Representing Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax

Newsletter - January 21, 2018

Settling in to the First Full Week of Session

My New Office at the Pocahontas Building is in Room 208. Come visit!
I now have enough seniority to get a coveted aisle seat in the Chamber.
I chose to sit near the Freshmen Delegates.
As Assistant Whip, I need to be easily accessible to help them.

Back in Alexandria..for a Day!

I'm back home in Alexandria to attend Mark's Monthly Meetup today at 2 pm at Los Tios.

Come have lunch with me today! Details below.

Having been gone for two solid weeks, I was thinking as I drove home yesterday that it's good to be home again, if only for a night. One day in the Virginia House of Delegates feels like a week. A week seems like a month. And a month, a year.

Bills, Bills, Bills

We're so busy, because so much is packed in such a limited amount of time. Having introduced 27 bills (almost twice as much as I introduced in prior years), I've also co-patroned more than 120 others

For each bill, I study the introduced language carefully, consult with supporters and opponents of the bill, lobby my fellow lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and make necessary amendments. As they usually give us about 24 hours notice that a bill will be heard (and sometimes even less notice!), I have to move carefully and fast. If you are coming down to Richmond to speak on a bill, you already know my Chief of Staff Steven Marku does an excellent job at coordinating with supporters of bills. In fact, if you have a suggestion to amend the language of one of my bills to make it better, you should contact Steve right away.

I've already brought three bills before subcommittee: 1) protecting Alzheimer's patients' rights to see loved ones; 2) the Gadsby's Tavern bill; and 3) repeal of Virginia's law against sexual relations between unmarried consenting adults. See the details in my Legislative Update below.

In addition, I prepared for a hearing on my bill HB41 to ban the conversion of semi-automatic firearms to machine guns, and the bill was moved from the Rules Committee to the Militia and Police Committee on which I sit. I also have two more bills coming up on Monday dealing with animal rights.

Virginia Swears in a New Governor,

Governor Ralph Northam waves to crowds at his Inauguration.

A New Lt. Governor, and a Great Attorney General.

Attorney General Mark Herring, Governor Ralph Northam, and Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax descend the steps on Inauguration Day.

On Saturday, during a joint session of the House of Delegates and Senate that occurred outdoors at the State Capitol, Governor Northam, Lieutenant Governor Fairfax, and Attorney General Herring were officially sworn in to office. The Governor gave an inspiring speech in which he shared a personal story of his upbringing. He spoke to what made him who he is today and to his moral compass, emphasizing that there is no monopoly on good ideas. He reminded us all that with narrow partisan margins in each body, we will all have to work together in order to accomplish the best results and the best way ahead for the Commonwealth.  


Governor Northam Outlines Priorities


On Monday evening, during a joint session of the General Assembly, Governor Northam outlined his priorities and vision for the Commonwealth. I am proud to call Dr. Northam my Governor. He spoke to our values as Virginians and how we can live those values through our legislation. It was not unexpected to see many of my colleagues from the other side of the aisle not applauding his vision for Virginia. It is my hope that we can all come together and work side by side to pass positive legislation for all of the residents of the Commonwealth.

Speaking Out Against Discrimination

The House Democratic Caucus held a press conference outlining our priorities for the 2018 session. We chose to feature a few of us to present our collective ideas on economic development. While others spoke about the minimum wage (my HB 39) and paid family medical leave (my HB 40), I was asked to share my personal story about workplace discrimination and how my bill HB 401 would protect Virginians regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. You can watch a video of my comments (about 2-3 minutes) and the full press conference here.


Legislative Update

HB 406: Protecting Alzheimer Families

When adults suffer from dementia, a legal guardian is sometimes appointed. And that guardian sometimes unreasonably forbids family members from seeing their loved ones. A constituent of mine has been denied the right to speak with a woman with whom he's been in a 14-year relationship.

The law currently requires someone in his position take the guardian to court and convince a judge that he should be allowed to communicate. That seems like an incredible burden to put on people who might not have easy access to an attorney. I want to change the law to shift that burden to the guardian. You shouldn't have to file a lawsuit in order to see your family or loved one with whom you have an established relationship. If HB406 becomes law, the burden will be on the guardian to restrict visits. And as I believe the vast majority of family members do not abuse their suffering mom, dad, spouse, or loved one, that makes sense to me.

I'm pleased to report that Courts of Justice Subcommittee #2 approved my bill on a bipartisan 6-1 vote. You can watch the hearing at the link below, and I'm hopeful that the full Courts of Justice Committee will soon pass the bill on to the House Floor.


HB 136: Liquor License for Gadsby's Tavern

Due to a hole in Virginia's liquor laws, Gadsby's Tavern in Old Town Alexandria is not allowed to get an annual liquor license for its special events. As you can see from the link below, General Laws Subcommittee #3 agreed unanimously with my bill to allow that. The bill should be before the full committee very soon.


HB 138: Repeal of Criminal Fornication Ban

Oddly, Virginia still has a law from colonial days that makes it a misdemeanor for consenting adults to have sexual contact outside of marriage! This law, found to be unconstitutional by both the Virginia Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court more than a decade ago, is nevertheless still part of the Virginia Code. And a tiny handful of unethical Commonwealth Attorneys still charge the crime -- knowing they can't enforce it -- sometimes piling on to legitimate charges and sometimes forcing people to come in to the Court to have the unconstitutional charges dismissed.

This seems like a clear abuse of power to me, particularly as I suspect that millions of adult Virginians have had premarital sex at some point in their lives. My bill would not affect legitimate charges like laws against sex in public, sex with children, or nonconsensual sex, but it would clean up the books and repeal this ridiculous law.

Unfortunately, Courts of Justice Subcommittee #1 disagreed and did not report my bill. So Virginia's fornication law -- likely the single most important charge on the criminal docket in 1690 (when Jamestown was still our capital!) but having no legitimate function today, just makes us a laughingstock. Watch this video of Virginians shocked to find out this law is still on the books.

You can watch the video of the subcommittee hearing at the link below.


Bills Coming Up on Monday

HB 424 to allow animal shelters to vaccinate animals
HB 425 to require counseling for persons convicted of animal cruelty 

Both of these bills will be heard in Agriculture Subcommittee #1 on Monday afternoon. If you want to come down to Richmond to testify on these bills or any others I've introduced (or have some expertise and want to write a letter in support), please contact my Chief of Staff Steve Marku as soon as possible.

Mark's Monthly Meetup

Los Tios in Del Ray
Sunday, January 21 at 2 pm 

Please join me this afternoon at 2 pm for the January Mark's Monthly Meetup 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.

Town Hall Meeting in Alexandria

Mount Vernon Community School
Saturday, January 27, 10 am to 11:30 am 

Next weekend, please join Senator Adam Ebbin and me for a town hall meeting on Saturday, January 27 from 10 am to 11:30 am at Mount Vernon Community School, 2601 Commonwealth Avenue in Alexandria. We will be providing an update from Richmond and taking questions from constituents.

In the Community and in Richmond 

With Governor Ralph Northam and Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax at the Annual Rally for Gun Violence Prevention.

Meeting with the New American Majority

Meeting with constituents who want stronger laws to prevent gun violence

It is always my honor and privilege to serve you.

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