The 2018 legislative session adjourned “sine die” on March 10th, and as dozens of cars with multi-colored bumper stickers and House and Senate license plates departed to different corners of the Commonwealth my staff worked through the weekend, helping me send out responses to 906 informative emails on 107 different topics that I’ve received from constituents. As I reflect on the session, it is impossible to ignore that we adjourned without adopting a biennial budget.
Crafting a budget is one of our primary constitutional duties as state legislators and leaving Richmond without one means that localities, school divisions, and state agencies cannot finalize their own budgets. Governor Northam, the House of Delegates, and Senate Democrats all agree on the merits of Medicaid expansion, with only Senate Republicans standing in the way--insisting on a version of the budget that excludes health coverage for 400,000 Virginians, strikes teacher pay raises, has fewer investments in renewable energy, and omits funding for background checks on firearm sales.
After an historic election in 2017, key Republican Delegates changed their staunch opposition to Medicaid expansion into support. The House budget conferees all support Medicaid Expansion, as do the Democratic conferees from the Senate. I am still hopeful that Medicaid expansion will be incorporated into the final budget. Governor Northam has called a special session to begin on April 11 to try again.
After touch-and-go negotiations between House and Senate Conferees, the General Assembly has approved $154 million in funding for Metro (SB856)--Virginia’s portion of $500 million called for by Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) General Manager Paul Wiedefeld to address essential capital funding needs. We were able to arrive at a sustainable solution for our vital transit infrastructure needs, but two proposed tax increases in Northern Virginia (on real estate transactions and hotel stays) that had been included in the original Senate version, were eliminated from the final bill. This change requires existing regional transportation funds from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) to be redirected to WMATA. I expect Governor Northam will amend the bill to preserve the $154 million while using less funding directly from NVTA. This would free up money for additional transportation projects.
Seven of my bills passed the General Assembly and await Governor Northam’s consideration. SB920 addressed the struggle experienced by the Tarantino family of Alexandria and will reduce the onerous 10-year waiting period for them to adopt a child due to an eight-year-old drug possession conviction--regardless of Mr. Tarantino’s record of honorable service in the military and his wife’s years of service with local nonprofits. Congressman Donald Beyer brought to my attention that predatory teachers who sexually abuse students have been recommended away to another school district by fellow employees to avoid scandal and lawsuits. SB605 will prohibit public school employees from “passing the trash.” SB918 will repeal a provision of the Code of Virginia authorizing the revocation of professional licenses from people who fall behind on their student loans. Student loan debt affects 44 million people in the United States, and I am thankful that Delegates Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) and Schuyler VanValkenburg (D-Henrico) led the House effort to address this issue.
An interim committee will be established to consider a large volume of legislation regarding election reform in the wake of several incidents arising in the 2017 election and to consider the implementation of no-excuse absentee voting. Five of my bills were referred to this interim committee including SB602, which would provide for “no-excuse absentee voting.”
Regrettably, many important bills of mine failed to advance this year. Multiple bills codifying LGBT equality were defeated by 5-2 party-line votes in a single meeting of a House General Laws subcommittee, including my bill SB202 to prohibit LGBT discrimination in public employment, which had passed the Senate 29-10. Despite this disappointing result, I will continue to fight for equal rights and I will bring this legislation forward again next year. SB111 to decriminalize simple possession of small amounts of marijuana was defeated in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee. A flawed marijuana expungement bill (SB954) - that failed to address the racial disparities that exist in current marijuana enforcement - put forward by Republican Senate Majority Leader Senator Tommy Norment passed the Senate but failed to advance from a House of Delegates subcommittee.
Outright hostility from Republicans toward all gun violence prevention efforts resulted in a disappointing year. Over 60 gun violence prevention measures were put forward and defeated, including my bills to ban bump stocks (SB1), institute universal background checks (SB5), and prohibit carrying firearms while under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs (SB2). Despite the current legislative stalemate, I am inspired by the movement taking shape in the wake of the terrible tragedy in Parkland, Florida. Young people across the country are taking action to demand gun sense reforms, and I urge like-minded supporters to join me in standing with them.
On April 18 we will reconvene for our one day “veto” session, when the General Assembly is to consider Governor Northam’s amendments and vetoes.
Finally, I would like to thank my legislative staff who joined me in Richmond this year. Chris Leyen, my legislative aide, who returned for his third legislative session--ran my office this year. David Sperry, an eight state campaign veteran, joined my team as our session communications director. James Randall, a student from VCU who has worked for the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA), assisted us as an intern.
It is my continued honor to serve the people of the 30th District,
Adam P. Ebbin
Member, Virginia Senate
Virginia Senator Adam P. Ebbin took office in January 2012 after serving for eight years in the House of Delegates. Adam represents 200,000 residents of the 30th Senate District who reside in portions of Arlington, Alexandria and parts of Fairfax County’s Mount Vernon and Lee Magisterial Districts.
As a leader in the General Assembly, Adam has fought to advance progressive priorities, including preventing gun violence, making it easier to vote, and fighting for equality for all Virginians.
For more information about Senator Ebbin, visit AdamEbbin.com