A bill that no longer requires voters to provide an excuse to cast an absentee ballot cleared the Senate this week.
The bill, which was introduced by Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston) allows registered voters to cast an absentee ballot in any election where the voter is qualified to cast a ballot.
Howell’s bill was part of a package of bills that tweak the voting process in Virginia.
Other proposals, which got a green light from the Senate earlier this week, include designating Election Day as a state holiday and extending the deadline for the receipt of military and overseas absentee ballots.
Proposals in the House and Senate to remove photo ID requirements were killed in committee.
The proposals would have allowed voters to show registration statements, bank documents or other government-issued paperwork with the name and address of the voter.
Howell’s bill passed in the Senate by a 31-9 vote.
Photo by Catherine Moran
State Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd District) is breaking the silence among Reston lawmakers about the recent developments in a series of scandals among state-elected officials.
Earlier this week, a racist photo on Gov. Ralph Northam’s yearbook page surfaced, prompting Reston-area lawmakers to join widespread calls from both sides of the aisle for Northam’s resignation.
Then, the man in line to replace Northam if he steps down, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, became mired in scandal after a woman came forward alleging Fairfax sexually assaulted her in 2004.
On Wednesday (Feb. 6), Attorney General Mark Herring, the third in line for the governor’s seat, admitted to wearing blackface while he was a student at the University of Virginia in 1980.
Yesterday, news reports revealed that Virginia Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City County) was a top editor of a 1968 Virginia Military Institute yearbook that included photos of people in blackface and racial slurs.
Howell called the recent news a “horrible week” in a newsletter she wrote to constituents today (Feb. 8).
While Howell previously urged Northam to step down, she stopped short of calling for the resignation of Herring, Fairfax and Norment in her newsletter.
Here is her message:
This has been the week from h— here in Richmond. All of us, regardless of party, are shocked and devastated by the recent revelations about our Richmond leaders. Ralph Northam, Mark Herring, Justin Fairfax, and Tommy Norment are men we have known and worked with for years. Worse, we have trusted them to lead our state. We are all trying to sort through what is true and what isn’t.
At the same time we are being surrounded and queried by press – most of whom know little about Virginia. They don’t know about our shameful racist past or about how hard we have been working to overcome it.
I saw raw racism in Virginia. In 1963 I was a 19 year old civil rights worker in Danville, trying to guarantee fair pay and voting rights for everyone. Tensions were high and skirmishes broke out between civil rights activists like me and local white youth. The day after I left, a police riot occurred – called “Bloody Monday”- where dozens of peaceful demonstrators were injured by police. Those were ugly times.
People of goodwill have been working tirelessly to help Virginia move beyond the disgraceful parts of our past. Progress has been slow but there has been progress. We recently have been viewed as a beacon of hope for the South. The revelations of the past week and the pain they have caused have been a major setback. Obviously we must work harder. A bandage cannot cover the pain.
I am hopeful that this can be a cleansing moment for our state. We must each search our souls and work to bring about reconciliation and healing. There is a role for each of us to do so. This is not a time to sit back.
Meanwhile, please be assured that we are working hard here in Richmond to do the people’s business. Just yesterday the Senate passed our budget – on time and balanced. We Senate Democrats worked closely with Senate Republicans to produce a budget we can be proud of.
Please feel free to write me about anything of concern to you. I read all the emails myself and respond to as many as humanly possible.
Sen. Janet HowellP.S. I found this article to be very insightful and urge you to read it.
Photo courtesy of Janet Howell’s office
State Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd) is set to debut in October a book about women leaders that she wrote with her daughter-in-law.
Candlewick Press announced yesterday (Jan. 7) that Howell and her daughter-in-law, author Theresa Howell, penned a book to share the stories of more than 50 female leaders, ranging from Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Condoleezza Rice.
“Leading the Way: Women in Power” will include brief biographies of the women, how-tos for young activists, a timeline, index, and glossary, according to the independent publisher based in Somerville, Mass.
“I wish I’d had a book like this when I was a kid,” Janet Howell, who has been serving in the Virginia State Senate since 1992, said in the publisher’s press release.
Candlewick Press provided this description of the book:
Meet some of the most influential leaders in America, including Jeannette Rankin, who, in 1916, became the first woman elected to Congress; Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to Congress; and Bella Abzug, who famously declared, “This woman’s place is in the House . . . the House of Representatives!” This engaging and wide-ranging collection of biographies highlights the actions, struggles and accomplishments of more than fifty of the most influential leaders in American political history — leaders who have stood up, blazed trails and led the way.
The book follows the record number of women who ran for and won elected offices in 2018 and will debut before the 2020 presidential primaries, the press release said.
“We at Candlewick could not be more proud to be publishing this timely and inspirational book,” Karen Lotz, the president and publisher of Candlewick Press, said, adding that “Leading the Way: Women in Power” has already garnered praise from Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Janet Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona and Secretary of Homeland Security.
Napolitano said that she wants the book to inspire young readers to become future leaders. “The women profiled here were once girls who not only dreamed big — they went big,” she said.
The book will also feature portraits and lettering design by illustrators Kylie Erwin and Alexandra Bye. The book’s visuals aim for an “accessible, inviting look ideal for the project’s mission to inspire middle-graders, young adults, and even adults to create change in their own communities,” according to the press release.
Recommended for ages 10 and up, the book is set to hit stores’ shelves on Oct. 8.
Images via Janet Howell’s office and Candlewick Press
Reston lawmakers are gearing up to tackle gun violence and criminal justice reform ahead of the General Assembly kicking off a new session on Wednesday (Jan. 9).
The delegate and state senator representing Reston have been crafting legislation for the 46-day “short session” of the state legislature.
A review of the General Assembly’s online database gives a glimpse into what they plan to address.
Del. Ken Plum (D-36th District) plans to introduce legislation for universal background checks for gun purchases, according to a press release from Plum’s office.
That bill is a part of a package of legislation that is meant to prevent gun violence and improve safety, which Gov. Ralph Northam recently announced.
Plum, who will be the bill’s chief patron in the Virginia House of Delegates, said the bill “will close a significant loophole in Virginia law and require background checks on all firearm sales including private or online sales.”
Additionally, Plum said in the press release that he agrees with Northam’s assertion that “this legislative package of reasonable gun violence reforms appropriately balances Second Amendment Rights with public safety.”
Meanwhile, state Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd District) has prefiled several bills as a chief patron that address criminal justice. Howell wants to change the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony for any person who leaves a loaded and unsecured gun in a place that could endanger a minor.
In a separate move, she wants to allow evidence of prior statements that are inconsistent with testimony at a hearing or trial for a criminal case admissible.
Howell outlines three main criteria:
- If the testifying witness faces cross-examination
- If the prior statement was made under an oath at a trial, hearing or the proceeding
- If it narrates or explains the witness’s knowledge of the event
Howell also is trying to allow the local school board of a school division located in Planning District 8 — which includes Fairfax County — to set the school calendar and determine the opening day of the school year.
She also wants to require licensed assisted living facilities with six or more residents to have a temporary emergency electrical power source available on site in case of an interruption of the electric power supply. The temporary power supply must be enough to power necessary medical equipment and refrigerators, along with heating, cooling, lighting and at least one elevator.
Currently, assisted living facilities are not required to maintain a power source on site.
The Reston Historic Trust and Museum is hosting the 54th annual anniversary of Reston’s founding.
Founder’s Day is set for Saturday, April 14 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will include moon bounces, children’s activities and face painting.
Musical entertainment will be provided by Terrasset Elementary School, Langston Hughes Middle School’s jazz ensemble, Aldrin Elementary School, Lake Anne Elementary School and other local groups and schools.
At noon, local elected officials like state Sen. Janet Howell, state Del. Ken Plum, and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova will deliver remarks. Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins is also scheduled to speak.
Public Art Reston is also hosting a public tour around Lake Anne. The event will also include a book-signing event in the afternoon by local authors LaVerne Gill, Donna Andrews, and Samantha Mina. Artist Zachary Oxman will also provide commentary the impact of Reston on his art.
Founder’s Day is also supported by Reston Community Center and co-sponsored by Reston Association and Public Art Reston.
A complete program is available online.
Photos via Reston Historic Trust and Museum
SB 893, being proposed by Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax), was officially filed for consideration Dec. 20. It would make it “unlawful for any licensed manufacturer, licensed importer or licensed dealer to sell, deliver or transfer any handgun to any person… unless the handgun is accompanied by a warning, in conspicuous and legible type in capital letters printed on a label affixed to the gun and on a separate sheet of paper included within the packaging enclosing the handgun, that handguns should be locked and kept away from children…”
The only exception in the bill is for firearms that are “accompanied by a locking mechanism,” though it also allows leeway for law enforcement and governmental agencies.
Howell and Del. Ken Plum (D-Reston) co-hosted their annual Town Hall with locals Dec. 19, in an effort to hear citizens’ thoughts on issues they and other Virginia lawmakers are proposing. Among the issues discussed at the forum were rights for same-sex couples and former felons, and punishment for marijuana offenses.
This year’s 30-day session is scheduled to begin Wednesday, Jan. 11.
The Reston resident, who has served in Richmond since 1992, said in her newsletter to constituents that the diagnosis was “totally unexpected” and that she finished a course of radiation treatment last week.
The summer began with a totally unexpected diagnosis of stage 1 breast cancer. A screening mammogram revealed an 8mm malignancy.
Biopsies, a lumpectomy and several weeks of radiation followed. The radiation was completed last week.
The treatments have totally discombobulated my schedule and I have missed many events I otherwise would have liked to attend! I am extremely grateful for the wonderful medical care I received from all the caring professionals at Kaiser Permanente. They assure me that my prognosis is excellent.
Howell, 71, has been an advocate for expanding Medicaid in Virginia. The Republican-led Virginia General Assembly has voted against the program that would provide coverage to thousands of low-income citizens, saying Virginia will end up having to pay for it eventually.
“From this experience I have become even more aware of how important it is for everyone to have health insurance,” she said. “Not having to worry about paying for the expensive treatment has been a blessing. I wish everyone were so fortunate. The cruelty of those who would deprive healthcare coverage to nearly 400,000 of their fellow Virginians is unfathomable to me.”
“This is especially true given that failure to expand Medicaid means turning back $5 million dollars of federal aid daily, damaging the viability of our hospitals, and spurning 30,000 well-paying healthcare jobs.”
Howell is running unopposed for re-election in November.
By Ryan Goff
Del. Ken Plum (D-Reston) and Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston) held their annual meeting with constituents Thursday night, where they discussed issues important to them and those that the public wants to see brought to attention in the 2015 Virginia General Assembly session that begins Wednesday in Richmond.
The event drew several dozen residents to the Reston Community Center Hunters Woods, where they listened to the legislators’ plans for the session, and were able to give feedback on several topics.
Among the topics discussed:
Gun Control — Plum advocated for “common-sense approaches” to gun safety, including the expansion of background checks to cover the “gun-show loophole,” in which gun buyers are able to bypass a background check by purchasing their firearm from an individual seller at a gun show.
Plum also addressed the challenges of passing bills regarding gun control.
“That whole arena of gun legislation is very controversial.” Plum said, “I will tell you that in the House there is a subcommittee that is made up of persons who have straight-A ratings by the NRA, and get all these bills, so it’s a hard climb to get these bills passed […] we need to bring pressure to say that we can protect people’s constitutional rights, but we can have common sense gun legislation.”
Several speakers from the community also voiced their support for Plum’s proposed gun safety measures.
Medicaid Expansion — Both Plum and Howell voiced their support for the expansion of Medicaid. Plum has drafted a bill allowing Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) to proceed with the expansion of Medicaid.
“There are hundreds of thousands of Virginians today without medical insurance because of the legislature’s inability to act.” Plum said, before urging the public to contact other legislators across the state about supporting this bill.
Gerrymandering — Plum voiced his concern about the way that legislative districts are drawn by legislators, calling it “a total conflict of interest.”
Plum has once again introduced a bill calling for a non-partisan organization to handle the redrawing of district boundaries.
Howell, the former chairman of the Privileges and Elections Committee in the Senate, has introduced a similar bill.
“I have put in, like Ken has, a bill for non-partisan redistricting,” said Howell. “It was my misfortune during last redistricting to be chairing that committee in the Senate. Like Ken said, we have a lot of lawsuits, unfortunately not challenged, with the Senate redistricting. But I will tell you that process was horrible because we had to take all these political factors, and it was almost impossible to keep communities of interest together, and yet that is something we need to do.”