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:
- Run extensive background checks on drivers
- Disqualify any with convictions for any felony, fraud, sexual offenses, or violent crimes
- Review driving history
- Maintain zero tolerance for drug use
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.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