Charting Virginia’s path out of the Covid pandemic has been a priority of mine, and of our Caucus. From supporting small business to increasing funding for the Rebuild VA grant program, to implementing the G3 jobs training program, to helping constituents navigate the Virginia unemployment system, to ensuring a smooth, equitable, fast vaccination program, to making sure we get our kids back to school as soon as safely possible, we have been focused on rebuilding Virginia’s economy.
Great teachers are the key to our children’s success, which is why we must ensure that our teachers are paid competitive salaries that reflect our understanding of the importance of our teachers to our Commonwealth, and our deep appreciation to these outstanding public servants. I am proud that our most recent budget reflects this, and teachers in the Commonwealth will soon get a 5% salary increase.
We also have expanded funding for early childhood education initiatives, and improved student/counselor ratios.
I was proud to Patron and lead the fight to pass the historic Virginia Clean Economy Act, which made Virginia the first southern state to chart a course to reduce carbon emissions to zero.
I have helped lead Virginia’s dramatic strides in wind, solar, and energy efficiency, transforming Virginia from a laggard to a leader in the effort to address climate change. I was also at the epicenter of the successful effort to move Virginia toward electrification of our transportation system, and to get more electric vehicles on Virginia’s roads.
As a parent with children who attended our public schools and a son who attended Virginia Tech, this is an issue particularly important to me. I have worked since I got to Richmond to pass meaningful gun safety reforms.
One of the votes of which I am most proud was to expand Medicaid in Virginia. Quite simply it is saving lives and giving more Virginians the opportunity to have quality affordable healthcare.
Image source: http://coverallva.com/
I am proud of the progress we have made in advancing and protecting the rights of our LGBT friends and neighbors. In 2019 I was the author of “Jacob’s Law,” which strengthens surrogacy rights for gay and straight couples as well as single parents in Virginia. I also supported the Virginia Human Rights Act, providing protections from discrimination to LGBT Virginias.
Here is an article on Jacob’s Law
Mr. Speaker and Ladies and Gentlemen of the House:
You are going to see and hear something this morning hour that you have never seen or heard before.
I stand before you to discuss—briefly—the wisdom and importance of passing HB 4003, an extreme risk protection bill. Nothing new there. But here’s the unusual part:
I join a group of supporters of the ERPO bill I don’t often agree with. But I am pleased to do so today.
This legislation has been endorsed by the likes of Attorney General Bill Barr, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Senator Marco Rubio, Vice President Mike Pence, and yes, President Donald Trump.
17 states have adopted these statutes—and several of them are deep red. Former Governor—now Senator—Rick Scott signed one into law in Florida. Then-Governor Mitch Daniels signed one in Indiana after it passed its Republican-controlled General Assembly.
And the President’s Commission on School Safety urged states to pass these laws. Attorney General Barr, when he said “we need to push the ERPO’s,” opined that “this is the single most important thing we can do in the gun control area.”
Mr. Speaker, are these Republican leaders less reverential of the 2nd Amendment than anyone in this body? Surely not.
But they have come to the thoughtful conclusion that these bills strike a proper balance between an individual’s 2nd Amendment rights and issues of public and personal safety.
The President’s Commission called on states to adopt these bills, and specified a checklist of provisions it suggested states include:
- A prompt hearing
- A prompt return of the firearm
- Limits on who can apply for an order, and safeguards that the process won’t be abused.
HB 4003 addresses all of those issues.
It limits the initial order to no more than 14 days.
It includes a heightened standard of proof to clear and convincing evidence—something the NRA has said is important to its support of these bills.
So there must be clear and convincing evidence that a person poses a substantial risk of harm to self or others before a final order can be issued.
The point is, Mr. Speaker, that the bill focuses on providing and protecting the due process and 2d Amendment rights of the subject of the order.
Mr. Speaker some skeptics have worried that the process could be abused by an ex-girlfriend or an ex-wife.
Not HB 4003. The ex-wife or the angry neighbor cannot just run off to court to make accusations.
A petition can be brought only by law enforcement or the Commonwealth’s Attorney, after independent investigation, and the bill attaches a stiff penalty—a year in jail---for anyone who falsely makes a report to law enforcement.
Mr. Speaker, we seem to always bog down on the question of whether this bill or that bill could or would have prevented the last tragedy.
With all due respect, that is NOT the issue. And certainly not with this bill. This bill has been shown to be effective. It is an evidence-based idea.
The President’s Commission cited two well-regarded studies—one by Duke University, another by Indiana University—showing that suicides in Connecticut and Indiana are down significantly since passage of these bills in those states.
And as the members of this body well know, unfortunately, more than half of the gun deaths in Virginia are suicides—an epidemic that is particularly rampant in the rural areas of the Commonwealth, and with our veterans.
This bill—which may well help avoid the next Virginia Beach tragedy—will, WILL, predictably save lives.
Mr. Speaker, I can’t claim a consensus, but surely there is a growing bipartisan trend across the country—and urged on by our federal government—to pass these life-saving bills.
Let’s show Virginians—who are watching us so very closely today—that we can still work together in a bipartisan way to save lives in Virginia. Let’s pass HB 4003.
During the 2021 legislative session I was proud to be at the epicenter of electrifying our transportation system here in Virginia.
It’s simple. A woman’s decisions regarding her reproductive health should be left between her and her doctor, and government has no business interfering in such a private matter. I oppose all measures that would limit reproductive freedom.