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2020 Special Session Updates

October 5th, 2020 Newsletter

What a week. The Supreme Court, the debate, the president's Covid diagnosis -- the velocity of the news cycle these days can be overwhelming. Take a look at Alexandra Perti's latest -- she hits the nail on the head.

Buried in the week's avalanche of news was the important fact that the Virginia House of Delegates debated and passed our revamped, post-Covid budget with bipartisan support.  We also passed several bills related to criminal justice reform, COVID-19, and policing reform. We're approaching the end of this special session and I am looking forward to working closely -- as the House Democratic Caucus Chair -- with the Senate to produce a balanced, equitable, two-year budget that serves all Virginians.

The House budget includes critical spending like the following:

  • Hazard pay for Medicaid personnel care, respite and companion care workers.
  • Additional payments to help hospitals cover COVID-19 costs.
  • Increased provider and waiver rates for developmental disability providers.
  • $200 million in CARES Act funding for school reopening costs.
  • $77 million in CARES Act funding for the childcare stabilization fund.
  • Enhanced funding for the Virginia Federation of Food Banks and other food security organizations using CARES Act dollars.
  • Rent and mortgage relief as well as legal aid for Virginians facing eviction.
  • $120 million in utility fee relief using CARES Act funding.
  • Money for critical new policing and criminal justice reform legislation.
  • An increased budget for the Virginia Land Conservation Fund and water quality funds.
  • A $1500 bonus for state workers.

The House budget will now go to the Senate for consideration, and disagreement will be worked out in conference.

We passed a number of  bills last week that originated in the Senate, including:

  • SB5083: to require each school board to post in a publicly accessible and clear location on its website its plan outlining strategies for mitigating the spread and public health risk of the COVID-19 virus.
  • SB5007: to give defendants tried by jury the option of being sentenced by a judge.
  • SB5014: to require all law-enforcement officers involved in a crisis intervention team program to complete a comprehensive advanced training course developed by the Department of Criminal Justice Services.
  • SB5017: to change Virginia’s definition of “local correctional facility” to allow jurisdiction over health inspections of institutions (such as ICE facilities that are located in the Commonwealth).
  • SB5018: to provide that any person serving a sentence imposed upon a conviction for a felony offense, other than a Class 1 felony, who is terminally ill, and who is not serving a sentence for conviction of first or second degree murder, is eligible for consideration by the Parole Board for conditional release.
  • SB5024: to authorize the Attorney General's Division of Human Rights to file a civil suit or inquire into  any unlawful pattern and practice against the Commonwealth or a locality whenever the Attorney General has reasonable cause to believe that law-enforcement officers of any agency of the Commonwealth or any locality are engaging in a pattern or practice that deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the laws of the United States and the Commonwealth.
  • SB5030: the Senate omnibus policing reform bill. Click here to read more.
  • SB5034: to establish a four-level classification system for the awarding and calculation of earned sentence credits. The bill would require the calculation of earned sentence credits to apply retroactively to the entire sentence of any inmate who is confined in a state correctional facility and participating in the earned sentence credit system.
  • SB5038: to establish the mental health awareness response and community understanding services (Marcus) alert system.
  • SB5043: to expand the current expungement process and to create an Expungement Fee Fund, which would be funded by all collected expungement fees.

Like the budget, the details of several House and Senate bills are still being ironed out in conference, as they passed one chamber but were amended by the other. For a list of bills that have been approved by both the House and Senate and are now headed to the Governor's desk for signature, click here.

September 28th, 2020 Newsletter

The General Assembly continues its important work this Special Session as we shift to considering the recently unveiled House and Senate budgets. Click here to read Speaker Filler-Corn's and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Luke Torian's statement on the House budget, which increases much-needed K-12 spending, directs federal CARES Act dollars, and funds key criminal justice reform measures like the mental health awareness response and community understanding services (MARCUS) Alert.

The budget will be debated on the House floor tomorrow and then move to the Senate for consideration.

Last week, the House considered dozens of bills that "crossed over" from the other chamber -- and vice-versa -- on topics ranging from racial inequity, COVID-19, criminal justice, and police reform.

We considered and passed several Senate bills on Friday, including:

  • SB5013: to establish that a violation of possession of marijuana by an adult shall be a prepayable offense (similar to a traffic ticket).
  • SB5029: to prohibit search and seizures based solely on the odor of marijuana.
  • SB5033: to strengthen prosecutorial discretion.
  • SB5035: to establish law enforcement civilian oversight bodies.
  • SB5039: to grant the Governor authority -- during a disaster caused by a communicable disease of public health threat for which a state of emergency has been declared -- to establish a program through which he or she may purchase PPE for private, non-governmental entities and distribute PPE to said entities.
  • SB5082: to provide immunity from civil liability during the pandemic for assisted living communities, home health agencies, hospices and private providers of mental health or adult day services provided that all applicable health regulations and requirements were followed.
  • SB5088: to attempt to curb evictions by strengthening tenant housing laws.
  • SB5117: to provide that a violation of an executive order declared by the Governor as the Director of Emergency Management shall be punishable either as a civil penalty of not more than $500 or as a Class 1 misdemeanor. The only penalty for such a violation is a Class 1 misdemeanor under current law.

Voting is underway across Virginia -- I encourage you to vote early in person or by mail as registrars are predicting record turnout this year.

See below for more details:

Arlington County In-Person Early Voting

  • Where: Courthouse Plaza, 2200 Clarendon Blvd. (Former Wells Fargo Space by Starbucks)
  • When: Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm
  • Misc: more satellite locations will open in Arlington beginning October 17

Fairfax County In-Person Early Voting

  • Where: Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 323
  • When: Monday through Friday, 8 am to 4:30 pm
  • Misc: more satellite locations will open in Fairfax County beginning October 14

Voting by Mail

  • Apply here for an absentee ballot
  • Once you have received your absentee ballot, you may complete it and drop it off at any drop-off location in your county or city
    • There is a drop-off location at your local registrar's office, at every voter satellite office in your county or city, and at each polling place in your county or city on Election Day
    • NOTE: If you drop off your absentee ballot, it MUST be returned in the sealed envelopes that are provided
  • If you request an absentee ballot and decide to vote in person -- early or on election day -- you must bring the unopened absentee ballot with you to the polling location

September 14th, 2020 Newsletter

The House of Delegates completed consideration of bills that originated in our chamber last week, and we will shortly begin debating bills passed by the Senate. It surely has been a "special" session as we have acted swiftly but carefully on major issues facing the Commonwealth like the COVID-19 pandemic, endemic racism, and the economic downturn.

As I noted in a press release issued by the Caucus last week, “House Democrats have worked together and stood united in our pursuit of a better, more just, and equitable Commonwealth during this Special Session. The economic, public health, and long-standing racial challenges Virginians face today have touched us all as individuals, family members, friends, neighbors, and members of a larger community, and we as a Caucus have worked carefully to address these historic trials with historic solutions. With the House’s passage of dozens of thoughtful bills, Democrats are proving every day that we as a Commonwealth can do better, and we will do better.”

The bills passed by the House last week with my support include:

COVID-19 Relief:

  • HB5087: would remove the sunset clause on Virginia’s short-term compensation program (work-sharing) to facilitate eligibility for CARES Act funds. The bill includes an emergency clause.
  • HB5116: would require businesses to provide paid quarantine leave for Virginia workers.

Policing Reform:

  • HB5072: would authorize the Attorney General to conduct “pattern or practice” investigations through the Division of Human Rights of police forces that appear to be violating constitutional rights, including unlawful discrimination.
  • HB5049: would demilitarize police departments by prohibiting the acquisition and use of certain weapons like armored multi-wheeled vehicles and grenade launchers by local law enforcement agencies.
  • HB5043: would create a statewide mental health awareness response and community understanding services (MARCUS) alert system. The system would create teams of mental health service providers, peer recovery specialists and law enforcement to help individuals in a crisis situation.
  • HB5090: would expand disclosure of law-enforcement criminal incident information files for closed or cold cases under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

Criminal Justice Reform:

  • HB5146: would establish a process for the automatic expungement of criminal records for certain convictions, deferred dispositions, acquittals, and for offenses that have been "nolle prossed" or otherwise dismissed. The bill also would provide a process for the automatic expungement of criminal records for charges arising from mistaken identity or the unauthorized use of identifying information. It would have staggered delayed effective dates in order to develop systems for implementing the provisions of the bill. This bill was a recommendation of the Virginia State Crime Commission.
  • HB5148: would expand the Commonwealth’s existing earned sentence credit program.


  • HB5113: would ensure local school board participation in the federal Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) no-cost breakfast and lunch program.
  • HB5030: would allow local governments and communities greater latitude in the process of removing, relocating or altering Confederate statues and other war monuments.

The largest and perhaps most challenging bill outstanding for both chambers to consider is our biennial budget. Virginia has a balanced budget requirement in our Constitution, meaning revenues must match or exceed expenditures. Given the economic hit Virginia has taken due to the pandemic, the budget originally drafted earlier this year must be overhauled to reflect the diminished revenues predicted to be received by the state. Cuts will need to be made, but we are working diligently to ensure that the final product will maintain funding for critical services and programs.

Stay tuned for updates.

September 8th, 2020 Newsletter

The third week of Special Session marked a historic moment for police reform, election security, and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. We voted to send to the Senate more than a dozen bills that will make a tangible impact on Virginians' lives regarding these important topics.

One extraordinarily important Senate bill that we voted on is the companion to HB5103, which I discussed in my first Special Session update. The Senate version, SB5120, was introduced by my Senator and the first woman to Chair the Senate Finance Committee, Janet Howell. This legislation will:

  • Provide $2,000,000 to the Department of Elections to be used to provide prepaid postage for the return of absentee ballots for the November 3 election.
  • Allow absentee ballots to be returned by mail or in person to local registrar offices or to designated drop-off locations, like ballot drop boxes.
  • Permit ballots to be sent by commercial delivery service.
  • Require registrars to examine ballot envelopes for ballots received before October 31, 2020 and notify voters of any errors within three days. Virginians would then be able to correct their ballots before 12:00 pm on the third day after the election.
  • Formally eliminate the requirement for a witness signature on a mail-in ballot.

The bill was signed into law on Friday by Governor Northam.

Click here to read a great opinion piece titled "Virginia demonstrates how to run an election during a pandemic" by the Washington Post's Editorial Board in support of this groundbreaking legislation.

The Governor also made a series of important announcements last week related to pandemic relief.

In an executive order that took effect on Friday, the Governor extended the validity of the driver’s licenses, learner’s permits and identification cards issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles that expired in August or were set to expire September or October for an additional 60 days beyond their expiration date. Please note that the extension does not apply to vehicle registrations.

The Governor also announced that the Commonwealth would match a $2 million donation from the Ikea U.S. Community Foundation, providing $4 million total for the Legal Services Corporation of Virginia. Ikea's funding will be matched by $2 million from Virginia’s COVID-19 Relief Fund, which is supported by tax revenue from electronic skill machines. The $4 million will support twenty legal aid attorneys in providing services to Virginia tenants facing eviction for the next two years. Click here to read the press release.

Finally, Governor Northam announced last Monday the approval of more than $6 million in federal funding from the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) Program to assist criminal justice entities in their ongoing mitigation and response efforts to the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here to read the full announcement.

The Courts of Justice Committee held a virtual meeting on Wednesday to discuss and vote on two criminal justice reform bills, HB5146 and HB5148.

The first bill, HB5146, would, for the first time in Virginia, allow for the expungement of some misdemeanor and felony convictions. Police and court records currently can be expunged only if an individual is acquitted, a case is dismissed or abandoned and then only upon request of the individual. The measure would automatically expunge some misdemeanors after eight years of good behavior following conviction and some felonies after eight years of good behavior following completion of sentence.

An expunged record cannot be omitted, however, by someone applying for a job or as a volunteer with a police or sheriff's department or if applying for a federal job requiring disclosure for national security reasons. Additionally, if passed into law in its current form, HB5146 would be phased in and require multiple agencies to sign off on the implementations.

The second bill, HB5148, would expand the Commonwealth’s existing earned sentence credit program. I voted for this bill to report out of the House Courts of Justice Committee but I have concerns about its potential retroactive application. I am working with the patron to amend HB5148 to ensure it balances criminal justice reform with community safety.

Friday marked one of the most significant days thus far during the Special Session as we successfully passed a number of pandemic relief, policing reform, and criminal justice reform bills in addition to SB5120, the election protection law. Some of the bills passed by the House with my support include:

COVID-19 Relief:

  • HB5068: would prevent creditors from seizing emergency relief payments (like stimulus checks) from Virginians.
  • HB5028: would establish a presumption that COVID-19 causing the death or disability of firefighters, emergency medical services personnel, law-enforcement officers, first responders, health care providers, and school board employees is an occupational diseases compensable under the Workers' Compensation Act.
  • HB5050: would grant the Governor authority during a disaster caused by a communicable disease of public health threat for which a state of emergency has been declared to establish a program through which the Governor may purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) for private, nongovernmental entities and distribute the PPE to such private, nongovernmental entities.

Policing Reform:

  • HB5058: would prevent law-enforcement officers from justifying searches based on the smell of marijuana and making some minor traffic violations -- like a recently expired inspection sticker -- secondary offenses, meaning police can not initiate a traffic stop on that violation alone.
  • HB5099: would prohibit the use of no-knock warrants.
  • HB5112: would require any law-enforcement officer who witnesses another person suffering from a serious bodily injury or a life-threatening condition to render aid and would make it a duty to report acts of wrongdoing committed by another law-enforcement officer.
  • HB5029: would require that any law-enforcement officer who witnesses another officer engaging or attempting to engage in the unlawful use of force against another person shall intervene -- when such intervention is objectively reasonable and possible -- to end the unlawful use or attempted unlawful use of force, or to prevent the further unlawful use of force. The bill also would require a law-enforcement officer to render aid, as circumstances objectively permit, to any person injured as the result of such unlawful use of force.
  • HB5051: would require any sheriff, chief of police, or agency administrator to notify the Criminal Justice Services Board (CJSB) in writing within 48 hours of becoming aware that any certified law-enforcement or jail officer currently employed by his or her agency has been terminated for engaging in misconduct, as set forth in the bill. The bill would require the CJSB to initiate decertification proceedings against any current or former law-enforcement or jail officer who has engaged in such activities, and would require any sheriff, chief of police, or agency administrator to notify the CJSB and a civilian review panel, if one has been established, if any certified law-enforcement or jail officer currently employed by his agency has received three complaints of excessive use of force in the previous five years. Any recommendations made by the civilian review panel concerning such complaints would be forwarded to the CJSB.
  • HB5069: would make it a Class 6 felony for a law-enforcement officer to use a neck restraint in the performance of his or her official duties.
  • HB5104: would require that any sheriff or chief of police, the director or chief executive of any agency or department employing deputy sheriffs or law-enforcement officers, and the Director of the CDJS to disclose to a prospective law-enforcement or jail employer any information (i) related to an arrest or prosecution of a former police officer, deputy sheriff, or jail officer, including expunged information; (ii) related to a civil suit regarding a former police officer's, deputy sheriff's, or jail officer's employment or performance of his duties; (iii) obtained during the course of any internal investigation related to a former police officer's, deputy sheriff's, or jail officer's alleged criminal conduct, use of excessive force, or other official misconduct in violation of the state professional standards of conduct; and (iv) related to a former police officer, deputy sheriff, or jail officer's job performance that led to dismissal, demotion, suspension, or transfer.
  • HB5109: would standardize and enhance training by criminal justice academies and establish required in-service training standards for law enforcement officers.
  • HB5045: would add law-enforcement officers to those persons who are guilty of a Class 6 felony if they are in a position of authority over and carnally know any inmate, parolee, probationer, arrestee, detainee, or pretrial defendant or posttrial offender, including those in the custody of a private, local, or state law-enforcement agency.

Criminal Justice Reform:

  • HB5062: would codify a prosecutor's ability to dismiss charges.
  • HB5098: would increase the penalty for falsely summoning or giving false reports to law-enforcement officials when a person intentionally gives a false report as to the commission of any crime to any law-enforcement official, causes another to give a false report to any law-enforcement official, or calls or summons any law-enforcement official against another person because of his or her race, religious conviction, gender, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, color, or national origin.

I hope you had a great Labor Day weekend, and stay tuned for updates.

August 31st, 2020 Newsletter

As much of our country is gripped in turmoil, the General Assembly is coming together in Richmond to create meaningful change. These are unprecedented times, and an unprecedented response is necessary -- Virginia Democrats recognize the enormity of the challenges we face as a Commonwealth and are working thoughtfully to produce real results.

The second week of Special Session was packed with committee hearings, floor votes, and discussions about important bills related to COVID-19, criminal justice reform, and election readiness.

If you are interested in reviewing a complete list of the bills introduced during the Special Session, click here.

Coronavirus continues to spread, taking a heavy toll on Virginians' health and economic wellness. The House passed a number of significant bills last week related to the pandemic, including:

  • HB5046: to clarify certain provisions related to tele-medicine services and require the Department of Medical Assistance Services to continue reimbursing providers for Medicaid-covered tele-medicine until July 1, 2021.
  • HB5048: to require the Virginia Department of Health to make communicable disease outbreak information at state-regulated institutions available to the public.
  • HB5064: to require landlords to offer a payment plan before evicting a tenant.
  • HB5115: to extend eviction and foreclosure continuance periods in court proceedings to more Virginians affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

I am Vice Chair of the House Labor and Commerce Committee, and we held a hearing on Wednesday to discuss and vote on four coronavirus-related bills. All four bills were successfully reported to the floor and will be considered by the full House this week.

  • HB5028: to add COVID-19 to the list of existing conditions currently presumed be an occupational disease suffered in the line of duty for firefighters, emergency medical services personnel, law-enforcement officers, first responders, health care providers, and school board employees and therefore covered by the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act.
  • HB5047: to prevent any manufacturer or distributor from selling necessary goods or services at an unconscionable price during a declared state of emergency.
  • HB5087: to repeal two sunset provisions from legislation enacted during the 2020 Regular Session of the General Assembly that, among other things, established a short-time compensation program providing employers with the option of reducing the hours worked by employees while permitting the employees whose hours are reduced to receive partial compensation for lost wages. The bill also extends the date by which the Virginia Employment Commission is required to establish and implement such short-time compensation program from January 1, 2021 to January 1, 2022.
  • HB5116: to require employers to provide up to 80 hours -- two weeks -- of paid sick time during the pandemic for workers who must quarantine themselves or care for a quarantined family member.

With only 63 days until Election Day and weeks before absentee voting begins, we are working to protect your ability to vote safely and securely. On Friday, the House passed a very significant bill, HB5103, to create safe and secure alternatives for the return of absentee ballots on Election Day. The bill will appropriate $2 million to the Department of Elections to reimburse localities for prepaid postage costs and directs the State Board of Elections to promulgate standards for the use of drop boxes at all general registrar, polling places and voter satellite locations.

Here are some vitally important facts about Election Day 2020.

  • A  federal court recently ruled that Virginia registrars must accept absentee ballots without the signature of a witness for voters who believe they may not safely have a witness present while completing their ballot.
  • The deadline to register to vote or update an existing registration is Tuesday, October 13.
  • The deadline to request an absentee ballot be mailed to you is Friday, October 23, at 5:00 p.m.
  • In-person absentee voting begins September 18 and ends October 31 at 5:00 p.m.
  • There are several constitutional amendments and local government questions on the ballot that I encourage you to carefully review before voting. You can see what will be on the ballot in Arlington here. Fairfax will have a sample ballot here soon.

Criminal justice reform was a major priority during the regular 2020 General Assembly session and continues to be so for House and Senate Democrats. I serve on the House Courts of Justice Committee, which has jurisdiction over this issue, and we voted on nearly two dozen bills last week. Among other pieces of legislation, the bills below were successfully reported out of committee:

  • HB5013: to create a civil action for the deprivation of a person's rights by a law-enforcement officer and provides that a plaintiff may be awarded compensatory damages, punitive damages, and equitable relief, as well as reasonable attorney fees and costs.
  • HB5029: to require that any law-enforcement officer who witnesses another law-enforcement officer engaging or attempting to engage in the unlawful use of force against another person shall intervene, when such intervention is objectively reasonable and possible, to end the unlawful use or attempted unlawful use of force, or to prevent the further unlawful use of force.
  • HB5069: to ban law-enforcement officers from using a neck restraint in the performance of their official duties.
  • HB5099: to ban no-knock warrants, which are search warrants executed without law-enforcement officers giving notice of their identity, authority, and purpose prior to entering the place to be searched.

The House also passed three resolutions that I introduced.

  • HR532: this memorial resolution honors Captain Michael Francis Ott, Jr., USN, Ret., a distinguished veteran and father of four who passed away suddenly in July.
  • HR550: this memorial resolutions is a tribute to Dr. Nathaniel Thomas Connally, Jr., a beloved and accomplished member of our community and the late husband of former Delegate Julia A. "Judy" Connally, who once represented the 48th District.
  • HR551: this commending resolution celebrates the Virginia Hospital Center's 75th anniversary.

This week will be very busy -- stay tuned for updates.


August 24th, 2020 Newsletter

We kicked off 2020's Special Session last week, which was convened for a number of very important reasons. First, Virginia has a constitutional requirement that our budget be balanced. With the drastic decrease in revenue to the state caused by the coronavirus outbreak, we must act soon to ensure that our budget be both balanced and equitable.

We also reconvened to take up legislation dealing with COVID-19. From enabling telehealth to expanding broadband access for students to strengthening housing protections for vulnerable Virginians, there is a great deal of legislative ground to cover on the General Assembly's part to try to ease the pain of this pandemic.

Finally, the Democratic Caucus has long been engaging with constituents, activists, faith leaders, and others as we recognize and approach the urgent need for change in how communities are policed and how our criminal justice system works -- or sometimes does not work -- for Virginians.

Each of these issues is complex and there are no silver bullets. House Democrats recognize that and are taking a fresh and thoughtful approach to working toward solving these massive problems facing our society right now.

My first official business of the week was to attend a ceremonial signing of the landmark Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) on Monday in Richmond.

The VCEA marks a transformative, historic leap forward on energy and environmental policy that will launch Virginia to being a national leader in the effort to combat climate change, develop a sustainable energy portfolio, and create jobs for the 21st century economy throughout the Commonwealth.

The culmination of months of hard work by an unprecedented number of stakeholders from the energy and environmental communities, legislators, and the Northam Administration, this bill could never have passed in a General Assembly controlled by Republicans. Elections matter. I was proud to partner with the Senate patron, my friend Senator Jennifer McClellan, to steer the bill to passage.

Click here to watch my speech on the importance of the VCEA to Virginia.

I and other members of the General Assembly's "Money Committees" heard directly from Governor Ralph Northam about his budget priorities on Tuesday.

His key provisions in his proposed budget include funding to:

- Combat evictions and to expand access to affordable housing.
- Enhance investment in the Virginia Housing Trust Fund, which will complement federal CARES Act funding to expand access to affordable housing, reduce homelessness, and protect Virginians from eviction.
- Establish an Eviction Prevention and Diversion Pilot Program to reduce evictions in communities across the Commonwealth.
- Expand access to broadband for under-served communities. This historic investment in the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) would fund last-mile broadband infrastructure across the Commonwealth during this time of need.
- Increase support for students and fund needed technology upgrades at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

- Invest in behavioral health services across Virginia.

And more. You can read all of the details about the Governor's proposed budget here.

House Democrats are on the same page with the Governor about one extremely important challenge that is fast approaching: the November election.

In his proposed budget, the Governor is asking for $2 million for prepaid return postage on all absentee ballots sent out for the November 3rd General Election, budget language expressly permitting localities to use drop boxes or implement drop off locations for Virginians who choose to vote absentee, under security standards to be set by the Virginia Department of Elections, and language allowing Virginians to fix an error on their absentee ballot (currently, Virginians who make an error are not able to fix that error and therefore their ballot may be discarded. Many Virginians will be voting absentee for the first time this November, and this language will help ensure Virginians’ votes are counted).

Delegate Sickles has introduced a related bill in the House that has my strong support. This bill would:

- Require that General Registrars alert voters if there is an error in their absentee vote up until the Friday before Election Day, allowing voters time to recast a corrected ballot.
- Establish ballot drop-off stations at each polling location for the purpose of allowing voters to deposit completed absentee ballots.
- Provide $2,000,000 for the first year of the biennial budget from the general fund to reimburse localities for the cost of prepaid postage
for absentee ballots.
- Ensure that a registrar cannot reject a ballot for failing to include a signature from a witness.

This week we convened at first at the Siegel Center at VCU in Richmond. It was socially distanced and we all wore masks -- a very different setting than during the regular 2020 session.

The biggest task of the House this week was to adopt a rule change to enable the chamber to vote on and debate bills and procedures remotely.

It was a particular honor working with Speaker Filler-Corn, our first woman and first Jewish House Speaker, and Majority Leader Herring, our first woman and first Black Majority Leader, on the 100th anniversary of passage of the 19th Amendment, which states that the right to vote shall not be denied on the "basis of sex." As we know, there are too many obstacles even today to voting for women and men across this country, but we as House Democrats are working every day to make the right to vote more able to be exercised in the Commonwealth.

Every day before session business takes place, a member of the clergy delivers an invocation. I had the pleasure of introducing Rabbi Jeffrey Saxe, a constituent and fantastic speaker. Click here to view my introduction and here to listen to his prayer.

Stay tuned for more updates next week. It's going to get busier -- and fast.