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We have made it to the half-way point of this year’s legislative session. Starts and stops are customary for the day leading up to Crossover. The member with the least seniority is tasked with purchasing pizza for the entire chamber. No matter the party affiliation, this is our moment where we sit down together as colleagues and have lunch together.
 
Late into the evening on Monday of last week, there were a lot of debates and points of views on the remaining bills. The Republicans vigorously defended their views, and the Democrats defended their side as well. In the end, after 9 hours, at 7:17pm, we had completed all work on the House bills and were sending them over to the Senate.
 
One of my bills was heard this week in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee. HB 1343, the bill that will allow an employer to use the services of an employee, who is also a notary, as a part of his or her responsibilities in the business, successfully passed out of the committee with a substitute on a 13-2 vote. The substitute simply added in the code "unless the notarial act for which the fee is charged is performed during the course of such employee's employment".
As a co-patron on the bill to raise the felony larceny threshold, I am pleased to announce we passed a key longtime priority for Democrats by raising the felony larceny threshold from $200 to $500. Virginia’s felony bar has not been raised since 1980 and is tied with New Jersey for the lowest in the nation. Raising the threshold has been a major criminal justice reform focus for Democrats for at least two decades. In 1999, then-Delegate Brian Moran introduced a bill to increase the threshold, versions of which have been introduced by Democrats for seven out of the last eight years. Raising the felony larceny threshold allows a chance for people who may have had an impulsive decision not to have a felony record for the rest of their lives.
The most contentious bill with which we had to contend was the electric utility “rate freeze” repeal-also known as the “Dominion Bill”. When the bill was first introduced in 2015, I was opposed to the bill because I thought it was bad for consumers. After support from the governor, several amendments, help for those using the Energy share program and assistance in winterizing homes, I supported the bill on final passage.
 
Fast forward to 2017, we learned that Dominion had $400 million in excess earning in 2016 alone. Several bills were introduced to repeal the rate freeze. Most of them were defeated as focus moved to how the over earning could be returned to customers.
 
The bill continues to move through the legislative process. I meet with many individuals every day to determine the best course for my constituents. There have been many concessions made as the bill moves forward. I can see many benefits in supporting this new bill. I just want to keep an open mind as we work out the remaining issues.
Valentine's Day at the Capitol is the chance for us to finally exhale. Crossover has come and gone and now we can relax a little. As his gift, Governor Northam gave kettle corn to the delegates, senators, and all those around Capitol Square. It was just enough to satisfy a salt and sugar craving!
On their annual “Caravan to Richmond” day, the 200+ Men of Hampton Roads visited the Capitol this week. This civic education initiative exposes teens to the legislative process. Young men from area high schools, with 200+ mentors and chaperones, visited state lawmakers and were able to witness and experience the legislative process.

For more information on 200+ Men of Hampton Roads, click here.
Members from the Denbigh House came to advocate for Virginia Alliance of Brain Injury Service Providers legislature needs. The Denbigh House offers community based services geared towards survivors of brain injury. An acquired brain injury includes traumatic injury, as well as stroke or lack of oxygen. Because it affects balance, mobility, communications, attention, and other aspects of life, Denbigh House focuses on helping each member achieve his or her own individual goals.
 
The budget amendments support in-state neurobehavioral care, cost of living adjustment, and to provide specialized community based case management services to 1500 people with moderate to severe brain injuries across the Commonwealth. 
Rebecca Ruck from Virginia Childhood Cancer visited my office to discuss the statistics of childhood cancer in Hampton Roads and across the state of Virginia. Please visit this link for more information on where children are treated, the top needs in our community for pediatric cancer patients and survivors, and why children with cancer need our support.
Bill Thomas, Associate Vice President of Hampton University Office of Governmental Relations called a press conference to discuss budget amendment HB 30 item 252 #2h. This would allow $2,500,000 the first year and $2,500,000 the second year from the general fund to be appropriated to Hampton University for cancer research. Delegate Yancey joined me in this conference discussing the importance of this budget amendment.
The Girl Scouts hosted their annual meet and greet to update legislators on all the amazing things Girl Scouts are doing in the communities we serve. I had an opportunity to talk to one of the Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast, who represented the region I serve. It was great to hear Girl Scouts supporting policy efforts to increase girls' involvement in STEM, strengthen financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills.
It was nice to see constituents from the 92nd House District at the Capitol last week. Lieutenant Alonzo Cherry and Deputy John Williams were representing the City Hampton on the Virginia Sheriffs' Association Deputy Sheriffs' Day. The sheriffs were advocating for increasing the deputy salary, increasing the courthouse and courtroom security fee, and increasing the principal officers' salary.
Brent Woodhouse, systems engineer and digital transformer from Newport News Shipbuilding, spoke at the Hampton Roads Caucus meeting this week. He educated the caucus on the new digital innovation to building U.S. Navy ships. To understand and fully get the visual of how this works, click here to view the video.

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


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