Monday, the First Lady Came to Arlington.
Monday morning, it was my honor to join the First Lady of Virginia at the Oakridge Elementary School in the Arlington portion of our District to highlight the school's work on increasing access to breakfast through Breakfast in the Classroom. The First Lady has championed this program for our youngest (and perhaps our hungriest) students to keep them focused on learning.
Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe, visiting Oakridge Elementary School. In the foreground is the Principal, Dr. Lynne Wright
And Monday night, I saw many of you at the Alexandria Democratic Committee monthly meeting. Our meetings have doubled in size since the election!
Tuesday, I was Sent Off to Richmond.
Tuesday night, Dr. Kate Tulenko hosted a fundraiser "sending me off to Richmond," featuring our Congressman Don Beyer in her beautiful Belle View home. It was my first fundraiser in the Fairfax County portion of our district, and many people from the neighborhood came, including some I'd never met before. We had a full house of more than 60 supporters, with the kind of energetic and intricate policy and political discussions that Congressman Beyer and I so enjoy having with our engaged and well-informed constituents. Thank you so much, Kate and Don!
Explaining my bills Listening to Congressman Beyer
Our hostess, Dr. Kate Tulenko and an event leader, Julian Joshua
More than a dozen of us stayed after to watch President Obama's farewell speech.
Many openly shed tears.
That night, after the event, I left for Richmond and arrived about 2 am. I had to get up just a few hours later, because...
Wednesday, our legislative session began.
On Wednesday, January 11 at noon sharp, the General Assembly began its legislative session. I am proud to represent the 45th district and to fight for our shared progressive values.
Selfie from the Floor
of the House of Delegates
The view from my seat
That evening, Governor McAuliffe delivered his State of the Commonwealth Address. I hope you had a chance to see it. The Governor focused on key issues that impact Virginia, including good-paying jobs, education, economic development, and civil rights. He sent a strong signal that under his leadership, Virginia would be open for business to the world.
This was my view during the Governor's speech.
Following the address, the entire Legislature was invited to the Governor's Mansion for a reception. I love working with Terry.
Governor Terry McAuliffe and Delegate Mark Levine
Thursday, I planned the Virginia Transparency Caucus
Senator Amanda Chase (R) and I met to discuss this year's plans for the Virginia Transparency Caucus. As the only bi-partisan, bi-cameral caucus in the General Assembly, Amanda and I founded VTC last year to make the proceedings in Richmond more accessible to the public. We are both committed to videotaping all of the committee and subcommittee hearings on our bills and posting them online for constituents to reference. And this year, we are proud to offer this same service to all interested members of the VTC.
Delegate Mark Levine (D) and Senator Amanda Chase (R)
Founders of the Virginia Transparency Caucus
Our efforts last year bore substantial fruit this year, as the non-profit advocacy group, Progress Virginia, has committed to join us in our efforts and will provide 17 additional interns to videotape as much as 75% of all the committees and subcommittee hearings in the General Assembly.
Thank you so much to Progress Virginia for helping us to increase transparency in the General Assembly. It's so important for interested constituents to see exactly how bills get debated, amended, or killed in committee without having to make a long travel on a moment's notice to Richmond.
And attended a Press Conference for the House Democratic Caucus
We Democrats spent about half an hour talking about critical legislation focused on jobs, economic development, the minimum wage, education, job training, and equal pay for women.
Meanwhile, Republicans in the General Assembly hosted a competing Press Conference, spending more an hour talking about how government agents should police bathrooms.
I will vote against the Republicans' overweening intrusion into our private lives (and private parts!), and I'm confident, if such a bill should pass, that Governor McAuliffe would veto it and that we have enough Democratic votes to sustain his veto.
Friday, I spent most of the day going over the texts and planning out strategy for the thirteen bills (and a constitutional amendment, a budget amendment, and a study) I have introduced so far.
With session starting, I've been working hard to set my legislative agenda for 2017. Delegates are capped at 15 bills this year (plus amendments and studies), so I have to make sure to pick the best. The bills I've introduced so far include: 1) paid family leave; 2) a bill of rights for victims of sexual assault; 3) protecting children from abusive parents; 4) banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity; 5) raising more revenue for Northern Virginia's transportation needs; 6) allowing cancer patients to use medical marijuana; 7) guaranteeing that voting recounts are performed accurately with hand counts; 8) helping localities implement body camera policies for fairness and transparency in law enforcement; 9) giving the public a bigger say in towing issues; 10) increasing support for local law libraries; and 11 and 12) helping provide broadband to underserved areas (both study and budget amendment). I've also proposed 13) a constitutional amendment to allow future Governors of Virginia to serve a second consecutive term. We are currently the only state in the USA that does not allow this.
And, as if that weren't enough to keep me busy, I'm planning to introduce more bills next week to regulate predatory lenders, keep guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists, and protect free political expression, along with one more surprise bill that I'm sure you'll support. I'll have more updates each week on our progress. I'm under no illusions about how challenging it will be to pass some of these bills in the Republican-led General Assembly, but that's not going to stop me from making the case and standing up for our values. And of course, every time a bill of mine is brought up for discussion in a committee or on the floor, I'll post the video in the weekly newsletter, on my Facebook page, and on my YouTube page.
And I Joined with LGBT Elected Officials Across the Nation to Demand the New President-Elect Respect LGBT Rights!
I joined 156 LGBT elected officials across the country in signing an open letter to the President-Elect demanding he respect the rights of LGBT Americans of every race, ethnicity and religion. I was proud to sign this letter, an unprecedented show of collective power from open LGBT leaders from coast to coast, as we joined together to fight to promote equality for all communities during the next administration.
Please consider taking a moment to read the letter and share it with the hashtag #OutPower. We want to ensure the President-elect hears our collective voice and demand for equality.
And that's not all from my very busy first week of only three days in Richmond...
Delegate Patrick Hope and I had a meeting with Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur and Major Bruce Black (shown here in the right picture).
Like most members of the General Assembly, I attended the annual Agribusiness Dinner (pictured on the left). While we have very few farms and forests in our district (if any!), they are a very important business for the Commonwealth.
While in Richmond, we have lots of different interest and constituent groups coming in to see my staff and me on an almost hourly basis. We always visit with constituents, and we try to meet as many other people as possible to hear all sides of the issues presented to the General Assembly. Come down and say hello!