The final makeup of the 2018 House of Delegates, up in the air since Election Day, wasn’t settled until just a few hours before we gaveled in the 2018 Session last week at noon on Jan. 10. I was really hopeful we’d wind up 50-50 with real power sharing until we picked up a 51st seat in the 28th House District.
As it turns out, Shelley Simonds conceded her race a few hours before session and the 4th Circuit denied our motion to block the seating of the Republican in the 28th house district, so we start the session with the new makeup of the House 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats.
That is still an amazing and historic change of composition, as Democrats picked up 15 seats. Although we didn’t take the majority, or even force a tie, I was very busy working with the leadership of our Caucus as we negotiated rules that preserve some semblance of proportionality on committees and subcommittees — which is a first.
House rules were also amended to require all substantive subcommittee votes be recorded, another major concession from previous sessions.
One of the items we sought, but did not get from Republicans, was a change to allow the leaders of each party to appoint their own members to committees. That said, the Speaker did, in some cases, take into account our preferences for committee membership. After four years in the House, I am now on three committees:
• Courts of Justice
• Militia, Police, & Public Safety
• Science & Technology
I’m particularly excited to be on Courts as it is a new committee for me and will give me the opportunity to work on criminal justice reform, civil procedure, and changes to the Code of Virginia. I’ve already had more than eight bills of mine referred to Courts, where we hear between 1/5 – 1/4 of all legislation introduced.
Former Governor McAuliffe delivered his farewell address on Wednesday, highlighting the successes of his administration as well as the “rough patches” in his relationship with Republican leadership.
Over the weekend, Governor Ralph Northam, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring were sworn into office on the Capitol steps. You can view the transcript of Governor Northam’s inaugural speech.
2018 Legislative Agenda
I have introduced 32 bills this session on a variety of topics that you may be interested in. Here are some highlights:
Campaign Finance Reform: Once again, I’ve introduced reform legislation (HB 5 & HB 7) that will prohibit the personal use of campaign funds. Governor Northam has included this as part of his legislative agenda for this year.
Specialty License Plate: After months and months of hard work by local gun violence prevention advocates, I’m happy to report that I’ve introduced HB 287 which will create a specialty plate.
Minimum Wage Increase: Keeping a campaign promise, HB 518 will incrementally increase the minimum wage every year, eventually becoming $15 per year and being tied to inflation after that.
Student Loan Debt: HB 967 and HB 968 will require loan servicers to register in Virginia and will create the Virginia Student Loan Authority, respectively. Governor Northam has also made tackling the student loan debt crisis a cornerstone of his agenda.
Medicaid Personal Needs Allowance: HB 1056 increases the personal needs allowance for individuals in nursing homes who are on Medicaid. The current allowance is $40/mo. in Virginia and this bill will raise it to $150/mo. to bring the amount more in line with other states.
You can view the full legislative agenda by going to lis.virginia.gov, selecting General Assembly Members, and then selecting my name.
2018 Legislative Issues Survey & Town Hall
My 2018 Survey is now available online and I’d love to hear from you. Please take a moment to let me know what state-related issues are important to you.
During Session, you can always reach out to my office with constituent issues and legislative concerns: Mailing Address: Pocahontas Building, 900 E. Main St. Room 224W, Richmond, VA 23219. Email: [email protected] Phone: (804) 698-1053.
I’m also having my annual town hall this Saturday, Jan. 20 from 10 a.m. — noon at the Falls Church Community Center. I’ll be giving a session update and talking more about my legislative agenda.
Delegate Simon represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be emailed at [email protected]