One in five women will suffer sexual assault or domestic violence in their lifetime, and some men will undergo this ordeal as well. When I ran for office, I made clear that services to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence would be one of my highest priorities. If you've been following along in prior newsletters, you know all about my Bill of Rights for Survivors of Sexual Assault, which extends the time in which evidence of sexual assault is preserved. On Wednesday, the Senate passed my bill HB 2127 unanimously. It passed the House of Delegates unanimously last week.
This week, two of my bills passed the House: (1) my bill to preserve evidence of sexual assault and (2) the bill I chief co-patroned with Republican Delegate Terry Kilgore to protect Virginians' First Amendment right to protest. Both bills are moving on to the Senate. Unfortunately, my budget amendment to bring more broadband internet to rural Virginia was rejected by the Appropriations Committee.
When the Democratic Leadership of the House of Delegates asked me to speak out against last week's Executive Order, I spoke straight from the heart. I compared the current ban on lawfully admitted and vetted refugees, fleeing mass murder in Syria, to the 1939 attempted exodus of German Jews, turned away at our border and sent back to the gas chambers. I called on every Delegate -- and particularly Republicans who have fallen silent -- to speak out in defense of American values and our immigrant history. I urged them to reject fear. To say, "Never Again!"
This week was the single busiest of the year for us. It was Peak Week, the middle week of the three full weeks before “Crossover”, that magical mid-session date when each House of the General Assembly finishes its business and puts its approved legislation into the lap of the other House (February 7 this year). We have to move more than 1000 House Bills before Crossover! Because 99% of House bills have to go through Committee first – and 90% of the time an additional Subcommittee as well – it’s a crazy busy time.
Last weekend, in Alexandria, we could not quite compete with the Women's March, but we still had quite a very large crowd by our standards as 1,000 people from Alexandria, Arlington, and throughout Northern Virginia came together to demand affordable health care at the Charles Houston Recreation Center. I spoke, along with Congressman Don Beyer, Congressman Gerry Connolly, Senator Mark Warner, Delegate Patrick Hope, and so many of our local leaders.
Monday morning, it was my honor to join the First Lady of Virginia at the Oakridge Elementary School in the Arlington portion of our District to highlight the school's work on increasing access to breakfast through Breakfast in the Classroom. The First Lady has championed this program for our youngest (and perhaps our hungriest) students to keep them focused on learning. And Monday night, I saw many of you at the Alexandria Democratic Committee monthly meeting. Our meetings have doubled in size since the election! Tuesday night, Dr. Kate Tulenko hosted a fundraiser "sending me off to Richmond," featuring our Congressman Don Beyer in her beautiful Belle View home. It was my first fundraiser in the Fairfax County portion of our district, and many people from the neighborhood came, including some I'd never met before. We had a full house of more than 60 supporters, with the kind of energetic and intricate policy and political discussions that Congressman Beyer and I so enjoy having with our engaged and well-informed constituents. Thank you so much, Kate and Don!
I will be running for re-election in 2017 and could use your help. Plus we can use the funds raised to help elect Democrats throughout the Commonwealth. This is your last chance to hear what's on tap for the 2017 session and what I will be working on. I'm eager to hear from you about your priorities.
On Christmas Eve and the First Night of Chanukah, I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Happy Kwanzaa, and a Happy New Year! I hope that everyone has a wonderful holiday season.
This year, I introduced a bill to help survivors, spoke out several times on the Floor on the topic, and obtained a successful budget amendment to help abused children. I also became one of only three legislators to attend the Richmond meetings of Virginia's Advisory Committee on Sexual and Domestic Violence (founded and ably chaired by Arlington's own Senator Barbara Favola). In addition, I joined a local task force to focus on Northern Virginia survivors that included Senator Favola, Arlington County Board Member Katie Cristol, Alexandria Vice Mayor Justin Wilson, and a number of local dedicated professionals serving the community.
Please join us for Mark's Monthly Meetup at 1:30 pm tomorrow, Saturday October 29th at Los Tios Mexican Grill in Del Ray, located at 2615 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria. Like all Mark's Monthly Meetups, there is no donation required. It's just a place to sit and talk and, for most of us, eat. I always want to know what's on the mind of my constituents and supporters.