As the Founder and Co-Chair of the Virginia Environment & Renewable Energy Caucus, I am proud to have helped lead the fight over the last several years for more progressive and aggressive environmental protection initiatives and legislation. Along those lines, I have worked tirelessly to push for increased renewable energy initiatives in Virginia. As I have said for years, Virginia should be the leader in the Mid-Atlantic for renewable energy—solar in the Valley, wind off the coast, hydrokinetic in our rivers, and energy efficiency improvements in our state buildings. We are unnecessarily leaving tens of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue on the table every year. Environmental protection and embracing renewable energy are about protecting our future by keeping our communities safe and sustainable for many generations to come.
In the General Assembly, I have introduced and worked on several bills to expand voting rights and access to all citizens of the Commonwealth. This past session, I pushed a bill that would have instituted automatic voter registration for any Virginia citizen who updates their address information at the DMV. In 2018, I was the patron of a bill to allow Virginians between the ages of 16-17 to pre-register to vote before they turn 18, so that they become automatically registered upon their 18th birthday. Though each of these measures failed on party lines, I have been proud to work across the aisle to pass reforms that benefit Virginians across the state, including expanding access to no-excuse absentee voting, which was enacted this session. Though we still have much work to be done on this issue, I am committed to expanding voter access and breaking down the legal and societal barriers to voting that have depressed voter participation and turnout for decades.
This session, after many years of fierce debate about gerrymandering and redistricting reform, the General Assembly finally passed a constitutional amendment that would establish an independent redistricting commission. Though this proposal is far from perfect—I would prefer to remove the influence of politicians from the redistricting process entirely—it is a great leap toward establishing true democratic reform in Virginia and ensuring that no political party has the power to choose its voters. As a constitutional amendment, it must be reconsidered a second time during the 2020 session before then being put to a statewide vote. I will continue to work for a truly apolitical, independent redistricting process as we move forward.
In my capacity as a member of the House of Delegates, I have strongly supported gun violence prevention efforts and have been the patron or co-patron of several bills to address sensible gun violence prevention in Virginia, including bills to:
- Close the "default proceed" loophole;
- Making it at least a Class 1 misdemeanor to allow a child under the age of 5 to use or have access to a firearm;
- Pass Universal Background checks in Virginia; and,
- Limit high-capacity magazines.
Gun violence is an epidemic in Virginia and I will continue to push for common-sense solutions like these until they are the law of the Commonwealth.
I will continue working to address the real-world impacts of Amazon’s HQ2 arrival on the 49th District – especially in the areas of increased investment in the Virginia Affordable Housing Trust Fund (VHTF) and improved transit options and infrastructure. We are in the midst of a growing crisis as it relates to housing affordability and transportation/transit. I’m proud to have passed the bill creating the VHTF and to have significantly increased funding over the years. However, more needs to be done before the VHTF has the full funding it truly needs. In order to address increased traffic congestion we need to expand our public transit systems and invest further in our transportation infrastructure.
I was motivated to run to protect the lives of the unborn, and I will, but the biggest priority for this 49th District is a close tie between traffic congestion, affordable housing, and the opioid epidemic. The top priority will be to reduce vehicular congestion and carbon emissions from transportation sources by creating more rail transportation, coordinated bus route revision, bikeways - entire streets devoted to cyclists, and areas open only to pedestrian traffic.
Affordable housing should be created through dedicated zoning for such near transportation hubs, thus reducing traffic congestion and commuting time for lower-wage workers, and providing efficient routes to more distant and expensive housing. Tradeoffs with developers that require construction of affordable housing in equal numbers to the construction of housing for persons of higher income levels are also valuable.
The opioid epidemic requires emphasis on prevention activity, in the media, schools, and workplaces.
In the years since I first ran for public office in 2012, I have served as an election officer in five elections. I am confident that the present elections system is a solid one. The most important feature to ensure election integrity is having both an electronic and a paper count.
I am very much troubled by the low voter turnout that we have in state elections. We have intermediary organizations like the League that promote voting. I would like to see the League and other organizations promote a "what's at stake" for voters, listing known issues and some hidden ones like the state budget and roads, in the media. In some countries governments do this. Local government cable outlets should feature candidate debates.
Rather than relaxing the requirement for a photo ID, political parties should work to help voters without a photo ID to get one. There is not a problem for voters without a photo ID to cast a provisional ballot.
Since 2013 I have been wholeheartedly in favor of redistricting through a commission consisting of legislators and experts on the process. The legislation implementing this should have a default provision that has a third-party appointment of expert commissioners in the event that the political parties deadlock on the nominees for the commission. Of course, the ethics rules for all commissioners, especially for the experts, should be rigorously enforced.
The number of homicides and suicides by the use of firearms in Virginia and in the United States is unacceptable. For the problem to be addressed, it must be tackled from all sides - prevention education, supply, intervention, enforcement, and penalties. The solution must also recognize the wide difference in the history of firearms in rural and urban areas.
Universal background checks (including for private transfer but excepting transfers within the family), red-flag laws, a ban on assault-style weapons, a one-gun-a-month policy, liability for those who do not report firearms that are stolen and later used in crimes are all part of the solution. However, current owners of firearms should be allowed to keep those firearms unless they obtained them illegally. The possession of already-owned assault-style weapons should be limited to home and shooting range and transport to/from. Concealed carry permits for qualified school person should be permitted though not recommended.
Amazon will be a major economic force in the 49th District and the entire Washington Metro area. The prosperity that should be injected from the Amazon presence can have adverse consequences for lower-income workers who are also vital to the infrastructure needed to support the Amazon expansion. The agreement that was struck is basically a fair one. With respect to the many areas in which the lives of ordinary citizens will be affected, the first priority would be collaboration between Amazon and governmental entities (not to the exclusion of or bias to any other economic group) on key decisions. The second priority would be to invite public-private collaboration in public investment for infrastructure such as Metro transportation (a new Gold Line I have proposed) and green space. I do not have a problem doing business with corporations. I regard them as a significant resource that can be brought to the improvement of community life. I take the optimistic route.