The Fourth Week
Friday marked the end of the fourth week of Session and it is my pleasure to share with you the fourth edition of the Debra Dispatch.
Last Tuesday was a full day as the remaining 7 of my bills were heard before their committees.
House Bill 1658, a vote by mail pilot program went before the Privileges and Elections committee at 7:30 am. This bill was passed by for the day, and due to Crossover coming up on Tuesday, Feb. 5th, this bill will not be heard again and not moving forward.
House Bill 2196 would protect consumers from predatory debt management plans. The bill passed unanimously out of Commerce and Labor Subcommittee. There has been an increased number of Virginians contacting the Attorney General’s Office and the State Corporation Commission that companies are advertising, and charging for, debt settlement services that they cannot actually provide or that they do not intend to provide. The bill sets out licensing requirements, the qualifications of the licensee, and the reporting requirements related to the licensee. Required and prohibited business practices are listed, including the requirement that licensees shall not accept a fee from consumers prior to providing the consumers’ requested debt settlement services. This addresses the lack of regulatory oversight for companies that offer debt settlement services, and there is industry support for this legislation. It was reported to the Appropriations Committee. Due to concerns from the State Corporation Commission, this bill was not heard in Appropriations, and will not be moving forward.
I introduced and defended two House Resolutions. House Joint Resolution 720 went before the Rules subcommittee Number 2. This legislation would designate June 20th of every year as World Refugee Day in Virginia. As many of you know, we already celebrate World Refugee Day every day on June 20th at the Tuckahoe YMCA in coordination with ReEstablish Richmond. Kate Ayers, the Executive Director, came to support this resolution along with Stephen Allen of the International Rescue Committee.
I also presented HJ 593 to the Rules Subcommittee number 2. This resolution would commemorate the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, translated this means the ‘Night of Broken Glass’. This night, for many, signaled the beginning of the Holocaust. In a point of personal privilege on the House Floor, I spoke about International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and about the importance of remembering the personal stories of genocide, and the lives which have been affected by ethnically and racially motivated violence. The lessons of the Holocaust are lessons for all of us. Both resolutions, HJ 593 and HJ 720, were reported out of the Rules committee unanimously and will be on the floor of the House of Delegates next week.
House Bill 2179, the ABC license for co-working spaces, was sent back to the General Laws Subcommittee Number 3, despite the bill being reported favorably the week before. Several members of the committee had opposition to the legislation, and the amendments offered were not sufficient to quell those concerns. The legislation was ‘laid on the table’ which means that it will not be moving forward.
House Bill 1692, to increase the personal needs allowance for individuals residing in long-term care facilities was referred to the Appropriations Health and Human Resources subcommittee last week. This week it was heard before the subcommittee. There was a large fiscal impact associated with it, and I was amenable to negotiating a new number to lower the fiscal impact. Unfortunately, not everyone on the subcommittee was agreeable to that and it was laid on the table. It will not be moving forward.
House Bill 2593, a bill to expand mental health education to grades K-12, was heard in the Appropriations Elementary and Secondary Education subcommittee. The Department of Education determined they are able to do this work without legislation. The Chairman of the Education Committee will be sending a letter to the Department to be sure this work gets done.
My resolution to ask the Department of Education to update teacher evaluation criteria was heard in the Rules subcommittee. Again, it was determined that a letter from the Chairman of the Education Committee to the Department of Education would be sufficient to ensure the completion of this work.
Two bills will not be heard during this Legislative Session. House Bill 1961 would have allowed the State Parks Department to be exempt from the Virginia Public Procurement Act in order for them to have more freedom to partner with local providers of goods and foods to be sold at their retail shops in the parks. House Bill 1912 would have created a new category for a state song written by the 73rd’s own Susan Greenbaum. You can hear the song by clicking here.
On Thursday evening, I had the privilege of attending the Asian Business Legislative Summit, where I spoke on the importance of creating an economy that encourages investment in our community and allows local business to thrive. The opportunity to succeed is vital to the prosperity of our society, and I will continue to champion legislation that makes investments in our education, skills training, and protection for consumers.
Monday, I presented H.B. 1863 to the Courts of Justice Subcommittee number 4. This bill would repeal the state-mandated, medically-unnecessary statutory requirement that a physician obtain a woman’s informed written consent and perform ultrasound imaging before being allowed to perform an abortion.
While standing before the Courts subcommittee, I witnessed vicious behavior and misleading questions toward my colleague, Delegate Kathy Tran, as she presented HB 2491. The bill proposed changing the number of required physicians who must certify that an abortion procedure is medically necessary in the later stages of pregnancy due to a life-threatening condition to the mother. Virginia law already allows this to happen in limited circumstances. Current law also requires three doctors to sign off on the procedure; HB 2491 would have required one doctor to certify the procedure. Removing the state-mandated barrier allows women to make this deeply personal decision, and receive necessary medical treatment in a timely manner.
The legislation prompted a heated partisan debate about women’s reproductive rights. Many of the conversations surrounding these bills sought to distort the reality of the legislation proposed in an attempt to spark outrage for political gain, and further a false narrative of the substance of the bill. Unfortunately, these deceitful tactics have shifted our focus away from the needs of women, and their autonomy over their own medical decisions. We must trust women to make this decision with the consultation of their doctor, without unnecessary burdens that are meant to shame and intimidate. I will continue to support legislation that repeals the medically unnecessary barriers women face in their pursuit of healthcare. I urge both my colleagues and my community that as we continue to discuss issues of reproductive choice we do so with good faith, civility, and with a fundamental trust in women.
Despite the hurdles and difficulties of the week, I am forever grateful to my constituents for the honor to serve in the House of Delegates. If you have questions or concerns please email me at email@example.com or call my office at 804-698-1073.