McClellan Bills Include School Funding, Savings on Energy Bills, Eviction Protections, Constitutional Amendment to Protect Abortion Access
RICHMOND, VA – Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) has passed 20 bills through the Senate in 2023, which will now cross over to the House for consideration. 18 of McClellan’s bills passed with bipartisan support.
“This session, I’m proud to have worked across the aisle in the Senate to provide needed funding for school construction and support staff, to save Virginians money on their energy bills, and to help Virginians avoid eviction,” McClellan said. “We’ve made major progress on important legislation that will provide relief for Virginians and make investments in their communities. I hope to see the House move forward on these key bipartisan bills.”
McClellan has passed more than 360 bills during her career in the General Assembly.
The 20 bills chief patroned by McClellan that passed the Senate in 2023 are:
- School Support Staff (SB 1325) – McClellan and Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (D-Chesterfield)’s bill increases the number of school support staff per student in every school district across Virginia. Under current law, Virginia school districts are required to hire three specialized support staff for every 1,000 students; SB 1325 will require four support staff for every 1,000 students. Support staff include school social workers, school psychologists, school nurses, licensed behavior analysts and other licensed health and behavioral positions. In 2021, McClellan passed the law (SB 1257) setting the standard of three specialized support staffers per 1,000 students, and led a budget amendment providing $50 million to fund these positions. Delegate Jeffrey Bourne (D-Richmond) was chief patron of the House companion bill. PASSED SENATE UNANIMOUSLY, 2/6/23.
- Local School Construction Funding Options (SB 1408) – McClellan and Senator Jeremy McPike’s (D-Prince William) bill allows all localities in Virginia the option to increase school funding by putting a referendum on the ballot for an up to 1% local sales tax increase. The bill is a recommendation of the bipartisan Commission on School Construction and Modernization, which McClellan chairs. Under current law, such sales tax is only permitted in nine specific localities. Delegate Jeffrey Bourne (D-Richmond) patroned the House companion bill. PASSED SENATE 26-10, 1/23/23.
- Student Data Transparency Assessment (SB 1329) – McClellan’s and Senator Chap Petersen’s (D-Fairfax City) bill requires the Virginia Board of Education to assess the creation of a parent data portal related to student assessment data by October 1. Virginia’s current system lacks portability as students move from school to school and risks non-compliance with federal law. The portal would allow parents and students to access a centralized dashboard for all state-supported assessment data. The Board will analyze and make fiscal estimates for the creation, implementation, and administration of the proposed parent data portal. Delegate Carrie Coyner (R-Chesterfield) patroned companion House legislation. PASSED SENATE UNANIMOUSLY, 2/6/23.
- Brown v. Board of Education Scholarship (SB 1498) – McClellan and Senator Mamie Locke’s (D-Hampton) bill expands eligibility for the Brown v. Board of Education Scholarship Program. Currently, the only people eligible are those who lived 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. McClellan and Locke’s bill extend eligibility to direct descendents of those who meet those criteria. PASSED SENATE UNANIMOUSLY, 2/1/23
- Child Tax Credit Analysis (SB 1324) – McClellan and Senator Adam Ebbin’s (D-Alexandria) legislation requires the Joint Subcommittee on Tax Policy to conduct an analysis by November of options for tax credits and economic security payment programs to increase economic security for Virginia families. The Joint Subcommittee will analyze the impacts of a state-level child tax credit program, a child and dependent care tax credit, an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and other possible programs. Delegate Kathy Tran (D-Fairfax) patroned a companion House bill. PASSED SENATE UNANIMOUSLY, 2/6/23.
- Affordable Energy Act (SB 1321) – McClellan and Senator Creigh Deeds’ (D-Charlottesville) bill will establish accurate electricity prices and better protect Virginia consumers from being overcharged on their utility bills. The bill restores the State Corporation Commission’s historic authority to lower electric utility rates when the agency determines that customers will be overcharged. The 2023 legislative session is the last opportunity to restore the SCC’s authority to prevent customer overcharges before APCO’s rate review in 2023 and Dominion’s in 2024. Delegates Lee Ware (R-Powhatan) and Rip Sullivan (D-Fairfax) patroned a companion bill in the House. PASSED SENATE UNANIMOUSLY, 2/2/23
- Energy Efficiency Savings (SB 1323): McClellan and Senator Ghazala Hashmi’s (D-Chesterfield) bill improves energy efficiency programs to enable more Virginians to save money on their electricity bills. The bill creates a performance standard for energy efficiency programs for low-income, elderly, disabled and veteran customers to ensure they receive bill savings from weatherization upgrades. The bill also provides regulatory certainty for utility efficiency spending with permanent, annual energy efficiency performance targets, and ends restrictions on utility energy efficiency spending. PASSED SENATE UNANIMOUSLY, 2/3/23
- Constitutional Amendment for Reproductive Freedom (SJ 255) – McClellan and Senator Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax) introduced an amendment to the Constitution of Virginia to codifying the fundamental right to reproductive freedom, including the right to have an abortion – in line with the legal framework adopted by Roe v. Wade, Casey v. Planned Parenthood and Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt. It also would protect against the criminalization of pregnancy status, pregnancy outcomes and the punishment of providers as well as those assisting with standard reproductive healthcare. This process is a multi-year effort that must pass the General Assembly two years in a row with an intervening House election before letting the voters decide. Delegate Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) patroned the House companion. PASSED SENATE, 21-18, 2/7/23
- Cover All Kids (SB 1327) – Nearly 100,000 children in Virginia do not have health insurance, representing 4.9% of Virginia’s under-18 population. Sen. McClellan and Senator Adam Ebbin’s (D-Alexandria) Cover All Kids legislation will help close the gap of uninsured children by creating a health insurance program similar to the Family Access to Medical Insurance Security Plan for undocumented children, as recommended by the work group established by budget language in 2021. Delegate Kathy Tran (D-Fairfax) patroned a companion bill in the House. PASSED SENATE, 24-16, 2/7/23
- VCU Health System (SB 1499) – McClellan and Sen. Ghazala Hashmi’s (D-Chesterfield) bill provides greater flexibility in the appointment of the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System Authority’s chief executive officer. PASSED SENATE UNANIMOUSLY, 2/6/23
- Codifying CDFI Fund (SB 1320) – McClellan and Sen. Dave Marsden (D-Fairfax) patroned a bill to codify and recapitalize the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund. In 2021, McClellan carried a budget amendment creating the CDFI Fund with a mission of expanding 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. CDFI fund grantees have successfully closed 165 loans, resulting in the creation or retention of 314 jobs. SB 1320 would also expand eligibility requirements to include commercial real estate, housing development, and homeownership financing as eligible uses. Delegate Danny Marshall (R-Danville) patroned House companion legislation. PASSED SENATE UNANIMOUSLY, 2/2/23
- Cannabis Incubator (SB 1366) – Sen. McClellan and Sen. Barbara Favola’s (D-Arlington) bill establishes a framework for the creation of the Virginia Cannabis Incubator Project, to create incubators where disadvantaged and undercapitalized farmers, processors and aspiring entrepreneurs can obtain micro-grower, processor and retail licenses to start, cultivate, and scale their businesses. The bill creates a regulatory structure for the Incubator Project to be administered by the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority. The bill has a delayed effective date pending legalization of the manufacture, sale, and distribution of cannabis in the Commonwealth. PASSED SENATE, 24-16, 2/7/23
- Public Transit Infrastructure and Emissions Reduction (SB 1326) – McClellan and Senator Jeremy McPike (D-Prince William)’s bill will help modernize public transit infrastructure in Virginia by enabling Virginia’s Transit Ridership Incentive Program (TRIP) to utilize funding to improve bus safety and accessibility, and help transit agencies transition to zero-emission bus fleets. The infrastructure investments would include bus shelters, sidewalks and lighting. Zero-emissions bus investments would include supporting local planning initiatives, training programs for transit workforce and identifying charging infrastructure needs. Delegate Delores McQuinn (D-Richmond) patroned a companion House bill. PASSED SENATE, 22-18, 2/7/23
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
- Tribal Nation Consultation (SB 1323) – McClellan and Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta)’s bill codifies a 2021 gubernatorial executive order directing state permitting agencies to consult with Tribal Nations when evaluating state permit applications for activities with potential impacts to environmental, historic and cultural resources. Such consultation enables time for meaningful input from Tribal Nations about any potential environmental or cultural concerns regarding the proposed projects, and strengthens Virginia’s government-to-government relationship with Tribal Nations. Delegate Paul Krizek (D-Fairfax) patroned a companion House bill. PASSED SENATE UNANIMOUSLY, 2/3/23
- Healthy Communities Strategy (SB 1322) – McClellan and Senator Ghazala Hashmi’s (D-Chesterfield) bill allows Virginia localities to adopt a healthy communities strategy during their comprehensive plan review. A healthy communities strategy enables localities to identify sources of pollution and hazardous waste, and explore strategies to reduce health risks in impacted neighborhoods. Additionally, localities may encourage feedback from those impacted communities, and create a plan that incorporates strategies and programs that could target and improve the planning process. Delegates Shelly Simonds (D-Newport News) and Jackie Glass (D-Norfolk) patroned of House companion legislation. PASSED SENATE, 25-15, 1/26/23
- 14-Day Eviction Protection (SB 1330) – McClellan and Senator Mamie Locke’s (D-Hampton) bill will help Virginians avoid evictions by extending the window to pay rent plus late fees from five to 14 days. This 14-day window will enable tenants to catch up on rent before facing costly eviction proceedings. Landlords will receive the full amount of rent they are owed instead of spending additional money on court fees to get a judgment they may not be able to collect. Delegate Cia Price (D-Newport News) patroned a House companion bill. PASSED SENATE, 24-14, 1/24/23
- Inclusionary Zoning (SB 1331, incorporated into SB 1141) – McClellan and Senator Ghazala Hashsmi’s (D-Chesterfield) inclusionary housing bill authorizes any locality in the Commonwealth to provide for an affordable housing dwelling unit program by amending the locality’s zoning ordinance. Current law restricts such authorization to counties with an urban county executive form of government or county manager plan of government and certain other localities. The McClellan-Hashmi bill was incorporated into Senator Jeremy McPike’s (D-Prince William) similar affordable housing dwelling unit bill, SB 1141. INCORPORATED INTO SB 1141, WHICH PASSED SENATE, 23-17, 2/2/23
- Affordable Housing Access for Pet Owners (SB 1384) – McClellan and Senator Monty Mason’s (D-Williamsburg) bill increases access to affordable housing for pet owners. It prohibits Virginia’s housing redevelopment authorities from creating barriers for pet owners to find the affordable housing they need through arbitrary restrictions beyond those of local zoning ordinances. Delegate Angelia Williams Graves (D-Norfolk) patroned a House companion bill. PASSED SENATE, 30-10, 2/7/23
- Recall Reform (SB 1328) – In recent years, Virginia’s broad recall laws have been used as a political tool to undermine duly-elected officials and thwart the will of voters. Sen. McClellan and Sen. Jennifer Boysko’s (D-Fairfax) bill would reform the process to initiate a recall for an elected official. Specifically, the bill (i) increases the petition signature threshold from 10 to 30 percent of the total number of votes cast at the last election for the office that the officer holds; (ii) requires petition signatures to be collected within 90 days; and (iii) places a petition gathering blackout window between 75 days of a nomination contest for the relevant office through the next general election and 30 days after the start of the new term for that office. PASSED SENATE, 31-7, 2/3/23
- Conflict of Interest Training (SB 1460) – Sen. McClellan and Sen. Tommy Norment’s (R-James City) bill adds members of appointed school boards to the list of officials who must receive training on Virginia’s Conflict of Interest and Ethics laws. The bill also 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 McClellan and Norment serve. Del. Vivian Watts (D-Fairfax) patroned companion legislation in the House. PASSED SENATE UNANIMOUSLY, 2/6/23