Week six of this year’s legislative session was jam-packed with action and has just come to end. Even though the session is almost over, all members of the Virginia General Assembly are working hard as we approach the finish line. We’re going to cover a whole bunch of things in this newsletter. There are legislative updates, information on the new statewide COVID-19 pre-registration system, and highlights on some cool local events, so make sure to read through to the end!
Updates on my Bills
I am proud to report that this week several bills that I’m carrying made significant progress in the General Assembly.
HB 2017: Gives localities the option to establish youth justice diversion programs, a community-based way to help put at-risk youth back on the right track. The bill passed the House unanimously, passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and will be heard in the Senate Finance Committee next week.
HB 2018: Closes a loophole in existing law to allow Adult Protective Services to better protect incapacitated adults who have been subject to physical, emotional, or financial abuse at the hands of their designated caregivers. This bill made it through the Senate Judiciary Committee this week and will be up for a final vote in the Senate next week.
HB 2331: Eliminates mandatory minimums, except for sexual offenses, violent offenses, firearm offenses, and DWI’s. As a prosecutor, I can tell you that no circumstances surrounding a case are the same. What I can tell you is that I’ve seen the flaws associated with mandatory minimums time and time again. This bill will put us on the path towards a more nuanced and effective justice system. The bill reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week and is currently assigned to the Senate Finance Committee.
Highlights from the House
Legislation is moving quickly through the House and Senate as we prepare to adjourn next week. Each of these bills has passed through both chambers of the General Assembly and are now head to Governor Northam’s desk for his signature.
HB 1940: Gives students one excused-absence day per school year to engage in civic or political events. This bill was supported by both the Virginia Young Democrats Teen Caucus and the Teenage Republican Federation of Virginia. It’s always exciting to see students advocate for the issues that are important to them and I’m glad to see that their hard work has paid off.
HB 2046: Updates the Virginia Fair Housing Law to ban discrimination in public housing and land-use decisions. Discrimination should not be a barrier to Virginians receiving access to stable homes and any additional resources needed that will enable them to thrive in their community.
HB 1848: Includes protections for Virginians with disabilities in the Virginia Human Rights Act. No one should have to face discrimination from their employer because of their disability and I was proud to be a co-patron of this vital piece of legislation.
HB 2206: Expands the Child Care Subsidy program so more families can access it during the pandemic. As we face one of the greatest health and economic crises of our lifetime it is essential that we ensure all Virginian families have the resources they need to properly care for themselves and their children.
Virginia’s Rent Relief Program
Just this past week, Governor Northam announced $524 million in new federal funding to help keep Virginia families in their homes amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In the Governor’s words, “This statewide funding will provide an important lifeline to individuals and families, and bolster our ongoing work to address housing affordability in the Commonwealth.”
At the local level, the City of Williamsburg, York County, and James City County are now accepting applications for their COVID-19 Rent Relief program. The program was funded by a one million dollar grant from the Williamsburg Health Foundation. It’s designed to help low to moderate-income families who have been financially impacted by COVID-19 avoid eviction and stay on top of rent. Residents of Williamsburg and York County can apply online and residents of James City County can call 757-259-5340 to learn more about the program.
Statewide COVID-19 Vaccine Pre-Registration System Launches
Earlier this week, the Virginia Department of Health launched the state-wide COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration system. All participating local health departments, which includes the Peninsula Health District, have uploaded their waiting lists to the new statewide system. If you have already registered with your local health district, then there’s no need to re-register.
The Virginia Department of Health also launched a phone line that you can use to register. The number is (877) VAX-IN-VA or (877) 829-4682
W&M Community Conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci
Earlier this week, W&M’s President Rowe held a virtual forum with Dr. Anthony Fauci where they discussed recent developments concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. Didn’t get to watch it live? You can watch a recording of the event here
The Color of Law: A virtual evening with author Richard Rothstein
Richard Rothstein will discuss his book, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America at a public lecture online this Thursday, January 25th, at 6 PM. The program features local panelists who will discuss neighborhood segregation in Hampton Roads. The program is part of the Understanding Hampton Roads series sponsored by the Hampton Roads Community Foundation. For more information and to register, visit the following link
Help Get Me on the Ballot
I need your help to get on the ballot for this June’s primary. If you live in the 93rd district, can you take five minutes to complete this form to help make sure I get on the ballot? Not sure you live in the 93rd district? You can check here or you can reach out to my office and we can check for you.
Thanks for reading this week’s newsletter! It’s hard to believe, but we’ve only got one week left until the end of the legislative session. It’s sure to be an exciting, action-packed week. In next week’s newsletter I’ll provide a legislative wrap-up so we can review the historic progress that we made this session. Until then, stay safe and be well.
Michael P. Mullin