I hope you and your loved ones are enjoying the warm weather and taking necessary precautions to stay hydrated and cool during heat advisories, as well as planning some enjoyable activities around Richmond and our Commonwealth during the remainder of the summer.
Special Legislative Session
As I am sure you are aware, our City and our Commonwealth have been devastated by gun violence again recently. After the mass shooting in Virginia Beach, Governor Northam issued a call for a special session to meet on Tuesday, July 9th to address gun violence prevention. No bills were discussed or passed during the special session, which adjourned until Monday, November 18th. Instead, the Courts of Justice and Militia, Police and Public Safety Committees met after adjournment and referred the majority of the legislation to the Virginia State Crime Commission. You may review special session legislation here. Additionally, you can review Governor Northam's priorities, which were introduced by Democratic Delegates and Senators on his website.
The Crime Commission has scheduled two meetings, Monday, August 19 at 10:00 a.m. and Tuesday, August 20 at noon to discuss the special session's. Public comment will be taken for the first 3 hours at the August 20 meeting. Both meetings will take place in the House Committee Room of the Pocahontas Building (900 East Main Street). If you are unavailable to attend the commission meetings you may submit public comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or
Virginia State Crime Commission
1111 East Broad Street, Suite B036
Richmond, Virginia 23219
Since the beginning of my time in office, I have worked with my colleagues in the General Assembly to introduce and pass legislation that combats gun violence and ensures public safety. I look forward to continuing that work in November and hope that all can come together for common sense solutions that protect our citizens, and importantly, our children.
After each legislative session, new laws passed take effect on July 1. The Division of Legislative Services provides a comprehensive summary of legislation passed, In Due Course, which you can read about here. A few examples of laws taking effect:
Coverage for Autism Spectrum Disorder: Requires health insurers, health care subscription plans, and health maintenance organizations to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder in individuals of any age.
Opening Day of School: Requires each local school board to set the school calendar so that the first day students are required to attend school is no earlier than 14 days before Labor Day.
Tobacco Purchasing Age: Increases the age requirement for purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21 unless the individual is an active duty personnel.
Safe Reporting of Overdoses: Building upon legislation that I introduced in 2014, 2015, and 2017, this new law eliminates the requirement to cooperate with law enforcement when qualifying for affirmative defense in the case of a drug or alcohol overdose. The opioid epidemic has devastated many lives in our Commonwealth and country. This is a good development in the effort of trying to save lives and help people recover from addiction.
Motor Vehicle Safety Inspections, charges: Maximum charge for state safety inspection for a motor vehicle will increase from $16 to $20.
Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC)
JLARC, of which I am a member, provides oversight of state agencies. The July meeting focused on the Virginia Retirement System (VRS )and Virginia 529. The VRS is meeting its investment goals and continues to do well. Virginia 529 is benefiting from more investment expertise; its INVEST 529 offers a good option for citizens interested in college savings. The Weighted Average Tuition (WAT) program will replace the Prepaid program and offer more flexibility and affordability. You can review the VRS Oversight Report from the July JLARC meeting here.
The U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 opinion dismissed the appeal from the Republican party in Virginia’s redistricting case on Monday, June 17th. This means that the redrawn House of Delegates map will remain in place during the 2019 election cycle. However, the new map will only be in effect for one legislative election cycle. The lines for the entire General Assembly (House and Senate) will change again in 2021, after completion of the 2020 census. The boundaries of the 69th district, which I represent, have been changed as a result of the redistricting case. More communities in the City of Richmond's eighth Councilmanic district are now included. While areas of historic Manchester, Blackwell and portions of Oakgrove-Bellemeade in the City of Richmond, as well as the Davis precinct of Chesterfield County are no longer included.
Every year, I have introduced legislation related to non-partisan redistricting. I am pleased that Virginians will be able to cast their ballots in fairly drawn districts this November. Additionally, this past legislative session, we passed a constitutional amendment that is the first step to ensure that the future reapportionment of the districts will be done fairly and in a nonpartisan manner. That bill will have to be passed again in the 2020 session and by voters in the November 2020 election before it becomes law to impact the 2021 redistricting process. I look forward to supporting its passage.
Celebrating 400 Years of Democracy
Four hundred years ago, the first representative legislative assembly was established in Jamestowne. On July 30, members of the Virginia General Assembly, Congress, state legislatures nationwide, and possibly the President of the United States President will gather at Jamestown for a Commemorative Session. There will be many ceremonies, public programs, and a concert by the Richmond Symphony at Historic Jamestowne. In addition, College of William & Mary will be hosting a forum to connect with leading political, academic and cultural leaders. You can learn more by visiting:www.americanevolution2019.com.
The Changing Face of Politics: Approaching 2020, a One Day University program sponsored by the Times-Dispatch will be at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture, Wednesday, July 31, 4:00 - 6:00 p.m. In addition, the Museum features Determined: The 400-year Struggle for Black Equality. This exhibition (through March 2020) examines the long history of black Americans' fight for freedom, equal justice, and access to equal opportunities through the profiles of thirty individuals.
Equality Virginia's Transgender Information and Empowerment Summit (TIES)
Equality Virginia, the leading LGBT advocacy organization in Virginia, will lead their annual TIES event at the University of Richmond on Saturday, October 19. The Summit is an opportunity to build a safe, empowering community of shared respect that is inclusive to people who are transgender or gender diverse. You can find more information and details for registration here.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens' Beautiful RVA
The Beautiful RVA program will provide a 12-week course, beginning in September, that teaches sustainable horticulture, urban greening and community building. Visit their website to apply (deadline July 31) and learn more about Beautiful RVA’s many beautification projects throughout Richmond and in the 69th district such as the McDonough Community Garden, Broad Rock Community Garden, Fifth District Mini Farm, and Eighth District Mini Farm.
VMFA Kehinde Wiley Acquisition
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Board unanimously approved the acquisition of Kehinde Wiley’s sculpture, “Rumors of War” on June 19. Kehinde Wiley is a world-renowned visual artist known for his presidential portrait of Barack Obama. Wiley’s well attended exhibition, “A New Republic,” was featured at the VMFA in the summer of 2016. His artwork commonly features vivid, monumental portrayals of African-American and African-Diaspora individuals, challenging the hierarchies of conventional European and American portraiture. Cast in bronze, “Rumors of War” presents a confident African American in urban street wear seated on a horse in the style (and roughly the same size) of the J.E.B. Stuart monument. The sculpture will be unveiled in Times Square on September 27, and be permanently installed at the museum’s Arthur Ashe Boulevard entrance in December. The sculpture was acquired through private funds—no state money was used. It is exciting that Richmond will receive Wiley's first and largest piece of public art.
American Flood Coalition
Flooding has been an ongoing concern causing blocked roadways and hazardous still water for citizens in communities throughout Richmond and our Commonwealth. It is vital that we find appropriate and positive solutions to this crucial issue. I am happy that I have become a member of the American Flood Coalition, which is dedicated to combating these issues. The American Flood Coalition is a non-partisan organization comprised of cities, elected officials, military leaders, businesses, and civic groups who work together to advocate for federal funding and national solutions to sea level rise. I look forward to working with the American Flood Coalition to help prevent flooding and the catastrophic damages it causes our communities.
Power Scholars Academy
The Power Scholars Academy is an innovative partnership with the YMCA, BellXcel Foundation and Walmart to restructure the summer school program at Broad Rock Elementary School with an evidence-based curriculum. Academic learning, social well-being and life skills are combined in a fun environment for young students. This highly innovative and effective curriculum has been tested across the country and found to be an outstanding program for participants. I was proud to stand alongside other Richmond community partners at the grant presentation recently and look forward to the Academy's success.
Dominion Energy's "100 Homes 100 Vets"
Dominion Energy partnered with the Department of Veteran Services to launch “100 Homes 100 Vets.” This program is need-based and shareholder-funded to provide free energy efficiency upgrades and home weatherization for at least 100 qualified veterans who live in the Commonwealth and are served by Dominion Energy. It is an extension of their EnergyShare program which has helped families facing hardship by providing bill assistance. To find out more information and if you may be eligible, please visit their website.
Richmond City Lead Grant
Richmond received a federal Lead Grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development that will address lead paint hazards in homes and rental units for properties built before 1978. The household must include a pregnant woman or a child under six who has had a blood level test conducted within the last six months. You can call the Richmond City Health District at 804-205-3727 to see if your household may qualify.
Commonwealth Employment Equity Initiative
The Commonwealth Employment Equity Initiative adopts industry-wide best practices in compensation and employment which will attract and retain top talent in our state workforce. The Governor announced that the initiative will bring greater equity and overdue improvements to our state hiring policy. The state job application has been comprehensively redesigned by eliminating salary history, school name, age indicator, and other fields with potential for unconscious bias and offering the applicant's preferred pronouns to highlight the state’s diversity and inclusion efforts. Applicants may choose to submit only a resume and personal information. For the first time, applicants may also use a mobile device to apply for a state position. With revisions to the State Compensation Policy, applicants for state jobs can expect salaries fairly aligned with experience, competencies, and relevant credentials as of July 1, 2019.
City Increase in Real Estate Assessments
Richmond real estate average assessments increased by 7.7%. The biggest increases were residential properties in Swansboro and Maury areas South Richmond, which saw a 25% increase.The assessment reflects the intensely competitive Richmond real estate market. While rising property assessments can be a boom for investors, it can offer hardship to long-term residents. As a member of the Virginia Housing Commission, I appreciate having worked on reducing the number of evictions in the Commonwealth in the last General Assembly session and look forward to improving access to affordable housing.
Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) National Recognition
GRTC as awarded a bronze rating by The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy for Pulse, Richmond’s year-old, rapid transit system. Pulse received a top score based on international best practices to ensure that Best Rapid Transit systems more uniformly deliver word class passenger experiences, significant economic benefits, and positive environmental impacts. In the past, Richmond has received low ratings for the region’s transit system but through collaborative efforts between the city and GRTC, we are now on par with cities like Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, Mexico City, and Beijing. Ridership has increased by 15% and the report indicated significant improvement in access to jobs.
It is an honor to serve you in the Virginia House of Delegates. Please never hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance to you. I can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 804-698-1169.
Betsy B. Carr