Thank you to everyone who attended the Alexandria Vigil for Orlando sponsored by Moms Demand Action: faith leaders, my fellow Members of the General Assembly, local officials, and LGBT activists. Most of all, thank you to the many hundreds who heard my cry from the heart in the YouTube video. Thank you to the very large number of you who did what I asked you to do. You called your Virginia Senators and demanded they join the filibuster and keep fighting until we have common-sense gun safety reform. Senator Mark Warner told me personally of the impact of your many calls. And that's why, despite all the odds against us, I have hope. When 90% of Americans (including 90% of Republicans) support universal background checks and oppose terrorists easily buying AR-15s, I know we can win, against even the stringent opposition of the NRA leadership. Even if we have to vote out of office every one of the NRA's Delegates, Senators, and Congressman...
With the vicious anti-choice, anti-LGBT, anti-labor, and anti-immigrant bills passed by the Republican majority that controls the Virginia General Assembly, it was only the vetoes of Governor Terry McAuliffe that saved Virginia from becoming just like North Carolina and Mississippi. We must continue with strong leadership in Richmond. That is why I'm proud to endorse Democratic Lieutenant Governor's Ralph Northam's campaign for Governor. Delegate Charniele Herring and I were happy to spend an evening with Ralph and his supporters in Alexandria and I look forward to joining him for many more campaign appearances in the future
I've been sued for speaking out! And I'm hardly the only one. Sixty-four of us -- including fellow Democrats in the General Assembly and in local government -- have been sued by the Arlington gun store that just opened in a peaceful residential neighborhood near a child care center despite the vociferous protests of residents who live there. The store complains that we 64 have criticized their business and singles me out in particular, because I have urged people not to shop there. I will not be intimidated by this flagrant attack on your and my First Amendment rights.
Although the session officially ended a month ago, the Virginia Constitution calls on all of us to return today at noon to vote on the Governor's 32 vetoes, 47 recommendations, and 30 budget amendments. As you read this, please know that I'm in Richmond right now working hard for you. I was thrilled to see Governor McAuliffe veto some of the worst bills to come out of this session, including bills that would have defunded Planned Parenthood, blocked the Clean Power Plan, and made it easier for criminals to have access guns (and even reduce criminal penalties for pointing a gun at someone). He vetoed bills that vilified undocumented immigrants, extended tax breaks for coal companies, and made it harder to register to vote.
I will travel back down to Richmond for several days next week in preparation for our reconvened session. In this session, we will consider 89 bills: Governor McAuliffe's 32 vetos and 57 recommendations. I'm reviewing the Governor's vetos and recommendations now. If you have views on any of them, please do not hesitate to write me at DelMLevine@house.virginia.gov.
I spoke on the House Floor this week in memory of 29-year-old Crystal Hamilton and in support of her 11-year-old son. Many of you know the tragic story of Ashley Guindon, the brave Prince William County Police Officer who was killed on her first day on the job. The same man who shot Officer Guindon and two other police officers had just murdered his wife Crystal. Their son heard the gunshots and ran for his life.
This week, the House passed a budget for the next two years. With two major exceptions (see below), it was a good budget that largely tracked what the Governor requested with some missed opportunities. Most importantly, the budget has significant increases in education funding, including a 3% raise for teachers and the Governor's proposed Cost of Competing Adjustment for school support staff in Northern Virginia for Fiscal Year 2018. It also retained most of the funds the Governor provided for economic development
This week included "Crossover," the date by which the House of Delegates had to finish work on all of its bills. As of Crossover, two of my bills had passed unanimously. I have every confidence the Senate will pass these bills as well, and they will be signed into Law by Governor McAuliffe.
Being a Delegate means taking tough votes, and this week was a good example of that. As many of you know, Gov. McAuliffe reached a compromise on gun measures that has attracted both praise and criticism. As for the good parts of the deal, I was proud to vote for a proposal from my good friend Del. Kathleen Murphy to require anyone under a permanent protective order to surrender their guns within 24 hours. If they are caught with a gun, it is not only a felony with mandatory jail time, but the abuser is banned from possessing firearms for life. As a longtime advocate for victims of domestic violence, I know this bill will save lives.
Two weeks ago, at 7:54 am on Sunday January 24 -- just as the massive snow storm was ending -- a Dominion Power electric transformer located on the corner of 18th and Fern Street in Crystal City (Arlington) failed, causing it to heat up rapidly. Pipes containing the mineral oil which normally cools this transformer leaked a massive 13,500 gallons of this mineral oil. Dominion reported the incident to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) almost 9 hours later at 4:40 pm.