POLICY POSITIONS AND LEGISLATIVE ACCOMPLISHMENTS
PUBLIC AND HIGHER EDUCATION
- Supports fully funding public education—including a complete study of our Standards of Quality, which are woefully out of date. He sponsored legislation to do this in 2019, and it was killed in Committee by Republicans.
- Supports pay raises for teachers and funding for them at a state level. This should not only be to obtain parity for teachers throughout Virginia, but we should be striving to lead nationally in teacher salaries.
- Supports increases to at-risk funding for schools and funding through the lottery, as well as through General Fund. At-risk funding should be prioritized over additional lottery funding, as we should be prioritizing funding for schools who have the most need. This includes most of the school districts in the 6th Senate District.
- Supports continuing to decrease the number of standardized tests required of students. Teachers should be able to teach to the student’s needs, not to a test.
- Supports decreasing the counselor:student ratio and advocated heavily for legislation to do this as well as full funding for it. This is a mental health issue and a school safety issue as well as sound school policy.
- Supports and has co-sponsored legislation to end the school-to-prison pipeline. Too many of our young people, especially young men and women of color, end up in our court system instead of receiving an education—and it is unacceptable.
- Supports increased funding for Pre-K and advocates heavily for equity in access to early childhood education. Access to early education is critical to outcomes.
- Supports investments in career and technical education and has supported legislation that increases access to these programs.
- Fighting for state investments in local school infrastructure, despite precedent being that local school districts be responsible for these costs. Co-sponsored legislation to this effect.
- Supports policy to make our schools safer and sponsored legislation to require local school boards to enter memorandums of understanding with local law enforcement as put forth by new state guidelines. MOUs should be public.
- Opposes using public funds for private schools (charter schools).
- Recognizes the burden of student loans is one of the most pressing fiscal problems of our time and supports addressing this at a state level
- Supports and fought for a tuition freeze for colleges and universities to keep tuition costs from escalating any more
- Supports seeking ways and reforms to make our world-class system of higher education more accessible across socioeconomic backgrounds
- Chair of Joint Subcommittee on Coastal Flooding and Adaptation
- Environmental Policy Liaison for the Senate Democratic Caucus
- Responsible for much of the successful policy that has passed in recent years regarding the environment as it pertains to Coastal Virginia, including:
- 2016 SB282 : Established Shoreline Resiliency Fund
- 2016 SB283: Fitting crab pots with turtle excluder device
- 2016 SB307: Allows for authorization of emergency beach restoration in case of weather event that was state or national emergency
- 2017 SB1518: Expands recycling programs to include beneficial use
- 2018 SB265: Created cabinet-level position (Special Assistant to the Governor on Coastal Flooding and Adaptation), resulting in the hiring of Rear Admiral Ann Phillips and a fully-developed Coastal Plan
- 2018 SJ21: Constitutional amendment to allow localities the ability to provide tax abatements to property owners who take flooding remediation efforts on existing properties. Passed on 2018 ballot and enabling legislation that set parameters passed in 2019.
- 2019 SB1559: Expands C-PACE loan program to include shoreline resiliency improvements
- 2019 SB1599: Protects vulnerable Eastern Shore aquifer and our groundwater supply through incentivized approach
- Opposes opening our waters to off-shore drilling AND seismic testing
- Supports carbon capping and has sponsored the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative for several years, but Republican majority has stymied this
- Supports moving away from plastic use, and has sponsored legislation to allow localities to ban or tax plastic bags
- Supports and has co-sponsored legislation to increase both commercial and residential access to solar energy
- Secured investments (Agricultural Best Management Practices) that helped farmers curb runoff pollution
- Supports recycling of coal ash to protect public health and our drinking water
- Supports increased funding for coastal resiliency, solutions to sea level rise, energy efficiency programs and green jobs
- Secured investments to study and restore oyster populations, resulting in a healthier Chesapeake Bay and, in some tributaries, full restoration or near-full restoration of the native oyster
VOTING AND CIVIL RIGHTS
- Supports and has sponsored legislation to repeal unnecessary and harmful Voter ID laws
- Supports and has co-sponsored legislation to enact no-excuse in-person absentee voting
- Supports restoration of voting rights to felons who have served their time
- Supports and co-sponsored Equal Rights Amendment
- Supports and co-sponsored legislation that would expand Virginia’s anti-discrimination in housing and employment laws to include gender identity and sexual orientation.
- Consistently sponsored and supported legislation to end partisan and political gerrymandering. Firmly believes that voters should pick their legislators, not the other way around.
- Opposes legislation that would allow any entity that takes taxpayer dollars to discriminate based on sexual orientation
- Fought for and successfully passed Medicaid Expansion, ensuring long-awaited healthcare access for an estimated 400,000 Virginians and saving rural hospitals across the state
- Supports greater access to and broader investments in mental health care and awareness in the Commonwealth
- Passed comprehensive legislation to address the opioid crisis; established regional overdose task force that is now established on the Eastern Shore
- Supports and has co-sponsored legislation to create and expand access to medicinal cannabis and supports a fully implemented medicinal marijuana program for the Commonwealth.
- Supports seeking ways to address the damage done by current Administration at federal level to health care affordability and accessibility
- Fought to make Eastern Shore Rural Health a designated care center for veterans, and will continue to fight for that designation and for the care that our veterans deserve
- Opposes piecemeal changes to Certificate of Public Need that could lead to less oversight in medical care and hospital closure
- Supports and helped pass legislation to end surprise billing by insurance companies
- Played and continues to play critical role in rural broadband deployment and expansion, fighting for prioritized funding and budget language changes to make grant funds more accessible
- Introduced and passed legislation to establish working waterfront economic development areas, allowing localities to incentivize investment and procure special zoning to cultivate much-needed working waterfronts, particularly in rural coastal areas
- Created and secured the initial seed funding for the Virginia Waterway Maintenance Fund, a fund that specifically addresses dire funding needs in rural coastal Virginia and waterways neglected by the US Coast Guard that have subsequently had their navigable markers removed. This legislation was a huge victory for rural coastal Virginia.
- Fought for inclusion of Northampton, Accomack and Mathews Counties in 2018 legislation that incentivizes investments by businesses that will create guaranteed high-paying jobs and will remain in those localities for a significant amount of time. After the inclusion of the rural counties in the 6th District, subsequently co-sponsored this critical rural development legislation.
- Long advocated for funding and policy that invests in and prioritizes the industries critical to the 6th District—industries like aquaculture, commercial fisheries, ecotourism, aerospace, trade, and forestry, as well as best management practices for farms and major investments in both the Port of Virginia and Wallops Flight Facility.
- Supported and fought for investments in the Eastern Shore Public Library, Eastern Shore Community College and Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital—all critical pieces of attracting and retaining businesses and workers
- Consistently fought for major structured investments in transportation infrastructure, roads and public transit, as well as working to address resiliency needs as it pertains to the regular flooding of roads in the 6th Senate District.
- Expanding both the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, projects that are long-overdue
- Recognized as an advocate specifically for small and locally-owned businesses in Hampton Roads and on the Eastern Shore
- Sponsored incentives for resiliency in building and business practices for commercial properties
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
- Fighting to end school-to-prison pipeline
- Supports and has co-sponsored decriminalization of marijuana
- Supports and co-sponsored legislation to end the harmful practice of suspending driver’s licenses for nonpayment of court fees
- Supports body cameras for law enforcement officers
- Supports targeted investments and prison reform that will substantially decrease recidivism rates
- Supported raising the felony threshold to $500 in 2018 and continues to support increasing threshold to $1000
- Supports reform of cash bail system in Virginia
- Supports banning the box to prevent discrimination in employment
- Supports increased minimum wage, with preference given to the Congressman Bobby Scott model: an increase to $15/hour over four years with an appropriate carve-out for small businesses—the same that has been done in many other states.
- Supports collective bargaining rights of workers
- Supports investments in workforce training programs, especially for transitioning veterans
- Supports transparency in pay for workers receiving debit cards rather than paper checks
- Supports regulation of payday lenders
- Opposes changing the current 1:1 ratio of journeyman to apprentices
- Supports investments and incentives to attract medical and educational professionals to areas of high-need and with high-turnover (ie, student loan forgiveness)
- Supports continued increased investments in Housing Trust Fund in order to address a growing affordable housing crisis
- Helped pass and will continue to support legislative reforms that address the exorbitant eviction rate in Virginia, particularly in Richmond and Hampton Roads
- Supports and is focusing on addressing major infrastructure needs that inhibit new building or create barriers to existing improvements, like outdated sewer systems and aging water infrastructure.
- Supports investments in programming to educate Virginians as it pertains to housing accessibility and affordability
- Supports investments in energy efficiency and home rehabilitation efforts, both of which are sorely needed in rural Virginia and amongst a growing senior population
- Supports incentives that encourage developers to both (a) resilient and (b) rent to residents from mixed incomes
- Supports utilizing nearby intellectual capital (like ESCC, ODU, NASA, TCC) to extract innovative ideas for building and resiliency
- Supports a woman’s right to access reproductive care and believes that all decisions regarding her care should be between a woman and her doctor
- Supports universal background checks on all guns purchased in the Commonwealth
- Supports red flag laws
- Opposes arming teachers
- Supports legislation to address food insecurities and food deserts
- Supports “hands free” legislation—Virginia has the highest rate of distracted driving in the country
- Supports in-state tuition for DACA recipients
- Supports Family and Medical Leave Act
- Recognizes critical problems within our current foster care system and supports reforms
- Supports new regulations and laws to address proliferation of elderly financial abuse; sponsored legislation to create elder abuse registry that was cost prohibitive and working in the interim to ensure the legislation that will be newly introduced (if elected) in 2020 can be implemented as intended