We’ve just wrapped up the first week of the 2021 legislative session and we’re off to a fast start. In this newsletter I’m going to share information on how to participate in the 2021 session, the Governor’s State of the Commonwealth Address, my legislation, and the latest news on the COVID-19 vaccine.
How to Participate in the 2021 Session
There are many ways that you can participate in this legislative session and I sincerely hope that you will choose to do so. Using the Virginia Legislative Information System (LIS) you can research and check the status of bills, find the contact information for your legislators, and view committee and floor schedules. To view livestreams of a committee or subcommittee, and to see committee agendas, click here
It’s now easier than ever to provide public comment to House committees and subcommittees! You can use the HodSpeak tool to sign up to speak for or against specific bills. Is public speaking not your thing? You can also use HodSpeak to provide written feedback on bills. Finally, if you want to share feedback on legislation directly with my office, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Governor Northam’s State of the Commonwealth Address
On Tuesday, Governor Ralph Northam gave his annual State of the Commonwealth address, announcing his legislative priorities for the upcoming session. Some major highlights from the address include his support for my bill to abolish the death penalty, legislation to legalize Marijuana in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and legislation to increase funding for public education. He also gave a shout out to local Williamsburg resident Katie Gaylord for her successful project to raise thousands of dollars for local food banks by selling “Virginia is for Kindness” t-shirts. You can read more about Katie’s story here.
There have been over 550 pieces of legislation introduced so far, just in the House alone. Here’s what I’m carrying:
Abolishing the death penalty: I was proud to introduce HB 2263 to abolish the death penalty and convert all current death penalty sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole. This would make Virginia the first state in the south to abolish this form of cruel and unusual.
Special use permits: I introduced HB 1884 to allow Boards of Supervisors to have the power to include time limits on special use permits in the same way that Boards of Zoning Appeals currently are allowed to. I am proud to carry this bill on behalf of James City County.
Allow localities to establish peer justice diversion programs: I introduced HB 2017 to allow localities to establish peer justice diversion programs. If a locality chooses to establish one of these programs, they’ll have an additional tool to get kids back on track and out of the criminal justice system.
Virginia FOIA updates: I introduced HB 2196 to update the Virginia Freedom of Information Act so that law enforcement officers’ disciplinary records can be accessed through FOIA. This will help to build a culture of transparency between the citizens of the Commonwealth and their law enforcement officers.
Overtime Pay: If you work overtime, you deserve to be paid fairly. I introduced HB 2063 to create a state overtime law, giving Virginians an additional avenue to pursue action against wage theft by their employer.
Preventing Elder Abuse – Finally, I introduced HB 2018 to help prevent elder abuse in the Commonwealth. This bill closes an existing loophole in the law and allows Adult Protective Services to seek an emergency protective order for an incapacitated adult who has been subject to physical or financial abuse at the hands of their caregiver.
COVID Vaccine Updates
On Thursday, Governor Northam held a COVID-19 update focused on vaccine distribution. He announced that Phase 1B now will include all individuals 65+ and Virginians under 65 who have preexisting medical conditions. You can take the VDH’s online quiz to figure out which distribution phase you fall into. To find more information on the Commonwealth’s response to the coronavirus, visit the VDH website.
Right now Virginia is vaccinating about 12,000 people per day with the eventual goal of vaccinating 50,000 people per day. Progress with vaccinations is already being made locally with 90% of Williamsburg’s EMTs, paramedics, and firemen receiving the vaccine. This situation is changing daily so be sure to keep an eye out for announcements from the Virginia Department of Health, as well as your local health district.
Thank you for reading – and stay tuned for more updates. Please don’t hesitate to reach out about the issues that matter to you or ask questions about the legislative session. My office is here to help!
Michael P. Mullin