Jennifer ON THE ISSUES
In 2018, we passed a state budget that includes Medicaid expansion. Thanks to your advocacy, we expanded Medicaid to 400,000 Virginians - veterans, women, and working families. Here in the 2nd District, 2,400 of our neighbors now have access to healthcare through Medicaid expansion.
Growing our middle class
We need to grow our economy from the middle out, by investing in our workforce, preparing every Virginian for the 21st Century economy, and ensuring that everyone can earn a living wage and be treated with dignity on the job. In my first year, I passed a bill that allows English language learners to take a coding class instead of a foreign language for the purposes of their graduation requirements to help give them the skills they need to be successful in today's economy. Furthermore, I passed a bill that makes it easier for our children to receive Career and Technical Education certifications in our public schools. I will continue to sponsor and support legislation to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour, create paid family medical leave in Virginia, and end the gender pay gap. Nobody deserves to work 40 hours a week and live in poverty.
During my campaign, I promised to go to Richmond and increase teacher pay. I am proud to say that the new state budget includes 3% salary increases from all teachers and support workers. As your delegate, I will continue to fight to strengthen our schools by working to reduce classroom size and combat the teacher shortage crisis in Prince William and Stafford. Public education has a direct impact on the economy and raises families out of poverty. In order to attract and retain quality teachers, we must find creative ways to attract the best and brightest educators. We also must reinvest in our schools to remain competitive and prepare the future generation.
As a working mother who gave birth during my campaign, I know the struggles of simultaneously being a mother and working a full-time job. That's why I am fighting to institute paid family medical leave policies, fair scheduling laws, and equal pay for equal work policies. I also believe that we must ensure all women have access to affordable birth control and cancer screenings. I am staunch defender against the concerted effort to roll back women's rights and access to safe, affordable healthcare.
Our neighbors lose far too much family time to traffic. As a daily commuter, I understand first-hand the effect traffic has on our businesses and our quality of life. As delegate, I proposed legislation to begin the process of extending the Metro Blue Line into Prince William County. While my efforts were blocked, I will continue to fight for transportation solutions. We must also change the Virginia Department of Transportation funding formula to ensure that Stafford county has adequate road funding.
Criminal Justice Reform
As a former magistrate and a current public defender, I have witnessed first-hand the need for comprehensive criminal justice reform. We must end the school to prison pipeline and stop locking up our children for small mistakes. This starts by promoting alternatives to out of school suspension and emphasizing deterrence options for resource officers. In the 2018 session, I proposed ten criminal justice reform bills.
In my first year in office, I co-sponsored legislation to raise the grand larceny threshold from $200 to $500 and stop needlessly convicting children of felonies. Virginia had one of the lowest grand larceny thresholds in the country: If someone takes something valued at $200 or more, they can be charged with a felony. That means, if a child is cold and takes a coat in the dead of winter, they would often be charged with a felony and sent to prison. While I believe the grand larceny threshold should be raised to $1000, I am pleased we were able to raise the resold to $500. We must continue to focus on smart-on-crime initiatives that keep kids in schools and out of prisons.
coal ash, the ENVIRONMENT, and our state parks
In Woodbridge, I live just a few miles from Possum Point, where coal ash waste from a power plant was stored in ponds that seeped toxic chemicals into our water. We must protect the water we drink from coal ash contamination and ensure this pollution never happens again. This starts by removing the coal ash or recycling it to make materials like concrete.
As your Delegate, I support laws that will support the boom in renewable energy and create green jobs. I will also support entrepreneurial innovation and challenge businesses to engineer ways to reduce our carbon emissions.
Finally, with explosive population growth in Stafford and Prince William counties, we need a place where people can relax and enjoy the outdoors. That's why I introduced a budget amendment to fully fund Widewater State Park's operations and development in Stafford county. I am proud that the General Assembly allocated these funds, allowing Stafford residents to finally have public access to the Potomac River.
fighting for veterans
As a VMI graduate, I know the sacrifice that our veterans, their spouses, and their families make for our country. One in every ten Virginian is a veteran - and we have more women veterans than any other state. I pledge to fight as hard for our veterans as they did for us. I have proposed legislation that helps fund extra programs in the Department of Veteran Services to help returning women veterans.