In 1990, Virginia had the 17th lowest violent crime ranking and, in 1994, Richmond, Virginia was dubbed by the press as “The U.S. Murder Capitol”. To combat violent crime, Virginia abolished parole in 1995 and, in 1997, Richmond began Project Exile which resulted in Defendants who used a gun in the commission of a crime being prosecuted in federal court which carried a 5-year mandatory minimum sentence. Fast forward to 2018: Virginia was 4 th lowest in violent crime and had the lowest recidivism rate in the country, even though during that span of time Virginia’s population increased by well over 2,000,000 people. Yet, during the 2021 Session, the General Assembly spent time of its time (Democrats control the House of Delegates, Senate and all three offices of the Executive Branch) advocating for and addressing policies designed to bring parole back and abolish all mandatory minimum sentences. Law enforcement and criminal accountability has also been undermined by the conduct of Virginia’s Parole Board and the majority party’s response. Countless reports have been made of Virginia’s Parole Board releasing violent offenders in violation of the law and victim rights. In response, Democrats commissioned an investigation into the Office of Virginia’s Inspector General to address misconduct by Virginia’s Parole Board. However, the Inspector General found the Parole Board engaged in misconduct and did not follow the law in releasing numerous inmates. The response by the Governor and majority party- investigate the body that found the misconduct instead of the body that committed the misconduct; this is “form over substance” to make it appear as if you are doing something to address wrongdoing when you’re not. Because of these failed policies, Richmond in 2021, has the second highest murder rate in two decades.
In 2021, my bill, HB 2194 was introduced and passed making it a crime to communicate a threat in writing to another to kill or do serious bodily injury to any other person and makes such threat with the intent to harm them is guilty of a class 5 felony. My bill also makes it a felony to make such a threat by electronic means to intimidate a civilian population or influence the conduct of activities of a government, including the government of the United States, a state, or a locality through intimidation.
Chesapeake has implemented security measures to ensure our children’s safety. As chance would have it, I had the unique experience of participating in a lock down drill one morning while dropping my son off at school. Because we arrived after the official start of the school day, but only minutes after the drill began, my son and I were ushered into an office where I witnessed first-hand the response and monitoring protocols that ensure the safety of each student. It would be an understatement to simply say I was impressed. Tremendous credit should be given to the Chesapeake City Council, the Chesapeake School Board, the Superintendent, our building principals, teachers, and local law enforcement in creating and implementing current security and lock down procedures. I have also participated in “Watch Dogs” and as part of the program, participants routinely walk the perimeter of the school building to ensure doors are locked and secure. I remain confident in the safety of our schools.
In addition to local efforts, numerous bills enhancing school safety were introduced during the 2019 General Assembly, which I supported and co-patroned:
-HB1729 required each school counselor employed by a school board in a public elementary or secondary school to spend at least 80 percent of his or her staff time during normal school hours in the direct counseling of individual students or groups of students. Furthermore, funding was provided to hire additional school counselors.
-HB1732 required each school board to develop safety training procedures in the event of an emergency situation on school property and requires such training to be delivered to each student and employee in each school.
-HB1733 required (i) the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety to develop a model memorandum of understanding (MOU) and (ii) every school board that employs school resource officers to enter into an MOU with their local law-enforcement agency which sets forth the powers and duties of the school resource officers.
-HB1738 required the plans and specifications for new or remodeled public school buildings to be reviewed by an individual or entity with professional expertise in crime prevention.
-HB1739 specified that, for the purpose of grant eligibility involving security equipment through the Public School Security Equipment Grant Act of 2013, security equipment includes software and mobile applications.
-HB1631 encourages retired law-enforcement officers to serve as school security officers.
Work Force Development
When Republicans were in the majority, we introduced and I supported the “Tech Talent Pipeline”, the Workforce Credential Grant Program, and the Virginia Apprenticeship Programs. The “Tech Talent Pipeline” created 25,000 new computer science degrees, the Workforce Credential Grant Program provided priority funding to institutions that offer noncredit workforce training programs in high-demand fields, and Virginia’s Apprenticeship Programs have strengthened and expanded opportunities for Virginians who need to earn a paycheck while developing skills to fill labor shortages in high-demand areas. Jobs like the ones at the Newport News Shipbuilding are at the forefront of emerging technologies which enables “digital shipbuilding.”
When I first ran for the House of Delegates, I promised to advocate for full restoration of lottery funds previously dedicated to our schools. Each year I “lobbied” my Republican colleagues to return these monies to the education of our children. Over the course of my tenure in the General Assembly, I am thankful Republican legislators worked with me and fully restored lottery funds for public education, which also gave added flexibility to our schools to utilize this funding stream for their most pressing needs.
As former chair of the “Higher Ed” subcommittee, I worked with a Republican led General Assembly to pass legislation making it easier for middle class families to afford college by lowering the price of Prepaid 529 plans. Additionally, Republicans initiated policies addressing rising tuition rates and concerns of “unaffordability” for many Virginians. Although initiated in the Appropriations Committee, I was deeply involved in discussions and heard from many citizens regarding rising tuition. In response, Republicans provided additional funding for colleges and universities; however, in order to receive the funding, each college/university was required to “freeze” tuition rates for a period of time. Unfortunately, this “carrot and stick” approach was necessary to prevent colleges and universities from taking increased state revenue then raising tuition anyway. As an added measure and despite significant opposition from higher education institutions, Republicans also passed legislation mandating that each Virginia college and university receive public input before raising its tuition.
Insulin: Some time ago, I read several articles about diabetics dying because they could not afford insulin and therefore resorted to “rationing” their limited supply. This disturbed me since the inventors of insulin sold the patent for $1.00, believing it was unethical to “profit” from a discovery that would save so many lives. In response, I introduced legislation to cap the cost of insulin. A similar bill was introduced by a Democrat colleague. Politics being what they are, my bill was “rolled” into the other bill. However, I was able to become the chief-copatron of HB 66, which Prohibits health insurance companies and other carriers from setting an amount exceeding $50 for a 30-day supply of insulin. Despite vastly different political philosophies of the other patron, I worked across the isle to ensure this Bill passed- meeting with health care providers, representatives of Eli Lilly, and building support in the Senate of Virginia- and was credited by delegate Carter as being instrumental to the bill’s passage. For affordable insulin, please visit www.lillyinsulinlispro.com or call 1-800-545-5979.
Human trafficking is a pervasive concern that transcends every neighborhood, school district and age group throughout the Commonwealth. With the goal of improving the identification of potential child victims of human trafficking in our public schools, I submitted HB 2282. HB 2282 requires the State Board of Education to develop guidelines and resources so that school counselors and nurses can receive enhanced training to better recognize the signs and symptoms of trafficked children.
Opioids: A perennial problem confronting Virginia and the nation is the abuse of opioid and prescription drugs. I personally know several families who have struggled with this problem and have lost loved ones to an overdose. To better educate myself on this matter, I attended a very informative conference that focused on how to better address the epidemic. As a result of this conference and with Dr. Todd Pillion (R-Abingdon) taking the lead, I co-patroned six House Bills: HB 2126, HB 2162, HB 2163, HB 2164, and HB 2165. In summary, all of these bills address a wide array of concerns associated with prescribing addictive opioids. This legislation allows for better monitoring and sharing of information between providers. The legislation also establishes physician training and education standards for a safe and appropriate use of opioids and will lead to shortening the length of the prescription use period to minimize the risk of addiction.
Digital Assets: Today, many of our most precious assets and information are stored and maintained on-line. To guarantee the orderly management of these assets and the transfer to intended heirs/beneficiaries after death, I filed HB 1608 Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Access Act. This bill establishes guidelines and procedures, which allows fiduciaries (Executors, Guardians, Powers of Attorney and Trustees) to access and manage digital property of an estate, such as photographs, emails, social media, computer files, web domains, on-line content, and virtual currency, in the event of death or incapacity. Sadly, this idea came to me through the suicide of a family’s son, but this legislation afforded them desired clarity and much needed closure.
Emergency Shelter Bill: For several legislative cycles, I introduced legislation which would require a registered sex offender who enters an emergency shelter to notify a member of the shelter’s staff. Each time the bill has been “killed” by Democrats, once vetoed by Governor Northam and most recently “killed” in the General Assembly when the House and Senate were controlled by Democrats. I believe this legislation is particularly important to Hampton Roads given the threat of Hurricanes and flooding, to ensure the safety of those seeking shelter during declared emergencies. As a parent who may enter a shelter with my child, I would like to know that a registered sex offender is not lurking about and sleeping next to my family.
Enhanced Public Safety Telephone Services Act; Implementation of Next Generation 9-1-1 Services: I introduced this legislation which is paving the way to replace antiquated analog 911 services. I also introduced a budget amendment which established an Emergency Response Systems Development line of credit, allowing design and implementation to move forward. By using existing funding streams, this initiative and the resulting improvements did NOT result in any fee or tax increase.
Coal Ash: Of significant environmental importance to Chesapeake is legislation introduced and passed by Republicans requiring Dominion Energy to excavate coal ash from its site known as “Chesapeake Energy Center”, located on the southern branch of the Elizabeth River. Additionally, legislation required surveyance of drinking water wells within a 3-mile radius of any coal ash pond boundary within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and a medical monitoring program requiring a utility within 3 miles of any coal ash pond to perform an annual test to ensure wells used for drinking water exceed groundwater quality standards.
Traffic: The Chesapeake High Rise Bridge (from which you can see and pass Dominion’s Chesapeake Energy Center) is in full swing and set for completion in 2022. Additionally, Republican priorities included funding for expansion of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel by 2025.
The Commonwealth of Virginia is home to approximately 800,000 veterans and 150,000 active-duty military members and their families. Every opportunity should be taken to express our gratitude to and thank the “brave” for keeping our Country “the land of the free.” As a small token, I introduced a bill creating a special license plate for service members who have been awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, which may be requested and viewed on the DMV website.
THANK YOU for allowing me to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates; it is both an honor and privilege I take seriously. If you would like to learn more about me or my legislative work, please call my office at (757) 675-2292 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
J. A. “Jay” Leftwich, Jr.
308 Cedar Lakes Drive
Chesapeake, Virginia 23322