The 2019 General Assembly session is now in full swing. Several pieces of legislation have already passed the House and hundreds more are working their way through the committee process. During this short 46-day session, we must work efficiently to ensure that our work is completed on time.
This week, leaders in both parties took to the House floor to deliver speeches outlining their caucus’ legislative priorities for the session. As you can imagine, there are a number of areas where the two parties disagree. I do believe that disagreement is both a healthy and necessary part of representative government.
What separates Richmond from Washington is the ability of the two parties to find common ground. An overwhelming majority of legislation coming out of the General Assembly is passed on a bipartisan or unanimous vote. In recent years, Republicans and Democrats have worked closely on issues of regulatory reform and veterans.
On Monday, Majority Leader Todd Gilbert outlined the legislative agenda for the House Republican Caucus. Leader Gilbert discussed our Republican plan to provide tax cuts to middle class Virginians, the defense of the Second Amendment, and the House Select Committee on School Safety. You can watch his remarks here.
The CDC now estimates that 1 in 59 American children have autism. But for many children in Virginia, they are unable to get autism related medical care after age 10. At present, Virginia law only requires insurance for children aged 3 to 10. Many children, however, are not diagnosed until 5, 6 or 7 years old meaning they have only a few years of coverage for autism related care.
This week, I joined Delegate Bob Thomas of Stafford as he announced legislation to completely remove the age cap for autism related coverage. Autism does not simply go away at age 10. No other medical condition has such a cap.
I intend to vote in favor of removing the autism age cap and will vigorously support the legislation. There is bipartisan support for the legislation and I am hopeful it will be signed into law by the Governor.
Year of Racial Reconciliation and Civility
This week I joined a bipartisan group of leaders including Former Governor Bob McDonnell, Delegate Delores McQuinn, and Mayor Levar Stoney to announce 2019 as a year of racial reconciliation and civility.
2019 marks 400 years since the first Africans arrived in Virginia. As part of this year’s commemoration, I will be joining fellow legislators as we walk Richmond’s slave trail.
Virginia is unique in the fact that the Constitution charges the General Assembly with the responsibility of electing judges. This week, the House and Senate fulfilled our constitutional duty to elect judges for benches across the Commonwealth.
One such election this week was significant. The General Assembly elected Patricia West to serve as a commissioner on the State Corporation Commission, giving the body its first female majority in state history. (While members of the SCC are titled as “commissioner,” they are in fact judges.)
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.
Commissioner West has an outstanding resume and a history of public service. She 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. At present, she is a distinguished professor of law and government at Regent University where she also serves as associate dean in the School of Law.
Veterans in Richmond
While I always enjoy welcoming visitors to Richmond (and you’ll read more about this week’s guests later), I was particularly glad to welcome veterans from both the 66th district and statewide to Richmond this week.
Speaker Cox with members of the American Legion
and American Legion Auxiliary.
During my time in office, I’ve introduced over 130 pieces of veterans/military related legislation. From creating two new veteran care centers to providing tax relief for military personnel fighting in Bosnia, I have made this issue area one of my “specialties” in Richmond.
I had a group of American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary members from across the state visit with me in my office. Included in the group were many from Chesterfield and Colonial Heights who are members of Post 284.
I also had the opportunity to address members of the Joint Leadership Council (JLC) of Veterans Service Organizations. The JLC is comprised of veteran groups from across the Commonwealth who have a common goal to advocate before the General Assembly on behalf of veterans and their families. We discussed several of their legislative proposals that are under consideration this year.
Traffic Accidents Declining
I recently met with VDOT officials on a host of transportation related matters, including traffic accidents and fatalities. At the meeting, they presented me with crash statistics for the 66th district for the 2017 calendar year. The total number of crashes in our district dropped to 1,330 from 1,390. The report was compiled by DMV and Virginia Tech.
You can view the crash report here.
The report presented to me broke down the crashes into several categories–distracted driving, pedestrian, unrestrained, speed, and alcohol. You can view the report here. VDOT also provided me an update on their snow removal process. In the Richmond district, which includes the Richmond suburbs and counties stretching down I-85 to the North Carolina line, there are over 18,700 total lane miles maintained by VDOT. When winter weather hits, VDOT will begin plowing interstate and primary routes first followed by secondary routes leading to safety hubs (fire stations, hospitals, etc.). They then focus their work on neighborhood and other secondary roads. VDOT strives to have all roads passable within 48 hours of the storm’s end. It is worth noting that passable does not mean bare, dry pavement.
Telephone Town Hall
I held a telephone town hall on Thursday of this week. Thank you to the 1,386 people who participated in this event. I enjoy these calls as it allows me the opportunity to connect with a large number of constituents at once.
During the call, I had the opportunity to take questions from the audience as well as poll those on the call regarding several different issues, including the autism age cap, the budget, and casino gambling. You can view the results from the poll questions here.
My 2019 survey is now live! I ask that you take a few minutes to complete my annual survey. This ten question survey hits just some of the issues that will come before the General Assembly this session. If there’s an issue important to you that is not included on the survey, please let me know. This survey and your additional comments allow me to better represent our community.
Visitors to the General Assembly
I was glad to welcome many visitors and groups to the General Assembly this week. I always enjoy getting the chance to hear directly from those in our community.
I had a very important interview this week with Allison and Gabriella, two students from Matoaca Middle School. Allison and Gabriella are producing a documentary for the 2019 National Student Documentary contest sponsored by C-SPAN. The central question in their documentary is “what does it mean to be an American?” and how the First Amendment impacts that identity.
Mayor Greg Kochuba, City Manager Doug Smith, and City Attorney Chip Fisher came to Richmond to provide me with an update on what’s happening in city government. We discussed a number of items, including the proposed train station relocation. A special congratulations to Greg on his recent selection to serve another term as mayor.
Dentists & Hygienists
We all need a reminder to brush and floss, even during the busy days of session. I got that reminder in the form of a visit from both dentists and hygienists. Many of those visiting were students learning their profession. I have no doubt they will make a positive impact on many people’s smiles.
I look forward to hearing from you concerning matters coming before the General Assembly. You can call my office at (804) 698-1066; email me at DelKCox@house.virginia.gov; or write to me at PO Box 406, Richmond, VA 23218. In addition to my weekly email newsletters, you can stay up to date by liking my Facebook page and following me on Twitter.