Dear <<First Name>>:
Today, the Virginia General Assembly began our fourth week of session, and the pace of our legislative activities has clearly picked up as committees hold meetings from early morning to late afternoons.
For example, on this Monday morning, I had already presented two bills before 9 am!
My Legislative Agenda
Of the 23 bills I introduced in the House this year, I have presented ten so far, and six of them have been considered favorably in committees.
Three of these bills that came out of committee are now pending action on the House floor this week:
House Bill 691 would amend a bill I passed into law last year to update the Virginia Stock Corporation Act which governs business regulations. This is mostly a technical measure to ensure that our state laws reflect changes in ongoing business practices.
House Bill 693 would require the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to treat a car that is controlled by the owner's revocable trust to be treated as personal use for the purpose of property tax relief.
This problem was brought to my attention by an estate planning attorney who has been dealing with the DMV consistently classifying these cars as business use because of the involvement of a trust, and his effort to correct the agency's mistake.
Here is a screen shot of the House Finance Committee meeting where the attorney, Dan Ruttenberg, participated virtually to describe the problem that my bill would fix.
House Bill 703 would make the process easier for local governments like the Town of Vienna to design and issue special license plates for their residents. Under current DMV procedures, such special plates are issued to groups only after they collect and pre-pay fees for 350 applicants. My bill will allow local governments to pay for these fees upfront so that the state can issue these special plates without having to wait for 350 applicants to sign up in advance.
I will update you on my other bills as they make progress through the legislative process.
Governor Youngkin's First Days
In my time as a state legislator, I have served with two Republican and two Democratic governors. Regardless of their political affiliations, my record will demonstrate that I have found plenty of ways to work together with all governors. But I have also spoken out forcefully when I disagreed with them.
For example, I praised Republican Governor Bob McDonnell when we partnered to bring a record level of new transportation funding to Northern Virginia, and I called on Democratic Governor Ralph Northam to step down when he was accused of racial insensitivity.
Governor Glenn Youngkin has been in office for only two weeks now, but from what I have seen so far, I regret that I have more criticism than praise for his performance to date.
During his inauguration, Gov. Youngkin spoke about his desire to bring Virginians together. Yet, from his very first day, Gov. Youngkin broke bipartisan traditions maintained by many of his predecessors.
For example, while every modern Virginia governor used their first executive order to establish a non-discrimination policy for their administrations, Gov. Youngkin used his symbolic first executive action to ban "critical race theory," a graduate course level academic curriculum that is not even taught in Virginia K-12 public schools.
To meet another of his political campaign promises, Gov. Youngkin set up a tip line for Virginians to report teachers who teach "divisive concepts" in the classroom.
In case the significance of this decision was lost on his political base, Gov. Youngkin decided to announce this initiative on a right-wing radio show hosted by the former chairman of Donald Trump's presidential campaign in Virginia.
There is nothing new about government agencies that set up hotlines for members of the public with actual knowledge or useful leads to report those activities, especially those that would harm the public’s health or safety.
But, to my knowledge, there has never been a process such as this to allow students to confidentially surveil their teachers or for parents to report to governments what they perceive – through hearsay – to be taking place in their students’ classrooms.
There are plenty of legitimate ways for parents to raise their concerns about the quality of education or problems they have with teachers.
Every school is managed by a principal who is accountable for that school’s operations, and every school district has superintendents who supervise all the schools in their jurisdictions.
In addition, counties and cities in Virginia have duly elected school boards consisting of politicians who seek public office and directly represent constituents. As we have seen at school board meetings recently, these local public servants are already dealing with angry voters who disagree with their views.
By setting up what many Virginians and the press are calling “snitch-lines,” Gov. Youngkin is inserting himself into a jurisdiction in which a governor is simply not designed to be involved.
Under state laws, responsibilities for operating schools and holding teachers accountable for what they teach in the classroom are matters for local school districts, not for the chief executive of the Commonwealth.
Likewise, as I explained in my last constituent email, Gov. Youngkin has no role in banning schools from requiring masks for their students as his executive order attempted to do.
In another break from tradition, many of the cabinet officials nominated by Gov. Youngkin have no experience working in the Commonwealth or in government service. Perhaps that may explain his early mistakes and errors in running his administration.
I hope so. We have too many important challenges facing the Commonwealth to address, and there is no time for Richmond to be bogged down in political fights. Campaigns are over and it’s time to govern.
As a member of a co-equal branch, I stand ready to work with the Governor to serve our constituents if he is willing to do the same.