Public Comments for 01/28/2021 General Laws - Professions/Occupations and Administrative Process Subcommittee
HB2155 - Virginia Human Rights Act; nondiscrimination in employment, sexual and workplace harassment.
Last Name: Snell-Cook Locality: Virginia Beach

Without a safety net or optimism about their chances of finding another job, workers are more desperate to keep a paycheck at any cost and less willing to report workplace abuses, increasing their vulnerability to harassment, discrimination, exploitation, abuse, and retaliation at work. Confronting harassment requires addressing the underlying conditions that drive abuse—particularly a lack of access to basic labor rights, job security and protection from retaliation. Changing the workplace harassment laws would ensure that Virginia’s working people have equality, equity, and justice within the workplace so that harassment can no longer be used as a tool to preserve the unequal position of women and other marginalized groups within the workplace and society. This is about building a better, more safe Virginia for all. HB 2155 provides a clear definition of harassment that reflects the realities of workplace harassment and provides clarity to procedural elements of the Virginia Human Rights Act. • Provides for a consistent “5 or more employees” employer-size threshold across all HRA discrimination claims. • Clarifies awards of “attorney fees and costs” include reasonable litigation expenses. • Proves beneficial for businesses by providing clarity about what constitutes unlawful harassment, which will help employers prevent and stop harassment. • This bill also helps employers avoid liability and the lasting human impacts of harassment that translate into business costs, such as decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and diminished recruitment and retention. Thank you for your support of this important legislation.

HB2161 - Active military or a military spouse; prohibits discrimination in public accommodations, etc.
Last Name: Akin Organization: Blue Star Families Locality: Fort Bragg, NC

My name is Jennifer Akin and I am the Co-Director of Applied Research at Blue Star Families. I am an active-duty Army spouse, and although I have had a stable career compared to many military spouses, it has not come without challenges. I never envisioned myself entering military family research or advocacy, but one incident of blatant employment discrimination when I was a young military spouse changed the course of my trajectory.  For six years I had commuted from Fort Bragg, NC to the Raleigh-Durham area for work. When my son was born, that was no longer tenable and I began to explore options closer to home. I quickly received an interview for a position and proceeded through the multi-step interview process. At every stage of the interview process, I was asked what 'brought me to the area,' and 'how long have you lived here?' questions I now know are veiled attempts to discern whether an applicant is a military spouse. I answered them honestly. Despite being told following my final interview that I was the most highly-qualified applicant and to expect an offer letter soon, weeks went by and I heard nothing. When I reached out to check back in, I was told that 'leadership was looking for an applicant with more potential longevity and that although my credentials were impeccable, they did not want to go through the hiring process again the following year if our family received military orders.' I was devastated. Never before had my husband's chosen career in any way harmed mine. This experience led me to where I am today and provided me the opportunity to begin collecting the data necessary to demonstrate that I was not alone.  Employment discrimination against military spouses is real and widespread. In our 2019 Military Family Lifestyle Survey, 40% of military spouse respondents felt that employers in their local area were not eager to hire military-affiliated individuals, and 35% believed that employers in the local community would not accommodate the needs of military-affiliated employees.  Over half of active-duty spouse respondents thought that their military affiliation prevented them from receiving a promotion.  According to the DoD, military spouse unemployment has not significantly decreased since 2012 (it was around 22% in 2019).  77% of military spouses respondents in our own research are underemployed. It is reasonable to assume that employment discrimination is at least partially responsible for these outcomes.  I am proud to represent Blue Star Families and support H.B. 2161, but more importantly, as a military spouse I am grateful for your leadership on this issue. Thank you.

Last Name: Marra Organization: Virginia Poverty Law Center Locality: City of Richmond

One way in which HB2161 protects servicemembers and their dependents from rental housing discrimination is by making it unlawful for a housing provider to condition a servicemember's rental of a house or apartment on that servicemember's waiver of his or her rights under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The SCRA provides any servicemember who is sued for eviction the right to a 90-day stay of the eviction case. This stay is essential to the servicemember's ability to mount a defense in a manner that does not interfere with his or her military duties. Often, this 90-day stay provides the time needed to contact a servicemember who is on active duty so he or she can ensure their rent is up to date and that a proper defense can be raised in court. Similarly, the SCRA prohibits landlords seeking early lease termination fees from servicemembers who have to terminate their leases early because of a change in their station or duties. It has become common practice for residential landlords to include clauses in leases through which servicemembers waive all or some of their rights under the SCRA. Servicemembers find that the more desirable housing comes with leases that require them to waive these important federal rights. If they don't want to sign away these rights, they are often left with no choice but to rent less suitable housing in less desirable areas. The Virginia Poverty Law Center believes that the men and women who protect our country should never be asked to give up their federal rights just to secure the housing of their choice. And this waiver of rights has very real and severe consequences. Servicemembers who have waived their rights under the SCRA are more likely to have eviction judgments entered in their absence (default judgments) , placing their families at risk of homelessness and the servicemembers likely to return from protecting our country to find they have nowhere to live. By expressly prohibiting residential leases from containing waivers of rights under the SCRA, HB2161 will put a stop to the practice of forcing servicemembers to choose between maintaining their federal rights and having decent and desirable housing for themselves and their families.

Last Name: Akin Organization: Blue Star Families Locality: Arlington

Will be sent to Delegate Tran's office directly.

HB2202 - Elevator mechanic or accessibility mechanic, certain; exemption from certification.
Last Name: Spencer Organization: VA BCTC Locality: Essex

In Support of HB 2202 Elevator mechanic or accessibility mechanic, certain; exemption from certification. I support HB 2202 Elevator mechanic or accessibility mechanic asking the Board for Contractors to provide an exemption from certification as an elevator mechanic or accessibility mechanic. Provides that an individual is not required to be certified as an elevator mechanic or accessibility mechanic when working under the direct and immediate supervision of an elevator mechanic or certified accessibility mechanic who is certified in the specialty for which work is being performed. Lou Spencer Caret, Virginia

Last Name: Avery Organization: VA State Building and Trades Council Locality: Hampton

I am Jim Avery. retired electrician with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. I support this bill, which is a clarification for the trade of elevator constructors to conform their worker classifications to accommodate their training program. It allows a trainee to gain field experience under the same restrictions that apply to other construction trade apprenticeships.

Last Name: Ayres Organization: International Union of Elevator Constructors Locality: King George

To whom it may concern, I am writing in support of HB 2202 concerning 54.1-1141 of the Code of Virginia relating to professions and occupations: Board for Contractors; exemption from licensure as an elevator mechanic or accessibility mechanic to amend and reenact as the law as written to clarify that helpers and apprentices are allowed to legally work on a job under the direct supervision of a licensed elevator mechanic or a licensed accessibility mechanic. There is a misunderstanding in the law and a need for clarification as it is currently not clear that helpers and apprentices can legally work on the job at all like all the other licensed trades are clear about allowing helpers and apprentices to work on the job with licensed mechanics/journey persons. To become a licensed elevator mechanic or a licensed accessibility mechanic it requires both classroom and on the job training so therefore you have to have helpers and apprentices to be able to work on the jobs with their mechanics. So, this needs to be cleared up to continue to have elevator mechanics and accessibility mechanics in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Thanks for continuing to protect the conveyance riders both public and private in our Commonwealth. Concerned Citizen, Vance Ayres

HB2321 - Labor, Secretary of; position created in Governor's Cabinet.
Last Name: Ascher Organization: Mid-Atlantic Pipe Trades Association/United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters Locality: Baltimore

On behalf of the Mid-Atlantic Pipe Trades and our members across Virginia, I ask you to support this HB 2321. Over the last year and a half, Virginia has started to move in the right direction to protect workers. This legislation would officially create a state Secretary of Labor moving all workforce development, worker compensation, and occupational licensing under this new Secretary. This cabinet secretary's creation shows that the state is finally taking a real interest in workers' plight across the state by putting someone in the governor's cabinet whose sole job is developing the workforce to move Virginia forward.

Last Name: Avery Organization: VA Building and Construction Trades Council Locality: Hampton

I am Jim Avery, retired electrician and former business manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1340. I support this bill because the duties of training, licensing, and inspection of the workforce of Virginia are of utmost importance to ensure we are prepared for all challenges facing the growth and success of business in our Commonwealth.

Last Name: Magruder Organization: United Steelworkers Local 8888 Locality: Newport News

The United Steelworkers Local 8888 express our support for creating a Secretary of Labor. We feel like it would help in paying more attention to the needs of our workforce and the employees around the state.

Last Name: Spencer Organization: UA Local 5 Plumbers and Gasfitters Locality: Essex

IN SUPPORT -- HB 2321 Labor, Secretary of; position created in Governor's Cabinet. I support HB 2321 as this bill transfers from the Secretary of Commerce and Trade to the Secretary of Labor responsibility for the Department of Labor and Industry, the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation, and the Virginia Employment Commission. The bill also removes the position of Chief Workforce Development Advisor and reassigns that position's responsibilities to the Secretary of Labor. I support this bill. I support creating in the Governor's Cabinet the position of Secretary of Labor. This will serve all Virginians; it is good for business and labor; it will enhance Virginia commerce and industry ; it will improve worker safety and make Virginia more competitive in a global economy. Respectfully Submitted, Lou Spencer Caret, Virginia

Last Name: Solis Organization: Plumbers and Gasfitters Local No. 5moves Locality: Loudoun

IN SUPPORT -- HB 2321 I support HB 2321 as this bill moves from the Secretary of Commerce and Trade to the Secretary of Labor responsibility for the Department of Labor and Industry, the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation, and the Virginia Employment Commission. The bill also moves the position of Chief Workforce Development Advisor and assigns that position's responsibilities to the Secretary of Labor. I support this bill. I support making in the Governor's Cabinet the position of Secretary of Labor. This will serve all Virginians; it is good for labor and business. It will enhance Virginia commerce and it will improve worker safety and make Virginia more competitive. Respectfully Submitted, Tony Solis Leesburg, Virginia

Last Name: Spencer Organization: UA Local 5 Plumbers and Gasfitters Locality: Essex

IN SUPPORT -- HB 2321 Labor, Secretary of; position created in Governor's Cabinet. I support HB 2321 as this bill transfers from the Secretary of Commerce and Trade to the Secretary of Labor responsibility for the Department of Labor and Industry, the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation, and the Virginia Employment Commission. The bill also removes the position of Chief Workforce Development Advisor and reassigns that position's responsibilities to the Secretary of Labor. I support this bill. I support creating in the Governor's Cabinet the position of Secretary of Labor. This will serve all Virginians; it is good for business and labor; in will enhance Virginia commerce and industry It will improve worker safety and make Virginia more competitive in a global economy. Respectfully Submitted, Lou Spencer Caret, Virginia

HB2322 - Opioid Abatement Authority; established, report.
Last Name: Jennifer Faison Organization: Virginia Association of Community Services Boards Locality: Richmond

The Virginia Association of Community Services Boards (VACSB) strongly supports HB2322 because it recognizes the devastating impact the opioid epidemic has had on Virginia. While the human toll can never be undone, the bill seeks to rectify some of the monetary impact the epidemic has had on localities as well as to put appropriate prevention measures in place and support services going forward for those who have succumbed to the disease of addiction. We believe that the governance structure as proposed in the bill strikes a delicate balance of all of the involved parties and appreciate the work of the Attorney General's Office, which was heavily involved in the drafting of the bill.

Last Name: Jordan Organization: City of Roanoke Locality: Richmond

Support

Last Name: Mitchell Organization: The McShin Foundation & The Virginia Recovery Advocacy Project Locality: RIchmond

The Virginia Recovery Advocacy Project - representing recovery organizations and thousands of individuals throughout the Commonwealth - and The McShin Recovery Resource Foundation - Virginia’s leading accredited, community-based, non-governmental organization (NGO) providing same-day, evidence-based, authentic peer-driven recovery support services - applauds this preemptive effort to ensure funds from current and potential opioid settlements reach the individuals and communities most devastated by the continuing opioid crisis. We write to share our concerns and offer the following improvements: First, the composition of the Board of Directors should reflect the community it serves. We suggest increasing the number of board members from 11 to 15, where five individuals represent the addiction and recovery community, of which at least three shall represent NGOs providing same-day, evidence-based, authentic peer-driven recovery support services. This change recognizes the importance of peer-to-peer recovery in combating the opioid crisis, and gives voice to the individuals directly served. Second, 35% of the Fund must be allocated to established, accredited, NGOs providing same-day, evidence-based, authentic peer-driven recovery support services. While Community Services Boards provide vital access to resources, same-day, NGO service providers, like The McShin Foundation, are fundamental for developing long-term connections to the authentic recovery community. The Virginia Association of Recovery Residences (VARR) and the Council on Accreditation of Peer Recovery Support Services (CAPRSS) are two established accreditations in Virginia with rigorous, evidence-based, national standards of excellence. We applaud you and members of the General Assembly for working to ensure equitable access to recovery from opioid use disorder. We must give voice to the community that the Opioid Abatement Authority will serve, and we must support community-based NGOs providing same-day, evidence-based, authentic peer-driven recovery support services. When we invest in authentic peer recovery, we build strong families, create safer communities, and produce healthier citizens.

Last Name: McDermott Organization: Faces and Voice of Recovery (FAVOR) of Virginia | www.favorva.org Locality: Maidens

I call your attention to the above referenced proposed legislation HB2322 (Establishing an Opioid Abatement Authority} before you in the House General Laws Committee this evening, upon which I commented before the Professions/Occupations and Administrative Process Sub-Committee this morning. From the perspective of an individual with more than 29 years of sustained continuous recovery from Substance Use Disorder (SUD), I support you referring this much needed legislation to the House Appropriations Committee with some additional input. As I stated before the Sub-Committee, this legislation is heartily welcomed; however I would amicably argue that “one representative of the addiction and recovery community” is not enough. Furthermore, I encourage you to look at what Delaware has done with their already enacted legislation along these lines to apportion a sizeable percentage of these anticipated settlement funds to non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) providing lived experience evidence based SUD recovery services – Opioid Impact Fund: See how Delaware will spend Big Pharma payout (delawareonline.com)

Last Name: Williams Organization: Decriminalize Virginia Locality: HAMPTON

I strongly support the legalization of cannabis. Although I would like a separate agency to be set up as a regulatory authority, I ok with the ABC /cannabis serving as a regulator, I do want to stop the process of legalization. Legalization and social equity is important. . Opt in and Opt out is important. We need to incorporate the Cannabis Control Advisory board this is important.

Last Name: McDermott Organization: Faces and Voice of Recovery (FAVOR) of Virginia | www.favorva.org Locality: Maidens

From the perspective of an individual with more than 29 years of sustained continuous recovery from Substance Use Disorder (SUD), this legislation is heartily welcomed, however I would amicably argue that “one representative of the addiction and recovery community” is not enough. Furthermore, I encourage you to look at what Delaware has done with their already enacted legislation along these lines to apportion a sizeable percentage of these anticipated settlement funds to non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) providing lived experience evidence based SUD recovery services – Opioid Impact Fund: See how Delaware will spend Big Pharma payout (delawareonline.com) Thank You!

End of Comments