Dear <<First Name>>:
I am back in Richmond to begin week five of the Virginia General Assembly, which promises to be another hectic time.
Before reporting on some legislative updates, I first want to share a video of a speech I gave last week to recognize a couple of special days.
Tuesday, February 1, was the beginning of Black History Month, an official month-long celebration of African American contributions to our nation.
This year, that same day happened to be the first day of Lunar New Year, which many Asian nations and a significant population of Asian Americans consider as a major holiday.
I thought the fact that these two events coinciding was indicative of how quickly our nation is changing when it comes to our history, demographics, and the intersectionality among so many Virginians.
That is why I took a moment on the Floor of the House of Delegates to share some thoughts with my colleagues.
My main message is that each of us is a product of history, and we have stories to tell, so if we want to unite as Virginians, we need to understand each other and seek to find common ground.
I also took this opportunity to announce the formation of an Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus within the Virginia General Assembly, which I am proud to chair.
This caucus will hold our first (virtual) legislative briefing tomorrow, Tuesday, February 8, from 7-8 pm. I hope you can log in to hear from my colleagues and me and ask us your questions. Click here to register.
In my last email, I explained that three of my bills passed committee consideration and were on the House Calendar to be sent to the Senate.
Last week, four more of my bills cleared committee processes, so they will be taken up by the full House next week:
House Bill 700 would amend the charter of the Town of Vienna to authorize changing its municipal elections from May to November as the state legislature mandated last year.
House Bill 702 would require disclosure to home buyers so that they are made aware of any local zoning rules that prevent them from improving or adding new structures to the property.
House Bill 710 would allow local governments to hire more people with disabilities by taking into consideration or giving preference to a person with a disability.
House Bill 711 would provide some financial relief to victims of sex trafficking by waiving court costs related to expunging their criminal records based on being forced into illegal activities
A few more of my bills were considered by committees last week but will be moving forward in ways other than going straight to the full House vote. I will explain these bills in my next email newsletter.
This week, the House of Delegates is expected to debate several controversial bills that deal with education and public schools.
You have probably heard about Governor Youngkin's proposal to ban the so-called "critical race theory" from being taught, even if they do not currently exist in Virginia classrooms.
There are also legislative efforts to keep schools from closing again due to COVID and expanding charter and lab schools throughout the Commonwealth.
These, along with other Republican bills to amend current policies on transgender bathrooms, affirmative action, and cultural competency training, are sure to raise partisan divisions at a time when there is already so much demanded from our students, parents, and teachers.
Upcoming Town Halls
As the state legislature heads toward "Crossover" next Tuesday, which is the halfway point in this 60-day session, I am scheduling a few public meetings where I will provide a briefing on our work and answer any questions you may have.
The first one was mentioned above that I will co-host with the Virginia Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus on Tuesday, February 8.
Currently, we are looking into a few dates for virtual meetings in February, and one in-person town hall in March that I will hold with our district's State Senator.
Please check your emails and visit my website and social media accounts to stay up to date.
Finally, even though the legislature is taking all COVID precautions, we are still welcoming visitors to the Capitol. If you plan to be in Richmond during this session, please let me know so we can greet you.
Last week, I was pleased to see the Mayor and members of the Vienna Town Council and senior officials who were in Richmond on local government advocacy day.
They spoke in committee in support of one of my bills that I drafted on behalf of the Town, and we enjoyed this photo break (took our masks off for the outdoor photo!) as the sun began setting on the beautiful and historic Capitol building.
As always, please let me know if you have any questions or comments about the work of your state legislature. My email is DelMKeam@house.virginia.gov and phone is (804) 698-1035.