Thank you for your vote in the Democratic Primary. I’ve spent the last year visiting with neighbors and heard what issues matter most in our community. Common themes emerged — a thriving economy, good stewardship of taxpayers’ money with strategic investments in public education and infrastructure, as well as curbing gun violence remain priorities in the 35th Senate District. We talked about the importance of keeping our environment healthy and curtailing the practices that do it harm.
Recently, tragedy struck yet another American city — this time right here in the Commonwealth. Our hearts break for the victims and loved ones of the devastating shooting in Virginia Beach. On behalf of our community, I extend our condolences to the families that will forever remember May 31 as the day that sadly changed so many lives. The time has come to do more and we are poised to work with legislative colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address gun violence in the Commonwealth. Governor Northam has called for a special session on July 9. With your support duly noted, my caucus and I will lead the effort for gun sensible legislation. Enough is enough.
The last several weeks have been marked by severe weather around the nation. Excessive rains have caused flooding and power outages. Climate change is real and plays a significant role in our future. Property damage, economic impacts, and rising costs for food and other necessities are very tangible outcomes. Looking ahead, we must continue to keep the Commonwealth on a path to address the negative effects of global warming. Across the Potomac, there is a real effort to roll back the environmental protections we embraced during the Obama administration. This is wrong, and in Richmond I will continue to fight for our children’s future, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. Closer to home, the official start of hurricane season has begun. I encourage you to be prepared and put together your plan and kit for potential emergencies.
May 30 marked the first anniversary of Medicaid expansion in Virginia. During the past year, we have enrolled 280,000+ individuals in the program. Access to medical care is a basic human right in this country and should not be based on one’s zip code. Visions of the Nuns on the Bus readily come to mind when we think of people living in poverty in need of medical assistance. This is not always the reality. More than 6,000 of our neighbors in the 35th District qualify for the program. More importantly, the Commonwealth is no longer leaving hard-earned taxpayer money in the federal coffers. This is a win/win that we accomplished together.
One of the most controversial actions happening in state legislatures across the nation, is the assault on women’s reproductive freedom. I have no doubt in 2020 we will see similar attempts in the Virginia General Assembly. I will continue to fight for a woman’s right to choose and for safe and legal healthcare. Making criminals out of victims of rape and incest should not even be a consideration for law makers.
This is the height of graduation season. Congratulations to our students going forward. Investing in higher education is critical to workforce development and economic growth in the region. Partnering with business and labor positions Virginians for the ability to earn a good living. Most of our colleges and universities are taking advantage of budget action that provides funds that enable tuition freezes.
Locally, George Mason University is the most diverse public research university in Virginia. It has conferred 9.296 degrees to students from 81 countries and 48 states. Three of the top six undergraduate degrees were information technology, information systems and operations management, and computer science. The Arlington Campus will launch the Institute for Digital InnovAtion, Virginia’s first School of Computing. I will continue to champion and advocate for these strategic investments in Virginians from all walks of life.
Thank you for the privilege of serving our Commonwealth as your state senator. We are on a good path with lots of potential.