When session adjourns sine die on March 12th, every member will return to their district with a winnowed legislative agenda. This is always the case, but it is particularly true in a year with split party control of the legislative chambers. Often at this time of the year, I get asked, “What happens next? Does this bill have any future?” Understandably, some constituents are disappointed when hard-fought legislation falters. Some are fired up and ready to continue their advocacy. Regardless, the afterlife of legislation plants the seeds for future bills. We don’t let hard work go to waste.
Of my original twenty-five bills, thirteen will not advance to the Governor’s desk. Each faced unique challenges, and for those interested in the debate on each bill, the Senate and House archive all videos of the Committee and Subcommittee hearings where the bills were heard. Three bills were passed by in order to study the problem they sought to address before next year’s legislative session. These include my bill to provide pay parity for public defenders compared to their counterparts in Commonwealth’s Attorneys’ offices (SB282), legislation to reduce negative interactions during traffic stops and improve data on racial profiling (SB277), and a bill seeking to establish privacy for individuals genetic data, such as that collected by services like 23andme (SB419). The work of our public defenders is a cornerstone to the fairness of our justice system, and I look forward to the results of the study examining their compensation. Addressing the potentially tense moments of traffic stops remains a priority of mine as does codifying consumer protections for personal information in the growing field of direct-to-consumer genetic testing. Based on the results of the study and work groups established this session, I may develop new legislation next year to address these concerns.
Two bills were continued to next year, meaning that committees can review them in the interim if they choose, but they will likely need to be brought back in a different form next session. One was my bill aiming to address eviction defenses (SB284) and the other was my major continued effort to establish a legal-adult-use market for cannabis (SB391). This legislation would have comprehensively stood up a legal adult-use sales market, created health and safety regulations to ensure public health and effectively banned youth access to the product. It also would have reformed our criminal justice system, expanded expungements and allowed for resentencing for those with prior cannabis convictions, was the product of two year’s hard work, two studies by the nonpartisan Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, and intense review by the Cannabis Oversight Commission, which I chair. House of Delegates Republicans, though promising to take action to create an adult-use marketplace that would cut down the growing illicit market and create an avenue for burgeoning Virginia small business, killed the bill with minimal debate on a party line vote. Lack of action on this topic means another year of proliferating synthesized cannabis (like “delta-8”) in gas stations and convenience stores and illicit trade which will drown out the legal marketplace without swift action. The House's inaction this year was an abject failure for Virginians and public safety.
Five of my bills were killed outright, including my two measures aiming to address gun violence (SB643, and SB310) and my constitutional amendment affirming the right to marry (SJ5). The Republican House killed the amendment in an early morning subcommittee meeting. In doing so they denied voters the right to decide whether or not to repeal a stain on our state constitution — an inoperable provision denying the right to marriage to same-sex couples and replacing it with an affirming right to marry regardless of gender or sex. I will continue to fight both to defend and affirm the rights of LGBTQ Virginians, as well as to protect our communities from gun violence caused by the proliferation of firearms and unaddressed criminal loopholes.
My bill repealing a cumbersome and unnecessary triennial audit requirement for home care organizations was rolled into SB580, introduced by Senator McDougle (R-Hanover) and I’m pleased to report this bill passed both the House and Senate and awaits the Governor's signature to become law.
Though it does not always turn out as we hope or worked for, the legislation that dies does not disappear. Rather, it lays the foundation for what comes after we all leave Richmond and return home. We will refer to it, build upon it, or modify it as we move ahead. Throughout the year, I will be connecting with constituents, speaking to community members, organizations, and businesses about their ideas for how we can improve legislation and what new bills may be needed. This will help inform what we start drafting for next year.
It is an honor to serve you in Richmond. I look forward to reporting on the successful bills we pass soon.
the budget debate beginsRead Now
Virginia operates on a biennial budget comprising some $158 billion in spending on state programs and services. This budget must pass each legislative body and receive the Governor’s signature after our “long” 60-day session. During the process, each body reports their version of the budget, which include some of the amendments offered by members for funding that was not originally included in the introduced budget. These two, often competing, Senate and House versions of the budgets must then be negotiated and reconciled in a “committee of conference” during the final two weeks of session.
A budget is more than a balance sheet — it reflects the values and the priorities of those who craft it. It tells us, arithmetically, what areas, issues, projects, and programs are most important by those who influenced the budget. With differing parties holding majorities in the Senate and House this year, the reported versions of the budget are vastly different and reflect the difference in the priorities and values of each body. These differences create a significant challenge for those tasked with negotiating a compromise proposal. The Senate proposal contains major investments in education and unemployment benefits, prudent tax cuts, and a number of key wins for the 30th District which I hope will be retained in the final spending bill.
A major theme on the campaign trail this year was needed investments in education. I am glad that the Senate budget invests in our teachers, our school infrastructure, and critical programs including Pre-K for at-risk students. We increased the number of student support positions such as school nurses, counselors, and reading specialists from 17.75 per 1,000 students to 20 per 1,000 students, and proposed a ten percent raise for all teachers over two years, along with a one-time, $2,000 bonus. Our teachers have worked diligently and dedicatedly during the pandemic under unforeseeably difficult circumstances — their prioritization in the budget begins to reflect this. Additionally, we increased the investment in educating at-risk Pre-K students by $700 per pupil per year and proposed $500 million for school construction. More than half of Virginia’s schools are over 50 years old, and the renovation of existing facilities paired with the construction of new ones is critical to providing a healthy, functional learning environment for our students, teachers and staff.
We continue to work on reforming the Virginia Employment Commission, proposing $110 million to replenish our depleted unemployment trust fund and $500,000 to initiate a comprehensive review of its efficiencies and processes.
The Senate included some $300 million in funding to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which builds and subsidizes affordable housing. We additionally included $47 million in tax subsidies for the construction of new affordable housing. I have long been an advocate for deliberate investment in affordable housing and am glad we are finally moving to meet the market demand, which is felt so strongly, especially in Northern Virginia.
The Senate budget also includes thoughtful, pragmatic tax relief for Virginians to reduce the increasing cost of living caused by supply chain issues, conflict in Ukraine, and inflation on certain goods felt heavily in Northern Virginia. We provided a one-time tax rebate of $250 for single taxpayers and $500 for married taxpayers filing a joint return, reduced the grocery tax by 1.5% while retaining the locality share for school and transportation funding, and expanded the refundability of the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income Virginians. This will provide crucial dollars directly back into the pockets of those who need it most, without gutting ongoing funding for the programs and infrastructure of the Commonwealth.
I was pleased to get a number of key priorities included in the Senate budget via amendments offered in subcommittees. During the interim, constituents often approach me with very specific, niche concerns related to the state budget, which are frequently not on the radar of the Governor or the Secretariats who help prepare the introduced budget. This year I was glad to get $200,000 to preserve and digitize records at Central State Hospital at the request of Racial Justice Alexandria. These funds will support a research team currently digitizing the records of Central State, which served as the first segregated Black sanitorium in the United States, opening nearly immediately after the end of the Civil War. Without digitization, these records are at risk of deterioration and eventually will be lost to history. I was also able to obtain $8.8 million to complete the installation of air conditioning at several adult correctional facilities which are currently without AC, subjecting those incarcerated to severe summer heat. I worked to secure funding to establish an education center on naval history in Alexandria supporting the Tall Ship Providence. The John Warner Maritime History Center will serve as a major tourist and economic development draw to the waterfront and enhance the already rich history of our city. We also allocated $200,000 for a Veteran Farmer Training Program through Arcadia Farms in Mount Vernon, which I visited along with former Governor Northam this summer. Since 2016 Arcadia has trained 125 military veterans, active-duty service members and family members for new careers in agriculture. Arcadia offers three training tracks: the Veteran Farmer Reserve, the Veteran Farm Fellowship, a GI Bill-compliant on-the-job training program apprenticed to professional farmers, and the Arcadia Veteran Farm Incubator. Additionally, I was glad to see two million dollars included in the Senate budget to increase public access to historic River Farm, which has been saved from sale and development due to ongoing advocacy from local and state leaders and citizen activists. Finally, the Senate budget retains key funding for the remediation of Alexandria’s combined sewer overflow system. The House budget fully removed this funding, which is incredibly concerning for ratepayers in the city, and I will work to ensure it is reinstated in the conference committee.
We will have to wait a couple of more weeks for the differences in the Senate and House budget to be reconciled and for the final budget to be announced. It will be the result of collaboration and compromise, and I hope it will reflect our values while bringing much-needed and worthy investments to every corner of the Commonwealth.
It is my continued honor to serve the 30th District,
Adam P. Ebbin
Member, Senate of Virginia
A New Bipartisan frontierRead Now
After 25 long, hectic legislative days, often beginning at seven thirty am and finishing late in the evening, the General Assembly reached “Crossover” last week. As indicated by the name, this is the point where all bills must have passed their house of origin to continue on their legislative journey. For my part, I was glad to pass one constitutional amendment and 75% of my introduced bills out of the Senate (18 of 24) with three additional bills headed to interim studies and commissions for a closer look. Crossover day itself was spent mostly on the Senate floor, as members hashed out the details of complicated legislation and debated some of our more controversial bills. While we continued to meet constantly over the following days to discuss amendments to our two-year budget, the brief respite from presenting and reviewing bills allows for some time to develop strategies for legislation passing to the other chamber — this year to a body controlled by the other party. Unfortunately, partisan divisions will cause some bills that passed the Senate with ease to face a quick death in the House. However, relying on carefully cultivated relationships and working with an eye towards compromise, this year offers an opportunity for outsized bipartisan cooperation.
Six of my bills passed the Senate with unanimous support, including legislation to protect living organ donors from employment discrimination, requirements for a seller to disclose any financial interest or pending legal action in property purchases, and a bill requiring comprehensive energy reliability reports from Dominion Energy to localities. These bills all stemmed from concerns raised by constituents throughout the year, and often were helped along with their support in committee testimony and advocacy. I was also glad to pass legislation providing an alternative to the sometimes cumbersome witness signature for absentee ballots and to remove a roadblock to localities’ ability to procure electric and diesel transit buses with broad support.
My bills aiming to address gun violence, improve the functioning of the Virginia Employment Commission, and require property surveys to be completed in Northern Virginia historic districts before the purchase of a home have sparked some controversy, and will likely have to jump some hurdles to make it to the finish line. Despite a broad coalition of support from advocacy groups including NRA and Moms Demand Action, my bill to align Virginia code with federal law on firearms that have had their serial numbers removed caught what is proverbially known as a “fever” on the floor after Senator Bill DeSteph (R-Virginia Beach), a federally licensed firearms dealer, raised concerns over collectors who owned machine guns being criminalized by the bill, and squeaked by on a party line vote.
I anticipate the Constitutional Amendment I am carrying to repeal the ban on same-sex marriage and replace it with a fundamental right to marry will face strategic opposition in the House, where despite having the votes on the floor to pass, the Speaker assigned an identical House Amendment, carried by Delegate Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax), to a heavily conservative subcommittee where it was killed at 7 am with minimal discussion or debate. This Amendment does a simple, but momentous thing. Our Constitution, the foundational document of the oldest Democracy in the western world, only once deprives citizens of a right. The right to marry the person you love. If passed, it removes that stain, and permanently enshrines this right, safeguarding it for Virginians regardless of their sex or gender, providing a fundamental dignity and equality to our family, friends, and neighbors and reflects the will of a supermajority of Virginians. Additionally, as the amendment was made defunct by the 2015 Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, and it is important for our Constitution to reflect the law of the land. I hope the House leadership can be convinced that voters deserve a chance to consider ratifying this amendment at the polls in November.
With only four weeks left in session, we have our work cut out for us. What lies next for my bills will depend on the coming days, as they begin to be referred by Speaker Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) to subcommittees and committees and face hearings and votes. Some, those that Delegates introduced on similar policies, may have to be finalized in a Conference Committee. From these bipartisan groups often emerges compromise. Though progress may not always appear to proceed at the rate we may desire, it advances every time we change the law for the better. I hope to be reporting on such changes in a few weeks.
The Man in the red vestRead Now
With Virginia governors Constitutionally limited to a single consecutive four-year-term, there is no time to waste if an administration is to be successful.
Governor Glenn Youngkin is about a month in office, but has been running into some major stumbling blocks in his “Day One Game Plan.” While much of Youngkin’s agenda might not seem nefarious at first, my colleagues and I have been digging into the impact of his proposals, and beneath their veneer we find policies that would provide no alternative but defunding core services, siphon away public school funding to charter schools, and reduce access to the ballot box. Behind the vest and family man persona, the Governor has shown a surprising mean streak — refusing to apologize after his campaign recently attacked a high school student on social media, and issuing illegal and controversial executive orders now held up in court challenges.
Legislation from the Governor’s office includes bills freezing a scheduled minimum wage increase and repealing local authority to allow employees to collectively bargain. Fortunately, these anti-worker policies were blocked by Senate Democrats. As Chair of the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, I have seen a slew of bills bolstered by the Governor’s campaign trail promise to restore “election integrity,” including ending same day voter registration before it even begins and reinstating overly restrictive voter ID laws, which committee Democrats summarily turned away.
Fiscally, it is clear that Governor Youngkin is new to the world of governance. Despite Virginia being constitutionally mandated to have a balanced budget, the Governor has introduced plans amassing a stunning $3.5 billion in tax cuts and new spending without offering any solutions to pay for them. The General Assembly and former Governor Ralph Northam built an economy that created the $2.6 billion surplus needed to make major investments in education and mental healthcare and to reform failing agencies, like the Virginia Employment Commission. But Youngkin’s proposals would make these necessary investments impossible. In the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, we rejected legislation requiring localities to hold a referendum before making increases to their real property tax rates. Other states, like California, tried to do the same. The result was a fiscal calamity. We also tabled efforts to double the standard deduction on income taxes, recommending a study before we revisit it next year.
The taxpayers of Virginia entrust us to produce a well-balanced budget, and while Governor Youngkin has some laudable goals to repeal and rebate some taxes, his lack of a plan to offset the revenue gap he’s creating should be alarming to every Virginian. The Senate is working to reshape some of those proposals into realistic policies, including a prudent, graduated approach to shielding veteran retirement income from taxation. The Governor has proposed eliminating the tax on groceries, including the 1% local grocery tax, without providing localities any way to make up the funds that would otherwise be used for education and local infrastructure. A bipartisan majority of the Senate finance committee opted to eliminate the 1.5% state grocery tax, while leaving localities intact for now.
Governor Youngkin’s pick for Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources, Andrew Wheeler, was recently rejected by the Senate. Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist and EPA Administrator under President Trump, faced more opposition than any Cabinet nominee in Virginia history, with more than 500 of my constituents writing to oppose his nomination. Further, another 150 former Republican and Democratic EPA employees publicly stated that, “Mr. Wheeler pursued an extremist approach, methodically weakening EPA’s ability to protect public health and the environment, instead favoring polluters.” Frustrated by this failure, Governor Youngkin lashed out at a group of civil servants, directing the House majority to block 1,010 appointments to Boards and Commissions crucial to the operation of government. Fortunately, his politics-first, Virginia-last approach failed, with the Republican House majority ultimately only refusing to confirm 11 appointments made by former Governor Ralph Northam.
Despite these stumbling blocks, I hope we will be able to work with the Youngkin administration over the coming months to build a stronger Virginia. Our constituents cannot afford a rookie slump.
It is my continued honor to serve the 30th District,
Adam P. Ebbin
Member, Senate of Virginia
An important role of any legislative office is that of constituent service. Before COVID19, we received a variety of requests regarding various state agencies or affiliates, including some regarding unemployment. The pandemic highlighted a dysfunctional system under immense stress at the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) like never before. The VEC has been underfunded for years because their main source of funding is based on a federal formula that provides funds based on our state’s unemployment rate, which has been historically low. This impacted their ability to do long planned, much-needed system upgrades. During some months my office received nearly 100 requests for assistance with claims. As the pandemic continued, the situations of constituents grew more dire as the delay of their benefits created broad repercussions.
It quickly became clear that there were several recurring issues at the VEC. First was inconsistent communication. Constituents received emails from constituent service team members stating that benefits may be denied if they did not call back within a specific time frame, however, the number provided rarely connected to anyone. Constituents received emails from the VEC constituent service team stating that benefits may be denied if they did not call back within a specific time frame, however, the number provided by the VEC rarely connected to anyone. Some constituents received conflicting information from different VEC employees depending on who they spoke to.. Additionally, many constituents who come to us have been told that all their claim issues had been resolved, only to wait weeks for benefits to arrive, and meanwhile are not able to contact anyone at the VEC through phone or email to determine why they are not receiving their benefits. We even heard from some constituents with concerns regarding fraud that occurred on their claims or that misused their identity. Some of these issues were prevalent enough that the VEC was sued in Federal Court April 2021 for delayed payments..
My staff and I have met with some of the hardworking team members at the VEC to get answers on specific cases and learn how their systems operate. There is much work to be done to get the VEC running smoothly and efficiently for Virginians. I am the Vice-Chair of the Commission for Unemployment Compensation. Our official mandate is to monitor and evaluate Virginia's unemployment compensation system relative to the economic health of the Commonwealth. This past summer, I insisted on a meeting of the commission to probe on issues outside that regulatory purview, during which we heard from the then-VEC Commissioner and I asked pointed questions about the transparency of communications and payments to claimants. I was far from satisfied with the pace of response from the VEC to the clear need and obvious calls for changes. I’ve written to Commissioners of the VEC, Secretaries of Labor, and other officials on the issue over the past year requesting prompt changes and solutions. Most recently, newly-appointed Commissioner Carrie Roth provided in-depth answers to specific questions that will allow my office to better assist constituents coming to us with concerns regarding fraud. I’m glad to see that in this area, Governor Youngkin is on the right track. This is a bipartisan issue that requires pragmatic solutions.
To that end, there are several bills this session based on recommendations made in a thorough study by the well respected Joint Audit and Legislative Review Commission (JLARC) on the VEC process. The final report offered comprehensive legislative and executive recommendations. I introduced legislation to expedite the process to bring employers filing forms with the VEC online and require the VEC to plan for a pilot program that aims to reduce the confusion and complexity of the separation reporting process. My office worked with JLARC and the VEC on this legislation, which aims to accomplish two specific recommendations from their report. I am co-sponsoring an even more comprehensive bill with Senator Jeremy McPike (D-Woodbridge) that implements further JLARC recommendations regarding administrative reforms and reporting methods. The bill requires the VEC to calculate and report important metrics and maintain an unemployment insurance Resiliency Plan for future spikes in unemployment. The legislation also creates within the Commission on Unemployment Compensation, a subcommittee that will be responsible for monitoring the VEC’s management of the unemployment insurance program. The bill would also clarify the appeals process and establish a workgroup on staffing. I am also co-sponsoring legislation with Senator Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) aiming to fight fraud. That bill would require certain verifications of identity for claimants, as well as an annual report from the VEC on fraudulent payments.
I take VEC complaints very seriously — there are constituents whose livelihoods depend on the status of their claims. Some constituents are at risk of losing their homes or are facing hunger. My Legislative Aide, Mollie Montague, has assisted hundreds of constituents with VEC cases. If you are struggling with an issue at the VEC, contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will do our best to assist you.
It is my continued honor to serve the 30th District.
Adam P. Ebbin
Member, Senate of Virginia
As the co-chair of the General Assembly Gun Violence Prevention Caucus, confronting the gun violence crisis has been a priority of mine for years. While I support the Second Amendment and the availability of firearms for hunting, self-defense, and sport, we must implement common-sense gun safety laws that keep dangerous firearms out of the hands of those who will not responsibly use them. I have two bills this session focused on gun safety. The first, addresses the growing threat of “ghost guns” the second targets firearms without serial numbers being used and traded. Mirror versions of these bills are being carried by House member Delegate Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church). Both bills passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and await floor votes.
Ghost guns are undetectable, untraceable firearms which can be bought online, assembled with ease, and function precisely like any other firearm. These weapons pose a serious and deliberate problem. Law enforcement report seeing a rise in the use of these weapons in criminal acts as well as accidental shootings. It can be easier to build a ghost gun than to assemble an Ikea dresser. The process of converting ghost gun parts — which can be purchased without a background check, license or record of sale, into a functioning firearm — involves just a few steps and can be completed without any specialized skill. Due to the nature of their component parts, these weapons cannot be detected by normal security screening methods, like those you would encounter in an airport. They are particularly enticing to people who cannot pass a background check — domestic abusers, minors, organized crime, and those with a violent felony record. In 2018, a man prohibited from accessing guns built his own ghost gun from parts ordered online and perpetrated a mass shooting at his workplace in Middleton, Wisconsin. In late 2019, a 16-year-old, too young to purchase a firearm, used a ghost gun to kill two students and injured three others at Saugus High School in California.
My legislation fixes a loophole: manufacturers are required to put a serial number on finished firearms but not on individual parts. This bill requires manufacturers, dealers, and distributors to add a serial number, which legitimizes a weapon and makes it traceable if used in a crime, to the parts sold in Ghost Gun kits.
My second bill, SB 643, has garnered support from a broad coalition including the Virginia Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, the Virginia Citizens Defense League, prosecutors, and the State Police Association. This bill addresses the people using or distributing firearms that are already illegal: guns that have had their serial number removed. Removing the serial number makes the devices untraceable when found or connected to a crime. Federal law makes possessing, transporting, or delivering a gun with an altered serial number a felony. Under current Virginia law, only the removal or alteration of a serial number is a crime, but not the use or sale of such a gun. Commonwealth’s Attorneys cannot prosecute people in state courts for this offense.
Considerable effort is required to remove a serial number from a weapon. At minimum, welding tools and drills are needed. Removing the serial number is an intentional act aimed at avoiding accountability for actions taken by the person wielding the weapon. These are crime guns, full stop.
While no one law can prevent all violent incidents, I believe that smarter gun regulations are a part of the solution to prevent some of the tragedies that we all wish to end including homicides, domestic violence, children’s accidental deaths, and suicide by firearm. I am certain that the lives that we save will be worth the effort.
It is my continued honor to serve the 30th District,
Adam P. Ebbin
Member, Senate of Virginia
THE PACE IN RICHMOND QUICKENSRead Now
With the excitement of move-in and the inauguration out of the way, the pace of the General Assembly is rapidly ramping up. New staffers from Governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration are circulating the halls with updated policy and agency contact sheets and committees are just beginning to receive “administration input” on legislation. With a new Speaker and new committee chairs, the House of Delegates took some time to begin hearing legislation, while the Senate began right away. After months of anticipation, the Republican agenda is becoming clear in Richmond.
In the first meeting of the Privileges and Elections Committee, where I serve as Vice-Chair, we headed off and defeated early efforts aimed at limiting access to the ballot box on party line votes. One was a proposal from Senator Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg) to end same-day voter registration, something that has yet to even go into effect. Another bill introduced by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) would have reinstated the unnecessary and sometimes onerous voter ID law. Just last November, due to changes made over the last several years, we held a safe and free gubernatorial election where more Virginians voted than ever, according to the Virginia Department of Elections Post Election Report this “proved, once again, that elections can be administered in a way that guarantees access to the ballot, all while maintaining secure processes that ensure safe, secure, fair, and free elections.”
In the Commerce and Labor Committee we heard another bill from Senator Peake (R-Lynchburg) that would have cancelled a scheduled increase in the Virginia minimum wage to $12.00 an hour on January 1, 2023. The minimum wage in 2020 was just $7.50 an hour, the same as the federal minimum wage. Thanks to legislation passed two years ago, it is now $11 an hour. Especially in Northern Virginia, the minimum wage has been too low for too long, forcing hard working neighbors into poverty, extended credit, and reducing access to the freedoms that home and vehicle ownership provide. I was glad to make the motion and vote to defeat this misguided piece of legislation.
While there are legitimate policy debates to be had about the above proposals, we have also seen some truly off the wall bills. Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) offered a slew of anti-mask, anti-vaccine, anti-public health proposals. These bills, drawn from the darkest corners of the internet, would fine small business owners $10,000 if they required their employees to get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine or wear a facemask to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. In a time of spiking infections especially among healthcare workers, children, and the unvaccinated, I was glad to vote down these proposals. I asked Senator Chase directly “If I’m a parent of an immunocompromised child, and I don’t want them to come into contact with COVID, and, would this allow another child who’s COVID-positive to possibly come in to school and sneeze on them without a mask?” Senator Chase responded with a hemming non-answer, but the text of the bill was clear — it absolutely would.
Two of my 25 bills have already passed out of the Senate. SB278 preserves electric vehicle charging stations for electric vehicles to ensure and expand access to charging infrastructure. SB286, which I introduced at the request of Alexandria City, allows localities to require homes purchased in local historic districts to have their properties surveyed to ensure homeowners know their exact property lines and reduce disputes with neighbors or the local government when additions or alterations are made to properties.
With divided control among the two houses of the legislature, major policy actions will be more challenging to advance. However, an area where I look forward to making real wins for the 30th Senate District is through the budget. With a surplus of $2.6 billion — the largest in Virginia's history, and $800 million in American Rescue Plan Dollars still to be allocated, there are rare opportunities for historic investments. I have proposed amendments to former Governor Ralph Northam’s introduced budget to alleviate economic strain on businesses and workers, preserve and maintain historic resources, and invest in outdated government infrastructure.
I am working to include a tranche of federal relief dollars to create a hospitality and tourism industry COVID-relief program which would especially be of benefit to the hotels and restaurants which make up a large portion of the economic and social engine of the 30th District. I have also requested an additional forty million dollars for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund which supports the development and preservation of affordable housing. It is my hope that with these additional dollars we can invest more in the development of deeply affordable housing for the poorest and most at risk Virginians. Additionally, I requested $500,000 in state dollars to restore and preserve Douglass Memorial Cemetery in Alexandria — a historic African American cemetery in need of major restoration. I have also proposed funding to update ten Department of Corrections facilities across the state to install air conditioning. In this era of extreme weather events 5,600 inmates are currently without air conditioning.
While there is a notable air of contention on many legislative proposals in the Capitol, I am hopeful that with a carefully cultivated budget surplus, there will still be a plethora of opportunities for bipartisan wins for Virginians.
It is my continued honor to serve the 30th District,
Adam P. Ebbin
Member, Senate of Virginia
MEET THE SECRETARIESRead Now
The media often focuses on the legislation on the Senate floor, when bills face debate and votes by the full body. However, the majority of the General Assembly’s work occurs in committee and subcommittee meetings. In these hearings, legislators present their bills for the first time, fine-tune language, and assess the fiscal and agency impact of their proposals. During the new administration of Glen Youngkin, our committees are also meeting with his newly appointed cabinet members before we vote on whether to confirm their appointments.
In the Senate, we have asked each new cabinet Secretary-designate to attend a meeting of the subject matter committee most closely related to their expected role in the administration. I have enjoyed their testimony and the opportunity to question them on their plans for the next four years. The Finance and Appropriations Committee heard from the incoming Secretary of Finance, Stephen Cummings — who will oversee the financial transactions of the Commonwealth including taxes collection and distribution of state aid to localities. Mr. Cummings has an extensive background in the banking and finance industries and has chosen a talented team of deputy secretaries including a well trusted former staff member of the Senate Finance Committee. I asked several questions of him, including how the administration plans to pay for the $3.5 billion in new spending on tax rebates, charter schools, and economic development they have requested. His answer did not outline a clear plan for this significant change to our two year budget, which our constitution requires be balanced.
In the General Laws and Technology Committee, we have heard from Secretary of the Commonwealth Kay James and Secretary of Administration Lyn McDermid. Ms. James - who will oversee appointments to boards and commissions, manage clemency petitions, and oversee restoration of voting rights - previously served under Governor George Allen as the Secretary of Health and Human Resources, and most recently was the president of the conservative Heritage Foundation think-tank. I was heartened by her public commitment to “easily and seamlessly'' restore voting rights of felons who have completed their sentences. However, I had a number of questions on her public support of “natural law” — a conservative theory opposing same sex marriage, her opposition to the federal Equality Act, and whether she supported the newly formed LGBT advisory board, which makes policy recommendations on LGBTQ issues to the governor. Her responses indicated that she would uphold the laws we have established to support LGBT rights, and I look forward to working with her office to ensure that is the case in reality. Secretary McDermid, will manage procurement and state buildings, administer employee policies and benefits, and oversee elections. I complimented her focus on cybersecurity and interagency data sharing to improve government services. However, I was concerned she may share Governor Youngkin’s support for attempts to roll back access to the ballot and use of “election integrity” on the campaign trail. I asked her if she believed Virginia's elections are free and fair and she agreed this was true despite Governor Youngkin making “election integrity” one of his top campaign issues.
As the various Secretaries make their way through their respective committees, my colleagues and my focus is on ensuring that Virginia is in the best possible hands, and continues on a trajectory of shared success. However, some appointments are more controversial than others. My office has received over 500 emails opposing Mr. Andrew Wheeler’s nomination as Secretary of Natural Resources, for example, but every appointment requires attention. We will make those final determinations when their appointments come to the floor for a final vote. Last week I was honored to be appointed as the Chair of the Privileges and Elections Committee, which reviews and takes initial votes on these appointments. The Privileges and Elections Committee traces its historic roots back to the first Committee of the Virginia House of Burgesses, which was founded in 1619. George Washington, whose Mount Vernon Estate is in the 30th District, served as the Chair of the House Committees committee during the 1760s.
It is my continued honor to serve the 30th District.
Adam P. Ebbin
Member, Senate of Virginia
DEEDS NOT WORDSRead Now
The Virginia General Assembly gaveled into session on Wednesday, January 12th with a new House majority, and Saturday saw a political change in all three statewide offices: Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General. The Executive branch in Virginia holds vast authority over the structure and direction of our government — including the appointment of cabinet secretaries and deputy secretaries, all agency heads, and 3,300 board and commission members, strong veto powers, and the ability to choose how to enforce and enact many of our laws and regulations. The weight of gubernatorial power is hefty in Virginia, and vested with a Constitutionally mandated single four-year-term, must be mastered and wielded quickly if an Administration is to successfully accomplish the promises made on the campaign trail.
A newcomer to Virginia government and politics, Glenn Youngkin began that process on Saturday, January 14th at the Capitol in Richmond when he was inaugurated as our 74th Governor. The weather on Saturday was a a frigid 30 degrees and was followed on Sunday with an icy winter storm. Whether that signals a slippery start for Governor Youngkin is yet to be seen, but, as for any new governor, the learning curve is steep and the stakes high for their upcoming term. I will work hard to find areas where we find common interests, and think we will be able to agree on many things, particularly on much needed increases to school funding, systemic improvements at the Virginia Employment Commission, and support for our veteran community.
I was heartened by the unifying and optimistic themes Governor Youngkin outlined in his inaugural speech. However, I will be measuring Youngkin’s performance by deeds, not words. Just hours after his inclusive address, the Governor signed eleven divisive executive orders including attempts to ban the teaching of critical race theory in k-12 schools, banning local authority to mandate the wearing of facemasks for students' health in schools, and withdrawing Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which caps carbon outputs and provides much needed flooding resiliency funding to our community. These actions are in direct violation to our Commonwealth’s laws and the principle of separation of powers, and a sharp about face from the lofty rhetoric of his swearing in. In fact, Article VIII of the Virginia Constitution vests the power to set curricula with the Board of Education, so the banning of critical race theory, a topic that has never been taught in our K-12 schools, is both unconstitutional and unproductive to improving public education. Under Virginia law local school boards must adhere to CDC guidance, which recommends the wearing of masks in schools to protect those not yet vaccinated. The Executive does not rule by fiat in Virginia.
Where necessary, I plan to provide a wake up call for proposals dangerous to our common safety, prosperity, and welfare. On climate change, any proposals to divert public education dollars from public schools, and attacks on reproductive rights, however, the Democratic Senate majority will serve as a firewall against the forces of short sighted partisan policies.
Challenges are coming — for sure — especially with a new House majority and new Speaker at the dais. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) took the gavel on Wednesday with a slim (52-48) majority. With differing parties controlling each house of the legislature, the number of bills passed and signed may winnow from the close to 2,000 we passed in 2020 down to the hundreds. The reconciliation of the proposed two-year budget will be more contentious and prolonged than it has been in recent years, when one party held power over the “Money Committees” in each body. But among the strife and bustle of session, I look forward to continue representing the 30th Senate District’s interests in committees and on the floor.
Already I have heard from hundreds of constituents who are vehemently opposed to the cabinet nomination of former President Trump’s EPA director Andrew Wheeler as the next Secretary of Natural Resources. A former coal lobbyist, Wheeler used his federal authority to undermine years of bipartisan environmental progress. In his first year as the EPA Administrator, Wheeler worked to restrict the use of scientific data in agency rule-making, rolled back federal efforts to clean up coal ash, reversed Clean Water Act protections, ignored EPA scientists' calls to ban asbestos, weakened a rule to cut the potent greenhouse gas methane, and blocked efforts to cut vehicle emissions and advance fuel efficiency. He is an untenable choice to oversee our shrinking natural resources — which I have been glad to work to safeguard throughout my career. In my 18 years in the Assembly I have never voted against a Governor’s cabinet pick — Democratic or Republican.
Unfortunately, I expect that streak to end this session.
The outset of a new session is always an exciting and uncertain time. The beginning of a new administration even more so. Even before the official start of session on January 12th, things seemed to be moving at a breakneck pace. Monday the 10th saw the final meeting of the Cannabis Oversight Commission, which I chair. During that meeting, we recommended expediting sales to January 1, 2023 through the existing medical cannabis providers and several industrial hemp manufacturers to ensure we can supply the market and begin to reduce unregulated, illicit sales, and received a report from the Department of Corrections on persons still incarcerated for multiple offenses which include cannabis felonies. Afterwards, I attended a meeting of the Senate Finance and Appropriations subcommittee on Health and Human Resources where we discussed critically needed funding for a number of healthcare services which we will address through the budget this year. The next day I had another flurry of meetings with public defenders from Justice Forward, a group of brewery owners, and the Virginia Credit Unions before several hours of meetings with my Senate colleagues and staff to finalize the legislation I plan to introduce this year.
If you have thoughts on legislation which will be before me over the next two months, please email my office at email@example.com. Due to the spike in cases caused by the Omicron variant of COVID-19, I am attempting to take as many meetings as feasible virtually, which I hope will protect all of our safety and increase the ability for constituents to access my office without trekking down I-95 to Richmond.
It is my continued honor to serve the 30th District,
Adam P. Ebbin
Member, Senate of Virginia
sine dieRead Now
The General Assembly officially adjourned “sine die” on Monday, March 1st, wrapping up a high-pressure session which caps one of the most progressive, accomplishment filled two year legislative cycles in Virginia’s history. It is hard to overstate what the new majorities in Virginia have accomplished, and how much more work is needed to create a fair, safe, and successful Commonwealth for all. This year I passed five bills, which are headed to the Governor’s desk, and one Constitutional Amendment, which will need to pass again next year before being approved by the voters. These include:
SB1215- Statutory Penalties for Unlawful Evictions.
In order to address the stunning number of illegal evictions which occurred during COVID-19, I worked with the Virginia Poverty Law Center and Delegate Sally Hudson to pass this bill to allow tenants to receive damages after an illegal eviction. The bill expedites the timeline in which hearings to remedy illegal evictions are heard, and allows for tenants to receive 4 months rent or $5,000, whichever is greater as well as reasonable attorney’s fees.
SB1309- Flood Water Assistance Funding.
At the request of the City of Alexandria, I passed a bill to allow localities to use their local flood water assistance for short-term, stop-gap projects to protect neighborhoods and homes from inland flooding, provided that the projects are in alignment with the localities long-term flood mitigation plan.
SB1178- Repealing the Genetic Counseling “Conscience Clause.”
At the request of a constituent, the ACLU, and NARAL Virginia, I introduced this bill to repeal a medically unnecessary and potentially harmful barrier to patient-centered-care for those seeking genetic counseling.
SB1381- Banning Guns in State Buildings and Capitol Square.
Working with Moms Demand Action, I passed a bill to codify a current state policy to ban firearms in state buildings and expand the ban to Richmond’s Capitol Square.
SB1406- Legalizing Adult Cannabis Use in 2024.
Eliminates penalties for personal possession of marijuana for those 21 and older in 2024 (it is currently a $25 fine under legislation I passed last year), creates a regulated adult-use market for cannabis centered on building wealth for those damaged by the prohibition, expunges certain criminal records for the possession of marijuana, and allows for resentencing and release of those convicted under the prohibition. Due to the short session and limited lead-up time, portions of this bill are subject to review this summer and a second vote next year.
SJR270- Same Gender Marriage Ban Repeal.
Repeals the now inoperable ban on same sex marriage in the Virginia Constitution and replaces it with an affirmative right to marry regardless of gender. The amendment must be passed again next year and then by the voters in order to go into effect.
Democrats passed additional legislation critical to moving Virginia forward, including:
All this work, and so much more was accomplished in a hectic six weeks. This year has been exceptionally challenging for everyone, with so many long-established inequities laid bare, and novel strains on our government and society. Even in this climate, we made bold strides forward, and will continue to listen to those we serve to do better, and root out those issues still yet uncovered and unaddressed in our Commonwealth.