June 2018 Legislative Update

It is with great pleasure and honor that I write to tell you (as I am sure you have read in the news) that the General Assembly passed the budget, which included Medicaid expansion, and was signed by Governor Northam on Thursday, June 7, 2018.

After five years of advocacy from many constituents in the 69th district and across the Commonwealth, I am proud to have been a part of the process that brings much needed healthcare coverage to more than 300,000 Virginians, effective January 1, 2019. In the 69th district alone, according to the Commonwealth Institute, 6,800 individuals could gain coverage through this expansion. Now Virginia the 33rd state, along with Washington, D.C., to include expanded healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Thank you for your patience and diligence on this crucial issue.

Along with Medicaid expansion, the two-year, $117 billion budget includes raises for state employees and teachers and addresses capacity issues at mental health facilities. You can review more budget detailshere.

Committees & Commissions

The Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission (JLARC), of which I am a member, has released a comprehensive reference guide, “Virginia Compared to the Other States.” If you are interested in how our Commonwealth compares in terms of population, economy, education, taxes, employment, and more, this is a great place to start learning. 

Additionally, JLARC released a report of the Virginia College Savings Plan (Virginia529), which administers a prepaid tuition program, two education savings programs, and a disability savings program. This is the largest 529 savings plan in the country, with $69.1 billion in assets and a 21 percent share of the national market as of March 31, 2018. In 2017, JLARC staff were asked to review the investment management structure of Virginia529’s Prepaid529 fund and determine whether there are other ways to more efficiently manage the fund, for instance, assigning it to the Virginia Retirement System or the Department of Treasury. JLARC’s report found that while the Prepaid529 investments should not be transferred, there were recommendations for strengthening the investment management structure.

At the June JLARC meeting, some legislators pointed to recommendations in the JLARC report and advocated reduction of the Prepaid529 “pricing reserve” fee from 10% to 7%. You can read more about the report at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr. in Virginia

It is an honor to serve on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission. The Commission is currently working on a number of projects that will help preserve the legacy of Dr. King. Through a series of roundtables held in each of the communities that he visited in Virginia, community leaders, educators, historians, and others are examining Dr. King’s question, “Where do we go from here?” I have had the opportunity to sit in on all of the community roundtables and found each of them to be meaningful and thought-provoking. Most recently, at the First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, I enjoyed discussion on the “radical King” as described by historian, Dr. Robert Vinson. He emphasized the way King advocated for change along with racial equality by campaigning for the end of the Vietnam war and supporting a sanitation workers’ strike. 

There is so much for us to remember and learn from the great Dr. King. If you are able, please join us at the next roundtable on July 11 at the High Street Baptist Church in Danville from 6 to 8 p.m. or view it live (and find the archived videos from Charlottesville, Richmond, Farmville and Williamsburg) by searching @VAMLKCommission on Facebook. You can also learn more about the Commission’s activities and donate to support the construction of the “Emancipation Proclamation and Freedom Monument” at http://mlkcommission.dls.virginia.gov/

In a similar vein, during the 2018 legislative session, I introduced HJR86, which commemorates the 150th anniversary of the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. On July 9, 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified granting citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States” and requiring equal protection under the law for all persons within states’ jurisdiction. This marks a significant victory in a centuries-long fight for freedom. It is my hope that this commemorative resolution, along with the evolving festivities to honor the 400th anniversary of the first Africans’ arrival in Jamestown (1619), will help others remember, acknowledge, and learn from our nation’s history of enslaving people of color as well as restricting their educational, economic, and social rights so that history is not repeated.

Keeping Our Children Safe

Sadly, the United States has continued to suffer mass shootings in public places, such as our schools. After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida this past February, we have witnessed students and adults coming together to advocate for stronger gun control. In response, the Virginia House Democratic caucus established the “Safe Virginia Initiative” Task Force, a working group focused on developing policy initiatives that will reduce gun violence in Virginia. The group, led by Delegates Eileen Filler-Corn and Kathleen Murphy, is organizing events between May and October of this year throughout Virginia and will include public input.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has a comprehensive, interactive graphic on school safety legislation across the country, for your review here.

Community Notes

Hurricane Season Officially Underway

June 1, 2018 marked the official start of the hurricane season. Some Virginians have already experienced wind storms and flooding conditions. These summer storms can be unpredictable; preparation is key. Here are the items you need for an emergency storm kit:

  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • At least 3 days of non-perishable food
  • Gallon of water per person, per day
  • First Aid Kit
  • Blankets and extra clothes
  • Battery-powered lantern, fan, radio, and extra batteries
  • Cash for emergency use
  • Update your electric account phone number online or by calling 800-222-0401
  • Sign up for text alerts to receive storm updates. Sign up here.
  • Fully charge your phone(s) before the storm arrives

If your power goes out, call Dominion at 866-366-4357 or report it online here. Don’t assume your neighbor called or that Dominion is aware already!

No Kid Hungry Summer Meals Program

For many kids, summer is a time of sunshine, playtime, and freedom from homework. But for the Virginia kids who struggle with hunger, summer vacation can be a time of uncertainty and anxiety. For many, summer can be the hungriest time of the year. A lack of reliable nutrition during the summer months takes a major toll on children. Kids who struggle with hunger are more likely to experience “summer slide,” forgetting what they learned the year before.

The Summer Meals Program (also known as the Summer Food Service Program, or SFSP) is a federally-funded, state-administered program that provides FREE meals to youth 18 years old and younger when school is not in session. The program is intended to fill in the gaps for students who count on school breakfast and lunch during the school year, but lose that resource in the summer.  The Virginia Department of Education administers the program.

Meals are prepared by sponsoring organizations, such as school nutrition departments and food banks, and served at safe, trusted community sites such as libraries, parks, schools, and churches. Meals are available to all children at open sites, regardless of income or address. Many sites provide enrichment activities, and they offer an opportunity for children to spend time with their neighbors and friends. In Virginia in 2017, 149 sponsors served more than 3.7 million meals from over 1,500 individual locations through the Summer Meals Program.

Children and families can find free meal sites in their area by texting “FOOD” or “COMIDA” to 877-877 starting in early/mid-June. Visitwww.nokidhungry.org/virginia for more information.

Financial Aid Assistance

Do you have a student who needs help with the financial aid process? GReat Aspirations Scholarship Program, Inc (GRASP) is a charitable, college-access organization that assists students and families in obtaining funding for post-secondary education. They are happy to provide a financial aid session to help get you and your family on the right track. Please contact my office for more information by calling 804-698-1169.

Let’s Keep Virginia Beautiful - Adopt-A-Highway

Virginia’s Adopt-a-Highway program is celebrating 30 Years in 2018!  A partnership established between the Virginia Department of Transportation and Keep Virginia Beautiful, encourages new participants to join the thousands of groups that have helped keep Virginia’s roadways litter-free since it was first established in 1988.  The Adopt-a-Highway program provides a FREE opportunity for businesses, civic groups and even families to clean up litter and be recognized for their efforts with a sign featuring their name after two pickups have been documented.  An increase in miles covered with regular litter cleanups will translate into overall savings for the commonwealth and provide a cleaner, greener environment for us all to enjoy.  For more information, please emailinfo@keepvirginiabeautiful.org or visit their website.

Explore and Learn Virginia History

You can be a tourist in our own town this summer by using the Virginia History Trails App presented by American Evolution. The Virginia History Trails app, a customized digital platform, is great tool for exploring Virginia history without having to leave your hometown. The app features 20 trails and 400 stories from all across Virginia. You can download the Virginia History Trails app on Google Play or App Store.

It is an honor and privilege to serve in the House of Delegates. Please never hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance to you. You can call my office at 804-698-1169 or email at delegate.carr@betsycarr.org.

Betsy B. Carr