Fall Update

Dear Friend,
It is a privilege to serve you in the House of Delegates. Since my last update, there is much to report in our Commonwealth. Below you will find information on the upcoming November 4th general election, as well as news regarding recent Supreme Court decisions, the Governor’s energy plan, and a brief update on the on-going Special Session.
TOMORROW, Tuesday, November 4, I encourage you to ask your neighbors and friends to join you as you head to the polls to vote. Every vote counts, and by voting, you not only let your voice be heard, but you help democracy work in the best possible way.

Statewide, we will have the opportunity to vote on the United States Senate seat. The incumbent, Mark Warner, as well as Ed Gillespie and Robert Sarvis are on the ballot. As a first generation college graduate, Senator Warner believes that all Virginians deserve a fair shot at success. While serving in the Senate, he has focused on tackling our nation’s debt and deficit in a bipartisan way, raising the minimum wage, providing new tools for paying off student loan debt, protecting a woman’s right to make her own health decisions, and standing up for military families and veterans. 

Additionally, we will have the opportunity to vote on a proposed constitutional amendment. The constitutional amendment, if passed, authorizes the General Assembly to exempt from taxation the real property of any surviving spouse of a member of the armed forces of the United States who was killed in action.
For more information about your specific voter precinct, visit “What’s on my Ballot?”

Virginia law now requires a photo ID to vote. When voting, you will need to show one of the following forms of photo identification:
1) Virginia driver’s license or other photo ID issued by Virginia
2) Virginia Voter ID Card
3) Military ID
4) Student ID with photograph and issued by any institution of higher learning in Virginia
5) US passport or other ID issued by the local, state, or federal government
6) Employee ID card with a photograph and issued by the employer in the ordinary course of business.
If you have any questions or concerns about this process, please do not hesitate to contact me. You can also find more information about Virginia’s new voter ID laws here.
On October 6th, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to review the ruling from the United States Court of Appeals finding Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. This means that same-sex marriage is now legally recognized in Virginia.
A state-employee in a same-sex marriage can now receive spousal benefits. State employees married before October 6, 2014, have until December 4, 2014, to submit requests to enroll their spouse on their benefits plan. Questions can be directed to their Benefits Administrator. The Department of Human Resource Management's Office of Health Benefits’ contact is ohb@dhrm.virginia.gov or (804) 225-3642. Married same-sex couples in Virginia may also now legally adopt a child. 

Congress passed a historic bipartisan bill called the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) in 2008. Often referred to as the Federal Parity Act, the Act mandates that health insurance providers treat mental illness with equal significance to physical illness. On October 6th, the McShin Foundation, along with former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, held an event to raise awareness about the Act, emphasize the impact of mental illness in our community, and focus on supporting and advocating for those affected by mental illness. If you are not aware of which mental health and addiction services are covered under your health insurance, I encourage you to learn more about it.

A panel of federal judges struck down Virginia’s congressional map on October 7, finding that the third district, represented by Congressman Bobby Scott, was drawn specifically to pack African-American voters into a district to minimize their influence, which is a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. In response to the ruling, the General Assembly is tasked in the upcoming session with redrawing the congressional map by April 2015. Each previous session, I have introduced a bill supporting non-partisan districting, in an effort to advocate for the creation of voting districts that are less politically polarized. 

On October 13, Governor McAuliffe released his energy plan for Virginia. In his plan, he calls for more investment in solar and wind energy, and develops a state authority to promote solar energy. His proposal also emphasizes the importance of reducing energy consumption, while maintaining current plans to construct a pipeline for natural gas from West Virginia.
Two local organizations, the Richmond Renewable Energy Alliance and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, are working to promote solar energy in Richmond. I recently toured local homes in the 69th district that use solar energy. Using solar energy can lower the cost of an electric bill, while also reducing energy consumption. Additionally, I discovered that there are several things you can do to your home to reduce your bills in the coming winter months. Air sealing, duct sealing, and insulation measures can help reduce utility bills. If you would like more information about this, contact Susan Hill with the Richmond Region Energy Alliance atrreaoutreach@gmail.com or 804-612-3350.
Dominion Power also offers several energy conservation programs for residents, such as “Smart Cooling Rewards” and “Home Energy Check Up.” Visit their website or call their customer service line at 1-866-366-4357 to learn more.
In October, Richmond City Public Schools became one of the first in Virginia to implement the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) district-wide. The CEP is a new option available under the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.  It allows schools in high-poverty areas to provide school breakfast and lunch to all students at no charge this school year without collecting school meal applications. This is a positive, health promoting measure for our communities and it helps the families of school-aged children in need of financial support.
Recently, I visited Hillside Court to learn more about their 12 week Prescription Produce Plan led by Shalom Farms with support from Bon Secours and the Greater Richmond Coalition for Healthy Children. This collaborative, comprehensive program is empowering low-income families to increase consumption of fresh food and improve their health and well-being. I am very pleased with the new and on-going efforts throughout our community to enhance the quality of life for individuals in need.  
The Ebola virus has become a serious issue throughout our world, and with a few cases cropping up in Texas and New York, it is vital that we develop strong protocols to safeguard our communities. While the CDC is taking necessary precautions to ensure that the outbreak does not impact the United States, Governor McAuliffe and Dr. Marissa Levine, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Health, are leading the state’s ongoing health preparedness efforts should the Commonwealth be impacted. You can obtain answers to questions concerning Ebola by calling the VDH Ebola Hotline at 1-877-ASK-VDH3 (1-877-275-8343). For more information concerning Ebola, please visit VDH’s website.

On September 18, the General Assembly reconvened for a Special Session to debate the issue of Medicaid expansion; ultimately, no legislation was passed. The House of Delegates will reconvene again on November 10, to consider the Governor’s amendment to the budget passed in June and to possibly fill certain judicial vacancies. Later in the month, at a retreat of the House money committees in Abingdon, we will learn the latest financial revenue projections and other expert information helpful prior to the state budget preparation in the upcoming January session.
I am in the process of preparing legislation for the 2015 session, which begins on Wednesday, January 14. If there is a policy issue that you are concerned about, please contact me, as some of you have already done.
It is an honor and privilege to serve you in the General Assembly. If you have any questions or concerns, please never hesitate to contact my office at delegate.carr@betsycarr.org or at 804-698-1069. I always appreciate hearing from constituents throughout the year.
Veteran's Day is November 11th. Thank you to all veterans and members of the United State Armed Forces for your courage, sacrifice, and dedication to serving our country and protecting our freedom.



Legislative Update

Dear Friend,
I hope you have enjoyed your summer and are ready for the back to school season. As I prepare for the upcoming special session, I would like to provide you with a few updates.
The General Assembly will reconvene in the early Fall for a special session to debate the issue of Medicaid expansion. Please provide me with any feedback or insight that you wish to share. Some noteworthy comments of potential interest are Secretary of Health and Human Resources William Hazel's op-ed in the Roanoke Times, The Urban Institute's "What is the Result of States Not Expanding Medicaid," andThe New England Journal of Medicine's "We Can Do Better - Improving the Health of the American People."
Additionally, you can learn more about the work of the General Assembly’s various commissions, joint subcommittees, and studies in a report provided by the Division of Legislative Services here.

The Governor has made several important announcements over the summer. In late July, he signed Executive Order #20, which advances equity for small, women and minority-owned business (SWaM) in the Commonwealth. Under this executive order, state agencies must award at least 42% of contracts to small businesses. This target goal makes it the highest percentage of state contracts going to SWaM businesses since 2004, when the state started tracking this data. Additionally, a microbusiness designation was created under the order, which will cover small businesses employing less than 25 individuals and receiving less than $3 million in average annual revenue. This designation of microbusiness provides a better chance for small businesses to win a contract.

In addition, the Governor prioritized Virginia’s commitment to address the needs of our youngest citizens in two additional executive orders, which established the Children’s Cabinet and the Commonwealth Council on Childhood Success (CCCS). The CCCS will report to the Children’s Cabinet, and will conduct a statewide assessment of the Commonwealth’s current programs, services, and public resources that serve children aged 0-8 years old.  This assessment will identify opportunities for growth in terms of funding, closing the achievement gap, improving the quality of childcare programs, and coordinating services for at-risk families. The Children’s Cabinet’s primary objective is to focus on schools in high-poverty communities; increase the quality of educational programs; improve access to basic needs like healthcare, housing, and healthy food; evaluate services for youth transitioning out of juvenile justice, mental health, and foster care systems; and strengthen workforce development initiatives for parents.
As a former City of Richmond School Board member, education has always been a priority for me. These efforts give me hope that our youth will have more secure futures with increased educational opportunities and more support for their families. Our district has many child welfare, education, and community advocates who welcome these new initiatives and opportunities for further engagement in the coming years.
In recent years, sexual violence on college campuses has become of increasing concern across the nation. On August 22nd, Governor McAuliffe, in collaboration with Attorney General Mark Herring, announced the “Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence.”Chaired by the Attorney General, the task force will recommend best practices for protocols, building relationships between key stakeholders (university officials, law enforcement, counselors, etc.), sexual violence related policies, and ways to encourage survivors of sexual violence to report these crimes. The task force will also look at prevention, awareness, and training programs available at institutions of higher education. Currently, the federal government is investigating 76 schools across the country to ensure that the handlings of sexual violence reports are within compliance of anti-discrimination laws. The University of Virginia, College of William and Mary, James Madison University, and the University of Richmond are four of the schools included in the federal investigation.
Other Executive Orders can be found here.
Governor McAuliffe announced earlier in the month, that job seekers throughout Virginia can access thousands of jobs through a new employment app called VAWorks. This is an advanced workforce development tool that will make job-hunting more convenient by matching employers to qualified individuals. The app is free for download and available on iPhone and Android devices.
In other app-related news, after months of rising tension, the app-based ride services, Uber and Lyft, reached an agreement with Virginia officialsto allow them to legally operate within the Commonwealth. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) granted the two companies’ requests to operate and the order became effective immediately. Under this agreement, the companies must meet the following terms:

  1. Run extensive background checks on drivers
  2. Disqualify any with convictions for any felony, fraud, sexual offenses, or violent crimes
  3. Review driving history
  4. Maintain zero tolerance for drug use
  5. Have strict insurance requirements for drivers

Non-compliance with these policies could lead to the DMV revoking the operating permit. This special agreement with the Commonwealth is not permanent. Legislation must be passed in order to allow Uber and Lyft to make permanent homes in the Commonwealth. New and existing Uber users in Richmond were awarded five free rides.
Virginia made national news this summer with the July ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit finding that same-sex couples in Virginia could legally marry. The court refused to delay the effects of the ruling, allowing same-sex couples to begin marrying Thursday, August 21st. However, one day prior, on August 20th, the Supreme Court issued a stay, which delayed the effects of the appeals court ruling.  Attorney General Mark Herring has refused to defend the state ban on same-sex marriage. It is hoped that the high court will review the ruling, when the Supreme Court's term begins in October.
It is a privilege to serve you in the General Assembly. If you have any questions or concerns, please never hesitate to contact my office atdelegate.carr@betsycarr.org or at 804-698-1069. I always appreciate hearing from constituents throughout the year.
Wishing you a happy, relaxing Labor Day weekend.


Betsy B. Carr

Legislative Update

Dear Friend,

It is a privilege to serve you in the House of Delegates. I am writing to provide an update on several topics that may of interest to you.

In my last legislative update, the urgency of passing a budget, the issue of Medicaid expansion, and the on-going special session were discussed. Since then, the General Assembly met twice: On June 12th to pass the biennial budget and on June 23rd to consider the Governor’s vetoes.

While it is good news that the General Assembly passed a $96 billion budget before the July 1, 2014, deadline, Medicaid expansion was not included. Governor McAuliffe vetoed a line item that explicitly requires the legislature to approve any money needed to expand Medicaid; however, after much disagreement, Speaker Howell ruled the veto out of order on procedural grounds. Thus, the members of the House of Delegates could not vote to pass or fail the veto. This means that the original line item is still active and Governor McAuliffe cannot use state money to expand Medicaid without approval of the General Assembly. Despite this happening, the Governor says he will still work to provide Medicaid to the 400,000 working citizens without adequate health coverage. Secretary of Health and Human Resources, Bill Hazel, has been instructed to provide a report on the issue by September 1, 2014.

The Governor also directed the Department of General Services to suspend planning for a new $300 million General Assembly building. He argued that if the legislators could not find $10 million to fund housing and homelessness efforts, he would not approve expenditure of funds for a new office building for the legislature.

Due to the projected budget shortfall, there were cuts in the areas of education and health care. Raises for teachers and state employees, a boost in spending for K-12, and spending increases for mental health were neglected. Additionally, Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia lost $15 million in funding for providing services to people who are uninsured.

In other news, Senator Puckett resigned from his seat representing the 38thdistrict, which is located in southwest Virginia, earlier in June. His resignation left the Senate with 19 Democrats and 20 Republicans. This new majority in the Senate gave Republicans the opportunity to re-arrange committees and leadership. A special election will take place in August to determine who will take Senator Puckett’s place.

For those living within the 69th House District or other parts of the Richmond and Chesterfield area, Senator Henry Marsh announced his retirement from the Senate on July 1, 2014. The date of the special election will be on November 4, 2014, on the same day as the general election. He has served the 16th Senate district for 22 years, was a pioneer of civil rights, and served as Richmond’s first African-American mayor. I’m thankful and happy to have worked with him on many key issues. He will be truly missed in the General Assembly.

In July, over 800 new laws passed during the legislative session and signed by the Governor have gone into effect. For a more complete summary, read the Virginia Division of Legislative Services’ In Due Course: 2014 Changes to Virginia’s Laws or the Times-Dispatch’s summary. Below I detail a few new laws that I find to be of particular importance in our community.

“Brendon’s Law”
As you may recall, during this past legislative session along with Senator Marsh, I passed a bill making a conviction for celebratory gunfire that wounds a person a Class 6 felony.

Voter ID
The next time you vote, remember that you must present a photo ID. Acceptable forms of photo identification include: Virginia driver’s license, a U.S. passport or any other photo ID issued by the United States or Virginia, a student ID issued by any institute of higher learning in Virginia, or any employee ID card. You can also apply for a free, state-issued photo ID card with registrars in any locality within the Commonwealth.

Hybrid Car Tax
Many hybrid car drivers and supporters throughout the Commonwealth were unhappy with the hybrid car tax that was part of the major transportation funding bill during the 2013 legislative session. Now, the $64 annual tax on hybrid vehicles is no longer in effect, and many hybrid vehicle owners have received a $64 refund.

Mature Driver Crash Prevention
Drivers 75 years old or older must now go before the DMV for license renewal every five years. 

Moped Rules
When operating a moped or scooter, you do not need to be licensed, but you need to carry a government-issued photo ID. You must also wear a helmet, as well as a face shield, safety glasses, or goggles. Title and registration is also required for mopeds and scooters (titles cost $10 and annual registration is $20.25).

Cyclist Safety
Under the new law, passing cars must give cyclists at least three feet of clearance.

Standards of Learning (SOL) Reform
The new law requires a maximum number of 17 SOL assessments, five fewer than previously required, to be administered to students in third grade through eighth grade. Additionally, the Secretary of Education created a “Standards of Learning Innovation Committee” to periodically review and make recommendations on the SOL system. On June 30, 2014,the Governor announced the new members to the committee.

Mental Health
Following the tragedy involving Senator Creigh Deeds’ family, new changes have been made within the mental health system. The duration of emergency custody orders has increased from six to eight hours, the state is required to find a bed for temporary detention at a state mental hospital, and the length of temporary detention orders has increased from 48 to 72 hours. The creation of a web-based psychiatric bed registry, including both private and public mental health facilities, has been mandated, as well.

Pet Owners Protection
If a veterinarian certifies a diseased dog or cat is unfit for purchase, whether the buyer returns or keeps the animal, then the pet dealer must reimburse the buyer for certain veterinary fees. Currently, the pet dealer must refund the purchase price or exchange the diseased pet for a pet of equal value. The new law extends the return or reimbursement period from 10 to 14 days for animals with parvovirus.

Employment for Veterans
Private employers are now allowed to grant preference in hiring and promotion to honorably discharged veterans, or their spouses, with a service-connected permanent and total disability.

Nicotine vapor products and alternative nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes, have been added to the list of tobacco products that cannot be sold to, purchased, or possessed by a minor.

Privacy Rights
Over the past few sessions, I have worked on updating privacy rights for the 21st century in our state code. This past session, I introduced three bills aiming to require warrants for tracking and searching electronic devices and retrieving telecommunication records. By co-patroning HB17, I was able to help pass a bill that required law enforcement to have a warrant in order for electronic communication services to release an individual’s real-time location data. This became law on July 1st. Similarly, the United States Supreme Court ruled on June 25, 2014, that law enforcement officers must obtain a warrant in order to search cell phones. Along with many other Virginians, I am pleased with this ruling that protects our privacy rights in our technological era. It has been an important legislative priority for me.

Looking ahead to August, I am excited to spend the evening of August 5thtraveling around the 69th district and visiting with constituents for National Night Out. This year marks the 31st annual celebration. Be sure to contact your local civic association for more information about the festivities going on in your neighborhood.

If you have questions or concerns about the new laws, the legislative process, or another issue, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 804-698-1069 or delegate.carr@betsycarr.org. I am happy to hear from you.

Thank you. It is an honor and privilege to serve the 69th district in the House of Delegates.


Betsy B. Carr

Legislative Update

Dear Friend,

I am writing to provide you with an update on the General Assembly’s task of passing a biennial budget for our Commonwealth. Passing a budget is of upmost importance; localities depend on whatever amount is allotted to them from the state to prepare their own budgets. In addition, state workers need the assurance that they will receive paychecks. Without a budget, Virginia’s bond rating could be threatened. At present, there is a budget impasse. The House has passed a budget without Medicaid expansion while the Senate passed a bi-partisan compromise. At the recent House Appropriations meeting, an anticipated $300 million shortfall in state revenue this year was announced, adding even more urgency to finalize the budget prior to the start of the new fiscal year, July 1, 2014. 
Without Medicaid expansion, many hardworking Virginians are one health crisis away from being unable to provide for their families. I have heard from many constituents over the past few weeks regarding these issues; thank you for reaching out to me with your thoughts and opinions. As a delegate serving in the metropolitan Richmond area, I understand that many of our residents in the City and throughout the Commonwealth are in desperate need of adequate and affordable health services. I find it difficult to refuse the federal money which Virginia taxpayers have already contributed and watch it go to other states that do support Medicaid expansion.
Ensuring if and how more Virginians receive adequate and affordable health care was the major issue throughout session. In every district across our Commonwealth, there are uninsured Virginians, approximately 400,000. Within the City of Richmond and Chesterfield County, there are approximately 25,430 uninsured residents (about 7.6%). These citizens do not qualify for subsidies in the federal Health Insurance Marketplace; however, they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. Of these individuals, nearly 70% are in working families and more than 30,000 are veterans.However, often their jobs do not offer health insurance or pay them enough to afford coverage. They may be only one medical crisis away from homelessness or being unable to afford to pay for food for their families. Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia have expressed their support for Medicaid expansion, stating that their health services will be jeopardized without it. If Virginia expands coverage, the federal government will pay for 100% of the costs in the first three years, and at least 90% after that.
On April 8, 2014, the Senate passed a budget that funds Virginia’s core priorities, gives state employees – including teachers – a 2% raise, helps fund benefits for families who lose a loved one in the line of duty, and uses Virginians’ federal tax dollars to close the coverage gap. The Senate’s budget reflects a bipartisan compromise, called Marketplace, which would use federal funds to provide private insurance to low-income residences.
The House, led by the Republican majority passed its budget, which did not include Medicaid expansion, on March 25. That budget cut money from areas such as education and public service in order to fund health related areas, including hospitals in rural areas, that would otherwise be able to benefit from money that was saved by accepting the federal money of Medicaid expansion for several years. The House budget has not been taken up by the Senate since the Senate passed its own budget which included the Governor’s amendments and the Marketplace option. Meanwhile,House leaders refuse to consider the budget passed by the Senate because they say that our state budget has traditionally originated in the House, the chamber of the people.

Aside from the issue of the budget, the General Assembly reconvened on April 23, 2014, for the “veto session” to consider the Governor’s vetoes and amendments to legislation passed earlier this year by the General Assembly. The majority of the Governor’s amendments were accepted by the General Assembly and his vetoes on four bills still stand.

The Governor amended 60 bills; most changes were technical in nature. However, some amendments on bills with a fiscal impacts included a clause that stated the measure would not take effect unless money for the related costs is appropriated in a budget bill passed by the General Assembly. The House rejected these amendments, which means that those bills go back to Governor McAuliffe. He has the choice to now sign or veto these bills.

During the April veto session, neither the budget nor Medicaid expansion were considered. The House will not reconvene again until Speaker Howell calls the delegates back into session. If a budget is not passed in both houses of the General Assembly Building, the state government could shut down on July 1, 2014. However, a government shutdown does not have to happen, and Governor McAuliffe has stated that he will not let that happen. This is not the first time in the history of our Commonwealth that we have not had a budget by this time on the calendar. It is my hope that we can come to a reasonable conclusion and ensure Medicaid expansion for the thousands of hardworking Virginians that need it.

I hope you have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend, as we remember and honor those who have sacrificed their lives in service of our country.
Thank you. It is a privilege to serve you in the House of Delegates. 


Betsy B. Carr
Member, House of Delegates

Legislative Update

Dear Friend,

I am writing to update you about my work representing in the Virginia House of Delegates on your behalf during the Annual General assembly session that ended on March 8.  The General Assembly will return to Richmond on March 24 for several days to hopefully resolve differences concerning the state budget and the expansion of the Medicaid program under the national Affordable Care Act healthcare law, which remains unresolved. 

This year I introduced a trio of bills that all focused on the protection of privacy for citizens who use personal electronic devices such as cell phones. One bill (HB 813) would require that police obtain a warrant before searching the data on a person’s laptop, smartphone, or other personal electronic devices. The second (HB 814) would require a warrant from a judge before police use a mobile phone or other personal electronic device to track a person’s location – something that happens now in many cases without judicial oversight. The third (HB 817) would require a judicial warrant if the police wish to obtain information relating to the historical location of a person that is located in the detailed records kept by cell phone companies.

I am pleased to report that we made small progress on this issue. The General Assembly unanimously passed a bill (HB 17) that, except in a few narrow instances that now have been specifically written into law, will require that police obtain a judge’s order before being able to track someone in real time using a mobile phone or other personal electronic device. The bill also sets up a requirement that tracking performed without prior judicial approval be reported to the court in a timely manner.

Last summer, many people were saddened by the death of 7-year-old Brendon Mackey of Chesterfield, who was murdered by “celebratory” gunfire on July 4, 2013.  Thanks to the advocacy by the Mackey family and other groups, such as Moms Demand Action, Richmond Senator Henry Marsh and I were able to pass legislation to make it a felony when an individual recklessly handles a firearm in a manner so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life that causes serious bodily damage to another person. Although legislation cannot bring Brendon back to life or find the person who is responsible for his death, it provides an appropriate means to punish and deter those who mishandle a firearm and in doing so endanger the lives of others.

This year marks the beginning of the observance of the centenary of the First World War. The magnificent Carillon in Byrd Park was built to memorialize those Virginians who died fighting in that war. This year legislation I proposed was passed to make the City of Richmond’s Carillon Advisory Committee the official First World War commemoration committee for Virginia, which will provide the official forum for Richmonders and Virginians to participate in the national commemoration of the First World War.
Finally, legislation I proposed to allow cider to be sold in the same size containers as wine, such as growlers or kegs was approved unanimously. In Virginia, the production and sale of hard cider is rapidly growing. The 69th district proudly has Virginia’s first urban cidery, Blue Bee Cider, located in old Manchester, which has become very popular and successful. 

This year there was a bipartisan desire to reform Virginia’s Standards of Learning (SOL) tests. Over the years, many parents and teachers alike have been frustrated with SOLs and
"teaching to the test," rather than focusing on learning through innovation and creativity. Legislation passed this year that will reduce the number of tests by 20 percent to a total of 17 authorized assessments. In addition, a Standards of Learning Innovation Committee will be established to periodically review the SOL tests.

Changes to improve access to mental health treatment also received bipartisan support following the tragedy that struck Senator Creigh Deeds and his family last fall. The duration of emergency custody orders will be extended to 12 hours. State hospitals will be required to take patients when private beds are unavailable. The time permitted for an emergency detention order to be in effect before a court hearing is required will be increased from 48 to 72 hours, and the order will be permitted even if a bed has not yet been found. Legislation also will require law enforcement officials to work more closely with community service boards. A statewide registry of available psychiatric treatment beds will be established. Finally, a special legislative committee will undertake a four-year comprehensive study of the state’s mental health system.

In response to the revelation concerning the behavior of former Governor Robert McDonnell, the General Assembly passed significant ethics reform legislation. The bill sets a limit of $250 on the amount of certain gifts that legislators can receive from lobbyist per year. It requires that legislators report any gifts and other financial interests they hold twice instead of once a year. It requires the public reporting of certain gifts received by legislators’ immediate family members. There will now be an independent commission to review these reports and provide mandatory training to legislators. Although this legislation is an improvement, I think that the law alone will not make people act ethically. People, including government, will either act ethically or they won’t. Although we would like to, it is not possible to make every case of bad judgment, stupidity, or unethical behavior a criminal act. In some cases, we need reasonable transparency that will subject public officials to the verdict of the voters and of history.

On a number of issues that I have tried to work on for several years now, we were not successful, but I do think we were able to make progress building bipartisan support for change in the future.

One such issue regards restoring the ability of state taxpayers to receive tax refunds by paper check. Beginning last year, a new procedure was implemented that required these to be made by direct deposit or a debit card issued by a government contractor (Xerox). The end result of this is that a portion of tax payments is taken out as debit card fees, and it has been extremely frustrating for taxpayers to get the money back that they overpaid in taxes. After hearing from their constituentsmany legislators joined to support my legislation correcting this situation. We were able to get a bill out of subcommittee – the first step in moving a bill forward, but it did not go further. However, a bipartisan group of senators and delegates have written a letter asking that this situation be corrected in the state budget, so there is still a slim possibility of action on this matter this year.

Drug overdose is now second only to motor vehicle crashes among the leading causes of unintentional injury deaths. In recent years, Virginia has had a 300% increase in the number of deaths related to drug overdose. This year I also proposed a bill (HB557), Safe Reporting to Save Lives, which would provide that if someone or a person with them is overdosing, then they could call 9-1-1 or seek emergency medical attention without either party being at risk of arrest or prosecution for possession, consumption, or purchasing of a drug or alcohol. This is a real issue that is a life or death matter for all too many of our fellow Virginians. I was touched by the number of people who came forward to support this bill because their lives had been affected by this situation. After a fair hearing before the House Courts of Justice Committee, we were unable to convince a majority of committee members that the ability of prosecutors to investigate and prosecute drug times should be restricted in the interest of saving human lives. This is a cause that I plan to work on so we can build support for doing something in the future.

I proposed two constitutional amendments this year. The first would provide for the automatic restoration civil rights, including voting rights, for a person convicted of a felony upon the completion of his or her sentence, including any term of probation or parole, and the payment of all restitution, fines, costs, and fees assessed as a result of the conviction. I also proposed a constitutional amendment to introduce a bill outlining a process for non-partisan redistricting. Unfortunately, neither of these measures advanced.

Another issue we have begun work on this year is the voluntary labeling of food products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In order to start this conversation, I proposed that money be set aside to study the possibility of establishing a voluntary program for labeling and promoting Virginia agricultural products that do not contain GMOs. What I learned was that there are many interests who don’t think that consumers should be able to know what they are eating, and that others think even a voluntary system would somehow be an unreasonable burden. According to our legislative survey this year, 89% of you thought that this is a worthy issue. I believe it is important for Virginians, especially those who may have food sensitivities, health or religious concerns to have the right to know what is in their food. This is something I wish to continue working on in the future.

Much of the most important work of the General Assembly, including the detailed consideration of bills, is done in the House of Delegate’s committees and subcommittees. I serve on the Committees on Transportation, Finance (which handles tax policy), and General Laws (which handles non-criminal law issues in general, including issues concerning state employees and procurement, the alcoholic beverage control system, freedom of information and privacy.) During February I was appointed to a fourth committee, the Committee on Commerce and Labor, by the Speaker of the House. This came as a very pleasant surprise and honor. This committee deals with the laws affecting our state’s most important industries. It is going to provide me the opportunity to learn more in depth about many key public policy questions affecting our economy.

If you have any questions or concerns about legislation passed during the session, please contact me at 804-698-1069 or contact me via e-mail at delegate.carr@betsycarr.org. I am always happy to hear from you. 

Thank you for the honor and privilege of serving you.


Betsy B. Carr
Member, House of Delegates

General Assembly Session Update

Dear Friend,

It is an honor to serve you and the citizens of the 69th District in the House of Delegates. The 2014 Legislative Session began on Wednesday, January 8, 2014. I encourage you and your family to stay updated on legislative issues that are important to you, our community, and our Commonwealth. This session will last 60 days and the General Assembly will pass a budget for the next two years. I have included some helpful links to use for session.

I encourage you to complete my 2014 legislative survey that will give me a sense of your priorities. If you or another 69th district resident would like a hardcopy, please call my office at 804-698-1069 and we will mail a survey to you.

Useful Links for Session

Attending session at the General Assembly or a committee meeting of your interest is certainly a worthwhile experience for people of all ages and interests. However, if you cannot visit during session, you can still stay updated on legislative issues that are important to you and your community.

Virginia Legislative Information System: On LIS, you can access all the bills and resolutions filed for the 2014 session as well as previous years’ legislation. You can research General Assembly members, the meetings schedule, standing committees, and the state budget.

Virginia General Assembly: On the General Assembly’s official website, you can watch the Senate and House in session via a live stream every day beginning at noon. Additionally, you can access laws and regulations, publications, and the Capitol Classroom to refresh your memory on legislative terms and how a bill becomes a law.

If you have any questions or concerns about legislation during the session, please contact me at 804-698-1069 or send me an e-mail at delegate.carr@betsycarr.org. I am happy to learn about your legislative priorities and encourage you to share your opinions and ideas by taking my survey online or by requesting a hard copy. You can also call my office to schedule an in-person appointment about any specific bills in which you might be interested.

Thank you.


Betsy B. Carr
Member, House of Delegates