During the 2016 General Assembly, the organization One Virginia 2021 promoted laws to end gerrymandering in Virginia, and all of them have died in committee. That's unacceptable. Voters should pick their representatives; representatives should not pick their voters. Ending the use of political information to draw our districts is a non-partisan issue. We deserve to have fair elections, and ending gerrymandering is one way to ensure fair elections. We will have a new census in 2020, and redistricting will be key during 2021. We must have elected officials in place who will advocate for fair districting and to end the process of gerrymandering.
Immigrants & Refugees
Our region has long been a safe haven for those fleeing persecution and unsafe situations around the world. Our welcoming spirit has been a great asset and a source of pride to our region and, through articles about the growth of the tri-colored welcome signs in our area, people around our nation have seen how genial our community is. We need to make sure Harrisonburg and Rockingham County remain a beacon of hope to protect vulnerable immigrant and refugee populations. Our power is in our people.
Family Leave and Elder Care
As a mother, I am distinctly aware that Virginia needs a family leave policy that goes further than our current FMLA. We need to work on the state level to enact parental leave. Both adoptive and non-adoptive parents deserve the right to ease into their transition to being parents. In addition, mothers can’t be the only ones who need that time and space. I needed my husband postpartum, and my husband needed to bond with our children. Without a strong support system, we would not have been able to foster a solid foundation for our children. All families deserve to have this opportunity. More time away from work and with the whole family would allow recuperation and stability.
I will advocate for us to follow the lead of the four states in the US (California, for one) to implement paid parental leave as a state. Not only will we have better, more productive employees, we will be more competitive as a state for employees looking for work and employers looking to place jobs. Our entire Commonwealth can benefit from investing in healthy families!
In connection to elder care, the AARP recently determined that family caregiving work costs our nation $470 billion annually. Caregiving costs severe losses in wages, pensions, and Social Security; moreover, caregiving often affects work performance, eats up vacation time, and contributes to the exhaustion and distress that we see in the workforce. Two-thirds of caregiving falls on women, meaning that women disproportionately feel the stress of lost income.
How can this be helped? One, we need to look at expanding state assistance programs, such as caregiver respite, caregiver counseling, and legal aid. Although all of these could be improved by expanding Medicaid, we also need to examine how to cohesively bring transportation services, senior employment, and other state resources, from the Virginia Division for the Aging (DARS) for instance, into serious discussion.