We’re nearly done! Today is Sine Die, the day when the General Assembly completes its 2020 legislative session.

There were a lot of late nights and extra cups of coffee, but all worth it. I am so proud of what we were able to accomplish this session in the new majority. We were able to pass common-sense gun legislation, ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, expand access to the voting booth, protect reproductive rights, combat climate change, and so much more. This is a great start to our new majority, and I know that next session we are going to accomplish even more. Please take a look below at our accomplishments on this final week:

Bills signed by the Governor

Governor Northam signed 68 bills into law this past week, and we are so proud to have been a part of it. The General Assembly worked very hard the last 60 days to ensure that the right legislation was able to be passed to better our Commonwealth and communities. Here are a few of the exciting bills that were signed by the Governor: 

HB 386: This legislation outlaws the harmful and controversial practice of “conversion therapy” for minors, which attempts to forcibly change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. “This bill will make our state government more equitable and welcoming to all,” said Governor Northam. “We want to make Virginia the best state in the nation to live, work, and raise a family—this measure helps get us there.” This bill passed both the House and the Senate and was signed and approved by the Governor on March 2nd. Link to bill: click here

HB 587: This bill requires that space and equipment for changing babies is included when the Department of General Services develops plans for new state buildings. The bill defines "baby changing facility" as a table or other device suitable for changing the diaper of a child age three or younger. This bill passed both the House and the Senate and was signed and approved by the Governor on March 2nd. Link to bill: click here

HB 277: This bill was a priority for the administration. HB 277 advances criminal justice reform by allowing currently incarcerated individuals to earn credit toward paying off fines and costs through community work. Under current law, that credit was only allowed for community work done before or after incarceration. This is a huge forward moving step for our Commonwealth when it comes to justice reform! This bill passed both the House and the Senate and was signed and approved by the Governor on March 2nd. Link to bill: click here

Bills acted on by the General Assembly

The General Assembly is working on some other very notable legislation. A lot of bills have not been agreed on yet by both the House and the Senate, and are heading to conference committees. Conference committees are formed when the House and Senate both pass a bill, but cannot come to an agreement on the specific language. A select group of lawmakers from both chambers meet to try and iron out the differences. A conference report is then made after the discussions, and both chambers vote on the agreed upon language.

HB 1017: This bill creates the Commonwealth of Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority (the Authority) to oversee and support research, development, and commercialization, as well as related investment and seed-stage funding, in the Commonwealth. Existing grant, loan, and investment funds currently administered by the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority and the Virginia Research Investment Committee would be consolidated under the Authority, and the Authority would be responsible for developing an Innovation Index for the Commonwealth. This bill is currently in conference. Link to bill: click here

HB 1255: This bill reforms archaic standards in Virginia by providing criteria by which Congressional and State legislative districts are to be drawn. This criteria particularly protects racial and ethnic fairness and promotes the consideration of similar social, cultural, and economic interests within communities during the drawing of the districts. HB 1255 passed the General Assembly and is on its way to the Governor’s desk. Link to bill: click here

HB 1251/SB 172: These two identical bills, patroned by Del. Luke Torian and Sen. Barbara Favola respectively, will protect Virginia’s patients from surprise medical bills. This balance billing fix will ensure Virginians can go to the doctor or have medical procedures without having to worry about surprise medical costs they did not expect! Link to HB 1251: click here. Link to SB 172: click here

SB 851: This bill, known commonly as the Virginia Clean Economy Act, establishes a schedule by which Virginia’s regulated utilities are required to retire electric generating units located in the Commonwealth that emit carbon as a byproduct of combusting fuel to generate electricity. In turn, they are required to construct, acquire, or enter into agreements to purchase generating capacity located in the Commonwealth using renewable energy. This bill lays out a path towards zero carbon emissions by 2045. After countless hours of negotiations with environmental groups, businesses, and everyone else in between, this huge pro-environmental bill just passed the General Assembly last night, and is on its way to the Governor’s desk! Link to bill: click here

Actions on My Bills this Week

HB 201: This landmark bill would eliminate the arbitrarily set voting registration deadline and would enable voters to register to vote up to and on election day! For too long, Virginia has been one of the most difficult states to vote in. This bill, along with the other voting rights bills passed this year, will help alleviate this very troubling concern. The conference report for this bill just passed both chambers, and it is headed to the Governor's desk! Link to bill: click here

HB 1092: HB 1092 passed both the House and the Senate and is also on it’s way to the Governor's desk! This bill will clarify and reorganize parts of the code related to DMV records. While much of it is technical, it will go a long way in streamlining a lot of the DMV’s operations. Link to bill: click here

HB 1641: This bill is another one that’s on it’s way to the Governor! HB 1641 would require utilities that own or operate a coal ash pond to complete a survey of drinking water wells within 1.5 miles of these ponds by Oct. 1st, 2020 and to notify residents about the survey. Link to bill: click here

HB 1642: This bill will soon be signed by the Governor! HB 1642 is the companion bill to HB 1641 and also relates to coal ash ponds. This bill would require utilities to test the water quality near coal ash ponds. If the water does not meet certain standards, the utility would take the necessary steps to provide alternative water supplies. This is a big step forward for clean water and our environment! Link to bill: click here

If you’d like to see all of my bills from the 2020 legislative session, please click here!

In the News

One of my bills that passed the General Assembly last week, HB 775, was featured on Pensions and Investments! This bill would direct Virginia529 to study how the Commonwealth could help give access to private employees retirement plans if they do not already have access to such plans currently through their employers. You can take a look at the article here.

House Page Debate

Every year, the participants of the House page program end their session with a capstone. The program capstone is a mock legislative session, a one-hour debate in which the students demonstrate what they learned about the legislative process. Pages switched roles with legislators to openly debate bills that the pages themselves came up with!

Legislators served the mock floor session in a page-like capacity. The students did such a great job preparing for their debates, and many did extensive research before presenting their proposed legislation. They truly are the future of our commonwealth and will be amazing leaders one day.

The House page program is a great opportunity for our young students to truly be a part of the democratic process in Richmond. If you know of a 13 or 14 year old student who would like to participate in this unique experience during the 2021 session, please contact our office! More information on the page program can be found here.

Election Day

This week, we had Super Tuesday! We had a record breaking voter turnout in our Commonwealth and I commend those of you who took part in your civic duty and went out and voted! Virginia’s Democratic Primary turnout this year was nearly double what we saw in 2016. With 100% of precincts reporting, nearly 1.3 million people went out and voted on Tuesday. That is such a huge increase from the roughly 780,000 people who voted in the 2016 Democratic Primary, and the 986,000 from 2008 which previously held the biggest voter turnout record. I am so happy that so many people participated and I love seeing our voters so involved! 

NVRC - Coronavirus Notice

As I am sure many of you have already heard, our state, and country, is on the watch to ensure we protect against the recent strain of the Coronavirus. Our Commonwealth will take the necessary steps to combat this respiratory illness, but you can take measures to make sure you and those around you are safe. More information on the Coronavirus as well as important local health department resources can be found on the Northern Virginia Regional Commission website here.

Emergency Contact Information

While we enjoy this time of year with our family and friends, it is always important to make sure we stay safe from inclement weather or any other danger.

Here is a link to Prince William County’s Emergency Services: PWC Emergency Link 

Additionally, you can find information on Prince William County school delays, closures or emergencies here: PWCS Closure, Delays, and Emergencies 

Winter Travel updates, suggestions and contact information: VDOT Winter Travel

NVRC Homeless Shelter List

Many of us aren’t so fortunate to enjoy the comforts the rest of us have. Things like shelter may be something a lot of folks don’t think about, but for many who don’t have stable access to it, it can very literally be life or death.

The winter months can be especially brutal to the homeless in our community. The Northern Virginia Regional Commission has updated their Homeless Services List. If you know someone who doesn’t have a home and needs shelter ASAP, please use their website to gain more information about homeless shelters in the region. You can visit the website here.

Thank you for your continued support!

I am so humbled to have been re-elected by the 51st District. I will continue to fight for you and keep the trust you have placed in me. As always, my door will be open to you should you need it. Thank you again for your support.

I take my legislative cues from you, the constituents who I represent every time I take a vote in Richmond. Your voice is an integral part of the 51st District’s well-being and betterment.

It is the honor of my lifetime to serve you, Looking forward to seeing you out and about in Prince William County! 

Sincerely, 

Hala Ayala