As a volunteer firefighter and EMT, and being directIy impacted with the loss of my brother to suicide, I’ve seen first hand how important mental health care is to fight against stigmas for those who may experience a mental health crisis. That is why I’ve made it a top priority to ensure that Virginians have the access to resources when they need them most. I am especially proud of two key pieces of mental health legislation I’ve sponsored: Virginia was one of the first states to establish a permanent funding source for the 988 suicide and crisis hotline, and we passed the MARCUS Alert Bill that creates teams of mental health service providers, peer recovery specialists and law enforcement to help individuals in a crisis situation.
We all deserve to live in a safe environment where we have clean water and air. The climate crisis is a disaster that we need to address right now, not in ten years. I championed legislation that requires every public school board in Virginia to adopt a plan to test for lead in drinking water at each school and childcare center. Children are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of lead poisoning. We need to explore innovative ways we can be more green without upending Virginians’ everyday lives. Additionally, we need to protect landmark climate and clean energy laws like the Virginia Clean Economy Act and Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) that set us on track for a greener future. As we’ve learned all too well in the last year with gas prices, clean energy is affordable energy, and I’ll fight to keep us on the pathway to 100% renewable energy while ensuring that utility companies aren’t price gouging consumers along the way.
Medicine and health care can’t do their job if you can’t afford them, and Virginians shouldn’t have to choose between prescriptions and other necessities like rent and groceries. Everyone should have equal access to affordable, comprehensive care. That is why I was proud to fight to expand Medicaid to over 700,000 Virginians and to support President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act which capped insulin costs for thousands of Virginians.
I will continue to fight to make that access easier and more medications more affordable. We can do this through the establishment of a Prescription Drug Affordability Board to lower the cost of medicine for Virginia residents, and rein in out-of-control price hikes. A Prescription Drug Affordability Board would be an independent organization of health care experts that evaluates the affordability of Virginia’s most expensive prescription drugs and sets reasonable payment rates. We cannot rely on big drug companies to keep costs reasonable; it is critical that we protect consumers from unfair costs.
And as Virginia launches our own health care exchange for the first time next year, I’ll continue to fight to lower the cost of health insurance for hardworking people, building off the success we’ve had in creating a reinsurance program that is lowering the cost of insurance for the 275,000+ Virginians in the marketplace.
Virginia should be the best place to live, work, and raise a family, and that means making sure workers have good pay, benefits and dignity in their employment. Here in Virginia we believe that a good job should allow you to provide for your family, to grow your wealth and to have peace of mind. I believe we can make Virginia the number one state for workers and business. I’ve shown my commitment to workers during my time in the Senate. I was proud to be one of the Senate patrons for legislation to remove the 40 year ban on public sector collective bargaining. I’ve passed legislation to prevent wage theft from hardworking Virginians, holding unjust companies accountable.
Looking forward, we must continue to raise the minimum wage to ensure that every Virginian is rewarded for their hard work with a living wage. Many studies have shown that paying workers a fair wage leads to improved worker productivity, reduced employee turnover, and increased employee morale. It is also critical that we ensure all workers have access to paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave. All families deserve paid time off when they’re sick, or to care for a new child, themselves, or a family member when they are facing a serious health condition – without sacrificing economic security. Giving workers the freedom to breathe benefits both businesses and employees.
Thanks to the work of many wonderful activists and organizers, abortion is still legal in Virginia. However, abortion rights are on the line with Governor Youngkin and Republican extremists in the General Assembly. Just this year they attempted to enact a total ban on abortions, without any exceptions.
I fully support reproductive rights, the right to a safe, legal abortion and access to contraceptives. Our government needs to stay out of critical medical decisions, and trust Virginians to make their own choices with their healthcare provider. In 2020, I proudly voted to establish the “Reproductive Health Protection Act” which repealed various abortion restrictions and protects our right to choose. When we take back the house and keep the Senate blue, our first order of business will be to codify Roe v. Wade into our Virginia Constitution.
At times like this, it’s important that Virginia is meeting the needs of businesses through increasing broadband. I’m so proud to be a part of your Virginia Senate that expanded access for businesses and individuals alike. To support a growing population in our community, we must ensure that our state is fostering innovation and is welcoming to all companies, including those with a non-traditional business plan. I’m proud of my bill that was signed into law that allows agencies to consider new telework jobs created when evaluating eligibility for state grants.
One of our key drivers to success is our workforce. From veterans to technical trades and information technology, our path to continued financial freedom needs continued innovation. As a member of the Workforce Development Board we’ve reinvested in focusing on connecting skills with in demand jobs and making sure those that need new skills can gain the needed training.
It is imperative now more than ever that we create the very best public schools for our kids. As a parent with kids in Prince William County Public Schools. I know how important their success is. Our kids are the most important aspect of our lives and we need to prioritize them and their education, as well as their social and emotional wellness.
Governor Youngkin and Republican extremists time and time again have shown that his priority is turning our children, our teachers, and our schools into a political culture battlefield, as long as it helps his political ambitions. Whether it’s setting up a teacher tip line to spy on our educators and turn them into the enemy, bullying our young people, or taking away children’s freedom to participate in school sports or activities, the Governor continues to fight our schools, rather than support them as we work to help our kids recover from learning loss and get back on track.
It is time that we invest in our children by bringing their school facilities up to date, ensuring our teachers have the resources they need, and teaching our real history.
Our community is blessed with one of the largest veteran populations, bringing in demand skills and service minded individuals to help make a difference. Often our veterans still have challenges receiving benefits earned through their service. That’s why I helped open a Virginia Veterans Office in Manassas to help navigate the often difficult VA benefits process. I am pleased to have supported the reduction of income tax on veteran retirement starting at the first $10,000 this year, increasing each year after by $10,000. For our disabled veterans I was pleased to pass legislation providing free in-state tuition for kids of veterans rated at 90-100% disabled.
TAXES AND TAX POLICY
Show me your tax policy and I will show you your values. I, and my fellow Democrats, value a tax system that prioritizes working families. We believe that our tax system should be fair – and that it should reward hard work, with everyone paying their fair share. Virginia’s budget should prioritize the things Virginians need, like excellent schools, quality and accessible child care, affordable housing and tax relief for middle class families – not more tax breaks for the wealthiest Virginians and out-of-state corporations like Gov. Youngkin wants. I will always fight Republican extremists who try to prioritize corporations over hard working people, building on some amazing victories we’ve won, like the expansion of the earned income tax credit, helping working people keep more of what they earn.
With two major transportation pathways going through our community, transportation is a key component to our quality of life. It’s important to me that we’re improving those roadways and transit systems to fit our growing community, and why it was critical to secure funding for the improvements to Interstate 95 and the Long Bridge project that will provide for two way VRE trips to our community throughout the day. Also, commuters who choose to use public transportation should always feel safe, and that is why I delivered funding for increased safety at commuter lots. Virginians deserve roads and public transit that is safe, dependable, and gets you where you’re going quickly. Especially in our community, this is and will remain a priority for me in the Senate.