Local Indivisible Groups Participate in Lobby Day
Diana Jamison, Tina Lyons and Charlotte Hollings ventured to Richmond on February 7 for an educational day at the General Assembly. We met our guides (and hand holders) Kristi VanAudenhove and Ruth Micklem, at the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. They generously shared their time and knowledge with us, providing us with a print out of 2018 VA legislation they felt might be of interest to us as members of Rappahannock Indivisible, and planned out our day.
Our first stop was our delegate, Margaret Ransone’s, office. She wasn’t in so we met with an aide. We were all a little tongue tied so Kristi started us off and soon, we were chiming in. We shared our concerns about gerrymandering and support for SB106 while thanking Ransone for supporting and voting for HB1598. Sadly, it was the only redistricting bill to make it out of the subcommittee that Ransone chairs and while it was the weakest of the bills presented, at least it did pass. We also brought up our concern about gun violence and support for common sense gun laws. Diana specifically mentioned two Senate bills that will be coming up for a vote in the House concerning autism, SB 337 and SB 339. She asked that Ransone support these as well.
Next stop was our senator’s office, Ryan McDougle. He also was not in but his aide was very helpful and engaging. We shared with her similar concerns presented to Ransone. We did learn that McDougle is considering hosting an event at Northern Neck Burger to meet with his constituents. We thought this was a great idea and asked to be informed if and when it was going to happen. We’ll be sure to share those details on the Indivisible website as they become known.
From there, we walked over to the Capital. On the way, we met several women dressed as suffragettes demonstrating for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. We learned that only two more states are needed in order for it to pass. Alas, the legislature voted it down two days later.
Once inside, we watched on live TV the House in session. There seemed to be a lot of time taken up by introducing various groups in the gallery. Once they did get around to voting, very little if any discussions was held before the votes for various bills. One assumed they had already discussed the pros and cons of each bill. Amazingly, they have over 3000 bills to get through during the regular session which lasts only 60 days.
After the House had adjourned, we waited almost an hour for the Courts and Justice Subcommittee to convene. This we would watch live, front and center. While waiting, we struck up a conversation with the woman seated next to us, Julie Emery of the Virginia Civic Engagement Table. Among other things, she runs training sessions to help people advocate more efficiently. We’re hoping to bring her to the Northern Neck for a workshop before too long.
Unfortunately it took so long for the subcommittee to convene that we didn’t have much time to stay. What we did observe was depressing. The bill up for vote was HB953 which would prohibit police from asking victims or witnesses of crime about their immigration status. One supporter noted that in Arlington County alone, there has been an 85% drop in reports of domestic violence and a 75% drop in reports of rape this past year. People are afraid to come forward for fear that they or someone they know may be deported. At least 7 people stood up and voiced support for the bill, emphasizing it as a public safety issue. Nobody spoke in opposition yet it was voted down along party lines.
The whole day was an education in how our General Assembly works (or doesn’t work). We need to hold our legislators accountable, let them know where we stand on these issues. Find an issue that resonates with you, learn all you can about it, then get out there and advocate!
You can contact Delegate Margaret Ransone at firstname.lastname@example.org. Write her at PO Box 358 Kinsale, VA 22488 or PO Box 406, Richmond, VA 23218. Call her at 804-472-4181 or 804-698-1099
You can contact Senator Ryan McDougle at email@example.com. Write him at PO Box 187, Mechanicsville, VA 23111 or General Assembly Building, PO Box 396 Richmond, VA 23218. Call him at 804-730-1026 or 804-698-7504