Earlier this week, I stopped by Larry Graves Park for a T-ball game between the Delegate Marcus Simon Nationals and their not-so-bitter-rivals the Merrifield Orthodontics Nationals. (Thanks to a sponsorship agreement with Washington’s Major League Baseball team, every team in Falls Church Kiwanis Little League is named the Nationals.)
It was a great chance to get out and get some photos with the team I proudly sponsor and to chat with the kids and their parents about what’s going on in the General Assembly.
“You guys are done, right?” asked one parent.
“No, not really. We still haven’t passed a State Budget.”
“Oh, that’s right, I think I read something about that..something to do with healthcare?”
“That’s right, in the Virginia House of Delegates, we passed a budget that expands Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act – you know, Obamacare. The Senate still doesn’t want to do that,” I explained.
“What’s the hold up? Different party’s in charge?”
“No,” I replied, “But we had an election in the House of Delegates last year. We picked up 15 seats that had been held by Republicans. So even though we are two seats shy of a majority, our Republicans got the message. On the Senate side, they haven’t had an election since 2015. They don’t understand what it’s like to campaign in post-Trump world here in Virginia.”
“What’s the deadline?” he asked.
“That’s the law?”
“That’s when we run out of money,” I explained.
Meanwhile, one of the players was in the dugout having a meltdown because she didn’t want to leave the shade and two other teammates started wrestling over a ground ball hit in their general vicinity, both wanting the opportunity to throw it into right field.
The whole scenario was a reminder of how much of what we do in Richmond may not register with our constituents who are busy living their lives. Working, paying their bills, coaching their kid’s sports teams, or just making time to cheer them on from the bleachers.
A Tale of Two Bills
Then he asked me to tell him about one piece of legislation I introduced that passed this year. Thanks to that 2017 election I was telling him about and our 15 new Democrats, I had several bills from which to choose.
I decided on a bill that I’d introduced for two years in a row, with two very different outcomes.
In 2017, I introduced a bill to allow Virginia consumers to greater protection from being caught in recurring payment and automatic renewal offers. Last year, the bill went straight to the full House Commerce & Labor Committee and was dismissed rather quickly, without much debate or questions from the committee members.
Fast forward to 2018 and I gave it another try. This time, the set up appeared to be even worse. The House Commerce and Labor subcommittee had a long docket that started about 6 p.m. on a Thursday night. Many of the subcommittee members served on another subcommittee that had started at 2 p.m.
I had three bills. The first two bills I presented had some debate and a few questions, but both failed.
It was late. We were all exhausted after a full day of session and committee meetings. So, I set aside my talking points and just started with a question.
How many of you have signed up for something and couldn’t figure out how to cancel it? Heads were nodding in the affirmative.
And have you ever gotten so frustrated you found it was easier to call and report your credit card lost and get a new number than figure it out? A few actually raised their hands.
My bill will fix that, I said.
I then started to explain how and nearly immediately one of the Republican members of the committee interrupted, “Mr. Chairman, I have a Motion. I move to report.”
That would send the bill to the full Committee for a vote. Ultimately, the bill passed the House and the Senate unanimously.
The bill had not substantively changed between 2017 and 2018. However, the makeup of the House of Delegates had done so dramatically. Whereas my bills previously would have been dismissed without much cause, now I can present my legislative ideas and have a better opportunity to see them succeed.
And it’s a bill that, starting on July 1, will make companies doing business in Virginia treat consumers better, and make their lives a little easier, even if they might not notice or know what happened.
Delegate Simon represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be emailed at DelMSimon@house.virginia.gov