On May 4, 2022, U.S. Representative Don Beyer (D-VA), Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (D-VA), Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Representatives Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) and Gerry Connolly, and House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland urging that the U.S. Department of Justice reconsider the case of two U.S. Park Police officers who shot and killed Northern Virginian Bijan Ghaisar in 2017. Their request followed the recent decision by Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares to drop an appeal in the case.
“We write today regarding the 2017 fatal shooting of 25-year-old Bijan Ghaisar by two United States Park Police (USPP) officers. Nearly five years after the fatal shooting of Bijan, it remains unclear to the Ghaisar family, to us, and to the broader community of the National Capital Region how a traffic stop escalated to a fatal shooting. While the Department of Justice (DOJ) declined to pursue federal charges under the previous administration, we believe another look is warranted. Therefore, we respectfully request that DOJ reopen its investigation, pursue a vigorous analysis of the facts and law, and determine whether federal charges are merited.”
“As you know, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigated this shooting in detail, interviewing more than 150 individuals (including law enforcement, civilian, and medical witnesses), analyzing evidence at the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, and amassing an investigative file of some 10,000 documents. The focus of the Department’s investigation was to determine whether the officers had violated federal laws, in particular, federal criminal civil rights statute 18 U.S.C. § 242. There is precedent for charges in a case like this, as DOJ’s Civil Rights Division pursued similar charges in the George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery cases.
“What’s more, we understand that Bijan Ghaisar’s family, through counsel, has requested that the Civil Rights Division revisit its decision declining to prosecute the officers who shot and killed him. We further understand that the Department is now in possession of sworn deposition testimony taken from briefs submitted in a civil action, which includes testimony from a senior U.S. Park Police officer and a Fairfax County Police officer that may cast new light on the events of that tragic evening.
“The decision to escalate to deadly force must be explained – it is unconscionable to think such a low-level offense could justify being shot to death by police. Bijan’s family, and the public, are entitled to due process and an explanation of why their son is dead that reflects full scrutiny of this situation at all levels of the justice system. We hope you will use all resources and personnel at your disposal to give this case a fair, honest look and decide what the proper form of justice for this tragedy should be.”
Obenshain: New laws in Virginia that take effect July 1
With the approach of July, I wanted to provide you with an update on new laws that are taking effect as well as an update on the Commonwealth’s budget.
Every year, the General Assembly passes bills during Session which starts in early January and goes for either 45 days or 60 days depending on if it’s a budget year or not. If bills pass the legislature, they go to the Governor and if he signs them into law, most will go into effect on July 1 of that year.
Additionally, every two years (on even-numbered years), the General Assembly passes the Commonwealth’s two-year budget which is then amended or signed by the Governor. Governor Youngkin recently sent back a short list of amendments on which the General Assembly then voted and on Wednesday, he signed the budget for the next two years.
Below is a list of some of the most notable and important items that will go into effect as well as items that would have been good for Virginians but were not passed this year.
• The budget included $4.2 billion in tax relief in the form of one-time tax rebates, a reduction in the grocery tax, tax relief for veterans, and an increase in the standard deduction.
• $730 million was included for over two years for salary raises for teachers.
• Law enforcement officers are receiving $113 million in overdue salary increases.
• $45M in additional funds to support placing an SRO in schools that do not currently have one.
• The grocery tax was partially repealed. Despite pledging their support for its full repeal for years, the Democrats balked and would agree only to reduce it from 2.5 cents to 1 cent.
• Although my bill to expand the ability to open charter schools failed, the House and Senate passed a bill to allow for lab schools to be started in conjunction with colleges and universities across the Commonwealth.
• The House and Senate passed legislation that would make the votes of the Virginia Parole Board subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
• A bill requiring school principals to report to law enforcement and parents criminal offenses passed the House and Senate and was signed into law.
• On March 1, Youngkin signed an order that ended school mask mandates statewide. You can read more about it here.
• A bill requiring parental notification about sexually explicit material in schools passed the General Assembly.
• Senate Democrats defeated a number of bills that would have rolled back gun control efforts passed in past years by progressives. I outlined them in my update here.
• My bill that would have reinstated Virginia’s photo ID requirement in order to vote was defeated in the Senate.
If you have any questions about laws that are going to be taking effect in July or any bills that did not make it out of the General Assembly this year, don’t hesitate to email me at email@example.com.
Warner & Kaine applaud Senate passage of Legislation to extend child nutrition waivers
U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded the Senate passage of legislation to extend critical COVID-era school lunch flexibilities that have prevented children all over the country from going hungry during the summer and throughout the school year. The passage of the Keep Kids Fed Act comes just one week before waivers are set to expire, imposing cumbersome restrictions on parents just as summer break kicks off.
“Parents across Virginia are facing higher costs across the board – the last thing they need right now is to lose the commonsense flexibilities that have made it easier for them to keep their kids fed. We’re very proud to have voted to pass bipartisan legislation that will extend these flexibilities and help keep food insecurity at bay. We hope that the House will pass this bill expeditiously and send it to the President’s desk for approval,” said the senators.
The Keep Kids Fed Act will:
- Extend flexibilities for summer meals in 2022 by waiving area eligibility so summer providers can serve all children for free and continuing options like meal delivery and grab-and-go.
- Extend some of the administrative and paperwork flexibilities for schools through the 2022-23 school year.
- Allow students with a family income at or below 185 percent of the poverty level to qualify for free or reduced-cost meals for the 2022-23 school year.
- Increase the reimbursement rate for school lunch and school breakfast to help offset the increased cost of food and operating expenses. Schools will receive an additional 40 cents for each lunch and 15 cents for each breakfast served.
Provide an additional 10 cents per meal or snack for Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) daycares and home providers, and expand eligibility to more providers. When combined, these actions will help offset increased costs for providers.
Sens. Warner and Kaine have been vocal about the need to ensure that children have continuous access to healthy meals. They have expressed alarm about the imminent expiration of the child nutrition waivers and recently pushed Senate leadership to extend these flexibilities before the waivers expire. In April, they introduced the Support Kids Not Red-Tape Act – similar legislation to grant the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) additional flexibility so that schools and summer meal sites can stay open.
Warner and Kaine: On passage of Bipartisan Safer Communities Act
U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement after the Senate voted to pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act – landmark legislation to curb gun violence in the wake of horrific mass shootings in Uvalde, Buffalo, and cities across the nation:
“Virginians know all too well the pain of gun violence—pain no one should have to experience. While nothing can bring back a life lost to gun violence, we are hopeful that the reasonable measures advanced through this bill will help curb the plague of shootings that continue to haunt American communities. We will continue to work to build on today’s milestone by advocating for additional measures to protect our neighborhoods from further senseless attacks. In the meantime, we urge our colleagues in the House to move quickly so that this bill can start saving lives.”
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act includes similar provisions to those proposed by Sens. Warner and Kaine in their Virginia Plan to Reduce Gun Violence—a bill they introduced last year based on a series of commonsense measures adopted by Virginia. These provisions include improving background checks, strengthening safeguards for victims of domestic violence, and incentivizing states to implement their own Extreme Risk Protection Orders to remove firearms from individuals who pose a high risk of harming themselves or others.
Warner statement on Supreme Court decision overruling Roe v. Wade
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and eliminated the federal constitutional right to abortion in America:
“This decision jeopardizes the health and autonomy of millions of American women and turns back the clock on nearly 50 years of settled and reaffirmed law – reflecting a Court that has increasingly issued politicized rulings that undermine the fundamental rights of Americans. This decision will take control over personal health care decisions away from individuals and give it to politicians in state legislatures across the country. I am heartbroken for the generations of women who now have fewer rights than when they were born, many of whom will be forced into life-threatening or prohibitively expensive circumstances to access health care as a result of this radical decision. For them and for all Virginians and Americans, I will continue working to protect needed access to safe, legal abortion.”
In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court held that the Constitution of the United States protects a pregnant woman’s freedom to choose to have an abortion. The Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade means that after nearly 50 years, this freedom is no longer guaranteed nationwide, and more than half of states are expected to ban or harshly limit access to abortion following today’s ruling. In several states, there will be no exceptions for women who become pregnant through rape or incest or in cases where abortion is necessary to protect the health of the woman.
Overturning Roe v. Wade also opens the door for states to attempt to restrict or ban common birth control methods such as Plan B or intrauterine devices.
Kaine statement on Supreme Court decision overruling Roe v. Wade
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On June 24, 2022, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine released the following statement regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that the Constitution “does not confer a right to abortion,” overruling Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey:
“I am deeply disturbed that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, upsetting decades of precedent protecting the right of women to make fundamental personal decisions about contraception and abortion without unnecessary government interference. That’s why I’ve been engaged in efforts in the Senate to codify the basic framework of Roe v. Wade and related cases into federal law. We’re not going to give up on the fight to protect the right to choose.”
Warner and Kaine announce $9 million in federal funding for affordable housing in Virginia
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced the designation of $9,000,000 in federal funding to three Virginia-based organizations helping to provide affordable housing and services to low-income individuals. The funds were administered by the United States Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund through the department’s Capital Management Fund.
“Affordable, safe housing should be available to every Virginian,” the senators said. “This funding will allow Virginia organizations to continue their crucial work of securing housing for those in need.”
The funds will be broken down as follows:
• $5,000,000 for the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, Inc. in Arlington, VA.
• $2,000,000 for AHC Inc. in Arlington, VA.
• $2,000,000 for the Piedmont Housing Alliance in Charlottesville, VA.
This funding comes in addition to the nearly $115 million in funding for affordable housing in Virginia announced earlier this year. Sens. Warner and Kaine, a former fair housing attorney, have long supported efforts to increase affordable housing in Virginia. The Senators have introduced legislation that would address rising home prices, assist first-generation homebuyers, and close the widening wealth and homeownership gaps. Also, Kaine led the introduction of the Fair Housing Improvement Act of 2022, which would expand protections under the Fair Housing Act of 1968 to include banning discrimination based on source of income, giving more individuals and families access to affordable housing, and a shot at economic mobility.
Sen. Warner has also been a leader in Congress for CDFI investment. To combat the hemorrhaging of jobs and economic opportunities during the pandemic, Sen. Warner led a bipartisan group of colleagues in introducing the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act. Sen. Warner was later able to secure provisions from the bill in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, which was signed into law on December 27, 2020, providing an unprecedented $12 billion in funding for CDFIs. Last week, Sen. Warner introduced legislation to help unlock more equity and long-term financial capital for CDFIs to boost economic growth in low-income communities.