Fairfax County’s state lawmakers file bills for higher teacher pay, campaign finance reform and more

Virginia State Capitol in Richmond (via Doug Kerr/Flickr)

As the Virginia General Assembly convenes this week for its 2023 session, local lawmakers hope to pass bills highlighting campaign finance reforms, raising teacher pay, paid sick leave, and other issues.

The General Assembly will meet in Richmond on Wednesday (Jan. 11) for a 46-day session lasting until Feb. 25, though special and reconvened sessions later in the year are possible.

Members have been allowed to pre-file bills since November, and Fairfax County’s delegation held a public hearing on Saturday (Jan. 7) where community members shared their thoughts on what should be prioritized.

Members have until Wednesday morning to pre-file bills.

Facing a divided General Assembly, with Republicans controlling the House of Delegates and Democrats holding the Senate, local representatives likely won’t see all of their bills become law, but here are 12 proposals worth noting:

Campaign finance reform

  • Limit political donations to $20,000: Introduced by Sen. Chap Petersen (D-34), SB 803 would prohibit individuals from making a single donation to anyone vying for state office for more than $20,000.
  • Prohibit contributions from public utilities: Also filed by Petersen, SB 804 would prohibit candidates from accepting contributions from any public utility company. Petersen has introduced versions of this bill before but hasn’t succeeded in getting it passed.
  • Prohibit personal use of campaign funds: The potential new law HB 1552, introduced by Del. Marcus Simon (D-53), would ban candidates from using campaign funds for personal use, something that’s already prohibited in many other states.

Education 

  • Alternative learning assessments in schools: SB 819, pre-filed by Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31), aims to allow each local school district “to use any nationally recognized, research-based assessment or screener” as an alternative to Virginia Department of Education-approved tests. This comes after new state-proposed history standards were rejected by the Board of Education in November. Revised draft standards were released Friday (Jan. 6).
  • Higher teacher compensation: Del. Kaye Kory (D-38) is co-introducing HB 1497, which calls for state funding to be used to compensate public school teachers at or above the national average. Currently, the average pay for teachers in Virginia is about $7,000 below the national average.

Gun Control

  • Unattended firearms in motor vehicles: SB 901, introduced by Sen. Dave Marsden (D-37), would make it illegal to leave a firearm unattended in a motor vehicle unless it’s locked up in its own compartment or container.

Health care

  • Prohibit warrants for menstrual health data: SB 852 would prohibit the issuing of warrants for the search and seizure of any device containing digital information related to menstrual health data. Filed by Favola, the bill addresses fears from some that period-tracking apps could be used against someone considering an abortion.
  • Paid sick leave for health care and grocery store workers: Introduced by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36), SB 886 would require health care and grocery store employers to provide paid sick leave. As noted in the bill, current law only requires paid sick leave for some home health care workers. A version of this bill passed the Senate last year but failed in the House.
  • Treatment for “problem gambling“: With sports gambling now legal in Virginia, Del. Paul Krizek (D-44) is proposing HB 1465, which would establish a committee to help “reduce the negative effects of problem gambling.”

Rights 

  • Bars insurrectionists from holding public official: Del. Dan Helmer (D-40) is introducing HB 1562 to bar those “convicted of participating in an insurrection” from ever holding a position of “public trust.”
  • ASL interpreters in courtrooms: Surovell’s SB 814 lets the court appoint a certified American Sign Language interpreter itself for the courtroom.
  • No arrest for assault on law enforcement in mental health emergency: HB 1561 from Del. Vivian Watts (D-39) exempts individuals from being arrested or prosecuted for assaulting a law enforcement officer if they’re experiencing a mental health emergency. A study done last year showed that about 10% of those charged with assault on law enforcement officers had a history of mental illness.

Transportation 

  • Pedestrian signals apply to bicycles and scooters: Favola’s SB 847 calls for pedestrian control signals to also apply to those riding bicycles, mopeds, electric bikes, scooters, and all other forms of electric motor transportation. A companion bill is being filed by Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48) in the House.

Photo via Doug Kerr/Flickr

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