run again in 2019. And if she does, we must help her win by more than one vote this time, so they can't pull these same shenanigans again!
Meanwhile, in the 28th District (Fredericksburg and Stafford County), a Federal District Court found that electoral irregularities, including both illegal voter disenfranchisement and illegal ballots in election boxes comprising at least 147 wrongly-cast votes -- in an election determined by less than half that many -- was a "garden-variety error" and therefore no big deal. In sum, while one Republican Court went to the mat to count one disputed and illegal over-vote to swing an election, another Republican Court couldn't be bothered to defend the rights of 147 citizens who did absolutely nothing wrong but were still disenfranchised by incompetent election officials who should have known better. These incompetent officials knew well these problems had existed ever since the Massive Republican Gerrymander of 2011. But they didn't fix them. They were still a problem in 2017.
Clearly I'm not pleased by this result. Through gerrymandering, legal machinations and incorrect rulings of law, the more than 1,304,000 Virginian voters who chose Democrats to lead the House of Delegates were forced to subordinate their will to a much smaller minority, the 228,000 fewer Virginians who chose the Republican ballot (only 1,076,000). Obviously this Tyranny of the Minority is untenable, undemocratic, and a real slap in the face to the People of Virginia who voted overwhelmingly (more than 20%!) more for Democrats than Republicans.
But in the face of this obvious unfairness, we musn't give up. We have to fight on. It wasn't easy to defeat King George III either, and I'm confident that eventually, with determined effort, We the People will one day be able to choose our elected Government. It's worth the fight. I do believe we shall overcome someday. That day may not be until 2019, but if courts find -- as I hope and expect they eventually will -- that this gerrymandering chicanery in Virginia violated the US Constitution, I believe we can actually have fair elections in Virginia, possibly as early as this year (2018)!
And it's not just Virginia. I'm also the chief co-patron of a bill to end the archaic Electoral College (HB99). Just as I believe that Virginians should be able to choose our lawmakers by majority vote, I also believe that the majority of Americans should have the right to choose our own President. I just think in a democracy, the majority should rule. And while I realize that neither the USA nor Virginia is a democracy where We the People actually have the right to choose our elected representatives by majority vote, I do hope and fervently believe that with determined effort on my part and yours, we can one day achieve this. I will always fight hard for democracy.
My Committee Assignments
Unlike in the US House of Representatives, where Democratic and Republican Leadership each get to choose who serves on Committees no matter who is in the majority, Republicans in Virginia insist that their Leader, Speaker Kirk Cox, must choose all the Delegates on all the Committees. So, for committees, Cox even chooses who represents the Democrats! We offered to let both parties decide their own representatives, but the Republicans refused us anything more than a "consultation" they refused to put in the rules. They apparently want to make sure that despite representing fewer than 45% of Virginia voters, they remain fully ensconced in power. We tried to warn them that when we take the majority, the same unfair rules that they insist on now would have to be applied to them then, but the Republicans remain confident that the lines they gerrymandered will protect them from the will of the voters. I only hope we can prove them wrong and one day hoist them on their own petard for putting their personal power grab above the will of Virginia voters.
On Thursday, Speaker Cox announced all committee assignments. I will be returning to the Health Welfare and Institutions Committee and joining the Committee on Militia, Police, and Public Safety. Although these weren't the primary committees on which I wanted to serve, they both do significant work for the Commonwealth. In HWI, we handle most health-care related bills, and I plan to push for Medicaid Expansion. In Militia, Police, and Public Safety, all legislation regarding firearms will be heard, and I have a lot of common-sense gun legislation this year.
27 Bills! (So Far...)
This year, I have introduced more bills than I ever have before. Twenty seven!
So far, my bills for the 2018 session are as follows:
HB 39 to allow each locality authority to establish its own minimum wage
HB 40 to require paid family leave in Virginia
HB 41 to ban mechanisms which convert guns into machine guns
HB 136 to allow museums to obtain an annual license to serve alcohol
HB 137 to allow medical marijuana for
HB 138 to repeal the crime or fornication (sex between unmarried persons)
HB 140 to require background checks for all firearm transactions
HB 401 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity
HB 402 to set up a policy for body cameras by law enforcement officers
HB 403 to set up automatic voter registration
HB 404 to prohibit open-ended loans exceeding 36% per annum
HB 405 to prohibit firearm possession by anyone convicted of domestic violence
HB 406 to allow most persons under guardianship the freedom to contact loved ones
HB 424 to allow animal shelters to vaccinate animals
HB 425 to require counseling for persons convicted of animal cruelty
HB 426 to make it a crime to injure someone while driving in a careless or distracted manner
HB 699 to fund Northern Virginia and other regional transportation needs through a gas tax floor
HB 701 to require all subcommittees to be live streamed and archived in the Virgnia General Assembly
HB 702 to fund public law libraries with a $3 tax increase on civil litigation
HB 807 to allow abuse of non-family members to be considered in custody cases
HB 814 to allow localities to prohibit firearms at protests or demonstrations
HB 815 to prevent children and other non-criminals from being held in institutions without the power to contact loved ones or authorities to complain of abuse
HB 1097 to authorizing localities in Virginia to move statues or monuments
HB 1098 to authorize Alexandria's plan to move its Confederate statue, Appomattox
HB 1099 to remove Robert E. Lee from being one of Virginia's two statues in the US Capitol
HB 1100 to remove firearms from those legally found to be mentally ill enough to require commitment in a facility
HB 1269 to allow internet organizations to verify identity across digital systems
You will hear a lot more about each of these bills in future newsletters.
Mark's Monthly Meetup
Los Tios in Del Ray
Sunday, January 21 at 2 pm
Please join me on January 21 for the January Mark's Monthly Meetup from 2-4 pm at Los Tios Mexican restaurant in Del Ray (2615 Mount Vernon Avenue in Alexandria). Come join us to eat, relax, and discuss policy and politics.
And if you miss January, there's always February, March, or April. Every month, I make sure to be available in this informal setting for any constituent who wishes to discuss a problem or just say hello. Help me get to know you better, so I can better determine your priorities in Richmond. I always strive to be as accessible to you as I can possibly be.
In the Community and in Richmond
Danica Roem, Anne Waldo, and me at the Back to Richmond Brunch
With the Virginia Federation of Republican Women,
I'm always happy to talk to constituents, even when they disagree with me,
on issues ranging from immigration to schools
Saturday January 13, Noon
Inauguration of Governor Ralph Northam
Virginia State Capitol, Richmond
Saturday, January 13, 3 pm
Free Backstairs-at-the-Capitol Delegates Tour
Virginia State Capitol, Richmond
Meet me at the public entrance to the Capitol at 3 pm.
RSVP by emailing [email protected]
Mark's Monthly Meetup
Los Tios, 2615 Mt. Vernon Avenue, Alexandria
Joint Town Hall with Senator Adam Ebbin
Mt. Vernon Community School, 2601 Commonwealth Ave, Alexandria
It is always my honor and privilege to serve you.
Delegate Mark Levine
Serving Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax in Virginia's 45th District