Although Democrats dominated the recently-completed legislative session, state Sen. Amanda Chase was in favor of some bills that passed and wait Gov. Ralph Northam’s signature.
Chase, a second-term legislator, co-sponsored a bill — SB 95 — that requires “balanced emergency billing.” The bill, she explained, will require insurance companies to work together to ensure that patients don’t get stuck paying for out-of-network doctors.
Chase said that sometimes a person goes to an in-network hospital emergency room, but gets treatment from out-of-network medical service providers, which can result in financially devastating bills.
The Chesterfield County Republican said she also supported a hands-free cell phone bill — HB 878 — that cleans up state law, adding that the current law prohibits texting and emailing while driving but is difficult to enforce. The bill bans holding a cell phone while driving.
“I call it the ‘freedom to live’ bill,” she said.
Chase voted against the budget because it included a “full Medicaid expansion,” doesn’t give first responders and teachers a big enough pay raise or bonus and doesn’t take into account the impact the coronavirus will have on expected revenues.
She lamented “an all-out assault on our Second Amendment,” referring to numerous gun-control bills that passed. She said universal background checks will lead to creation of a gun registry and lead to confiscation, called a red flag law “egregious” and said it denies a law-abiding citizen due process, and voted against another bill that allows creation of gun-free zones.
Chase opposed HB 9, which says that a person can be charged with a civil offense and fined $250 for not reporting the loss or theft of a firearm within 48 hours. Del. Carrie Coyner of Chesterfield was the lone Republican in the General Assembly to vote for the bill. It passed the House 55-44 and the Senate after Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax broke a 20-20 tie that resulted after Sen. Chap Peterson (D-Fairfax) voted no.
Chase decried a bill — HB 1620 — that can result in someone being prosecuted for threatening public officials during performance of their duties. Chase said she gets threats and harassment on her Facebook page “all the time,” but believes in the freedom of speech and the First Amendment to the Constitution.
“It is very frustrating to watch our freedoms being decimated one bill at a time,” Chase said. “It’s part of why I’m running for governor (in 2021). It was an assault on our Constitution,” she said, noting it was the first time in 27 years that Democrats had complete control of the governor’s office and General Assembly.
If she wins — Chase said she will run as an independent if the GOP chooses a nominating convention instead of a primary next year — she will consider using executive orders to undo some of the laws that Democrats have overturned this year. “I will be looking into that,” she said, referring to executive orders.
Although Chesterfield’s state delegation largely came together in a bipartisan process in an effort to choose a replacement for retired Circuit Court Judge T.J. Hauler — an unsuccessful effort that was led by state Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) — Chase said she and Morrissey both supported a bill that refers to the November ballot a constitutional referendum to establish an independent redistricting commission.
Morrissey could not be reached for comment for this story, but a staffer sent a list of bills that passed which the former attorney was the chief sponsor of this past session.
Some of these include: a bill (SB 818) that establishes specialized court dockets to offer monitoring of intensive treatment and supervision of offenders who have a mental illness and substance abuse issues; a bill (SB 1) that repeals the requirement that a driver’s license be suspended for failure to pay fines; a bill (SB 240, red flag gun control) that gives the court the ability to temporarily prohibit a person who poses a substantial risk of injury to himself or others from purchasing, possessing or transporting a firearm; a bill (SB 2) that decriminalizes simple marijuana possession and provides a penalty of up to $50 or 5 hours of community service; and a bill (SB 7) that increases the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9.50 beginning Jan. 1, to $10.50 on July 1, 2022, and to $11.50 by July 1, 2023. The latter bill also indexes future increases to the rate of inflation (Consumer Price Index) based on the state region with the highest median household income.
Some of the bills that passed that Morrissey sponsored — but wasn’t the chief sponsor of — include: SJ 118, a public referendum on creation of Virginia Redistricting Commission; SB 868, which prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ persons in housing and employment, aka the Virginia Values Act; and SB 34, which allows issuance of driver privilege cards for one year for illegal immigrants who meet certain conditions, including having car insurance. Coyner was one of three Republicans in the House to vote for the latter bill. It will go into effect Jan. 1 if signed by Northam.