Delegate co-chairing foster care caucus
Published 10:17 am Monday, January 21, 2019
by Emily Brewer
The 2019 General Assembly session is in full swing now as the first pieces of legislation have already passed the House. This is our short session and things are already moving fast during the 46 day session. This week Republicans advanced priorities that focus on protecting taxpayers from a hidden middle class tax hike and protecting our pro-business policies.
On Tuesday, Sen. Monty Mason (D-Williamsburg) and I formed the first-ever Foster Care Caucus in Virginia and are proud to co-chair this important nonpartisan group of legislators. The Foster Care Caucus is focused on identifying and tackling issues related to one of Virginia’s most vulnerable populations, foster care youth.
The Foster Care Caucus had its first meeting on Tuesday to learn more about the Federal 2018 Family First Prevention Services Act from Department of Social Services Director Carl Ayers. We also heard about steps that need to be taken in order to improve Virginia’s Kinship Relative Placement program from the non-profit advocacy group, Voices for Virginia’s Children. Virginia currently has about a 6% rate for kinship placement while the national average is closer to 30 percent.
In December, the Joint Legislative Audit Review Commission, which is essentially the General Assembly’s oversight arm, released a report highlighting Virginia as one of the worst states in the country for foster care policies. There are several pieces of legislation this year that seek to address the issues affecting the Commonwealth’s children, including two that I have introduced.
On Wednesday, Judge Patricia West was confirmed by the House and Senate as the newest judge on the State Corporation Commission. Judge West is a highly qualified judge with the resume necessary to serve in this role. The State Corporation Commission regulates and oversees some of Virginia’s largest industries, including electric utilities, financial institutions, and insurance companies. The SCC also manages all corporate filings — including the paperwork needed to start a business in Virginia.
The SCC is a constitutional entity whose judges are elected by the General Assembly. Like with all judges, we seek to elect people who will uphold the law as it is written. Judge West’s election to the the State Corporation Commission means women will now hold the majority on this important court. Judge West has served as a judge in the Virginia Beach Circuit Court, served as chief deputy attorney general of Virginia, and served as Chair of the Virginia Ethics Council.
Currently, she is a distinguished professor of law and government at Regent University where she also serves as associate dean in the School of Law.
I was proud to support this highly qualified woman to serve in this important role. Despite her remarkable resume, no Democrat supported her.
Many of you have written and called my office asking me to oppose legislation introduced by Governor Northam which would have impacted your Second Amendment rights. I am proud to report Republicans voted on Thursday to defeat these far-left gun-control bills that would infringe on the constitutional rights of law abiding citizens but would have done nothing to prevent gun violence.
Governor [Ralph] Northam’s gun control package included legislation to reinstate the “one gun per month” law, legislation to make it illegal to carry some weapons in some public places, and legislation that could make it illegal to own a .22 caliber hunting rifle. I am committed to common sense laws that protect people, but that does not have to come at the expense of our constitutional rights.
1. House Bill 1730. Unfortunately, there are lots of bad actors in the foster care community and it’s affecting the futures of children in the Commonwealth. HB 1730 requires local Departments of Social Services to freeze the credit of children in the foster care system until they age out or there are extenuating circumstances.
This legislation will help protect children in foster care from becoming victims of identity theft and having their credit score ruined before they’ve even had an opportunity to start out. HB 1730 has been assigned to the House Commerce and Labor Committee, but hasn’t received a hearing date yet.
2. House Bill 1731. Since Virginia is the oldest legislative body in the New World, we have 400 years of laws on the books. Some of those laws are outdated. Currently, local treasurers are required to keep a “well-bound book” for their records. This bill brings local treasurers into the 21 century by replacing the term “well-bound book” with “record,” allowing local treasurers to keep their required records in a digital format. HB 1731 passed the House unanimously (94-0) this morning, Jan. 18.
3. House Bill 1845. A carve-out in the Code of Virginia specifically allows bail bondsman to be charged with a misdemeanor, but law enforcement officers, pretrial officers, and even clergy in the jails and prisons could be charged with a felony for the same crime. I have re-introduced legislation that would bring bail bondsman and residential substance abuse employees in line with the rest of the law enforcement community when it comes to sex crimes. HB 1845 has been assigned to the Courts of Justice Committee, but hasn’t received a hearing date yet.
4. House Bill 2326. During Hurricane Florence, we were reminded of the complexities involved in evacuating the region, as well as the congestion on Rt. 460, Rt. 10, and Rt. 58 we could experience if faced with a large scale weather event. It is imperative that Virginia’s evacuation routes are well maintained and safe for ALL Virginians. SMART SCALE is the process the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) uses to determine which road projects should receive funding and should be prioritized. HB 2326 would add “primary evacuation routes” to the list of criteria that the CTB must consider before recommending which road construction projects and the associated funding should be prioritized. HB2326 reported (6-2) from the House Transportation Subcommittee No. 1 on Wednesday and is now headed to the full House Transportation Committee.
I encourage you to keep in touch with me and my office over the coming months. I value the feedback you provide on a continual basis as it helps me do a better job of representing you.
You can email me at DelEBrewer@House.Virginia.Gov or call me at 804-698-1064. You can also join the conversation on our social media pages, Facebook.com/BrewerForVA or Twitter.com/BrewerForVA.
I will continue providing you updates during the 2019 General Assembly Session and will be meeting with constituent groups after session to report on the session and take questions.
EMILY BREWER is the Republican delegate for the 64th District in Virginia.