Folks ask me why I find holding public office rewarding — how can any political work be positive and worthwhile in this increasingly divisive and nasty political climate? Sometimes the work of researching and developing legislation relevant to real life that also has a chance of surviving the legislative process, being signed by the Governor and ultimately implemented is not only a worthwhile effort which brings attention to an important issue in Virginia and elsewhere, but also actually helps real people. These ‘sometimes’ coupled with effective constituent service constitute a public servant’s job well-done.
This is true of my 2021 bill, HB 2330, Percentage of Income Payment Program (PIPP). It reduces the energy cost burden of eligible participants by limiting electric bill payments to no more than 10 percent of annual income if a household’s heating source is electricity, while requiring participation in energy efficiency programs and energy conservation programs. Any household enrolled in an assistance program such as SNAP (food stamps) or Dominion Energy Fuel Assistance, is likely eligible for PIPP. In December 2020, 377,487 households received food stamps and 34,487 received Fuel Assistance from Dominion and 18,152 households received Fuel Assistance from ApCo (Appalachian Power Company). In addition, the Department of Social Services approved 64,726 households for Cooling Assistance help with electric utility bills.
These numbers demonstrate the great need for help with utility bills, a need that is growing rapidly as our climate changes. The combination of lowered utility bills and participation in energy conservation and efficiency has obvious economic, health and climate change benefits. Ohio was the only other state in the nation with a PIP Program when I began work on HB2330. This is on the radar of a number of states, especially Hawaii — which has the highest energy costs in the US. Both the legislature and state agencies have reached out to me asking for help to create a PIP Program. Virtual meetings have allowed me to meet and work with stakeholders in Hawaii to provide much-needed relief from high energy costs. This is an opportunity for Virginia to be a leader in a way that will positively impact many lives.
Several other bills that I have developed and fought to pass have been national firsts. Legislation providing menstrual products to incarcerated women at no cost; legislation allowing local governments to set up green banks (a funding mechanism encouraging renewable energy business) and legislation banning the sale of personal care products tested on animals. I have received inquiries from other state legislators about developing these measures in their states. Following up on the implementation of a landmark legislation is challenging and often leads to developing related legislation.
Because of my bill to supply incarcerated women with menstrual products at no cost, I visited prisons across the Commonwealth to see for myself if the bill was being implemented. During these visits, I learned that the bill was being followed, as well as about the healthcare inadequacies for incarcerated women. This led me to develop legislation mandating appropriate care for pregnant women and appropriate training for those who work with them in our prisons. I am proud to say that this legislation passed and led to further conversations with the Department of Corrections about family visitation regulations and accommodations. The importance of these supports for families with an incarcerated parent cannot be underestimated both in the success of released inmates reintegration into society and in improving the life outcomes for children of an incarcerated parent.
I had sponsored bills requiring facilities using animals for research to seek adoption for the animals still healthy and no longer needed by the researchers. All had failed to pass. While working on this legislation, I had founded and chaired the (Legislative) Animal Welfare Caucus. This group became an important mechanism for animal welfare advocates to coordinate their work. This led to joint efforts to free the beagles bred for research in cruel and illegal ways at the Envigo facility here in Virginia. I am very proud of the shut-down of Envigo and pleased that it has received wide publicity. I have personally benefited in a way that I didn’t expect — adopting a rescued Envigo beagle.
Delegate Kory represents the 38th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. She may be emailed at DelKKory@house.virginia.gov.