The 2020 Senate Session convened January 8th at the Capitol in Richmond for the 401st year. All 140 members of the new General Assembly were sworn in, the House and Senate reorganized under new Democratic leadership, and Governor Northam gave his State of the Commonwealth address. Committee assignments were announced and for the next four years. I will serve on the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, General Laws and Technology Committee, Rules Committee, Privileges and Elections Committee; Joint House/Senate Rules Committee and Finance subcommittees on General Laws, Health and Human Resources and Claims. Senate Finance is my most significant responsibility, as this session the committee crafts an entirely new 2-year budget for the Commonwealth.
In the months preceding session, I met with local governments, public safety officials, school boards, supervisors, civic organizations, and community advocates in each of the seven jurisdictions in the 27th District. Many of their requests are part of my current legislation. A partial list of bills that I have introduced includes:
• Improved treatment protocols for substance use-related emergencies;
• Creation of higher education work group and implementation of teaching practices for dyslexia and literacy, multisensory structured language education;
• Opioid access reduction through home hospice disposal of deceased’s unused drugs left in the home;
• A cap on interest and fees for pay day loans;
• Workers compensation for firefighters with cancer diagnoses associated with toxic exposures;
• A Hope Card Program for permanent protective orders;
• Reporting of unprofessional conduct by health professionals;
• Amendment to the Charter of the Town of Middleburg;
• Speeding fines increased on certain high accident roadways in Fauquier County;
• Electronic speed indicator signs on U.S. Route 17;
• Speed limits for certain vehicles on U.S. Route 17;
• Workers’ compensation to include PTSD for law-enforcement officers and firefighters
• Prompt payment by contractors to subcontractors;
• Music therapy licensure;
• Signage and road markings for cyclists;
• Change in rules for distillers’ licenses, remote stores and tasting rooms;
• Increase in special event licenses permitted for localities;
• Increase in resources to accommodate Winchester City elected School Board;
• Grant funding for Acute Stabilization in Drug or Alcohol Emergencies;
• Additional resources for the Career Prosecutors Program;
• Funding for the education facility at Clermont Farm;
• Support for the Shihadeh Innovation Center Winchester Public Schools;
• Resources to provide information cards for individuals with protective orders;
• A 5% raise for teachers over each of the next two years;
• Hub for Innovation, Virtual Reality and Entrepreneurship education in the northern valley in partnership with Shenandoah University;
• Resources for Clerks of the Circuit Court; and
• Support for the Laurel Center intervention programs for domestic and sexual violence and workforce training.
This marks the first session in 26 years where Democrats have majorities in the House and Senate with a Democrat serving as Governor. It has brought an immediate change to the direction of the legislature. January 3rd, we held a pre-session public forum for people in the region to address the budget and other matters. Large numbers turned out to advocate for budget revisions, while others testified about the dangers of extreme anti-business, high tax and anti-Second Amendment legislation currently proposed. That day I listened to almost six hours of testimony from my constituents. It was just a wind up to the frenzy that we see at the Capitol now from those upset by rules already passed this week. Many of us are working very hard to address these issues and prevail upon our colleagues to reject these proposals that so offend our citizens. These are not partisan issues, but Virginia issues, and those communicating concerns cross party lines and represent the views of ordinary Virginians.
We welcome your feedback on any matters and also welcome visitors to the Capitol. Please contact our office any time that you have questions or concerns. I can be reached during the General Assembly session at 804-698-7527, P.O. Box 397, Richmond, VA 23218 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, please visit our website at www.senatorjillvogel.com.