Hi Everybody. I'm just going to give it a couple of minutes for people to get onboard.
We'll go ahead and get started. So good afternoon. I hope you're having a nice Sunday. I wanted to reach out after Reconvene, since we've closed out the session and give you maybe just a reasonable synopsis of what happened and kind of how it played out. I'm going to start by going over my bills and we've got open schools, obviously.Thank you. First of all, to everybody for all of your help. The governor signed that bill and he did not amend it, which is good and bad. I would have liked him to add an emergency clause. I still have parents by the dozens reaching out to me, telling me that they didn't get a chance to re- select in person education from a survey that was taken last fall when things were very different. I have other parents that are saying their kids are doing remote learning in the classroom with a Proctor. We still have several school divisions that don't really have any in-person. But what that bill is going to do is give us a starting point for you to have standing in the eyes of the law if the state and your school division does not open up schools. I noticed to my surprise Fairfax County. I saw an article the other day that Fairfax is going to open their summer school five days a week. So July 1st will make a difference. In some cases Fairfax has been one of the most challenging counties in Virginia with opening schools. So that is in play and look for updates on that. We hope to be able to find a way, we may be working with another organization, but find a way to bring in some lawyers to give you an idea of what your legal standing is. Because the other thing I'm hearing from parents is that many school divisions are saying that law really doesn't mean five days a week and be assured it does. So we may need to be ready to act because sometimes you change law by legislating, and sometimes you change law by seeking advice from the court.
So we'll look at that.
Other things. Of course the vaccination administration bill was signed early during the legislative process and that has been put into action. I myself have signed up and volunteered. You can too, you don't have to be a clinical person. You can volunteer for crowd control, but we are doing much better on vaccinations, now that we have a workforce. They still need more. So we need to inspire more people to volunteer, but we are really chipping away at getting those vaccinations done. I have reports that I've seen that say 70% in some of the highest risk groups. And then we need to start having conversations about why it's safe and wise to get the vaccine, because some people had the opportunity to get and have chosen not to, and so hopefully with education and inspiration, we can cover that.
Other things. There are a few bills of mine that the governor did not sign. I don't understand that strategy, but they became law anyway, because they were passed by both houses and he didn't veto them. And those are important things. That is the reconstruction of special education in Virginia. And we were able to do an incredibly comprehensive pairing of bills and budget amendments to make sure every child in Virginia can succeed. And if they have a challenge to that success, we can give them the services and provide them the additional support they need so that they can learn. There's so many things that interfere with learning and we want to make sure all of our kids have a chance to learn, because again, education is the ticket to the American dream.
We have outdoor refreshment areas. That's where a place like Scott's Addition or out in s]Short Pump, they can actually create an outdoor area where you can wander, buy a drink to-go, see a band and kind of have a community outdoor event. I think we recognized during COVID that being outdoors was both a safer way to interact, but also too, people liked it. So this bill will give localities the opportunity to develop guidelines that are approved by ABC, so that they're safe, and just give us a little bit of a different business opportunity for some of our small businesses and restaurants, etcetera.
We got grandparents visitation. The governor did sign that. We have the student growth measurement tool that went through. And that's what we've been talking about. Disassembling SOLs, the intimidating end of the year, high liability tests that are really frustrating and for kids and for teachers and getting back to the idea that we want to help kids succeed in school. Instead of measuring just the school or the teacher let's focus on the child. And so those tests have been disassembled into two diagnostic tests. These are now targeted to where the kid is. What do they know? How are they performing in relation to their peers? And how can we help them get to the point where they are performing on the level that we think they should be? This is a diagnostic test when you start school and there's never been a year, that was, this was more important than now because we know there's been profound learning loss. And if we're going to figure out how to make sure that is not a loss for our children of a lifetime, we want to make sure that's not a loss for our kids for three to five years. We want to make sure our kids aren't at a disadvantage to the kids all over the country who have gone to school every year. We want them to compete when they're adults, so, or at least be able to compete if they want to. So. That student growth measurement is just an imperative and it starts this year. And I thought that was an incredibly important part of what we were looking at. So there's other things we've talked about before.
I won't go through all my bills. There's some things, for instance, auxiliary grants, we heard about an assisted living for low-income individuals here in the greater Richmond area that relied on the food bank for most of their food, because what the state pays for a low-income person to be in assisted living is really about 25% of what it costs for that the monthly and annual costs of that individual. And so charity supports the rest. And part of that had been getting food to those individuals from the food bank. This particular center couldn't get any food from the food bank. I felt a moral obligation to make sure we didn't leave our elderly and such a lurch. We were able to help them during COVID; they got the food they were covered.But it was scary for a little bit. So I went to bat to try and get those auxiliary grants raised in reimbursement because it's a false promise to sa you're going to support somebody and then only give 25% of that cost. Several other people recognize that need too, all of those bills and actions and budget amendments. I had a budget amendment that went with that. The bill actually did get passed, and in the budget and there was a 25% increase, not as much as I wanted. So I'm sorry, my list keeps going away here. So those are most of my bills and you can always go to the website and see what bills I carried this year and what course they took and how they went.
But I also want to point out on vaccines when we're talking about volunteers, we have had Henrico this weekend moved into open vaccination. So you no longer need to have a health risk. So really, anybody 16 and above can sign up and get an appointment to go get a COVID vaccine. That shows you we're moving so quickly along with the high risk groups, that we were ready to move into the general population.
I didn't have any bills that were at the Reconvened Session.Mine were taken care of during the session or signed into law. There were some hotly debated bills though, at Reconvene, that I'm sure you've read about and I want to talk about one is the marijuana legislation. I want to take a step back. I have always supported medical marijuana and have been very instrumental in making sure that it was available. I have seen the medical evidence that it does work and it does make a difference. I have also always supported the idea that it was probably a good idea to decriminalize marijuana. In other words, make it so that we are not spending so much of our law enforcement on actually pursuing marijuana crimes. We wanted to get people who were the actual perpetrators that were illegally selling it, but simple possession was resulting in so much, so much too many challenges for individuals. If you really look at the history of marijuana and the history of the United States and my beliefs as a libertarian,I believe that people should be able to make, or partially libertarian, people should be able to make decisions for themselves. Marijuana has less risk than so many other chemicals that are freely available on the market, like alcohol. So I'm not opposed to adult regulation of marijuana and decriminalizing it. And I, in general, supported the concept, the bill was just a tragic mess. I supported it and we kept working on it and we kept evolving it. The bill has taken that the topic and the conversation about marijuana and how to regulate that wisely and safely and deal with issues like driving while under the influence and looking at some of the hard questions that we know have to be answered: how to structure a safe program, how to make sure we remove the criminal element of marijuana consumption in the public and, you know, really practical issues, and it was turned into a political mess about how there had to be some sort of compensation for people who had been arrested for marijuana crimes before, and they had to add access to building the businesses. It became even more troublesome when it came back from the Governor, because of the things the Governor actually put into that bill. It's beginning to be like DC down there in Richmond guys. They are embedding things in a bill. We have a single item rule; a germaneness rule in the State legislature. That means that you can't have a bill that has a bunch of different things in, it has to be on one issue. That way they can't plug in all this pork, all this other stuff that they want to put in and create bills that don't really even do what they claim to do. That's what they're doing down at the legislature now. So, the Governor sent back an amendment and the amendment basically built in union control of this business marketplace. Unions could have access to your employee records at all times, the owners could not hire more than 10% of people who are not full-time employees. They couldn't have independent contractors. And it really was an egregious misuse of power again. So the only good piece of news that I have about that is that it has to be reenacted next year. So I'm hoping, especially if we can win the House of Delegates this year, that we can have some reasoned conversations about how to do this wisely. But that bill did pass. And that is why you saw so much hot debate on that issue.
We talked as we went through the session and we did our weekly updates about, about abolition of the death penalty, which I support in concept, but again, they came out and they didn't abolish the death penalty with the alternative punishment, being that you have life in prison without parole. So they left parole open, you know, I think of all crimes probably. You know, I align my viewpoints on this with what I've heard so many other people and what I think the general public thinks, and that is this: we don't want somebody to get out if they've committed murder. We really think that that's kind of one of those things that puts the world in jeopardy. Murders, not manslaughter. It's not unintentional. You have to meet certain legal criteria. With the criteria for murder to get that actual penalty. And the problem is, is that whatever the intent is of the jury in the court, once that individual is moved from the court system into the jail system and the parole board whatever was the intent of the court, unless it's written into law, like life in prison without parole, is subject to interpretation because they're now in a new silo and they're going to be managed by the guidelines over there. So that's why that's so objectionable to me, I do object to the fact that Vincent Martin was paroled this last year. And I think you've been following in the media, all the challenges we've had with the parole board.
So, let me just clarify where this is maybe political and where it's not. By law, the parole board must notify families of victims, victims, and the local law enforcement and Commonwealth's attorneys for where the cases were tried of the release of somebody on parole based on guidelines that are established in law. That was not done again and again and again and again, last year, this wasn't one oversight. There was a violation of the law by the parole board in order to, and notice to multiple families when violent offenders were paroled and the victims were not notified, that's just not okay. In addition to that, there were other actions that were taken that we have documented in emails like the release of over a hundred people from home monitoring by the chairman of the parole board without any review or process that is also codified by the parole board. And then to have a follow-up email from that individual saying that she was drunk with power, send her more. And so that's the kind of thing that has raised the alarm bells about what is going on with the parole board.And now that we have so many more opportunities for parole in our process. We, as citizens, deserve to have confidence in that process and know that it's working right. And to have things fixed for the errors that have occurred and have been documented again and again. So our own investigative service that is appointed by the governor so I say ours, but it's an agency. So it's under the governor's purview, they did a review of the parole board on more than one case, but particularly on Vincent Martin and they, by law, are required to produce the review, the document of their analysis to the majority and minority leader of both houses of the legislature and the Governor's office. This was a big mess. What the leaders got was redacted. They didn't get information. There was a whistleblower that released a document that claims there was malfeasance in the administration, both in the Attorney General's office and the Governor's office. We honestly don't know what the truth is. That's why we need a real investigation. The citizens deserve that level of transparency and accountability by people who serve them. So we have been asking for an investigation, an independent investigation. Well, the Governor sent back in the budget funding $250,000 of your money, our money, to do an investigation. But, it's not open, and it is not the kind of investigation that is going to give us confidence because it's actually not an investigation of the parole board. What they're investigating is what the office of Inspector General did. And whether or not how this whistleblower figured in. And that is a political issue that is not nearly as much of an accountability, public service, public obligation, conversation as it is when we talk about the parole board and what has happened, and really the whole thing should be involved. Did something happen in the Governor's office? Did it happen in the attorney General's office? Was there something with the office of the Inspector General that there was then a coverup? You deserve to know what the heck is going on, and for everybody, regardless of what your political affinity is. We should know that our systems work and we should hold them accountable when they don't. And if they didn't really do anything, that was a problem. Then let's prove that and have an open conversation so that we all are on the same page, but let's not try and cover it up by doing a fake investigation. That's exactly what I believe was passed in the reconvened session when they looked at that budget amendment from the Governor.
So, and then when we get back to the conversation about life in prison and not attaching without parole to it, that makes the parole board confidence an even more important, shared value we should have in Virginia, because we need to know that justice is justice for the victims and people aren't getting paroled in violation of the laws we've sat down. So I think those are most of the hot topics to look at.
I do want to harken back for a minute first to quick COVID comment, and then I'll give you a general comment of my perception. I'll start there. I sat there during the Reconvene Session listening to a lot of the debate and arguments, knowing that it was not my subject matter expertise, like the parole board and how it functions in the legal arena and the courtroom.
Obviously not my expertise. So I'm constantly learning and listening. I think that gives me the ability to reflect a little bit better about what somebody who is, you know, in the general public would perceive what's going on. I look at what the Democrats are doing with the power that they have, having both Houses, having the Governor's Mansion, and being able to pass anything they want, regardless of contrarian opinion.I think one of the biggest things that bothers me is our philosophy about government. I believe that the government has a high tendency of being flawed. And with the best intent, I think that they have a high tendency. Why? Because they get caught up in process or bureaucracy and the way they do things and,not, you know, having to change because change is painful and those are all obstacles to adapting. Whereas the private sector individuals were forced to adapt all the time. So I think there's an inherent challenge in government. And I think that when you have a bureaucracy that you have to get through red tape on that you don't have the level of accountability that you do have your neighbor or a business that you can choose to not go to or choose to invest in. And so I think the government should be kept small. Kept out of our way. And that while human beings are far from perfect, there's less jeopardy and less liability in trusting individuals and the free market where there's competition and adaptation and nimbleness and accountability than trusting the systems of the government. That's a basic tenant difference between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats have a tendency to think that the government knows best and that they have the ability to go into the legislature and be subject matter experts on everything, which I don't think we are and that they then can decide what is in the best interest of each individual. That is how their legislation is being developed and passed. That is their intent. I don't think that they're evil people. I think we disagree on what the government should do. And, and I've got to tell you. This government is just expanding in its numbers and its volume and its cost and its scope and in its ability to have a say in what you choose to do and what you don't choose to do. And so that's my observation. I am an advocate for small government and we're way off base. That's one thing.
The next thing is COVID. My husband sent me some articles, an article recently that stirred up research on my part to look at a lot of different information. I am so impressed looking at vitamin D and how much it contributes to protecting you from COVID and probably from many, many other things. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that we convert from other precursors in our bloodstream when our skin is hit with sunlight. But if you have darker skin, you don't convert vitamin D very well. If you wear sunscreen, you don't convert vitamin D very well. Something like 70% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D. Here's what they found out about vitamin D and COVID people who had a normal mid range vitamin D level during COVID. They didn't get it. Or they got much more minor cases. More importantly, when we talk about SARS that severe adult respiratory syndrome, which is what was killing people and making them have to be ventilated and have serious side effects, basically your lungs swell. It's an inflammatory response. And that happens because you have a storm of all these little chemicals coming in called cytokines. It's literally called cytokine storm. If your vitamin D level is in the mid normal range, you can't cytokine storm.it’s amazing biochemistry. So the take on, and you know, this is a kind of thing that I wish our doctor Governor would have spent all the resources he had in his agency. Couldn't we have a conversation about how that might protect you during COVID? And so, I ask you, I invite you to go read for yourself. I invite you to talk to your doctor. I take vitamin D every day. I take 2000 international units. I've seen a wide range of suggestions of how much you should take. You may want to get your vitamin D checked, but if you're elderly, you're more likely to have a low vitamin D. Interestingly, we saw an increased incidents of, COVID 19 and even SARS in darker skin members of our community. Some of that is attributable to vitamin D because they have a harder time getting it. So we should all be supplementing. And that is a. You know, at that intersection between medicine and politics that I wanted to bring to you today is to make sure that you know about vitamin D and you get on it. And you know, 2000 to 5,000 a day is what's recommended to maintain. But if you're low, there's some other strategies where they help you bump your vitamin D level early and then get back to maintenance.
So I'll ask you to look at all of that, and then I'm going to go real quickly to my texts and see if I have questions. Okay.
I have a question about how you can help ensure that mask exempt students are given opportunities to attend in-person learning?I don't think I can assure you that. I think that I can't, I can't defend unequivocally. The use of masks for me, the use of masks are an intersection between some science and some like agreement we've reached in society at this point in time that we definitely don't have data to say absolutely that masks do nothing. I think they are not very needed right now, but I think that I'm so much more invested in getting our economy open and getting weddings opened back up and making sure that we can take some steps forward to kind of retch our freedoms back away from the executive orders that hold them hostage now. When I choose my arguments, and what Hills I'm going to die on. Masks are lower on the priority than getting the economy open. And that's the best way I can say it. But it would be, I think it would be a lot of effort that wouldn't succeed because people would be like, just wear the mask. What's the big deal? So. You know, we'll just have to see how that goes. I think you can choose a shield. I will say that, you know, when we were at the General Assembly, they allowed shields. So if you can't wear the mask over your face, you might be able to do a shield. And that might be a conversation we can have.
There's a few other things I want to follow up with you about where we are going. This is of course a transition for me now, I'm out of session, I have worked with my legislation. I've advocated on the issues that I thought were the most important based on my conversations with all of you and so many others across the state and mostly in our area the last many months. And now I'm turning back towards what we do on constituent services. We've already held some meetings. We had some meetings with the Asian community in Henrico, and made sure they had access to all the supports and services they need. I wanted to hear what their experiences were, the same thing we did during COVID and, and George Floyd, when we were talking about those kinds of things. We are open to do some updates for you. If you want to have an update for your organization, we've already started doing speaking events at different locations. So we're happy to do that for you. If you have issues or concerns that you want to talk about, this is a great time to talk to your legislators, because we can have time to prepare for legislation in the fall. Most importantly, we're all going to be looking at electing a new Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General this year. We're also going to be looking at the House of Delegates races. We’re going to try and start that off by giving you access to some of these candidates. I know it's hard for these people running in these races when we've got COVID and it's so hard to get together, and for them to tell their story and to earn your support. So we're going to have some zoom calls where we bring them in and let them each talk a little bit, so you can have access to them. So look for updates on that. We've got about four weeks before the nomination is determined. So each week we're going to do one of those Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General. And then later on, we're going to get you access. Now, of course, I'm talking about the Republican candidates to be frank, and we're going to make sure you have access to all of those candidates. There are other people who are doing zooms with the Democrat candidates, but we're going to bring you the Republican candidates.
And I'm looking to see, I got a follow up question. Are you going to be helping raise the mask age? It's hindering so many children? I'd love to see the information you have on hindering children. Send that to me and I will look at that follow-up question. The feedback I've gotten is that the kids have been amazingly adaptable and have done brilliantly and beautifully with mask compliance and that parents were surprised and it hasn't been an issue. So if you have data, that's contrary to that, and I have data that I can use to defend that position. I would be very interested in seeing that, so I think that is everything.
I'll wait for my team just to send me a quick text and tell me if there are any further questions and anything else that we need to talk about. All right. I think that we're probably all clear. So we'll look forward to talking to you in the near future and have a wonderful, beautiful day. It's been less rainy than we thought, and I just want to say thank you so much. I'm honored to serve you and I will continue fighting and making sure you have the tools to take care of your families and succeed. Thank you. Bye.