I have some major news to share with you this month. Last week, my colleague, Kaye Kory, announced her retirement after many years of dedicated service to the people of the Commonwealth. I want to take a moment to express my gratitude to Kaye for her service and leadership. Kaye has been a tireless advocate for her constituents and a fierce defender of progressive values in Richmond. Her leadership and contributions to the Virginia House of Delegates will be greatly missed.
As you may know, both of our homes were drawn into the new 13th District by the Redistricting Commission and we would have had to face each other in a primary on June 20th. However, with Kaye’s decision to retire, I am now the official Democratic nominee for the district. I am honored to have the opportunity to continue to serve the people of the 13th District and to build on the progress we’ve made together.
In other big news, the Virginia General Assembly Session and Reconvened Session have both wrapped up, with more than 800 new bills becoming law this year. We reviewed 78 recommendations and 3 vetoes from the Governor during Reconvene – while we upheld his vetoes, we did not accept all of his recommendations, sending 16 bills back to him to reconsider. He now has until May 12th to either sign or veto those remaining bills. You can view all the legislation from that day online at lis.virginia.gov.
One issue that drew a lot of attention during the Reconvene Session was the Governor’s attempt to amend legislation to prohibit Virginians from exercising their first amendment rights by making it a crime to picket near the homes of Supreme Court Justices. Thankfully, this measure failed, and Virginians can continue to exercise their constitutional right to protest peacefully.
However, there is still some unfinished business in the Commonwealth. Despite a revenue surplus of $3.6 billion, we still don’t have a supplemental budget bill to allocate this money to support public education and unmet needs for mental health services. Unfortunately, the Governor insists on using the surplus to cut taxes for giant, wealthy corporations, while Democrats are advocating for investing in the well-being of our citizens. It’s crucial to prioritize the needs of our community, and I’m hopeful that we can reach a bipartisan agreement to use this surplus in a way that benefits all Virginians.
Finally, I want to draw your attention to an important issue that affects the rights of thousands of Virginians — the restoration of voting rights for former felons who have completed their terms of incarceration. The day before Reconvene Session, I participated in a news conference at the Bell Tower in Richmond, calling on the Governor to resume his predecessor’s practice of automatically restoring these rights. We had a big crowd, including Senators Dick Saslaw and Maime Locke, House Democratic Leader Don Scott, himself a former felon whose rights were restored by Governor Bob McDonnell, and dozens of advocates and other legislators.
It was heartening to see the strong turnout and support for this cause, especially from those who, like Delegate Scott, have experienced the challenges and barriers that come with having a criminal record and have worked so hard to overcome them.
The Governor recently changed the policy to individually review each case, with no clear process for applying for restoration of rights. This new policy creates significant obstacles for many individuals who are trying to move forward with their lives and once again engage in their communities, exercising their right to vote as citizens of the Commonwealth.
I am deeply troubled by this change in policy and the lack of transparency and fairness in the current process. It’s time for the Governor to live up to his values of forgiveness, mercy, and second chances and restore the rights of these individuals who have completed their sentences and are ready to fully participate in our democracy.
I urge the Governor to return to the automatic restoration of voting rights, as it’s a crucial step in promoting a more inclusive and just society. As always, I am committed to representing the interests of the people of the 13th District and to working hard to create a better future for all Virginians.