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Committee assignments have been made and work has begun. I am proud to say that for the 2018 Session I am continuing my work as the ranking Democrat on Commerce and Labor, General Laws, and Transportation. I am also still serving on the Rules Committee. Perhaps you are curious to know the responsibilities of each committee: 

Commerce and Labor Committee: Responsible for creating jobs, promoting economic growth, encouraging sustainable development and improving standards of living for all Virginians. The committee also develops legislation to promote and develop the well being of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of Virginia; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.

Transportation Committee: Responsible for issues relating to highway safety, regulation of intrastate common carriers including railroads, buses, trucks, vessels, pipelines, and civil aviation. Also included is jurisdiction on issues to inland waterways and any other means of transportation.

General Laws Committee: has cognizance of all matters relating to the Department of Consumer Protection, fair trade and sales practices, consumer protection, mobile homes and occupational licensing, except licensing by the Department of Public Health; and all matters relating to alcoholic beverages.
Last Monday began in a burst of orange.  We celebrated Multiple Sclerosis Advocacy Day at the Capitol. The Virginia Chapters of the National MS Society hosted its annual MS State Action Day. Because I have been living with its challenges for 24 years, I had the honor of introducing the MS warriors from the house floor and giving a few facts about the disease. Even my neurologist, Dr. Kermit Lloyd, joined the MS warriors as they lobbied the legislature in support of legislation that would help those living with debilitating diseases.

Multiple Sclerosis is an incurable unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.

MS affects more than 12,000 Virginians. The National MS Society advocates for the expansion of health coverage to the thousands of Virginians who are in the coverage gap to ensure people have access to the resources and healthcare they need. In doing so, it would give Virginian’s living with MS a better quality of life.
Students from Hampton University came to discuss their support of the bills backed by the Women’s Equality Coalition. They emphasized their desire to see  SB421, HB40/SB736 passed. These bills would provide paid family and medical leave insurance programs as well as paid sick leave for Virginia’s working families.
I have submitted three budget amendments this session, and one of them came before the Higher Education Appropriation Subcommittee this week. 252 #2h under HB 30 is an amendment requesting $2.5 Million in funds from the Higher Education Research Initiative for Hampton University’s Proton Therapy Institute. The institute uses proton irradiation to treat prostate cancer as well as pediatric cancers, brain, head, and neck cancers, and other cancers which require treatment that spares more of the healthy tissue surrounding the tumor. Cancer is a statewide concern, and Hampton Roads leads the nation in prostate cancer deaths. In fact, African American males lead the world in prostate cancer incidences and proton radiation therapy is often the best option for treatment. The funding would be used to support research to allow more progressive and effective treatments at the Proton Therapy Institute.  
Hampton School Board Chair, Jason Samuels, stopped by my office to discuss his vision for education in both our city and the state. He was visiting during the School Board Association’s lobby day. Each school board member visited their legislator.

Virginia School Board Association is a voluntary, nonpartisan organization of Virginia School Boards. It promotes excellence in public education through advocacy, training, and services. We had a wonderful conversation.  We seem to agree on many issues.  It was a fruitful visit.  
This week was the first of many breakfasts the Governor will host for members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus. We have an opportunity to discuss with the governor any issues of importance to the people we represent.  Members of his cabinet are also in attendance to answer questions in any specific area.   
It was a joy to sit down with the Urban League Hampton Roads Young Professionals. The National Urban League Young Professionals (NULYP) is a National Urban League volunteer auxiliary that targets young professionals to empower their communities and change lives through the Urban League Movement. Their movement aims to enable African Americans to secure economic self-reliance, parity, power, and civil rights. Their day of advocacy at the Capitol allowed them to address issues related to their movement, which include: student loan relief, college affordability, black business contract procurement, increasing the felony threshold, decriminalization of marijuana, trade school/training apprenticeships, reduction of standardized testing, and Medicaid expansion.
Wednesday, I had an opportunity to speak at a press conference on HB1259 which repeals language in the Code of Virginia that discriminates against tip workers. It currently bars these workers from minimum wage protections. For example, a waiter or waitress who is subject to making a minimum of $2.13 per hour, as long as he/she is able to accrue $30 in tips per month, are barred from the minimum wage protection. This bill will change that.
I joined Delegate Marcia Price as she introduced HB581, which calls for a special election if there is a tie in a recount. Delegate Price explained the reason for introducing this legislation was due to feedback from citizens across the Commonwealth stating the current process was unfair. She made it clear, saying, “It is not just about the previous election and its outcome.” She emphasized it had everything to do with fighting against disenfranchisement and allowing for the decision to lie not with luck, not with elected leaders, but with the people. “It is about respecting the voices and votes of citizens and their ability to choose their representative,” she concluded. For details on this bill, please click here.
If it’s Thursday, it’s time for the Hampton Roads Caucus Meeting. Kevin Page, from the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission, reported that HRTAC has $1.6 billion projects under agreement. Out of that $1.6 Billion, $1.23 billion of HRTAC funded projects are for Hampton Roads.

Diana Burke, from the Virginia Beach Hotel Association, spoke to us about the negative implications of offshore drilling for the community as well as to the military.

James Toscano with Partners for College Affordability spoke about the importance of keeping colleges affordable.   
The student government association from Old Dominion University visited this week. They expressed their gratitude for having been included for $15 million in the governor’s budget related to the operating funds and financial aid. They were also proud to share the university had achieved its highest graduation rate this past year at 54%. It also has the second highest percentage of STEM graduates among the Commonwealth’s doctoral institutions, is first in the number of students of color, is second in the number of community colleges students accepted, and is the first in the number of military students enrolled. They were beaming with pride.  
My colleagues and I held a press conference about education bills we are carrying this session. I spoke about by bills HB317, HB320, and HB334. These bills are recommendations from the Task Force on Diversifying the Educator Pipeline, which  the Secretary of Education’s office convened last year. The Task Force found that 4,702 teachers were provisionally licensed in 2012-13, and only 3,553 (75.6 percent) of those teachers had met the requirements for full licensure within the three years.

The Task Force also studied the issue of diversifying the educator pipeline. We learned that 50% of our students identify as being a minority, yet only 20% of our teachers identify as being a minority. Research has also shown that ALL students perform better throughout their schooling, if they have had teachers from diverse backgrounds.

This led us to believe that if we could address the issues that may have prevented the other 24% from meeting all requirements, regardless of their ethnicity, we could begin to address the teacher shortage. To view the press conference in its entirety, click here
It is my privilege to serve as your voice in the House of Delegates. As always, please don't hesitate to reach out to my office with any questions are concerns you may have. 

All the best, 
Delegate Jeion (ja-WAN) Ward 
Copyright © 2018 Jeion Ward for Delegate, All rights reserved.

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