For Jill’s birthday on Wednesday the 1st, she was still recovering and we stayed at home, but I made her request for dinner: chicken nuggets and fires in her new air fryer. I was sure everyone will be focused on the election in November, but noted that voting is important every year. Turning the VA statehouse blue was crucial for these new laws in effect now. This seemed like a good cause. More info here. Thursday one of Jill’s friends came by for a belated birthday visit, and Jill said “It was so wonderful to get a drive by birthday celebration from her and her sweet girl! Made me feel so special! Love you”.
Friday I took the workday holiday off (usually I work part of one day of the weekend because a number of days I only get 7 or so hours in) and we went to Lost Dog Cafe in Merrifield and had lunch outside, then I picked up meat and beer at Red Apron. I also said to wear your mask. Saturday Nina requested something special for breakfast so got strawberries with regular and blue dyed whipped cream. Then we watched a cardboard boat float and had the neighborhood kids over to open a pinata filled with candy and alcohol to belatedly celebrate Jill’s birthday (grownups took the alcohol) and play on the slip and slide. In the afternoon we took 4 hours to watch Hamilton (someone had so many questions: about history, blackmail, casting and song genre choices), then made these scrumptious ribs (the little bottle of Jack Daniels from the morning really came in handy). In the evening we went out on the boat, and as usual, Lake Thoreau did not disappoint (they were still going off past midnight). Sunday I saw “Weird Al” Yankovic had put up a video version of his Hamilton Polka.
Monday the 6th I felt this will happen to me in the future. Tuesday I had to quote this interview: “That mask is not for you. That’s for everybody around you. If you care about your neighbors, your family, the people that you encounter in the store – wear that mask.” Wednesday I saw that The Far Side was back. Jill was still off while she recovered from her surgery and said “I took a walk around the lake for the first time after my surgery 2 weeks ago and discovered 2 trails I didn’t know about before! 10 years in and still new things to discover.” Friday I saw this and knew what I was listening to the rest of the afternoon. That night we had dinner outside at Ariake, where Nina ate all her sushi and then proceeded to finish off Jill’s bento box (after she watched a ladybug escape it).
Saturday the 11th I went to Meadowlark Gardens for a socially distanced memorial to my elementary and high school friend Gretchen. Later we were so happy to host another boat concert, this time with Robbie Schaefer. Perfect ending to the day. Monday I thought we’d already come to this conclusion. After a Banh Mi on a handmade sourdough hoagie roll Thursday, I may never go back to store bought. Friday I noted that you can apply to vote absentee by mail now for the November election in Virginia.
Saturday the 18th my friend Norm pointed out that an artist had painted giant wings on a parking garage nearby, so I brought Nina to take some pictures. She convinced me that since we were out, we also had to go to Duck Donuts. Monday Nina had finished her 3 weeks of virtual camps at Lopez Studios (with songs from Wizard of Oz, Lion King and School of Rock) and chose to switch back to AFYP for the last 2 weeks of virtual camps, with acting camp and musical theater bootcamp. Tuesday I said “Oh dang” as Fairfax County Public Schools switched between hybrid and all-virtual classes to all-virtual classes. Thursday I thought this is a fantastic Dolly Parton parody for our times. Friday I saw this was a quick way to let Congress know live venues are important. Later I went to Golden King to get dim sum while Nina and Jill were at the pool.
Saturday the 25th Nina and Jill had a spa day. Sunday after having listened to the amazing feat of Hamilton Act 1 but it’s The Muppets, I figured he was done, but he did Act 2 too! Tuesday I said just wear your mask. Wednesday morning after forgetting our CSA veggies the day before I bribed Nina to come with me by offering Dunkin’ Donuts. Thursday I was today years old when I found out Levar Burton was “a police detective trying to arrest the band”. Also, this was tweet of the day and I made this intriguing image of Nina at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in 2012 and 2019 in response to a post on a Facebook group asking for pictures of kids at their first and most recent Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. Later Jill got takeout from Mama Tigre, some wonderful Mexican with Indian fusion.
- Voting: After ten years of effort, we passed my no-excuse in-person absentee voting bill. Also, no longer will you need a photo ID (although you may use one). The November election day will be a state holiday.
- Gun Safety: Seven bills advocated by Gov. Northam to address gun violence passed. One dealing with protective orders against violent persons was mine. So was prohibiting gun possession by stalkers. One-gun-a month limits and universal background checks, both very significant, also passed.
- Reproductive Rights: Over the past couple decades, numerous restrictions on access to abortions had been imposed. Many, including mandatory ultrasound tests and 24 hour waiting period were repealed.
- Equal Rights Amendment: After decades of effort, we finally passed the Equal Rights Amendment. Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the amendment. The Federal courts will now determine whether or not this passage was after a legitimate deadline.
- Civil Rights: Dozens of Jim Crow laws were repealed. The new Virginia Values Act prohibits discrimination In housing and employment. Hate crime laws will now cover sexual orientation and gender identity. The fate of Confederate statues will be determined by the local government where they are located. A study is underway to determine which two Virginians should be honored with statues in the U.S. Capitol.
- Clean Energy: The Clean Energy Act strives to make Virginia carbon-free by 2045. It contains timelines for us to move to wind and solar as well as other renewables.
- DACA: Students who are under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration status will be eligible for in-state tuition if they meet certain conditions.
- Economic Development: My bill set up the Virginia Innovation Partnership Act, which creates the Commonwealth of Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority to oversee and support research, development, and commercialization, as well as related investment and seed-stage funding in Virginia. A two year effort led to this groundbreaking collaboration between higher education and our economic development agencies.
- Healthcare: We will be replacing the federal health exchange under the Affordable Care Act with a state exchange. Balanced billing for hospital and other medical costs will be eliminated. The cost of insulin will become the lowest in the nation – $50 a vial.
- Transportation: Several transportation initiatives passed. The most aggressive bill in decades to address our transportation crisis passed. Mass transit, rail, and road improvements will all receive funding from a gas tax increase. Undocumented immigrants will be able to get a driver’s license and drive legally. Unpaid court fees and fines will no longer lead to losing a driver’s license. And, finally, it will be against the law to hold a cell phone while driving!
- Early Childhood: My legislation reorganized the state’s early childhood programs. Rather than be scattered in multiple secretariats, they will all be in the Department of Education. Sadly, the nearly $100 million we had appropriated so every four year old would have access to quality pre-K programs had to be unalloted because of the pandemic. It is still a major funding priority of mine.
- Minimum Wage: Currently Virginia’s minimum wage is a disgraceful $7.25 an hour. It will increase to $9.50 next spring and to $12 in three years. It is my hope we will accelerate and increase these numbers. Many of those we are depending on during this pandemic are working for minimum wage, often with no benefits.
- Collective Bargaining: Local governments will be permitted (not required) to collectively bargain with their employees.
- Casinos: Five cities are authorized to hold referendum to determine if they will have casino gambling. None of the five are in NoVA. Gray machines are illegal after June 31, 2021.
- Redistricting Constitutional Amendment: If the constitutional amendment passes in November, a 16 member panel of citizens and legislators will draw state legislative and congressional district lines.
- Marijuana: Beginning in January, possession of a small amount of marijuana will be decriminalized.