We just wrapped up the second week of the 2021 session! Even though it feels like we just started this year’s session, there are only 18 days left until we adjourn Sine Die. Despite the time crunch, we’re working hard to get through all of the legislative issues facing the Commonwealth. This newsletter includes updates on the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination effort, the legislative session, the HRBT expansion project, opportunities to get involved in state government, President Biden’s inauguration, and more.
The Peninsula and Hampton Health Districts moved into Phase 1B of the COVID-19 vaccination response on Friday.Due to the limited vaccine supply, initial efforts will be focused on Virginians aged 75 and older, those in congregate care settings, and frontline workers.
If you are over 75 and interested in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, make sure to fill out this survey on the Peninsula Health District website or call 757-594-7496 and leave your information at the prompt. Residents aged-75 and older will be prioritized. Residents who are eligible to receive the vaccine will be contacted in the order in which they completed the survey or called the health district. The vaccination clinics are by appointment only. On the day of your vaccination appointment, you’ll need to bring a form of ID, such as a driver’s license.
Three vaccination clinics opened on the Peninsula this week: one at the Williamsburg Visitor Center, one at CNU, and one at the Hampton Roads Convention Center. On Friday, WJCC teachers began to receive their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Williamsburg Visitor Center. The opening of three large vaccination clinics on the Peninsula is an important step forward in the ongoing vaccine distribution effort.
I know there have been concerns regarding Virginia’s vaccination progress. Emergency legislation to facilitate vaccine administration is quickly working its way through the General Assembly, you’ll find more information on this bill in the legislative updates section of the newsletter. I’m continuing to communicate with state and local leaders regarding the ongoing vaccination effort and will share updates as I receive them.
I know everyone is tired, but we can’t let our guard down. It’s more important now than ever that we continue to social distance, wear a mask, and wash our hands to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
How to Get Involved
There are so many ways to get involved during the legislative session. You can use the Virginia Legislative Information System (LIS) to 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 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 specific bills. Finally, if you would like to virtually meet with me or a member of my office to talk about a specific issue or piece of legislation please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a meeting.
Updates on My Legislation
This week, several bills of mine made significant progress in the House.
HB 2018: protects elderly Virginians from abuse by allowing 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. This bill closes an existing loophole in the law and will allow APS to quickly intervene and remove elderly Virginians from abusive environments. I expect that the bill will be on the House floor next week.
HB 2017: provides localities with the option to establish youth justice diversion programs, sometimes called youth courts. These programs serve as an alternative to the traditional juvenile court system and are shown to be an effective tool that localities can use to get kids back on track. HB 2017 passed out of the Courts of Justice Criminal Subcommittee unanimously on Friday.
Additional Legislative Updates
I also wanted to highlight some other important bills that passed out of the House or Senate this week.
HB 1848: includes protections for Virginians with disabilities in the Virginia Human Rights Act. No one should face discrimination from their employer because of their disability. It’s that simple. I’m proud to be one of HB 1848’s co-patrons, was excited to see it pass unanimously in the House, and look forward to seeing the bill progress through the Senate.
HB 1888: improves access to absentee voting and passed through the House this week. Our democracy is strongest when all citizens are able to cast their votes, without encountering barriers. Providing easy and equitable ways to vote is essential to ensure that our democracy is as representative as possible.
HB 1948: requires police officers to report instances of bias-based profiling they witness while on duty and provide aid to individuals with serious injuries. The bill will increase accountability and responsiveness in our law enforcement system and I was happy to see it pass through the House in a bipartisan manner.
SB 1445: facilitates the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine. An amendment to the bill, offered by our very own Senator Mason, will allow localities with full-time fire and EMS personnel to set up and run vaccine clinics staffed by those personnel. Overall, this legislation is going to better integrate our localities, health care providers, and institutes of higher education into the vaccination effort. The Senate unanimously passed this emergency legislation on Friday.
Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel Expansion Project Construction Virtual Open House
On January 28th, the Virginia Department of Transportation will be holding a Zoom meeting to update the public on the Hampton Roads Bridge and Tunnel expansion project. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the project and ask any questions you may have. You can register to attend via Zoom or phone through this link.
Virginia Boards and Commissions Now Accepting Applications
Applications for appointments to one of the Commonwealth’s nearly 300 boards, commissions, and councils are now open. With more than 900 appointments made throughout the year, this is an amazing opportunity to participate in public service here in Virginia. For more information, click here.
Consumer Awareness Day
This past Wednesday was Consumer Awareness Day! As part of the day’s festivities, the SCC Bureau of Insurance shared information on a number of resources that are available on their website. These include: a consumer site to help guide military members and veterans through various insurance questions, an in-depth explanation of Virginia’s new balance billing laws, and an updated Medigap guide and a new FAQ on Medigap plans available for individuals under the age of 65. If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact the Bureau of Insurance at 1-877-310-6560 or BureauofInsurance@scc.virginia.gov.
Wednesday’s Inauguration and the Incoming Administration
This past Wednesday, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn into office. The ceremony marked a new day for our nation and a unique moment in our history. President Biden spoke of unity and caring for one another, and former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton echoed these sentiments. During what was arguably the most powerful moment of the inauguration ceremony, Amanda Gorman, the United States’ first-ever youth poet laureate, recited her piece “The Hill We Climb.” I highly recommend watching it, if you haven’t already. I am excited and optimistic about the years ahead of us with President Biden and Vice President Harris at the helm.
I want to also express my congratulations to Virginia’s very own Dr. Jewel Bronaugh, who President Biden nominated to serve as the next Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. Dr. Bronaugh currently serves as Virginia’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, a position she was appointed to in 2018 by Gov. Ralph Northam. We’ve been lucky to have Dr. Bronaugh at work for the Commonwealth and I look forward to seeing all that she’ll accomplish in her new position.
That’s all for this week’s newsletter. It was a bit longer than usual, so I appreciate you reading through to the end. There’s going to be a lot of legislative developments in the next week, so be sure to keep your eye out for next week’s newsletter! As always, thank you for reading, and please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.
Michael P. Mullin