Economic opportunity

I believe in creating an economic environment that creates opportunity for all. In the past two years, I have sponsored and worked on legislation that would give Virginians more opportunities to engage in apprenticeship programs and job training, eliminate the use of non-compete clauses to restrict the opportunities of low-income workers, and prevent people from losing professional licenses for unpaid student debt.  Virginia’s prosperity is remarkable - we have some of the lowest unemployment and highest income to cost of living rates in the nation - but we must make sure it is accessible to everyone. The more people participate in our commonwealth’s economy, the better off we are.


Improved Healthcare

Virginia has achieved one of the most important goals I fought for in my first campaign for office: an expansion of our Medicaid program, with federal subsidy, to more than 200,000 additional low-income Virginians.  Health is the basis of everything - without affordable healthcare, a good job and educational opportunities are often out of reach - and so expanding Medicaid was a crucial milestone.

There are new challenges, though.  Virginia continues to wrestle with its opioid epidemic, and I am a strong advocate of adopting a public-health approach to our drug problems rather than a primarily criminal one.  Virginia has one of the highest concentrations of veterans in the nation, and their health needs are special - we must make sure Virginia can pick up some of the care and attention our state’s veterans need and which the national V.A. doesn’t always provide.  Finally, the gap in healthcare between the rural and poor parts of our community and the wealthier ones is still staggering, and health infrastructure investment and concentrated programs must supplement Medicaid expansion in those areas of the state.


Democracy and Civic Engagement

As a teacher, I have seen the transformative power of knowledge and democratic engagement.  But Virginia’s laws as they currently stand don’t give our citizens enough ways to engage their government effectively.   I was proud to help start the process of gerrymandering reform by voting for the first stage of an independent redistricting commission amendment in 2019, but that commission will need additional stages and implementing legislation which we must follow through on by doing thing s like banning the use of partisan data in the commission process, for example.

We need to make voter registration more accessible, reform and extend voting times and precinct efficiency, and make absentee and early voting easier.  Many populations with burdens on their time and ability to get to physical polling places, from college students to the elderly to those with high-travel jobs, are badly punished by Virginia’s current inflexible systems of voting.


Education

I am one of the few teachers in the General Assembly, and my thirteen year career in teaching has shown me first hand the need for adequate support for our school systems from the state.  This is particularly true when it comes to student safety, and I served on a special commission for student safety in the wake of the Parkland shootings which made significant bipartisan progress.  One such area that was particularly valueable was an increase in the budget for school counseling staff and the implementation of a 1:250 counselor:student ratio, which I was proud to fight specifically for in the 2019 session of the legislature.  I also was part of a bipartisan move to give schools more control over their own calendars and remove the influence of special interest tourism industry lobbies from our school calendars.

But there is still so much more to do to improve our state’s education system.  Virginia remains one of the worst states in the nation for college affordability, our schools are funded almost 10% less per student by the state now than they were in 2008, leaving localities holding the bag, and our SOL testing system is a burden on schools, students, and parents.  As an educator and parent, improving Virginian’s access to educational opportunity from pre-school to trade school as the basis for prosperity and equality is my greatest passion.

Equality

Virginia should be a bold symbol of the American value of egalitarianism.  Every person, regardless of religion, sexuality, gender, or race should have the same rights, opportunities, and social status as everyone else.  Period. I have and will push back against anti-LGBTQ legislation from bathroom bills to protections for conversion therapy. I also stand with criminal justice reformers - for example, I was part of the effort to raise the cap on felony crimes in Virginia and reduce the number of minor crimes (like stealing an iPod) being prosecuted as felonies. Virginia has a long way to go one women’s rights, too - I voted for the Equal Rights Amendment and spoke in its defense in one of the speeches I was most proud to make on the floor all year in 2019. I was also a vote against gender-discriminatory products like imposing taxes on necessities like femine hygenie products. Virginia still needs to make progress to close the wage gap and fight against gender discrimination in the workplace.

Community Development

Virginia's state government can do more to help its counties and cities build infrastructure, fund crucial projects, and strengthen local programs on the ground.  I’ll work to ensure that the Richmond metropolitan region has the funding and communication necessary to promote our economy. From revitalizing Lakeside Avenue to fixing Sadler Road traffic by working with local planning authorities to mass transit planning like the GRTC pulse, shared growth and prosperity is key to Henrico and the region’s future.