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2021 Session Updates

March 1st, 2021 Newsletter

We adjourned the 2021 Session of the Virginia General Assembly this morning, sine die, in a pro forma session. All of the work of the session concluded at 11:12 pm on Saturday night. 

It was a remarkable six weeks.

The final week capped a historic session that included victories on issues ranging from criminal justice reform to vehicle electrification. The  session was replete with  legislation that would have been unimaginable just a year and a half ago. I am enormously proud of what our House Democratic team accomplished in the House of Delegates and the broader General Assembly this session. 

For comprehensive overviews of our work, take a look at out Democratic Caucus press release here

The Washington Post did a terrific summary of the session on Saturday. See it here

I am delighted that a number of my bills passed and will soon become law.

HB1854 allows Arlington to rename Lee Highway, and HB1855  renames the Department of Mines Mineral and Energy as the Department of Energy, and creates a new position of Chief Clean Energy Policy Advisor to the Governor.

 HB2282 was a linchpin in the successful effort to launch Virginia on the road to electrifying our transportation network.  Taken together with last year’s success on the Clean Economy Act, which established Virginia as a leader in the move to clean energy production, Virginia has become a national leader in the fight against climate change.  And we’re going to stay there.

HB1853 also passed. It will allow the Supreme Court of Virginia to adopt a rule (which nearly all other states have done) requiring lawyers to deposit client funds in an interest-bearing account. The interest earned on those accounts will be used to fund legal aid services for indigent Virginians—a pressing and growing need. I have long been an advocate for improving access to justice in Virginia. This long overdue bill will provide a major funding boost to those efforts, using non-general fund money.

Finally, HB1852  adopts the Uniform Collaborative Law Act, which provides a framework for the practice of collaborative law, a process which enables divorcing couples to resolve their differences without going to court and reduces costs, both financial and emotional.

I am also particularly pleased that SB1261 passed. It expands the jurisdiction of the Virginia Court Appeals, bringing Virginia’s justice system into the 21st century and joining the other 49 states which have fully functioning Courts of Appeals. It will require expanding the number of judges on the Court to handle the increased workload, providing another opportunity to further diversify the bench in Virginia.

Another huge milestone was legalizing marijuana in Virginia. The passage of HB2312 has Virginia joining 15 other states  in legalizing adult use of marijuana. It establishes a process for regulating the marijuana market, and sets January 1, 2024 as the date the new rules  take effect.

Last week I reported that the House and Senate budget conferees were busy working to fashion a budget. I am happy to report that a budget was agreed upon, reflecting the priorities of our Democratic majority.

The budget includes:

  • $100,000 allowable tax deduction for business expenses paid for by forgivable, tax-free PPP loans and Rebuild Virginia grants

  • A record total investment of $125.7 million in the Housing Trust Fund

  • $100 million for broadband infrastructure

  • Funding overpayment forgiveness for Unemployment Insurance at the VEC without raising employer UI taxes

  • $37.2 million this year and $71.6 million in the next fiscal year in federal funds to support mass vaccination efforts and COVID-19 communications.

  • Expanded access to prenatal care through Medicaid/FAMIS regardless of the pregnant person’s citizenship status

  • 5% pay raise for teachers effective July 2021

  • $442.9 million over the biennium to ensure no school division receives less funding as a result of lost enrollment

  • $40 million to address learning loss due to the pandemic, such as funding summer learning and after-school programs and offering targeted support

  • $49.5 million to reach a 3:1,000 support staff-to-student ratio and $26.6 million to fund the 1:325 school counselor-to-student ratio

  • $16.1 million in restored funding to the Virginia Preschool Initiative

  • A total of $65 million for Agriculture Best Management Practices

  • $25 million in additional support for the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund

  • Maintains restoration of $12 million for environmental justice and clean energy regulatory programs

  • $50 million in general funds and $50 million in bonds for nutrient removal in the Chesapeake Bay

  • $14.6 million to implement automatic record-sealing for some offenses

  • Establishing a new public defender office in Chesterfield County

  • Reinvesting savings from abolishing the death penalty into indigent and public defense programs

Covid-19 Vaccinations 

The Vaccine Summary Dashboard continues to show Virginia’s significant progress in vaccinations, with more than 1.6 million doses administered. Although  severe winter weather delayed vaccine shipments to Virginia, more than 9 in 10 of available first doses have been administered. (It is important to note that the number of doses shown as being “received” by hospitals and local health districts does not account for the doses they then redistribute to other partners such as physicians and pharmacies.)

The statewide vaccine pre-registration system at vaccinate.virginia.gov has received more than 518,000 pre-registrations since its launch on February 15. Including individuals who pre-registered through local health districts in the past, the new system now includes nearly 1.7 million residents and essential workers. All individuals who have previously filled out a survey or form or signed up for a waitlist to be vaccinated through their local health district have been automatically imported into the new statewide system and do not need to pre-register again. As data migration continues, some pre-registrations may not yet appear in the search tool. Anyone who experiences difficulties with the search function should check the spelling of their name and email address carefully and consider whether they may have used a different name, phone number, or email address in the past. Anyone with questions should call 877-VAX-IN-VA rather than their local health district. A public information toolkit is available to assist local health districts, localities, and community partners with graphics, talking points, frequently asked questions, and other materials.

The new central Vaccinate Virginia phone number, 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682), has received more than 115,000 calls so far, and is available seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Service is available immediately in English and Spanish, with real-time interpreter services available in any of more than 100 languages as needed.

Based on our population, Virginia is now receiving approximately 161,000 doses per week from the federal government. 

As part of a federal retail pharmacy program, 140 pharmacy locations in Virginia are now receiving a total of 52,000 new first doses per week beyond Virginia’s normal allocation. Participating locations include CVS, Food City, Giant, Kroger/Harris Teeter, Safeway, Walgreens, Walmart, and multiple independent community pharmacies. The Commonwealth is working with these pharmacies to ensure that as many appointments as possible are offered first to people age 65 and older who are currently on local health district waitlists, rather than accepting new signups from the general public. Unfortunately, CVS has been unable to find a way to do this within the technical limits of their appointment system. Anyone 65 or older can check cvs.com regularly as appointments become available.

Governor Northam has amended Executive Order 72 to expand opportunities for outdoor activities in light of improving COVID-19 case statistics. While limits on indoor gatherings remain the same (including a limit of 10 people at indoor social gatherings), the limit on outdoor social gatherings and exercise groups will increase to 25 people and the limit on outdoor racetrack and amusement venues will increase to 1,000 people. The amended order removes the stay-at-home order from midnight to 5 a.m. and extends the cutoff time for alcohol sales in restaurant dining rooms from 10 p.m. to midnight. These amendments, which will be effective March 1, follow the recent amendment in effect as of February 22 to increase the capacity limit for outdoor recreational sporting events to 250 spectators.

The doses Virginia receives from the federal government are allocated by the Virginia Department of Health to local health districts, primarily in proportion to each district’s population. Local health districts are expected to determine the most equitable and efficient use of each allocation, leveraging any combination of their own staff and volunteers, hospitals, pharmacies, and individual providers. Additional doses help support targeted equity initiatives. Other doses reach some residents of Virginia through separate federal allocations for employees of the U.S. Department of Defense and certain other agencies; the Indian Health Service; and a federal contract to vaccinate residents of long-term care facilities.

Anyone who receives the first dose of vaccine will receive the second dose three or four weeks later as appropriate

Executive Order 72 maintains the 10-person limit on social gatherings, the requirement to wear masks in public places, guidelines for businesses, and other provisions. It is essential to continue these mitigation strategies even by people who are vaccinated.

 I want to remind you: while we are making steady and accelerating progress, it is more important than ever to take the same precautions as always: stay home when possible, wear a mask when out, maintain physical distance from others, and wash hands frequently.

·      Click here for the vaccine dashboard. It presents vaccine data on the number of vaccines administered(number of doses given to people), number of vaccines distributed (number of doses of vaccine sent to healthcare providers for giving to people). 

·      Interactive map to enable Virginians to determine which COVID-19 vaccine phase their Health District is in

·      Eligibility quiz to enable Virginians to find out which vaccination phase they fall under

·      Click here for the Fairfax COVID-19 vaccine sign up link

 It is an honor to serve as the Delegate from the 48th District. An honor I will never take for granted. As this session comes to an end I want to thank you for allowing me this great privilege to represent you in the Virginia General Assembly.

February 21st, 2021 Newsletter

Greetings again from virtual Richmond. 

I have cast some consequential votes during my career in the General Assembly. Medicaid expansion, the ERA, the Clean Economy Act. But this week I voted to end the Death Penalty in Virginia. In Virginia! Repeal would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, but our success this week is a direct result of years of hard work, and the growing desire for change and a more just and equitable Virginia. If you are looking for a good read this Sunday, check out Senator Tim Kaine’s reflections on repealing the death penalty in Virginia.

I am also delighted to report that the suite of Clean Car bills has cleared both Chambers of the General Assembly, another landmark accomplishment this week which will begin the process of electrifying Virginia’s transportation sector. Since arriving at the General Assembly, I have been focused on the environment and addressing climate change. Last year’s standout accomplishment was the Clean Economy Act. This year, the Clean Car bills will no doubt be the signature environmental achievement by our Democratic majority.

My bill (HB2282) will direct the State Corporation Commission —along with a broad group of stakeholders-- to analyze and develop policy proposals that will help incentivize and create the infrastructure for a clear transition to vehicle electrification. Several other bills make up the package:  SB1223, patroned by Senator Boysko, (with me as a Chief House co-patron) amends the Virginia Energy Plan to include an analysis of electric vehicle charging infrastructure and other infrastructure needed to support the 2045 net-zero carbon target in the transportation sector.

The centerpiece is HB1965, patroned by Delegate Lamont Bagby (with me as a Chief  Co-patron). It establishes low emission and zero emission standards for vehicles starting in model year  2025. HB1979, patroned by Delegate David Reid, creates a rebate program for the purchase or lease of new and used electric vehicles, to be administered by the soon-to-be newly named (thanks to my HB1855) Department of Energy.

Speaking of clearing both Chambers, I am pleased to report that HB1852 passed the Senate this week. HB1852 adopts the Uniform Collaborative Law Act, which provides a framework for the practice of collaborative law, a process which enables divorcing couples to resolve their differences without going to court and reduces costs, both financial and emotional.

HB1854, which allows Arlington to rename Lee Highway, is poised for a vote in the Senate early next week, as is  HB1855 which I introduced on behalf of the Governor to rename the Department of Mines Mineral and Energy as the Department of Energy, and create the new position of Chief Clean Energy Policy Advisor to the Governor. My last bill (HB1853) is also headed for the Senate floor. It will allow the Supreme Court of Virginia to adopt a rule (which nearly all other states have done) requiring lawyers to deposit client funds in an interest-bearing account. The interest earned on those accounts will be used to fund legal aid services for indigent Virginians—a pressing and growing need. I have long been an advocate for improving access to justice in Virginia. This long overdue bill will provide a major funding boost to those efforts, using non-general fund money. 

Another bill I am Chief co-patron on, HB2258, is being carried by Delegate Shelley Simonds. It is a follow on to my Red Flag bill last session, and will allow researchers to analyze the use of the Extreme Risk Protective Orders we created last session, which are already saving lives all across the Commonwealth.

The House and Senate budget conferees are busy working to fashion a compromise budget. By this time next week I hope to report success on another budget reflecting the priorities of our Democratic majority.

School Reopening

No issue has been more important to us this session than creating the path to getting every single Virginian vaccinated, and getting our children back to school. SB1303 (patroned by Senator Dunnavant) aims to reopen schools in Virginia, but would make permanent, ongoing changes to public education policy in the Commonwealth that are not directly tailored to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Delegate Van Valkenburg’s substitute, written in consultation with many different stakeholders and with input from Senator Dunnavant, addresses returning to in-person learning in a clear and responsible way.

·       The bill will require in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year but makes clear that this can include a hybrid model, and that classroom instruction should be consistent with pertinent CDC guidelines.

·       As new variations of the COVID-19 virus emerge, local school boards will be required to adopt and update safety measures in line with CDC guidance.

·       This approach prioritizes the safety of our teachers, staff, and administrators, mandating that our teachers and staff are offered vaccinations before the start of the 2021-2022 school year, and allows accommodations for those who are high-risk and/or unable to receive a vaccination. Teachers are already in the 1B vaccination priority.

·        This bill is about being responsible both in how we reopen and how we keep our students, staff, families, and communities safe. The House Democrats want to send kids back to school in person in the safest way possible, based on science and not scoring political points.

·       Senator Dunnavant  has made clear that she supports Delegate Van Valkenburg’s  substitute and said the House substitute puts “flesh on the bone” of her bill.

·        Last Friday, we received the first CDC guidance from the Biden Administration relating to the best practices on reopening schools. With these guidelines, schools can reopen safely according to what’s best for each individual community.

·       What works for Arlington might not be the best plan for Fairfax, or Richmond so this substitute gives localities flexibility on how to safely reopen schools and how to respond if there is another high-impact COVID-19 outbreak.

·       The substitute clarifies that the law will expire on August 1, 2022. Schools will still be required to provide a virtual option for families who choose to keep their kids at home during the 2021-2022 academic year.

Covid-19 Vaccinations

The statewide COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration system is available now. You can access the pre-registration system here: vaccinate.virginia.gov

 You can also make sure that your registration has been received by clicking “Check the List” in the top right corner. If you need help over the phone, call the Virginia Department of Health’s newly expanded hotline at 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682)

· Call center representatives speak English and Spanish, and callbacks are available in over 100 languages. Anyone can pre-register using this new system, but only people in Phases 1a and 1b (ages 65+ and ages 16-64 with underlying health conditions) are currently being vaccinated. 

For those in the Fairfax County Health District: please note that Fairfax has opted out of the statewide registration system. Fairfax residents should continue to use the Fairfax registration link, which is shown below.

As part of a federal retail pharmacy program, 36 CVS Pharmacy locations in Virginia are now receiving a total of 26,000 first doses beyond Virginia’s normal allocation. Initially, the Commonwealth’s goal was for CVS to offer these appointments directly to people age 65 and older who were already on local health district waiting lists, rather than opening a new signup system for the public. Unfortunately, CVS was unable to find a way to do this within the technical limits of their appointment system. Although CVS is limiting appointments to people age 65 or older, there is no requirement that individuals have previously pre-registered with local health districts. Anyone 65 or older can check cvs.com regularly as additional appointments become available. The number of weekly doses and retail locations as part of this program are expected to increase in the coming weeks, and the Commonwealth will continue to help CVS select locations based on equity indicators.

Governor Northam has extended Executive Order 72 through February 28, which maintains the 10-person limit on social gatherings, the requirement to wear masks in public places, guidelines.

I want to remind you: while we are making steady and accelerating progress, it is more important than ever to take the same precautions as always: stay home when possible, wear a mask when out, maintain physical distance from others, and wash hands frequently.

·      Click here for the vaccine dashboard. It presents vaccine data on the number of vaccines administered(number of doses given to people), number of vaccines distributed (number of doses of vaccine sent to healthcare providers for giving to people). 

·      Interactive map to enable Virginians to determine which COVID-19 vaccine phase their Health District is in

·      Eligibility quiz to enable Virginians to find out which vaccination phase they fall under

·      Click here for the Fairfax COVID-19 vaccine sign up link

Stay tuned for updates next week. 

February 14th, 2021 Newsletter

Greetings again from virtual Richmond.

The House has begun consideration of all of the bills passed by the Senate, and vice-versa. We began Special Session on Wednesday.

The Special Session was called by the Governor because Republicans in the General Assembly refused to agree to the routine waiver of the Constitutional requirement that session be limited to 30 days. Our “short sessions” have traditionally and uncontroversially been 46 days. Breaking this five-decade long courtesy of the waiver vote, the House was forced to hold our regular session for only 30 days, so we adjourned sine die on Monday. The Special Session merely returns us to where we have traditionally been in terms of length of session, and allows us to finish the important work we are doing.

And speaking of important work, on Friday the House passed its budget bill (HB1800) which keeps the Commonwealth’s priorities funded for fiscal years 2020-2022.  I joined a bipartisan majority in a 68 to 30 vote to ensure that Virginia recovers as quickly as possible from the various impacts of COVID-19.

The budget includes funding to:

Protect Virginia Families

  • Improving education by allocating $231.4 million for five percent teacher pay raises
  • $429.5 million for no-loss payments to public schools, in addition to $1.3 billion in Federal relief and $51.1 million to address COVID-19 learning loss
  • Funding to reach a 1:325 school counselor-to-student ratio 
  • A 3.5 percent pay raise for state employees
  • $84 million to maintain affordable access to Virginia colleges and universities and $8.5 million to increase Tuition Assistance Grant awards and include online students

Keep Virginia Healthy

  • Paid sick leave for essential workers
  • A $12 per patient, per day increase in nursing home payments
  • Prenatal care through Medicaid/FAMIS regardless of the pregnant person’s citizenship status
  • $300,000 for an actuarial study on creating a paid family and medical leave program
  • Funding for worker’s compensation for health care workers and first responders who die from, or are totally or partially disabled by, COVID-19 as an occupational disease suffered in the line of duty

Rebuild a stronger, cleaner economy

  • An additional $20 million in funding directed to Rebuild VA small business grants, bringing the program total to $140 million
  • Funding for a pilot program allowing public broadband authorities to compete for 10% of Virginia Telecommunications Initiative grants
  • A one-time $5 million capitalization to fund electric vehicle rebates
  • Additional funding for agricultural best management practices to meet Chesapeake Bay clean-up benchmarks

Virginia also received direct federal support of $845 million to our schools to support K-12 and higher education, as well as over $560 million to address rent and utility relief for low-income Virginians.

The budget that the House passed begins with Governor Northam’s proposed budget, which included a net spending increase of nearly $1.5 billion, focused on funding for education, additional criminal justice reform, expanded access to broadband, and health care. The budget will now need to be reconciled with the Senate version.

Covid Vaccinations

 The Vaccine Summary Dashboard continues to show Virginia's progress on vaccinations. As of February 11th, Virginia ranks 7th among all states for percent of the population that has received at least one dose, and 9th among all states for percent of available doses administered. Nearly 9 in 10 available first doses have been administered. One thing that's important to note is that the number of doses shown as being “received” by hospitals and local health districts does not account for the doses they then redistribute to other partners such as physicians and pharmacies.

The Commonwealth is launching a Statewide Vaccine Pre-Registration System to provide a unified and comprehensive process for people in Virginia to pre-register for the COVID-19 vaccine. As a result, the Virginia Department of Health has directed all local health districts to close their pre-registration forms and surveys at 5 p.m. on Friday, February 12, and replace them at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, February 16 with a link to the new statewide system. In the interim, existing waiting lists will be imported to the new system and pre-registration will be temporarily unavailable throughout Virginia. All individuals who have previously filled out a survey or form or signed up for a waitlist to be vaccinated through their local health district will be automatically imported into the new statewide system and do not need to pre-register again. They will maintain their current status in the queue, and will be able to search that they are in the new system starting Tuesday morning.

For those in the Fairfax County Health District: please note that Fairfax has opted out of the statewide registration system. Fairfax residents should continue to use the Fairfax registration link, which is shown below.

New tools will launch next week, including the new pre-registration website and an exponentially expanded call center. This will help ensure that callers can get timely assistance with questions and pre-registration.

Earlier this week, my office received the following update from the Governor’s administration on Virginia’s vaccine distribution efforts:

· Currently, Virginia receives approximately 129,000 doses per week from the federal government. This is a 23% increase from what we were receiving for the first six weeks and this is likely to be the last allocation increase that we will see until March.

· The doses Virginia receives from the federal government are allocated by the Virginia Department of Health to local health districts, primarily in proportion to each district’s population. Local health districts determine the most equitable and efficient use of each allocation, as well as how to best utilize their own staff and volunteers, pharmacies, hospitals, and individual providers.

· All local health districts have received statewide guidance to distribute roughly 50% of doses to individuals age 65+ and the other 50% to essential frontline workers, as well as those under 65 with underlying health conditions.

· Anyone who is eligible for Phase 1a or 1b based on occupation should first check with their employer to see if arrangements have already been made, and if the employer has not, then those eligible individuals should register with the local health department in the locality where they work

· Anyone who is eligible based on age or medical condition should pre-register with the local health department in the locality where they live

· All local health districts in Virginia are in Phase 1b of vaccine eligibility. This means that approximately 50% of Virginia’s population is now eligible. That’s roughly 4 million people who are eligible and Virginia is only receiving 129,000 doses a week.

· Anyone who receives the first dose of the vaccine will receive the second dose three or four weeks later (the timeline is dependent on which vaccine you receive).

As part of a federal retail pharmacy program, 36 CVS Pharmacy locations in Virginia are now receiving a total of 26,000 first doses beyond Virginia’s normal allocation. Initially, the Commonwealth’s goal was for CVS to offer these appointments directly to people age 65 and older who were already on local health district waiting lists, rather than opening a new signup system for the public. Unfortunately, CVS was unable to find a way to do this within the technical limits of their appointment system. Although CVS is limiting appointments to people age 65 or older, there is no requirement that individuals have previously pre-registered with local health districts. Anyone 65 or older can check cvs.com regularly as additional appointments become available. The number of weekly doses and retail locations as part of this program are expected to increase in the coming weeks, and the Commonwealth will continue to help CVS select locations based on equity indicators.

Governor Northam has extended Executive Order 72 through February 28, which maintains the 10-person limit on social gatherings, the requirement to wear masks in public places, guidelines.

I want to remind you: while we are making steady and accelerating progress, it is more important than ever to take the same precautions as always: stay home when possible, wear a mask when out, maintain physical distance from others, and wash hands frequently.

·      Click here for the vaccine dashboard. It presents vaccine data on the number of vaccines administered(number of doses given to people), number of vaccines distributed (number of doses of vaccine sent to healthcare providers for giving to people). 

·      Interactive map to enable Virginians to determine which COVID-19 vaccine phase their Health District is in

·      Eligibility quiz to enable Virginians to find out which vaccination phase they fall under

·      Click here for the Fairfax COVID-19 vaccine sign up link

Stay tuned for updates next week. Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

February 7th, 2021 Newsletter

Greetings again from virtual Richmond.

While the national news has been dominated  this week by Covid relief and the impeachment trial, the  General Assembly has been focused intently on our work helping Virginia families and building a better Virginia. Crossover was Friday. The House and Senate now turn to considering each others’ bills.

Friday was a historic day in the House. We passed HB2263, which abolishes the death penalty, and HB2312, which sets Virginia on a course to legal adult use of marijuana. Friday’s votes make it all but certain that Virginia will become the first Southern state to allow legal marijuana sales and finally end capital punishment. Although details will need to be ironed out during conference with the Senate, I am hopeful these bills will pass and will go  to Governor Northam, who has indicated he intends to sign them.

The House also passed HB2113, which  establishes the process for automatic expungement of criminal records for certain convictions, deferred dispositions, and acquittals and other offenses that have been dismissed. This is particularly important for Virginians with records relating to possession of marijuana. We also considered—finally-- a proposed constitutional amendment removing the Marshall Newman amendment, which remains in our Constitution and prohibits same sex marriage.  Over the objections of most of the Republican caucus, the bill passed.

Last  week was truly transformative in terms of our work on criminal justice reform and civil rights.

My bill HB1856 also passed the House last week. It will allow Virginians to sign their wills and other estate planning documents electronically. The pandemic increased the urgency of this issue, though it has long been past the time when Virginia should join the 21st century and simplify this process. I am hopeful it will also pass in the Senate.

You may recall that the Republicans refused to agree to a 46 day legislative session—something that has been agreed to by every minority party over the last 50 years.  They wanted to cut short our ability to address the pressing needs of Virginians in this pandemic. Thankfully, Governor Northam has called  a special session to start on Wednesday February 10th. This will give us the much needed and traditional length of session to finish our work on behalf of Virginia.

Governor Northam also recently made an important announcement relating to our progress on vaccinations,  and getting all our children back in school.  He has directed every school system to have some form of in person learning by March 15th. To see his entire press conference please click here.

Last week I spoke on the floor to highlight our progress on our vaccination efforts statewide. We are not where we want to be yet for sure, but we are finally making real progress. To see my floor speech last week please click here.

With regard to the current state of  vaccinations in Virginia , I share  the very latest information below:

The Vaccine Summary Dashboard shows Virginia’s significant progress in vaccinations. As of today, Virginia ranks 9th among all states for percent of the population that has received at least one dose, and 10th for percent of available doses administered. More than 8 in 10 available first doses have been administered. (It is important to note that the number of doses shown as being “received” by hospitals and local health districts does not account for the doses they then redistribute to other partners such as physicians and pharmacies.)

The federal government has increased Virginia’s allocation of vaccine by approximately 23%, from 105,000 to 129,000 new first doses per week. While this is good news, the increase for each of Virginia’s 35 health districts is still relatively small. All states rely on the federal government to distribute vaccine doses by population, and the pace of incoming doses is not expected to increase again until March.

As part of a federal retail pharmacy program, 36 CVS Pharmacy locations in Virginia will soon receive a total of 26,000 first doses beyond Virginia’s normal allocation. The Commonwealth is working with CVS to identify locations and registration processes that will help promote equitable distribution. The number of weekly doses and retail locations as part of this program are expected to increase in the coming weeks.

All local health districts currently have clear information on their websites about vaccine eligibility, and how eligible individuals can pre-register online or by phone. Local health districts are starting to test a new statewide pre-registration system that will launch very soon to improve the consistency of this process and allow individuals to confirm their pre-registration status at any time.

Anyone who receives a first dose of vaccine will receive the second dose three or four weeks later as appropriate.

Governor Northam has extended Executive Order 72 through February 28, which maintains the 10-person limit on social gatherings, the requirement to wear masks in public places, guidelines for businesses, and other provisions.

I want to remind you: while we are making steady and accelerating progress, it is more important than ever to take the same precautions as always: stay home when possible, wear a mask when out, maintain physical distance from others, and wash hands frequently.

  • Click here for the vaccine dashboard. It presents vaccine data on the number of vaccines administered(number of doses given to people), number of vaccines distributed (number of doses of vaccine sent to healthcare providers for giving to people). 
  • Interactive map to enable Virginians to determine which COVID-19 vaccine phase their Health District is in
  • Eligibility quiz to enable Virginians to find out which vaccination phase they fall under
  • Click here for the Arlington COVID-19 vaccine  sign up link
  • Click here for the Fairfax COVID-19 vaccine sign up link

I hope you all safely enjoy this Super Bowl Sunday.  Stay tuned for updates next week.

January 30th, 2021 Newsletter

Greetings from virtual Richmond.

This was another extremely busy week, and I anticipate that the pace will pick up even more as we approach "crossover," next Friday, the date by which the House and Senate must pass all of their respective bills before they head to the other chamber for consideration.

Six of my seven bills have passed the House, and I was pleased that my seventh bill (HB1856) was unanimously reported out of the Courts of Justice Committee yesterday. It will be headed to the floor next week. HB1856 will allow Virginians to sign their wills and other estate planning documents electronically.  The pandemic increased the urgency on this issue, though it has long been past the time when Virginia should join the 21st century and simplify this process.

I had three bills pass the House yesterday. HB1854 will allow Arlington to finally rename Lee Highway. HB1907 makes  a technical amendment to the Clean Economy Act relating to large purchasers of renewable energy, and HB2282 directs the State Corporation Commission —along with a broad group of other state agencies and private sector stakeholders-- to analyze and develop policy proposals that will help incentivize and create the infrastructure for our transition to an electric transportation system in Virginia.

I am at the epicenter of the effort this session to move us forward on electric vehicles.  There are a number of bills which, as either the parton or copatron, I am helping to shepherd through the General Assembly. You can find the other bills here:  SB1223HB1965HB1979, and HB2118.

My colleagues on the other side of the aisle continue, to my dismay, to politicize the most important issue facing Virginia today: making sure  every Virginian gets vaccinated as soon as possible, so we can get our kids back to school and our economy back on track.

Last Monday, I spoke on the floor, urging my colleagues to work together and to each be part of the solution. To see my floor speech,  please click here.

No one is satisfied with the pace of vaccinations, and the lower-than-expected federal supply of vaccines has been a huge barrier to accelerating the process.  But the numbers are steadily and quickly improving. This week the House passed HB2333, which will ensure Virginia is ready to ramp up its efforts as the supply of vaccine grows.

With regard to the current state of our vaccination process, I share below the very latest information:

 Virginia is currently the 12th highest state in the nation in the number of vaccine doses administered per day, as reported by Bloomberg's global vaccine tracker.

    We have now administered over 7,800 doses per 100k people. That's one of the most important public health metrics, because it measures how quickly we are vaccinating people -- normalized per population. That's better than 28 other states, including our neighbors: Maryland, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

        We have administered approximately 53% of the doses received, including 70% of first doses received. That's more than the national total (52%), and better than 23 other states, including Maryland, North Carolina, and Florida.

   We are administering over 28,000 shots per day on average, exceeding the Governor's initial goal of 25,000 shots per day.

     This week, the Governor rolled out steps to improve this even more: 1) strategic inventory management that will put an additional 40,000 shots in arms this week – beyond the 175,000 shots already scheduled; 2) an accelerated schedule to vaccinate long term care facilities through the federal pharmacy partnership; 3) increased transparency in doses distributed and administered; and 4) clear, consistent guidance to health departments that will equally prioritize older individuals and frontline workers.

    The Biden administration has also promised a 16 percent bump in vaccine allocations for the next three weeks, allowing our health departments to plan more vaccination events. This is the kind of leadership and partnership we need to get shots in the arms of every Virginian.

  • Click here for the vaccine dashboard. It presents vaccine data on the number of vaccines administered(number of doses given to people), number of vaccines distributed (number of doses of vaccine sent to healthcare providers for giving to people). 
  • Interactive map to enable Virginians to determine which COVID-19 vaccine phase their Health District is in
  • Eligibility quiz to enable Virginians to find out which vaccination phase they fall under
  • Click here for the Arlington COVID-19 vaccine  sign up link
  • Click here for the Fairfax COVID-19 vaccine sign up link

Stay tuned for updates next week. 

January 24th, 2021 Newsletter

The breathtaking velocity of a General Assembly session is made even more so when it is a short session, and when it is conducted virtually. Our virtual session surely presents some challenges, but I am happy to report that the first week and a half of our work has gone smoothly, and been very productive. We are poised to make significant progress for Virginia. While it feels like weeks ago, it was only 11 days ago that Governor Northam opened the session with his State of Commonwealth Address. The Governor outlined his vision to protect Virginians and get our economy moving, which begins with and depends upon beating the pandemic and getting every Virginian vaccinated. As quickly as possible.  More on that later. To view the Governor's address please click here

                                                                                                                                         

  I am honored to be a part of the leadership team as the House Democratic Caucus Chair, along with Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn and Majority Leader Charniele Herring, and I look forward to working hard this session to fulfill our promise to make our Commonwealth an even better place to work, live, and raise a family. 

One of the principal themes of this session, with regard to my consistent focus on the environment and addressing climate change, will be to make meaningful progress on the electrification of our transportation system, and particularly electric vehicles. There is a package of bills  meant to put Virginia on a faster path.  My bill (HB2282) will direct the State Corporation Commission —along with a broad group of stakeholders-- to analyze and develop policy proposals that will help incentivize and create the infrastructure for a clear transition to vehicle electrification. Several other bills make up the package:  SB1223, HB1965, HB1979, and HB2118
 
 I have several other bills working their way through the House. One (HB1853) would  allow the Supreme Court of Virginia to adopt a rule (which nearly all other states have done requiring lawyers to deposit client funds in an interest-bearing account. The interest earned on those accounts would be used to fund legal aid services for indigent Virginians—a pressing and growing need. I have long been an advocate for improving access to justice in Virginia. This long overdue bill will provide a major funding boost to those efforts, using non-general fund money.
 
I have also introduced a bill  (HB1855on behalf of the Governor to rename the Department of Mines Mineral and Energy to the Department of Energy. Renaming the Department sends a clear message about Virginia’s commitment to a 21st century energy economy policy.
 
I have several other bills, including one which would allow Virginians to sign their Wills electronically—an issue that the pandemic shone a spotlight on. Another bill (HB1852) adopts the Uniform Collaborative Law Act, which provides a framework for the practice of collaborative law, a process which enables divorcing couples to resolve their differences without going to court and reduces costs, both financial and emotional.  Another allows Arlington to rename Lee Highway (HB1854).
 
To view the full list of bills I am carrying this session, click here

 ​Finally, I understand how anxious we all are during this awful time, particularly with regard to the vaccination process. The VDH COVID Vaccine website has been updated with new timelines, phase definitions, county/city phase map, eligibility tool, and vaccine educational materials

  • Click here for the vaccine dashboard. It presents vaccine data on the number of vaccines administered(number of doses given to people), number of vaccines distributed (number of doses of vaccine sent to healthcare providers for giving to people). 
  • Interactive map to enable Virginians to determine which COVID-19 vaccine phase their Health District is in
  • Eligibility quiz to enable Virginians to find out which vaccination phase they fall under

I can assure you that we will be ramping things up to make sure every single Virginian can get vaccinated as quickly as humanly possible.

Stay tuned for updates next week