o Provide competitive step increases and raises for teachers
o Commit state funds for the partial construction costs of new buildings
o Increase mental health services to lower the counselor: student ratio to 1: 225
o Invest in vocational training and apprenticeship programs
o Increase state support for public universities to make higher education affordable
o Forgive debt for Virginians who serve the public
ECONOMY & INFRASTRUCTURE
Find sensible solutions to increase I-81 safety
Train Virginians with the skills needed for today’s jobs in healthcare, manufacturing, trades, public safety, and teaching
Support programs that help all Virginians find meaningful employment
PHYSICAL & MENTAL HEALTH
De-stigmatize mental health care and expand treatment facilities
Provide job protections for medical appointments and medical leave
Advocate for single payer healthcare, paid sick leave, copay reductions, and medical cost containment
Advocate for fair wages and benefits.
Fairly compensate public employees
Expand family and parental leave
Require background checks for all gun purchases and a waiting period for handgun purchases
Expand gun violence prevention and gun safety programs
Provide more resources, outreach, and counseling for sexual assault and domestic abuse survivors
EQUALITY & EQUITY
Pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)
Expand access to Broadband
Support and defend the rights of disenfranchised communities, especially minorities and LGBTQ
Include sexual orientation and gender identity to be legally protected from workplace discrimination
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
Decrease mass incarceration
Expand programs to re-integrate rehabilitated into society
Restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated citizens who have completed their sentences
Expand early voting options
Explore automatic registration and same-day voting registration
Virginia needs to take bold steps to protect our environment, but we need to be careful to create a sustainable work environment as well. A Climate Action Plan would create a system for reeducating individuals who are transitioning from work in the fossil fuel industry, and support the development of private and community-owned renewable energy projects.
Policy-wise, there should be a moratorium on all new fossil fuel projects. Utility-scale energy projects and natural gas pipelines would be impacted by this moratorium, but, with a Climate Action Plan in place, the negative consequences would be mitigated.
I support the federal Green New Deal. Until the federal GND is implemented, in order to make the most effective strides in protecting our environment, we need to have clear, direct legislation that moves toward renewable energy sources and pushes for more regulation of energy companies like Dominion. We should avoid commandeering the GND brand and focus on passing environmental legislation and economic developments.
Education provides a transformational path to becoming better citizens. As an educator, I have the knowledge and passion to address the most pressing concerns in our education system.
Virginia needs to prioritize funding quality pre-K throughout the Commonwealth and appropriately paying our teachers and staff. Teachers and staff deserve salary raises that are more appropriate to our current economic climate. Virginia needs to prioritize raises by raising salaries 7% over the next two years, and the state shouldn’t force localities to be the deciding voice on whether a teacher is able to earn a raise.
The state of Virginia can exert a positive influence by expanding the socio-emotional resources we offer to students. The staff positions of counselors, school psychologists, and social workers are stretched too thin. Addressing critical socio-emotional staff shortages is taking a proactive approach to the stressors that schoolchildren experience.
One area of particular interest to me is that the state of Virginia should take on a significant portion of the construction or renovation of new school buildings. In my district, Harrisonburg and Rockingham County could benefit tremendously from the state lessening the burden placed on localities when construction (for Harrisonburg’s second high school) or renovation (two elementary schools in Rockingham County) occur.
I believe that Virginia can benefit from the knowledge and the programming done in District 26. I would like to advocate for more schools in the Commonwealth to follow the Harrisonburg dual-language program model, especially for school districts that have a substantial second language spoken. In addition, the technology integration roll-out done by Rockingham County should serve as a model for how technology can be appropriately used within the classroom. And, I think that technology in rural school districts will help progress a wider conversation of how to efficiently and effectively bring broadband access to rural Virginia. Finally, Harrisonburg’s Mobile Café model should be expanded—in Harrisonburg but also through the Commonwealth. Expanding healthy lunch programs and nutrition resources throughout the calendar year, while also including more free or reduced lunches, is a way to care for our students and to encourage a better school day.
In higher education, I would advocate for re-assessing the funding model used by the state that helps determine tuition. In addition, vocational training and apprenticeships should continue to be increased (perhaps through public-private partnerships with local companies), and there should be a push for innovation of how to lower the tuition price for community colleges and four-year colleges. There also needs to be a distinct path forward for our citizens who are already overburdened from student debt. Currently, a small number of medical professionals and attorneys can work in highly specific areas for at least three years and have a portion of their loans forgiven. This is a positive step but too limited. Virginia needs to expand this debt forgiveness into multiple industries.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM
Running for office should be accessible to all legal citizens of the U.S. But money has twisted this. Although it will take a lot of work to switch from our current structure, I’m focused on consistently introducing legislation to encourage publicly-funded campaigns.
One area for legislation to focus on is by eliminating “war chests” or rolling over money from election cycle to election cycle. A campaign should have to use all the money donated to them during an election cycle, or donate the remainder to a nonpartisan charity. I also will introduce a bill to control the amount of money that can be raised during an event and, possibly, during the campaign at large. By having a cap at the amount of donations received, this will limit corporate donations and big-money donations. In addition, it will force campaigns to be more financially savvy.
PHYSICAL & MENTAL HEALTH
In order to have a healthy life for all Virginians, we need to address mental health. Often, mental health has been ignored or dismissed because it is difficult to diagnose and treat. As Delegate, though, I will address mental health concerns and work to de-stigmatize mental health.
There need to be more access to mental health resources. Public schools need to lower the counselor, school psychologist, and social worker ratios so that those positions can focus on improving the socio-emotional health of our students rather than being stretched too thin and only able to triage behavioral situations rather than find the root cause. In addition, at the community level, there needs to be more access to counselors, information, and insurance to cover mental health.
At mental health treatment facilities, we need to allow for more patients to be treated and we need to expand and strengthen the care options that are provided. We need to increase the number of beds to house mentally ill patients, in both the long-term and short-term. I also want to evaluate how to diversify the number and application of treatment options. When a mentally ill patient is placed for short-term care, they should be able to access resources for individual and group therapy sessions more than once per day.
Maternal health (both mental and physical) is often overlooked, especially after the birth of the baby. I would like to fund local programs designed to provide nurses and community care to new mothers. By supporting new mothers in a substantial and healthy way, I believe that Virginia can be on the forefront of a new way for women to be valued in society.
As we move to the physical side of the body, I want to advocate for safer menstrual products and safer birth control to be critical legislative priorities. More research funding should be allocated, and more funding should be given to help women deal with the substantial cost of menstruation.
Virginia is ranked #39 for developmental disability services. Investing in community services like DARS make sense, but we need to address the funding of waiver programs. Right now, 228 people, in our area alone, are on the waiting list to be helped by a disability service waiver. The system Is in place, but if the state provided more funds, critical disability services could be provided to the most vulnerable citizens.
With Medicaid expansion, it has become difficult to find and schedule wellness check-ups, as well as physical and mental therapy appointments. Expanding job protections and providing guaranteed sick leave will allow more people to access the care they need.
I believe in background checks for all gun purchases and in banning the sale of assault weapons in the Commonwealth. In addition, specific legislation needs to be put forward so that ammunition and guns are required to be stored separately. Emergency substantial risk orders should be put in place in Virginia.
Regarding sexual assault cases, I want to pass state laws so that Virginia public universities and colleges adhere to the preponderance of evidence criteria. Moreover, a school’s purview has been limited to acts committed on campus or at officially sanctioned activities; this needs to be reversed in our state. I believe that we can institute a comprehensive tracking system across all Virginia institutions so that information can be shared and form a committee to investigate uniformity between campuses.
As a mother, I am distinctly aware that Virginia needs a family leave policy that goes further than our current FMLA. With the Trump administration intent on making minimal changes to FMLA, and those minimal changes only having a positive impact on married, cis , pregnant mothers, we need to work on the state level to enact parental leave.
Adoptive parents deserve the right to ease into their transition to being parents just as much as non-adoptive parents need that time. In addition, mothers can’t be the only ones who need that time and space. Pregnancy is hard and post-partum is intensely difficult. I needed my husband during that time, and my husband needed to bond with his children. Post-partum depression is severely underdiagnosed, and the loneliness and uncertainty that come with being a new mother all snowball into a potentially dangerous situation. More time away from work and with the whole family would allow recuperation and stability.
Virginia needs to expand our benefits so that families can more easily take leave, without suffering any monetary cuts or losing their jobs. Maternity leave, paternity leave and family leave (to take care of ill or elder family members) needs to be a priority.
In Virginia, public-employee compensation packages are much lower than private-sector standards. We are paying our state employees less than they would earn in the private-sector, and we are losing valuable public employees. Certainly, direct compensation packages need to be more in line with the public sector, but Virginia has a chance to be on the forefront of how we can value education and public employment. One potential benefit to work as a public employee that I would like to introduce is widening the student loan forgiveness program.
The minimum wage should be increased incrementally over the next couple of years. My personal preference would be to increase to $9, then $11, then $13, and finally $15, but I think that the leap from $13 to $15 needs to be carefully applied so that small businesses are supported during the transition. This will require hard work, complex thought, and creative solutions.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
The state of Virginia needs to concentrate on reforming our criminal justice system for the safety and well-being of all citizens of the Commonwealth. The General Assembly needs to designate a task force of legislators, criminal justice specialists, and restorative justice experts to move Virginia to the forefront of a restorative justice system.
Reducing penalties for drug use and using the resources that would normally go to prison costs for drug offenders to be placed into rehabilitation facilities are two major changes that need to happen. Currently, pretrial detention unfairly punishes the poor in our community, and it should be eliminated. The state also allows local prisons to charge $1 per day; the General Assembly has the power to eliminate this unnecessary fee.