The United Nations says that we have 12 years to make dramatic cuts in our carbon emissions or it will be too late. The planet gets hotter every year. Storms are more powerful and more frequent. We cannot continue to ignore global warming and the dangerous effects climate change has on our planet.
Clean renewable energy is a critical need for the people and planet. I believe in more locally sourced renewable energy that will lower costs for businesses and customers as well as cut our carbon footprint. The Virginia Green New Deal (GND) is an excellent starting point.
Although there is much confusion about GND, it is clear that it is the best blueprint we must use to move forward. For instance, we should be upgrading all federal buildings to be more energy efficient. We should provide increased tax credits for homeowners and businesses to go green with wind and solar. We should invest in methane gas converter machines that can turn gas released from trash and waste into electricity. And I’m encouraged to see so much bipartisan support for a Pigou tax and consumer refund. This carbon tax puts money into consumer’s pockets and encourages consumer responsibility.
Further, I will push to reinstate previous protections including Clean Water, Clean Air, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Power Plan, Water Sense Program, among others. These rules, put in place during Bush and Obama administrations, were key to reducing pollution as well as severe health problems. I will also vote to rejoin the Paris Accord.
I don't believe you go to Congress without having big ideas. For years, politicians from both sides of the aisle have agreed that our country needs a comprehensive infrastructure bill to repair our crumbling roads, bridges, tunnels and water systems. Crumbling infrastructure has lead to serious problems often beyond the ability of local government to fix. Localities such as Flint, Michigan simply do not have the financial capacity to repair critical infrastructure such as the pipes that supply clean drinking water and will need help from the federal government. The status and maintenance of our infrastructure is also a national security issue. Without roads, bridges, and tunnels we cannot move goods or provide for common public safety.
I believe that rural broadband should be part of the infrastructure conversation and belongs in this category. Rural broadband cuts across all aspects of education, employment, public safety, healthcare, and jobs. Without the internet, rural communities are falling into the "have not" category while our urban areas continue to prosper and provide the necessary bandwidth for their children to be productive in school and the elderly to have access to modern care. Think of rural broadband as the rural electrification issue of our time.
Infrastructure is at a crisis point in our country and we need a Marshall Plan that will repair the nation's critical assets, provide equal broadband service for all, and drive our economy to new heights. I look forward to working with fellow Democratic legislators and those across the aisle interested in a major investment in our infrastructure that will be equally beneficial for all Americans.
The United States was once respected for our values, our leadership, and adherence to the rule of law. In the past three years, however, we've seen our relationships around the world weakened and the reputation of the United States diminished. Our President has ignored the advice of our military leaders, pardoned war criminals, celebrated tyrants, and returned us to the isolationist policies of the 1930's. We have turned our back on allies who stood beside us in our darkest moments.
Simply put, we have not been safeguarding the national interest.
In Congress, I will work with my colleagues to restore and strengthen our alliances and rebuild our credibility on the world stage. This starts with supporting and rebuilding our foreign service, and respecting the institutional knowledge of the State Department's Diplomatic Corp.
In addition, I will ensure we renegotiate the Iran nuclear agreement, end support for the Saudi war in Yemen, restore travel to Cuba, and bring our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
We have a healthcare crisis in the United States. We have 30 million uninsured people in this country, and about half of that number have access to insurance but cannot afford it. We have an additional 44 million people who are underinsured because of high out-of-pocket costs.
Although the ACA was a step forward to helping Americans gain access, we need to appreciate that healthcare is a burden to the majority of Americans. We must bring prescription prices down, improve oversight of healthcare facilities, and work with rural communities to provide better access to healthcare.
We need to focus more on rehabilitation, offering job training and education, as well as restoring voting rights upon completion of a sentence.
The war on drugs has clogged up our legal system and cost taxpayers billions of dollars because of mass incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders. It is time to legalize cannabis for adult use and regulate it like alcohol. In addition, it needs to be available for prescriptions. I also support the expungement of all records of people arrested, charged, and convicted of cannabis possession and small quantity distribution.
I am a proud gun owner and licensed to carry. I support the Second Amendment.
But I also support the rule of law. I support common sense. I support police and sheriffs, many of whom are veterans like me. Many of the laws that are being proposed are to help and protect local law enforcement.
Common sense demands that we draw a line and implement legislation that will keep our families safe, for instance: elimination of the boyfriend loophole, a ban on high capacity magazines, and a prohibition on guns in public buildings.
School systems across the nation are underfunded, causing local boards to cut staff, counselors, sports, and art/music classes. We can’t continue to have unequal education in regards to pay and funding.
As a former school board member in Virginia I learned first hand about the importance of early childhood education and the devastating effect of falling behind at a young age. We must properly fund public education and not rely on private, for-profit schools to answer the challenge of failing city and rural districts.
We must also recognize that every student will not attend college and should focus on career technical education as a pathway to good paying jobs in the trades.
Agriculture is Virginia’s largest industry, but federal and state regulations put burdens on farmers that prevent them from being successful. I want to ease these regulatory burdens and promote farming as an industry that future generations can make a living in. I want to make sure that the taxes are fair and do not prohibit individuals from starting and growing their agriculture business.
There are amazing opportunities for entrepreneurship in areas such as urban farming. There is an abundance of vacant land in urban areas that are perfect locations for growing food, and items for products like hemp. This creates opportunities for growing the local food supply, eliminating food deserts, and providing an affordable healthy product to the public.
For the past three years, our government has been systematically broken from within. We have lost valuable public servants, including hundreds of scientists in the USDA and literally thousands of foreign policy experts in the State Department. Agencies like the Department of Homeland Security, Education, and the Environmental Protection Agency have been decimated. The result has been inefficiency, corruption, and scandal.
We must carefully and thoughtfully rebuild our agencies with knowledgeable leaders and dedicated public servants who will ensure that our federal government works for us.
We are all descended from immigrants, and our country is founded on the principles of equality for all. We must stop locking children up at the border. We cannot continue to deport men and women who served our country overseas. We cannot continue to demonize dreamers.
We must ensure that people are protected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. I will support national legislation to ensure that no one can be fired for who they are.
I believe we need to increase the minimum wage. The way we do that is the harder question.
The Democratic Party currently advocates for a minimum wage of no less than $15 per hour. I believe that this is an achievable goal; but it must be done incrementally and in step with local economies. For example, Charlottesville and Danville have extremely different economies and what works for one, may not work for the other.
Moreover, I will advocate for removing the federal loopholes that allow companies to pay disabled workers 10 cents on the dollar.
There are a dozen ways politicians have tried to take away people’s right to vote. Voting roll purges, voter ID laws, broken and hackable machines. We have watched the public lose faith and simply stop participating in the process.
We must restore faith in the system. That begins with making Election Day a national holiday and enrolling all Americans automatically on their 18th birthday. We need same-day registration, and we need to expand early voting. I also believe we need to strengthen our security systems and put stronger programs in place to protect voting machines.
All women should be equal under the law. I support adding the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution.