2021 General Assembly Update
HB 2019 – Ensuring Schools are stocked with Albuterol Inhalers (McQuinn)
This bill requires the Department of Education and the Department of Health to develop and implement policies for the stocking and administration of albuterol inhalers in Virginia’s public schools. I, and so many others, are familiar with incidents of children needing but not having access to inhalers during the school day. Now that we have taken this legislative action, all Virginia public schools will be stocked with albuterol inhalers. HB 2019 ensures all students will have access to this life saving resource while at school.
HB 2065 – Development of a Produce Prescription Program (McQuinn)
With the passage of this bill, the Department of Social Services and the Department of Medical Assistance Services will convene a work group to develop a plan for a three-year pilot Produce Prescription Program. This work group will consist of representatives and experts in the field of medicine and nutrition. This Produce Prescription Program, when implemented, will go a long way in combatting food insecurity by incentivizing and providing access to the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables to eligible Virginians.
HJ 542 – Transit Equity and Modernization Study (McQuinn)
This resolution requires the Department of Rail and Public Transportation to conduct a two-year study of transit equity and modernization in the Commonwealth. The study will cover environmental and health impacts, as well as improving accessibility and affordability.
In addition to contributing to climate change, transportation pollution has links to negative health consequences like increased asthma rates, especially in black communities and communities of color. A cleaner, safer, and more economically efficient transit system benefits everyone, and it begins with initiatives like HJ 542.
HJ 605 – Establishing Victims of COVID-19 Remembrance Day on March 14th (McQuinn)
HJ 605 designated March 14, 2021, and every March 14th going forward, as Victims of COVID-19 Remembrance Day in Virginia. The first death from COVID-19 in Virginia was recorded in James City County on March 14th, 2020. Therefore, March 14th was designated as an annual day of remembrance and reflection.
Since then, more than 10,000 Virginians, and more than 500,000 Americans, have lost their lives to COVID-19. As we envision a light at the end of the tunnel in this pandemic, we must never forget those who lost their lives, the hundreds of thousands whose health will forever be affected, and the many businesses and communities who have been economically impacted by COVID-19. Establishing the Victims of COVID-19 Remembrance Day is one way we can honor memory those we have lost and all those who have been affected by this virus.
HJ 572 – Recognizing the Wolf Creek Cherokee Tribe of Virginia (McQuinn)
This resolution would extend state recognition to the Wolf Creek Cherokee Tribe of Virginia. The members of the Wolf Creek Cherokee Tribe, many of whom live in the 70th district, are a family of Cherokee Native Americans who have a deep rooted history in Virginia. They have been identified as Cherokee by other Virginia tribes and entities with whom they have been associated.
Unfortunately, this resolution did not pass during this session. However, I will continue to advocate for the state recognition for this tribe. In these times of inclusion of all people, now is the time to grant state recognition to the Wolf Creek Cherokee Tribe.
Other Significant Legislation
HB 1890 – The Voting Rights Act of Virginia (Price)
This comprehensive bill will prohibit various voting qualifications, standards, practices, or procedures from being imposed in a way that would result in the denial or abridgement of the right of any United States citizen to vote based on their race, color, or membership in a language minority group. Additionally, the bill will better serve all communities by requiring localities to provide voting materials in languages other than English, and the bill also implements stronger measures against threats and voter intimidation.
HB 2132 – Prohibiting the “LGBTQ+ panic” defense (Roem)
This bill outlaws the gay/trans panic defense formerly allowed in Virginia. Previously, defendants accused of assaulting or killing a member of the LGBTQ+ community could legally claim they committed the offense, because the victim’s sexual orientation caused them to panic. The passage of this bill prevents an LGBTQ+ individual from being legally victimized because of their sexual orientation.
HB 2204 – Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back (G3) Fund and Program (Filler-Corn)
This bill establishes the Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back (G3) Fund and requires the Virginia Community College System to establish the G3 Program. The program’s purpose is to provide financial assistance to certain low- and middle-income Virginia students enrolled in an educational program at an associate-degree-granting public institution of higher education that leads to an occupation in certain high-demand fields. The G3 program is a priority of Governor Northam, and it invests in equity and the economy by equipping Virginians with needed skills to ensure they can support themselves, their families, and their communities.
HB 2263 – Abolishing the Death Penalty (Mullin)
HB 2263 abolishes the death penalty in Virginia. Unfortunately, there have been numerous instances of innocent individuals found guilty of a crime that resulted in them being sentenced to death row. While we will continue to ensure the legal system provides equitable justice to victims of crimes, we will not risk the lives of innocent individuals through the death penalty.
HB 2312 – Decriminalizing Marijuana (Herring)
This bill eliminates criminal penalties for simple possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by persons 21 years of age or older. Additionally, it modifies several other criminal penalties related to marijuana and imposes limits on the dissemination of an individual’s criminal history as it relates to certain marijuana offenses. The bill also contains social equity provisions that provide support and resources to persons and communities that have been historically and disproportionally affected by drug enforcement. The decriminalization of marijuana will help address overdue changes to inequities in our criminal justice system. Persons 21 years of age or older will be able to use and grow marijuana starting July 1st of this year. A legal, regulated market will be expected to launch in 2024.
HJ 525 – Authorizing statue of Barbara Rose Johns to represent Virginia in the National Statuary Hall Collection at the United States Capitol (Ward)
This resolution authorizes and directs the submission to the Joint Committee of Congress on the Library, that the vacant spot of Virginia in the National Statuary Hall Collection at the United States Capitol be filled with a statue to commemorate Barbara Rose Johns.
With the passage of this resolution, we will commemorate a brave pioneer in the Civil Rights movement in Barbara Rose Johns. In 1951, Ms. Johns, at the age of 16, led a student strike at R.R. Moton High School in Farmville, Virginia, and paved the way for legal action that would eventually be consolidated into the legendary Brown v. Board of Education declaring segregated public schools as unconstitutional.