Gooditis Outlines Legislative Priorities in 2019

Winchester Star • November 30th, 2018

By Onofrio Castiglia

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.

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Truman Braslaw
Looking for Solutions to Rising Suicide Rate Among Virginia Women

WVTF • July 20th, 2018

By Michael Pope

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.”

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Truman Braslaw
Op-Ed: Redistricting in Virginia remains partisan

Loudoun Times-Mirror • May 9th, 2018

By Wendy Gooditis

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.

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Truman Braslaw
New Law Puts Focus on Suicide-Prevention Efforts in Virginia

AP • April 5th, 2018

By Scott Malone

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."

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Truman Braslaw
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.

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Truman Braslaw
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.

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Truman Braslaw
A League of their own: Northern Virginia women lean in to political paradigm shift

Loudoun Times-Mirror • March 2nd, 2018

By Elizabeth Stinnette

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...

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Truman Braslaw
Assembly Backs Bill Allowing Middleburg to (legally) Impose Business Tax

Loudoun Now • February 22, 2018

By Patrick Szabo

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.

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Truman Braslaw