2023 General Assembly Session Update – Volume 2

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Senator McClellan with colleagues

We have now completed the first full week of the 2023 General Assembly Session. We began the week honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As Chair of the Virginia MLK Commission, I moved that the Senate adjourn in his honor and memory, and reminded my colleagues that we must all do our part to continue his work to achieve the Beloved Community.

You can watch my floor remarks here. I was also honored to participate in this video and share with Dogwood about Dr. King’s inspiration and impact on me.

We also officially welcomed Senator Aaron Rouse (D-Virginia Beach), who was sworn in last week and is now part of the Corner Caucus on the Senate Floor. 

It’s nice having another brick in the Senate Democrats Blue Wall to stop Republican efforts to roll back the progress we’ve made on reproductive health, voting and civil rights, climate action, justice reform, and so many other issues. We had our work cut out for us last week for sure! 

Senate Democrats on an Education & Health subcommittee defeated three anti-abortion bills seeking to roll back our reproductive freedoms in Virginia, including a 15-week ban and a bill declaring by legislative fiat that life begins at conception. 

Senate Democrats on the Agriculture, Conservation & Natural Resources Committee defeated a series of Republican bills seeking to roll back the Clean Car standards adopted in 2021. You can watch my committee remarks on these bills here.

Senate Democrats on the Privileges & Elections Committee defeated Republican bills to roll back progress we’ve made taking Virginia from the second hardest state to vote to the 11th easiest. You can watch my committee remarks on these bills here.

Speaking of progress on voting rights, you can read my article on the history of voting rights in Virginia recently published in the Richmond Public Interest Law Review.

Last week I also participated in a press conference hosted by Voices for Virginia’s Children and Virginia’s Youth in Action to highlight actions pending before the General Assembly to make critical investments to address the youth mental health crisis. Last year I carried a budget amendment for school-based mental health services, resulting in $2.5 million to establish programs in 5 divisions -Luneburg, Bristol, Mecklenburg, Hopewell & Hanover. 

The Governor’s proposed budget amendments can add up to 25 more school divisions. I have also introduced an amendment providing technical assistance resources to school divisions to seek reimbursement for services. 

I also joined Senate Democrats in a press conference on our commitment to lowering costs for Virginians by passing critical legislation in the 2023 legislative session. I discussed my bill to create a state Child Tax Credit.

Budget Amendments

This year, I submitted budget amendments that cover an array of issues from funding my bill implementing the Virginia Board of Education’s 2021 Recommended Standards of Quality (SOQ) lifting the pre-recession school support personnel worker cap, grants for school construction and modernization, a voucher program to support renters with housing costs, Increasing funding for the Firearm Violence Intervention and Prevention Grant Fund and many others. 

You can find a full list of my budget amendments here.

My Legislation

Jennifer McClellan speaking on the Senate floor about S.B. 1408 - Sales and use tax, local; additional tax authorized in all counties & cities to support schools

Last week, I provided an overview of 17 bills that I am carrying this legislative session. I’ve filed an additional three, bringing my total to 21:

SB 1460 adds members of appointed school boards to the list of officials who must receive training on Virginia’s Conflict of Interest and Ethics laws, and changes from January 15 to February 1 the annual date for certain employees to file annual disclosures, consistent with deadlines for other officials. This bill is a recommendation of the Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council, on which I serve.

SB 1498 extends eligibility for the Brown v. Board of Education Scholarship Program to the direct descendants of persons who were residing in jurisdictions in Virginia in which the public schools were closed to avoid desegregation between 1954 and 1964 and whose educations were affected by the school closings. Currently, only persons who resided in such jurisdictions at the time of the school closings are eligible for the program.

SB 1499 gives VCU Health Systems more flexibility in hiring its chief executive officer.

Several of my bills have advanced through the legislative process.

Today, the Senate passed on a 26-10 vote my SB1408 allowing all Virginia localities the option to increase the local sales tax up to 1% by referendum. Funding could only be used for school construction or renovation. Under current law, only nine localities have this power. This bill is a recommendation of the Commission on School Construction and Modernization, which I chair. 

Last Wednesday, the General Laws Committee reported on a 9-4 vote my SB1330 extending the window to pay rent plus late fees from five to 14 days between a notice of delinquency and filing of an eviction case. You can learn more about this bill here.

The General Laws Committee also unanimously reported my SB1320 codifying the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund, and re-referred it to the Finance Committee. This fund was originally created by a budget amendment I carried in 2021 to expand economic opportunity for underserved people, rural areas, and communities by supporting the growth and capacity of Virginia community development lenders, investors, and financial service providers. The bill also recapitalizes the Fund and expands eligibility requirements to include commercial real estate, housing development, and homeownership financing as eligible uses. 

The Energy Subcommittee advanced my SB1321 (The Affordable Energy Act) to the full Commerce & Labor Committee. This bill will establish accurate electricity prices and protect consumers from being overcharged on their utility bills by restoring the State Corporation Commission’s historic authority to lower electric utility rates when the agency determines that customers were overcharged. 

The Agriculture Conservation & Natural Resources Committee unanimously reported and referred to the Finance Committee my SB1332 codifying a 2021 gubernatorial executive order requiring state permitting agencies consultation with Tribal Nations when evaluating state permit applications for activities with potential impacts to environmental, historic and cultural resources. At their fist legislative reception, six of the federally recognized Virginia Indian Tribes presented me with the Tribal Nation Champion Award for my work on this bill over the past two years. 

You can track legislation and find committee meeting schedules and agendas here. Information on how to provide testimony on specific bills during committee meetings can be found here.

I look forward to sharing updates with you over the next few weeks about the 2023 Session. To contact me or my staff, please reach out to district09@senate.virginia.gov or (804) 698-7509. To keep up with all the action at the General Assembly throughout these next few weeks follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Have a great week!