MARK IN THE NEWS
Photo Identification No Longer Needed to Vote In Virginia
The Center Square
LINKS ON COVID-19:
Or by mail and phone:
900 East Main Street, Suite E208
Richmond, VA 23219
301 King St
Alexandria, VA 22314
There's a lot of big news to share in this newsletter, news you may want to talk with me about. I will be hosting Mark's Monthly Meetup virtually this Sunday, July 26, from 1-3 pm live via Zoom. As always, we'll be discussing whatever issues are important to you.
Mark's Monthly Meetup
Sunday, July 26, 1 - 3 pm
Join via Zoom
Join the conversation by clicking here.
Meeting ID: 817-1873-6278
(Join and download Zoom for FREE by clicking here.)
If you don't have access to Zoom, you can also call in to join the discussion: (929) 205-6099
GOVERNOR: SPECIAL SESSION
STARTS AUGUST 18
Main Focuses: Budget, COVID-19, Criminal Justice Reform
We finally have a date for our Special Session. Beginning August 18, the General Assembly will meet (either in-person or virtually) "for the purpose of adopting a budget based on the revised revenue forecast and consideration of legislation related to the emergency of COVID-19 and criminal and social justice reforms."
I am excited to get to work. Our tax revenue forecast is looking much better than had been expected since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Initial forecasts suggested we could lose upwards of $1 billion in tax revenue this fiscal year, but that $1 billion has turned out to be a much more manageable $236.5 million shortfall. Still not good, but not as bad as we initially feared. This Richmond Times-Dispatch article excerpted below does a good job of explaining our budget situation.
You can read the full text of Governor Northam’s proclamation about the special session here.
I have been busy gearing up for this Special Session, meeting with constituents, advocacy groups, and my colleagues. I have sent newsletters sharing some of my thoughts on ways to move forward on the issue of racial justice, for example. You can always email me or call my office (contact information on the left), or join my Monthly Meetup.
But I'm not the only one committed to getting the public's input before the Special Session.
House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn and the entire House Democratic Caucus want to hear from you. That's why Speaker Filler-Corn announced that the Joint House Courts of Justice and Public Safety Committees will convene three public meetings to get expert testimony and public input. As a member of both committees - and as Chair of the Public Safety Subcommittee - I am excited to get to work.
Calling on the VEC to Modernize
its Unemployment Assistance Processes
As Delegate, my number one priority is constituent services. That's why I recently joined 42 of my General Assembly colleagues in urging the Virginia Employment Commission (the state agency that administers unemployment insurance programs) to modernize and streamline their unemployment assistance processes. Too many constituents of mine are still waiting for benefits. You can read our letter to VEC Commissioner Ellen Hess by clicking here.
I am committed to putting the great public servants at the VEC in a position to adequately manage this unprecedented crisis and leave no Virginian behind.
I know they've been working hard. Between March 15 and August 14, 938,559 Virginians applied for unemployment insurance benefits. 91% of those eligible were paid within 14 days.
The VEC has increased staff by 550%. Three weeks ago, they were taking roughly 28,000 calls per week. They are now taking more than 60,000 calls per week.
They are working hard. But we need to do better.
Looking for work? The VEC and Virginia Career Works are hosting a virtual hiring event on July 28 event from 1-5 pm.
Driver's Licenses Automatically Extended
Executive Directive Seven has been amended again by Governor Northam to officially extend the validity of every driver, vehicle, special identification, and driver credential that expires on or before July 31, 2020, for up to an additional 90 days, through October 31, 2020. The new extension is in addition to the past one of up to 90 days through August 31.
March 15 and April 30: Any driver whose credential expired between those dates gets an extra 90 days added to the prior 90 days, effectively 180 days, beyond the expiration date to renew. For example, if your license expired on March 17, you initially got until June 15 to renew, but now have until September 13.
May 1 and July 31: Any driver with credentials expiring between these dates gets up to 90 more days beyond the expiration date, for a total of up to 180 days, with October 31 as the latest date. For example, if your license expired on July 17, the initial extension gave you until August 31, but you now get until October 31.
After July 31: Any driver with credentials expiring after July 31 needs to renew it before its expiration date, as usual. For example, if your license expires on August 2, you still need to get it renewed by August 2.
DMV customer service centers across Virginia have reopened. You can make your appointment at dmvNOW.com/appt.
Virginia Adopts Emergency Protections for Workers
in Absence of Federal Leadership
- mandate social distancing measures and face coverings for employees in customer-facing positions and when social distancing is not possible,
- provide frequent access to hand washing or hand sanitizer,
- regularly clean high-contact surfaces, and,
- notify all employees within 24 hours if a coworker tests positive for the virus.
Employees who are known or suspected to be positive for COVID-19 are not allowed to return to work for ten days or until they receive two consecutive negative tests.
The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s Safety and Health Codes Board voted to approve an emergency temporary standard on infectious disease prevention after Governor Northam, through Executive Order 63 (more on that below) directed the creation of enforceable regulations in May. These temporary emergency standards will remain in effect for six months and can be made permanent through the process defined in state law.
These new Emergency Temporary Standards will take effect immediately upon their publication, which is expected to happen sometime during the week of July 27.
Governor Northam Announces Enhanced Enforcement for Violations of Mask Order
Governor Northam's Executive Order 63 - requiring the wearing of a face covering while inside buildings - took effect on May 29. Since that time, many Virginians have taken the need to wear a mask when around others to heart. But too many have not.
Citing noncompliance with the mask order - the Virginia Department of Health had fielded some 3,000 reports of noncompliance through June - the Governor announced last Tuesday that enforcement would be stepped up. Local health departments would begin making unannounced inspections and noncompliant businesses will risk having their business licenses suspended.
Protect Workers. Protect Democracy.
Protect the Democratic Majority.
We have many challenges ahead. In addition to taking on the intersecting pandemics of COVID-19 and institutionalized racism, we are dealing with a huge economic crisis and a national "leadership" that wants to divide the American people at every turn. It's a lot to grapple with.
But we have no choice: we must keep going, keep fighting. We must take this opportunity to work together and forge solutions to the problems we face so that our people, our institutions, and our Commonwealth can grow stronger. I envision a future where all Virginians can thrive, but first, we simply need to survive.
This takes work. And, yes, it takes money.
It takes money to pay my staff who help with constituent services, which we are spending an unprecedented amount of time on.
It takes money to pay for web services that help me to keep constituents informed about what services are available to them and opportunities to engage with policymakers.
And it will take money to re-elect the Democratic majority here in Virginia that has, in a very short period of time, passed historic reforms - from raising the minimum wage and reining in predatory lenders, to making it easier to vote, to removing political interference in people's reproductive healthcare decisions - that will create a better world for all who call Virginia home.
So, if you can afford it, please consider donating today. Let's continue to protect the gains we've made in recent years. Let's protect workers. Let's protect democracy.
Monday, July 20
House Committee on Privileges and Elections Meeting
Livestream will be available here.
Wednesday, July 22; Wednesday, July 29; Thursday, August 6
10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Virtual Public Meetings of the
Joint House Courts of Justice and Public Safety Committees
See details by clicking here.
I thank you again for the honor and privilege of serving you.
Delegate Mark Levine
Proudly serving Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax
in the Virginia House of Delegates