The second full week of the 2020 Session of the General Assembly began with a huge gun rights rally at the Capitol. Officials estimated 22,000 people were in attendance. The majority of the attendees were outside of the fence and many of them were armed. The rally was without incident.
The day was fairly gloomy for those of us who had work in or around the Capitol. Because of the large number of people expected and credible threats, the Governor declared a state of emergency. A handful of people who had planned to attend the rally and stoke violence from outside Virginia were arrested in advance of the event. Due to these outside threats, the atmosphere was tense. In order to beat the crowds, most legislators and staff arrived at the building before 6 a.m.
There are a number of issues that cause great divisions within our population. We have to learn to work through those issues without hyperbole and with respect. As Americans, we all have certain inalienable rights. The rule of law, civility, the democratic process, all require us to come together and work for the common good.
In that vein a couple of important bills passed through the Senate Finance Committee this week. Both of the bills were carried by Senator Emmett Hanger. Working with the Administration, the bills were aimed at promoting economic development projects in Pulaski County and Rockingham County. All told, the two bills, Senate Bills 610 and 611, will bring more than 1,000 jobs to Virginia by investing in projects at the Merck plant in Rockingham County and the Volvo plant in Pulaski.
One of the issues I’ve been working on has been to try to reduce the dependence on state hospital beds that has arisen over the last five years. Since passage of the bed of last resort legislation in 2014, the number of temporary detention orders has risen. While the trend of total TDOs has increased, the number private hospital admissions of TDOs have not. This has put significant strain on our public psychiatric beds. I have introduced a couple of bills to try and address the situation.
First, I sponsored a bill (SB 330) to streamline the process for the construction of new psychiatric beds. Estimates show taking this step will create more competition in the private hospital system and create about 94 new beds a year. The second bill (SB 1050) increases the time of an emergency custody order from 8 to 24 hours but also requires the hospital to take custody of the individual. This will allow additional time to evaluate someone and limit unnecessary hospitalizations. At the same time, the custody transfer takes the burden off of law enforcement.
We have a number of other measures aimed at either incenting the private hospital systems to take more patients or requiring them to do so. It’s either a carrot or a stick. Needless to say, negotiation on all of these matters continues. I want to believe that everybody has the same goal of providing quality care to people who are in need.
It continues to be an incredible honor and a humbling experience for me to serve you in Senate of Virginia. If I can be of service to you or if you have comments or questions, please contact my office at (804) 698-7525 or by email at [email protected].