Gooditis to Introduce Four Bills to Combat Child Abuse

Winchester Star

January 5th, 2019

By Josh Janney

WINCHESTER — Del. Wendy Gooditis, D-Clarke County, said she will introduce legislation to combat child sexual abuse when the 2019 General Assembly legislative session begins Wednesday.

During a press conference in Leesburg on Friday, Gooditis said she will introduce four bills that would:

• expand the definition of sexual abuse,

• require the clergy to report suspected abuse,

• retain records of complaints about child sexual abuse for a longer period of time,

• enforce a harsher penalty for those who commit domestic violence in the presence of a minor.

Gooditis said her brother, at the age of 11, was raped multiple times by the leader of a children’s activity. Her brother later attempted suicide multiple times, and suffered from PTSD and alcoholism. He was found dead in March 2017, shortly after she announced her candidacy for the House of Delegates. Gooditis hopes to protect other children from a similar fate.

“My grief and loss have created an energy in me,” Gooditis said. “I couldn’t help my brother. I couldn’t fix it for him. If I can do anything to save that one child from being abused right now ... then I will do it.”

Del. Gooditis Announces 4 Bills Aimed at Combatting Child Abuse

Loudoun Now

January 4th, 2019

By Patrick Szabo

Less than a week ahead of the 2019 Virginia General Assembly, Del. Wendy Gooditis (D-10) is striving to tighten Virginia’s laws to protect children from sexual abuse.

Gooditis today announced a slate of four bills aimed to combat child abuse that she’s filed ahead of this year’s General Assembly session, which begins Wednesday. Those bills would change Virginia’s definition of child sexual abuse, make clergy of all religious denominations mandated reporters of child abuse, maintain records of child abuse investigations for three years and penalize those who expose children to domestic violence.

“If I can do anything to save that one child who is being abused right now…then I will do it,” Gooditis said.

Alongside Gooditis in the Leesburg Town Council chambers were Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman; Loudoun County Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large); Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk; Judy Hanley, the executive director of the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter and the director of the Loudoun Child Advocacy Center; and Ian Danielsen, an assistant professor of social work at Longwood University.

State Del. Wendy Gooditis (D-10th) on Friday announced four pieces of legislation aimed at combating child abuse, specifically sexual abuse.

During a press conference in Leesburg, Gooditis shared that her brother developed PTSD after being sexually abused as a child by the leader of an after-school activity.

The lawmaker's brother died in 2017 days after she announced her House of Delegates candidacy, and now Gooditis said she wants to make sure what happened to him doesn’t happen to anyone else.

“My grief and loss have created an energy in me,” Gooditis said. “... I couldn’t help my brother. I couldn’t fix it for him. If I can do anything to save that one child who is being abused right now, with the help of the people in this you and all of you watching, then I will do it.”

Longwood University Assistant Professor of Social Work Ian Danielsen commended Gooditis and her team for doing research and speaking with stakeholders to find the gaps in the system and propose bills to better help child abuse victims.           

WINCHESTER — Renewable energy, farmland preservation, and a broader statutory definition of sex abuse are among Del. Wendy Gooditis’ legislative priorities for the upcoming General Assembly session, she said on Wednesday.

The 2019 legislative session convenes on Jan. 9 in Richmond for 45 days.

Entering her second year as a legislator, Gooditis, D-Clarke County, said she’s also concerned with appropriations for Interstate 81, political support for renewable energy, rural broadband, and legalizing testing strips for Fentanyl, a powerful opioid narcotic.

The definition of sex abuse in the Code of Virginia does not sufficiently protect children under 13 who are in effect “groomed” for sex by psychologically abusive predators, Gooditis said. She plans to sponsor a bill that would change the statutory definition requiring that abuse entail touching “intimate parts” to instead cover any part of the victim’s body. Prosecutors would still have to prove sexual intent, Gooditis said, but they would have a broader definition of abuse.

For example, Gooditis said, as the law stands a kiss must involve the tongue to be considered sex abuse. “It shouldn’t be,” she said. Unwanted or inappropriate kissing or touching should be a crime regardless of what body parts are involved.

Suicide rates are on the rise in Virginia, especially among women.Lawmakers are trying to figure out ways to reverse the trend. Since 2010, the suicide rate among women in Virginia has increased 24 percent.

Freddy Mejia at the Commonwealth Institute says a number of factors may have contributed. “Making sure that mental health is accessible to this population is crucial. We also know that increased access to lethal means, such as illicit and prescription drugs as well as firearms, may have contributed to this rise.”

Earlier this year, Delegate Wendy Gooditis, a Democrat from Northern Virginia, introduced a bill that requires the state to issue an annual report to lawmakers about suicide prevention. “My family was horrifically affected by the loss of my brother this year following a couple of years of suicide attempts, so in my personal and professional opinion anything we can do to spread the word and help these people is really important.”

A decade is a long time. Enough to cover five Olympic games, two presidential elections and 10 county fairs. That’s how long the new congressional and state house districts will last when the General Assembly redraws them following the 2020 census. Virginia’s leaders have taken steps to make sure the process is fair, but we must do more. We must enact clear prohibitions against gerrymandering: the practice of drawing political boundaries to favor one particular candidate or political party, or to minimize the voices of minority communities. In addition, we should consider other, fairer processes used by states around the country.

Delegate Chris Jones (R-Suffolk) introduced HB 1598 this year, a bill that requires districts to be compact, contiguous, and respectful of existing communities. I voted for HB 1598 because it is a step in the right direction. The bill does not, however, prohibit partisan gerrymandering. In fact, the House of Delegates missed an opportunity to enact just such a prohibition in April. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) suggested amendments to HB 1598 that would have stopped legislators from drawing lines “for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring any political party” or “to restrict or deny the ability of any racial or language minority to participate in the political process.” Sadly, these amendments were not approved by the House.


RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — As suicides have risen in Virginia - including a 29 percent increase among children in 2016 - Gov. Ralph Northam has signed legislation calling on state officials to report how they are addressing the problem.

House Bill 569, introduced by Del. Wendy Gooditis, D-Clarke, requires the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to report annually its progress and activities on suicide prevention. The report will go to the governor and General Assembly.

The bill is of special significance to Gooditis, who was elected in November to represent the 10th House District, which includes parts of Clarke, Frederick and Loudoun counties. During the first two weeks of her candidacy, Gooditis lost her brother to alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"He had a number of suicide attempts. It was part of the reason I was running in the first place. I found him dead two weeks after I announced my candidacy," Gooditis said. "At that point, I don't think anyone would've penalized me for quitting. But I had met so many who needed help, I couldn't quit. I had to run and try to get the seat to try to speak for people who need someone to speak for them."

Bill Lets Out-of-State Youths Fish Without License

Winchester Star

March 14th, 2018

By Josh Janney

WINCHESTER — Out-of-state youths age 16 and younger will soon be able to fish in Virginia without a license,

House Bill 1151, sponsored by Del. Wendy Gooditis, D-Clarke County, passed the General Assembly this month. The legislation is designed to encourage anglers and their families to visit Virginia by loosening fishing license requirements for children. Tourism and outdoors experts say this will make the state more appealing as a destination for camping and fishing.

“The bill should be a boost to tourism,” Tom Guess, a legislative and policy leader for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), said in a news release. “It helps us recruit and retain anglers.”

Gooditis added: “This bill will make it so families don’t have to jump through awkward hoops to enjoy angling here in Virginia. We want families from across the region and the country to come and enjoy our the great natural beauty of the commonwealth. I was happy to work with my colleagues across the aisle to ensure we could get this bill passed.”

The legislation, pending Gov. Ralph Northam’s signature, will become law July 1.

Once in effect, out-of-state youths age 16 and younger will be allowed to fish without a fishing license when accompanied by a person possessing a valid license to fish in Virginia. Out-of-state youths also will be allowed to fish for trout without a license.

Gooditis' Anti-Suicide Reporting Bill Passes

Winchester Star

March 5th, 2018

By Josh Janney

WINCHESTER — A bill introduced by Del. Wendy Gooditis, D-Clarke County, to help prevent suicides has unanimously passed the state House and Senate.

The bill is now headed to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk for his signature. HB 569 requires the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) to report on its anti-suicide activities annually to the Virginia General Assembly and the governor. The report is due on Dec. 1 each year.

The department has the lead responsibility for the commonwealth’s Suicide Prevention Across the Lifespan Plan. The plan is a guide for the department and other state agencies as they try to find ways to reduce the risk of suicide around Virginia.

State code says the DBHDS is currently required to coordinate the activities of the state agencies pertaining to suicide prevention so it can develop and carry out a comprehensive suicide prevention plan. The plan would address public awareness, the promotion of health development, early identification, intervention and treatment and support to survivors.

Gooditis said the DBHDS not reporting its findings to the General Assembly annually is a problem because it keeps legislators and the governor in the dark about which measures work in regard to suicide prevention. Without this data, the governor and the elected representatives have less guidance in determining which initiatives need support and which programs should receive funding.

Gooditis’ bill makes these reports available to the state lawmakers.

In Virginia, women make up a little more than half the population, at 50.8 percent as of July 2016. However, no woman has ever served as governor, lieutenant governor or U.S. senator. The state ranks 35th in the nation for the number of women serving in its congressional delegation.

"We are definitely still battling sexism," said Lindsey Davis Stover, a former Obama administration official who is running to take Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock's place in Congress this year. "As women, we have to step up and run for office."

While Stover and her fellow Democratic front-runner, State Sen. Jennifer Wexton, would replace another woman if they were to win, political statistics are starting to shift in favor of Virginia women.

This year in Virginia's House of Delegates, 28 women took office, a record number coming after anti-Donald Trump sentiment voted out a number of Republican men. In Loudoun County, three of its four state senators and five of its seven delegates are women...                             ...more     

Two bills that would amend the Middleburg Town Charter to authorize the collection of its longstanding business personal property tax are moving through the General Assembly.

The town has been collecting the tax from businesses at a rate of $1 per $100 in assessed value for decades, but Town Administrator Martha Semmes said a problem was discovered late last year. Town Attorney Martin Crim realized that a section of the Virginia Code restricts towns from assessing the tax if it’s at a higher rate than the vehicle tax. Since Middleburg phased out its vehicle tax 20 years ago, the business tax was, by default, higher.

“He felt that we should not be assessing that business tangible personal property tax,” Semmes said.

To correct the problem, the town staff worked with then-delegate Randy Minchew and Sen. Jill Vogel (R-27) to draft bills that would allow the town to continue assessing the tax without reinstating the vehicle tax. Vogel introduced the Senate bill last month; newly elected Del. Wendy Gooditis (D-10) introduced the House bill.

The Virginia Senate passed Vogel’s bill by a 37-3 vote last month. The House also approved the measure, although it stripped an emergency clause designed to allow the change to take effect upon the governor’s signature. The House bill is under review by the Senate.

WINCHESTER — A bill aimed at establishing greater access to broadband in the commonwealth, filed by Del. Wendy Gooditis, D-Clarke County, was defeated along partisan lines in a House subcommittee last week.

The bill, HJ 106, would have required the state Broadband Advisory Council to develop a ratings system for communities indicating which parts of the commonwealth would yield the highest returns (in terms of households granted broadband access) on investment in broadband expansion.

After being referred to the House Committee on Rules, the bill was passed by indefinitely in a 4-to-3 vote along party lines.

“It’s dead,” Gooditis said on Thursday.

Broadband refers to the wide bandwidth data transmission necessary for high speed internet. Increasingly, access to broadband is cited as a fundamental advantage, if not a necessity, for individuals competing for jobs, education and other resources in the modern economy. Densely populated metropolitan areas are typically well served with broadband by private telecommunications companies, while sparsely populated rural areas are often left out because of the cost telecom companies face offering access in those regions.

Loudoun’s legislators in the General Assembly this year include a lot of freshmen, but for the most part that hasn’t slowed them down filing bills.

The delegation is pushing bills in the Senate and a newly rebalanced House of Delegates ranging from local problems like tolls on the Dulles Greenway and rural broadband access to statewide issues like redistricting and net neutrality. 

Every Democrat representing Loudoun in the House of Delegates got behind a bill that would require the three school systems that do not offer universal full-day kindergarten to adopt and implement a plan to phase it in. Loudoun, Virginia Beach, and Chesapeake are the three remaining school districts in the state that do not provide a full school day to every kindergartener.

Loudoun’s elementary schools have expanded their full-day kindergarten offerings each year. By this fall, assuming the School Board adopts the budget drafted by Superintendent Eric Williams, 93 percent of Loudoun kindergarteners will attend a full day. Williams has said reaching that 100 percent threshold will take additional money to build three-classroom additions at the four elementary schools that will still not have the program, which all sit in the fastest growing part of the county.

Erin Zwiener returned to Texas to settle down. At 32, she had published a children’s book, won Jeopardy! three times and ridden roughly 1,400 miles from the Mexico border up the Continental Divide on a mule. In 2016, she moved with her husband to a small house in a rural enclave southwest of Austin with simpler plans: write another book, tend her horses, paint her new home blue.

One day last February, she changed those plans. Zwiener was surfing Facebook after finalizing color samples for her living room–sea foam, navy, cornflower–when she saw a picture of her state representative, Jason Isaac, smiling at a local chamber of commerce gala. “Glad you’re having a good time,” she commented. “What’s your position on SB4?” After a tense back-and-forth about the Lone Star State’s controversial immigration law, Isaac accused her of “trolling” and blocked her. That’s when she decided to run for his seat. Zwiener never got around to painting her living room. She’s trying to turn her Texas district blue instead.

Zwiener is part of a grassroots movement that could change America. Call it payback, call it a revolution, call it the Pink Wave, inspired by marchers in their magenta hats, and the activism that followed. There is an unprecedented surge of first-time female candidates, overwhelmingly Democratic...   

Women Line Up to Run for Office, Harnessing Their Outrage at Trump

New York Times

December 4th, 2017

By Mike Tackett

LEESBURG, Va. - For Wendy Gooditis, a Northern Virginia real estate agent, the crystallizing moment in her decision to run for office was when she heard her state delegate suggest that he had fought gerrymandering in Virginia when his record said otherwise.

For Mai-Khanh Tran, a pediatrician in Southern California, it was the day after the presidential election in 2016 and she looked into the eyes of a young patient with a brain tumor whose family had only recently obtained health insurance. 

For Andrea Ramsey, the presidents of a nonprofit children's health clinic in Kansas City, Kan., it was May when her local congressman voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

None of these women had seriously contemplated entering politics before. They had no money or organization. But they were dismayed with the directions of the country, they said, starting with the election of President Trump, and finally decided to act...                                     ...more

Here's How Two Virginia Seats Flipped from Red to Blue in 2017

Bill Press Show

November 10, 2017



The test of whether the nation's Democrats can turn enthusiasm into tangible victories rested on a pingpong table in the basement of a home in Leesburg, Va., where breakfast sweets vied for space with scores of election packets that dozens of volunteers gathered to deliver to homes of potential voters.

The candidate the volunteers were there to support in a race for the commonwealth's lower legislative chamber was Wendy Gooditis, one of scores of first-timers drawn to the 2017 state races out of frustration over the presidential election and the conservative bent of Virginia's Republican-controlled legislature.

While her campaign is decidedly local, it and others like it around the state carry weight: Virginia represents a nationally watched early test of whether Democrats can halt a series of ignoble defeats and craft a template for the 2018 congressional and gubernatorial elections.

The gathering on Saturday morning testified to the attention Tuesday's election has attracted: The volunteers came not only from Virginia but from New Hampshire, Ohio, Maryland, Texas and Tennessee. The state's attorney general, Mark Herring, and Dorothy McAuliffe, wife of the governor, rallied volunteers. As they scurried out a few minutes later with packets in hand, Gooditis, a former teacher and real estate agent, expressed confidence that victory would be found among the 70,000 doors on which her troops already had knocked...                                                                                      ...more