All things considered, 2018 was a good year. As I have for the past two years, I wanted to provide you a highlight of what took place. Here’s my top 10 moments from 2018:
1. Being Elected Speaker
In January, I was elected as the 55th Speaker of the House of Delegates. I’m honored to be the first Speaker in state history from Colonial Heights and the first whose profession was that of a public school teacher.
Serving as Speaker allows me to better represent our community in Richmond, but make no mistake that the people of Chesterfield and Colonial Heights come first.
2. Celebrating Independence Day
I love Independence Day and the opportunity to celebrate our great country and the freedoms it represents. 2018 was no exception. Our team and I once again had an outstanding time placing over 1,200 American flags in neighborhoods across the district and participating in the Hampton Park parade.
3. House Select Committee on School Safety
Following the tragic events that took place in Parkland, Florida earlier this year, I established the House Select Committee on School Safety to thoroughly examine safety practices in schools and recommend areas for improvement. Throughout the year, the committee met and heard testimony from students, parents, teachers, counselors, and administrators.
The committee produced 24 priority recommendations, many of which have already been drafted into legislation so that they can be considered during the upcoming 2019 General Assembly session. Stay tuned in the New Year as we debate and hopefully pass many of these measures into law.
4. Regulatory Reform
I constantly hear from business owners and entrepreneurs that too many government regulations get in the way of their ability to thrive. During the 2018 session, the General Assembly passed landmark, bipartisan legislation to begin repealing outdated and unnecessary regulations. The pilot program established by the legislation has already identified 1,200+ regulations in two state agencies for possible repeal. The next step–repealing the regulations–will give business owners and entrepreneurs much needed regulatory relief, thus allowing them more opportunities to grow and hire new employees.
5. Ringing the Red Kettle Bell
Politics in Richmond is different than in Washington. Here in Richmond, the two major parties do have disagreements over policy, but what separates us from Washington is the realization that all sides want Virginia to grow and prosper. We can and should work together where there are areas in which we agree.
We all agree on the importance of giving back to our community. In December, I was glad to have the Governor come to Colonial Heights and ring the bell for the Salvation Army’s red kettle. The Salvation Army does great work for our community and I was glad to participate in this bipartisan mission.
6. WWI 100th Anniversary
2018 marked the 100th anniversary of the cessation of hostilities in Europe, or the unofficial end to World War I. On Veterans Day, Virginians from all walks of life came together at the Carillon to commemorate the war’s end and thank those who so valiantly served in our nation’s armed forces.
If you missed it, you can view my Veterans Day op-ed detailing the sacrifices of Virginians in the war here.
7. Launching 2019 Commemoration
We’re already looking ahead to 2019 and all that it will bring. 2019 will mark the 400th anniversary of several key events that took place in Virginia in 1619. They include:
- The first English thanksgiving
- Recruitment of English women in significant numbers
- The founding of the Virginia General Assembly
- The arrival of the first Africans to English North America
The 2019 Commemoration Commission, which I chair, has set out to not only reflect upon our history, but look ahead to the next 400 years. Back in the fall, we officially launched our programs at the State Capitol. It’s going to be a year full of events focusing on Virginia’s unique history. To view a full list of events, click here.
8. Practical Solutions to Everyday Issues
In the lead up to the 2018 session, House Republicans focused on what we called “Practical Solutions to Everyday Issues.” We wanted to solve issues that normal Virginians face in their day to day lives. Our bills protected college student data from being used by third party groups for solicitation (HB 1) and putting a dent in the teacher shortage by allowing spouses of military members with an active teaching license to teach immediately upon moving to Virginia (HB 3). We also worked diligently on regulatory reform (as noted above) and to help ensure more children find forever families through adoption.
You can view a list of some of our successes here.
9. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) approves funding for the Puller and Jones & Cabacoy Veteran Care Centers
As Delegate for the 66th district, I was honored to carry legislation to add two new care centers opening in 2021 to serve our Commonwealth and her veterans. When funding from the VA was not immediately forthcoming I proposed legislation to fund the projects with state bonds to expedite these vitally needed veteran care facilities. In April of this year the VA finally approved over sixty million dollars in funding for these projects eliminating the need for additional state construction funds.
10. All things JMU
JMU returns to my top 10 for the third year in a row. In May, the women’s’ lacrosse team won the Division I National Championship beating the favorite, Boston College. On Thanksgiving Day, the Marching Royal Dukes performed in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. As an alumnus, I’m proud of the recognition JMU is getting on the national stage.
I’m looking forward to all that 2019 will bring. If I can serve you and your family in any way during the next year, let me know.