We just wrapped up week three of the 2021 regular legislative session. It’s hard to believe, but this session is already over halfway done! Even with the limited time remaining, we are still working hard to address all of the legislative issues facing the Commonwealth. In this newsletter, you’ll find updates on legislation moving through the House, committee developments, and information on Virginia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Updates on My Legislation
I am proud to report that several bills of mine made significant progress in the House this week.
HB 2263: abolishes the death penalty. The bill passed out of the House Courts of Justice Criminal Subcommittee by a vote of 6-2. There are many arguments for why we should abolish the death penalty, but I believe the most important is that abolishing the death penalty provides us with the opportunity to correct our mistakes in cases where we were wrong. Our justice system, which I believe is the best in the world, still makes mistakes and this bill will make sure none of our them are irreversible. I was heartened to see that the bill received bipartisan support and look forward to it being taken up in full Courts of Justice Committee.
HB 2231: eliminates mandatory minimums, with exceptions for sexual offenses, violent offenses, firearm offenses, and DUI’s. It was reported out of the Courts of Justice Committee by a vote of 13-7. There is no evidence that mandatory minimums are a successful crime deterrent and this bill puts us on the path towards ending a “one-size-fits-all” approach to criminal justice. The bill now heads to the Appropriations Committee where I hope it will be swiftly reported to the House floor.
HB 2018: addresses and works to prevent elder abuse. HB 2018 passed unanimously out of the House this week! The bill closes a loophole in our existing 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. The bill now heads to the Senate.
HB 2017: empowers localities to establish youth justice diversion programs, more commonly known as youth courts. My bill passed unanimously out of the Courts of Justice Committee this week. Youth justice diversion programs are proven to be an effective measure to help put kids back on the right track. The bill is now on the House floor and I expect it to receive a final vote early this week.
Highlights from the House
HB 2333: is going to improve our vaccine distribution efforts by increasing the number of health care providers that can distribute the vaccine and lifting barriers on who can volunteer to help vaccinate Virginians. The bill passed unanimously out of the House this week and has already made it out of committee in the Senate. Similar legislation from the Senate has already made its way to the House.
HB 1968: allows local electoral boards and registrars to provide absentee voting opportunities on Sundays. I’m proud to have voted for this bill and help it pass the House. All Virginians should have ample opportunities to exercise their right to vote.
HB 2203: establishes the Virginia Agriculture Food Assistance program (VAFA). This program will create a system to allow Virginia’s farmers to sell and donate their excess agricultural product to food charities throughout the Commonwealth. It also will reimburse farmers for the costs associated with donating their product to food charities. I was pleased to see this bill pass the House by a vote of 97-3.
HB 1918: improves student driver safety education in Virginia public schools. This bill was introduced by Delegate Martha Mugler in partnership with local resident Tammy Guido, who tragically lost her son Conner in a car accident last year. We can all take inspiration from Mrs. Guido’s efforts to turn to action in the face of tragedy. It was in large part due to her work that this essential bill unanimously passed the House this week.
HB 2174: creates the VirginiaSaves program, which would act as an automatic deduction IRA for private sector employees who are otherwise not offered a retirement plan. This opt-in plan will help ensure that Virginians will be able to save for retirement without being tied to a single employer. The bill passed the House this week and it now heads to the Senate.
HB 2204: Establishes the G3 program, which will help provide free community college for thousands of low and middle income Virginians. This is a win-win for all Virginians as it will help us remain a national leader in maintaining a skilled workforce while also helping to provide access to higher education for thousands of residents. I was pleased to see the bill pass through the House this week with broad bipartisan support.
A Surprise Guest in the Courts of Justice Committee
This week journalist and criminal justice reform advocate Van Jones joined us in the Courts of Justice Committee to speak in favor of Delegate Don Scott’s bill HB 2038, which reforms pretrial processes. I was personally moved by his testimony about how this bill will ensure we don’t needlessly punish people who are trying to do the right thing and put their mistakes behind them. The bill was reported out of the Courts Committee and is now on the House floor.
Meeting with the VEA
This week I had the opportunity to speak with some incredible educators from our local Virginia Education Association chapters. As a parent, and as a son of a public-school teacher, I was honored to be given the opportunity to hear their ideas on how we can improve education for students throughout the Commonwealth. I’m grateful for these educators’ advocacy on behalf of teachers, students, and families across the 93rd District!
Free Flight Training
Pathways Flight Academies, a Commonwealth-funded flight school, is offering free flight training to 30 lucky high schoolers who demonstrate an interest in becoming a commercial pilot. The selected high schoolers will get the opportunity to participate in virtual and in-person flight training, which may culminate in a solo flight. Applicants must be 16 years old and fully available for the program from June 21st to July 16th 2021. You can read more and apply for this program using this link.
The Peninsula and Hampton Health Districts moved into Phase 1B of the COVID-19 vaccination response on January 21st. 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.
On Wednesday, Governor Northam provided an update on Virginia’s vaccination efforts. You can watch that update here. Here are some of the key takeaways:
The Biden administration has promised a 16% bump in vaccine allocations over the next three weeks. Previously, vaccine allocations to each state have changed from week to week, making long-term planning difficult.
The state has identified roughly 40,000 doses being held for second doses that could be reallocated and administered as first doses this week. This will allow Virginia to increase the number of shots administered by 20% for this coming week.
VDH has released an updated vaccination dashboard to provide additional information and transparency.
VDH released guidance to all local health districts on Wednesday to help them prioritize vaccine distribution. Those guidelines advise local health districts to allocate roughly 50% of vaccines they receive to people aged 65 and over and the other 50% to frontline essential workers and those aged 16-64 with underlying health conditions.
The state is working to establish one centralized scheduling system, that will include a website and call center, for all of Virginia to help reduce confusion. That should be launched in the near future.
You can read a detailed summary of Wednesday’s update here
We’re administering over 28,000 shots per day on average, exceeding the Governor’s initial goal of 25,000 shots per day. With the 16% increase in vaccine allocations and the strategic reallocation of 40,000 doses, vaccination numbers will only continue to increase.
Although our COVID-19 case numbers are improving, they remain high. It is so important that we do everything we can to reduce the spread of COVID-19, so please make sure to wear a mask when you are out in public, wash your hands regularly, stay home as much as possible, and limit your contact with others. With the emergence of COVID-19 variants that are up to 70% more transmissible, now is also a good time to consider upgrading the quality of your face masks or double masking. You can learn more about that here.
Thank you for reading to the end of the newsletter! As always, I encourage you to participate in this session whichever way works best for you, be it checking the status of bills on LIS, signing up to make a public comment via HodSpeak, or emailing me about a bill you care about.
Stay safe and be well.
Michael P. Mullin