Legislative Update January 2022
January 31, 2022

Legislative Update January 17, 2022

Our Senate office had weeks of a challenging calendar that culminated last week with the beginning of the 2022 legislative session. We worked through a redistricting process which concluded with a failed Redistricting Commission and Supreme Court drawn maps creating new districts for every legislator in the Commonwealth. I chaired a Youngkin Transition landing team to manage work related to the Secretary of Administration and assisted with a portion of the inaugural committee’s work. We did pre-session briefings with constituents, local governments, and community groups to prepare legislation and the Senate Finance Committee continued to meet to prepare for the upcoming budget year. 

The Senate convened Wednesday, January 122022. Governor Ralph Northam gave his last State of the Commonwealth Address that night in advance of Inauguration of the 74th Governor of Virginia Saturday the 15th. Once in four years, the House and Senate hold a joint Saturday session of the General Assembly and proceed to the Capitol Portico to participate in the transition of leadership. Governor Glenn Youngin, Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears, and Attorney General Jason Miyares took the oath of office followed by an inspiring ceremony and parade of proud participants from schools and communities around Virginia. Representatives of our Native American tribes offered a blessing for the Governor and the Capitol grounds.

The inaugural is historic in the Commonwealth, representing the swearing in of the first Hispanic statewide officeholder, the first Black woman to hold statewide office, and the first female to hold the office of Lieutenant Governor.

After the inauguration, Governor Youngkin promptly signed 9 official executive orders and 2 executive directives. Those are:

Executive Order 1: Ends the use of “inherently divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory.” It requires removal of education policies, practices or materials “that promote or endorse divisive or inherently racist concepts.”

Executive Order 2: Rescinds the statewide mask mandate for school students and states that parents may exempt their children from local school systems’ mask mandates.

Executive Order 3: Replaces members of the Virginia Parole Board and directs the Secretary of Public Safety to review the Parole Board’s duties and procedures.

Executive Order 4: Authorizes the Attorney General to investigate Loudoun County’s public schools, stating that the School Board and administrators “withheld key details and knowingly lied to parents” when a teenage student committed sexual assaults at two schools.

Executive Order 5: Directs Chief Transformation Officer to initiate reviews of the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Virginia Employment Commission.

Executive Order 6: Directs the Safety and Health Codes Board to determine whether there is a continued need for COVID-19 standards to be imposed on employers.

Executive Order 7: Establishes a commission to prevent human trafficking and victim support.

Executive Order 8: Establishes a commission to combat antisemitism.

Executive Order 9: Initiates withdrawal from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Executive Directive 1: Directs Executive Branch entities to cut regulations by 25%.

Executive Directive 2: Rescinds the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all state employees.

We welcome your feedback on any matters and also welcome visitors to the Capitol. Please contact our office any time that you have questions or concerns. I can be reached during the General Assembly session at 804-698-7527, P.O. Box 397, Richmond, VA 23218 or email at district27@senate.virginia.gov.

Legislative Update February 2021
February 09, 2021

We are into week four of the 2021 Virginia General Assembly session. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we continue to meet in the Science Museum of Virginia and not the Senate Chamber in the State Capitol. The Senate meets in person every day—we have temperature checks, wear masks, and spread across a ballroom that has been turned into a makeshift legislative office, committee room, and Senate Chamber where we conduct our floor debate and vote.


This session comes on the heels of a marathon in the fall when the House and Senate met to address election law changes, COVID-19 funding, and general budget challenges. While we are intended to act as a part-time citizen legislature, we met 150 days last year, with an 84-day special session. We took a small break at the holidays before returning to debate the future of Virginia. The legislature is literally overhauling Virginia, and there are big divisions among us as we move forward. 


Most of my constituents have two priorities— open schools and distribute vaccines more efficiently. My goal has been to do everything in my power to improve Virginia’s performance in both of those areas. That really should be the only focus now, but the legislature has been consumed by so much more.


One element of discipline has made things better.  We adopted limits on the number of bills that can be introduced this session. Delegates are limited to seven bills and senators are permitted twelve. In the past, we have done between 2,500 and 3,000 bills and resolutions in a General Assembly session. This year it would be difficult to move that amount of legislation given the health concerns, limits on space, and lack of in-person communication with constituents that is so critical to the legislative process. Despite the limits, we still have nearly 1,300 measures introduced. 


The most controversial bills debated include marijuana legalization; the death penalty; expungement of criminal records; gaming; conforming Virginia’s Constitution to the United States Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage; reducing the number of SOLS required in schools; amendments to the 2020-2022 Biennial Budget; conforming Virginia’s tax code to the federal code; and protecting PPP loans from higher taxes.


The Senate had an important victory in the fight to open schools. A measure that would require public schools to make in-person instruction available to every student passed by a vote of 26 to 13.


We also had a legislative victory in the effort to address the terrible vaccine delays and inexplicable barriers to COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Virginia. At least one issue is a lack of health care professionals who are qualified to administer the vaccine. 


The Senate voted to pass emergency legislation that expands the pool of qualified people, allowing any qualified health care provider in Virginia to volunteer as a vaccinator.


The Senate also approved legislation to impose much needed transparency on the Virginia Parole Board.  It resulted from investigations by the State Inspector General that came after the Board granted parole to a convicted murderer without following the provisions of law or addressing the matter with the victim’s family. It was then revealed that the Parole Board was under investigation for multiple other cases of malfeasance. Worse still, there was an effort to cover up the investigations. All of it was a stain on Virginia’s parole system and painful for victims and their families. 


Finally, a critical tax conformity issue was voted on by the Senate and remains to be negotiated with the House. The federal CARES Act included provisions to prevent businesses from being taxed for receiving Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) funding. It makes sense that Virginia would conform our tax code to do the same, but many objected and want to tax that money in Virginia.  I voted to exempt it entirely, but that vote failed, and a compromise passed that includes a tax.


We still have weeks to go, so all of these measures will be debated further in the House and hopefully progress will be made.


It is an honor to represent you in the Senate and I welcome your feedback. If you have questions or concerns, please contact my Capitol office at (804) 698-7527 or via email at district27@senate.virginia.gov.  The Senate has also set up a constituent hotline so that you can call about legislation being considered this session. If you want to make your position known on a bill of importance to you, call the Senate Message Center toll-free at (833) 617-1821.

Legislative Update 3-23-20
March 23, 2020

Virginia has been overwhelmed by the devastating impact of the COVID-19 virus and our office has attempted to respond quickly to anyone with questions or needs. Our Senate office will remain open to provide support to constituents. Our number one priority is to keep people well. We are also very sensitive to the impact that this is having on families, individuals, businesses, and our local governments. We continue to communicate with the Governor and other state and federal agencies to determine how best to provide support. 

Most questions we receive are about public gatherings and how businesses must function. Governor Northam directed Virginians to avoid non-essential gatherings of more than 10 people. This restriction does not apply to normal operations of essential services such as transportation services, grocery stores, pharmacies, manufacturing, or medical facilities. Individuals with chronic health conditions and 65 and older remain advised to self-quarantine. Consult vdh.virginia.gov for information about the virus and updated numbers on the outbreak here. Also, please be aware of the following recent announcements:

Department of Motor Vehicles - All of Virginia’s DMV offices are closed. Online services will remain available, and anyone needing to renew a license or vehicle registration may do it online. For those who cannot renew online, or who have a license or registration that expires before May 15th, the DMV will grant a 60-day extension.

Virginia State Courts - From March 16th to April 6th, all district and circuit courts have stopped non-essential, non-emergency court proceedings unless there is a specific exemption. This includes a prohibition on new eviction cases for tenants who are unable to pay rent as a result of COVID-19.

Utilities - The State Corporation Commission ordered utilities (natural gas, electric, and water companies) to suspend service disconnections for 60 days to provide immediate relief for customers who may be financially impacted by the virus.

Prisons and Jails in Virginia - Visitation is currently cancelled at all facilities. Off-site video visitation is still available. A dedicated COVID-19 public information line with an updated, recorded message is operational. The phone number is (804) 887-8484.

Employers affected by current changes – Virginia activated regional workforce teams to assist employers that slow or stop operations. Employers will not be financially penalized for an increase in workers requesting unemployment benefits. The Governor is authorizing rapid response funding through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act for employers eligible to remain open during this emergency. 

Workers impacted by current changes - The Virginia Employment Commission will waive the one-week waiting period to ensure that workers receive benefits as soon as possible. Workers may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits if an employer needs to temporarily slow or cease operations due to COVID-19. If a worker has been issued a notice to self-quarantine by a medical official and is not receiving paid medical leave from their employer, they may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. A worker may be eligible for unemployment benefits if they must stay home to care for an ill family member and are not receiving paid family medical leave. Affected workers receiving unemployment insurance will receive special consideration on deadlines, mandatory re-employment appointments, and work search requirements. 

2020 Legislative Session – The legislative session ended two weeks ago. The House and Senate considered 3,910 bills and resolutions, with 2,218 passed and sent to the Governor for action.  The bills make broad changes to energy, criminal law, transportation, public safety, education, healthcare, agriculture, and employment laws among others, with the most significant being the passage of the state’s two-year budget. We will return in April for the Veto Session and may reconvene for a special session to address the impacts of the COVID-19 virus.  

I am pleased that my bills passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, the majority passing 40-0. I appreciate those in our community who traveled to the Capitol and were so critical in their success. Bills include:

            SB 531 Workers' comp coverage for certain cancers for firefighters and first responders; 

SB 540 Reporting unprofessional conduct of health professionals;

SB 541 Revising Middleburg’s town charger; 

SB 556/557 Traffic calming on U.S. Route 17;

SB 561 Workers’ comp for firefighter and law-enforcement officer PTSD; 

SB 633 Licensure of music therapists;

SB 687 Cyclist highway safety;

SB 689 Expanding ABC special event privileges for localities;

SB 903 Hospital screening for substance use-related emergencies;

SB 904 Higher ed stakeholder group to improve dyslexia, literacy training;

SB 913 Opioids disposal for home hospice;

SB 1039 Tax rebate for solar energy and recycling equipment; and

SB 1040 City of Winchester school board compensation authority.

I also introduced measures that passed in the budget, including funding for Winchester Public Schools Innovation Center; Laurel Center Women’s Shelter and intervention for sexual/ domestic violence; Winchester Armory/ Shenandoah University/ Lord Fairfax Hub for Technology and Entrepreneurship; and raises for teachers among others. 

Overall the budget includes a balance of Rainy Day Fund and cash reserves of $2.1 billion.  Other highlights are increased funding for personal care workers, nursing homes and developmental disability waivers - increasing 1,385 waiver slots over 2 years; increased funds for Water Quality Improvement Fund and Soil and Water Conservation Districts; $1 billion for highway construction, transit and passenger rail; 4% teachers raise over 2 years; 3% state employee bonus, 3% salary increase in the second year; state supported local employees 2% bonus first year, 3% raise in second year; state police 2% raise first year, 3% raise in second year; and overall the budget reduces the amount of state-authorized debt by $528 million. The budget was built on careful forecasting and substantial cash reserves, all of which must now be revisited given the economic impact of the coronavirus that hit just as we concluded the budget.  Much of what we did may have to be revised.

These are challenging times for all Virginians. Our office is available to help. If you need assistance, please email jillvogel@senate27.com.