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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com 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.