Virginia’s vaccine plan needs remedies
Published 6:00 am Wednesday, January 27, 2021
The first full week of the General Assembly has come to an end, and I wanted to take just a moment to update you on what occurred this week in the House of Delegates.
I’ve heard from many of you that you’re frustrated with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. Rest assured, you’re not alone. My colleagues have heard the same thing. We’re working to get more information as quickly as we can, and we’re putting pressure on the governor to come up with a plan that works.
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Many of you have asked what’s gone wrong. As best we can tell at this time, the governor’s team decided to use the Department of Health and local health districts to administer the vaccine in many cases. That’s just not a workable solution — local health departments don’t have the manpower or expertise to vaccinate that many people quickly.
That’s why we’re calling on the governor to do two things: first, ship more vaccines to hospitals and other large health providers. They have the manpower and know-how to run large vaccination clinics. Second, we’re asking the governor to engage private sector expertise to help the process go faster.
The private sector understands complicated logistical challenges and solves them every day. The private sector knows how to do this. Gov. Ralph Northam should ask them to help.
Our caucus met with the governor’s vaccine leadership team on Thursday to try to get more information about what’s slowing down the process. Unfortunately, what we received were excuses. Gov. Northam can’t explain why other states are doing a better job getting shots out of freezers and into arms.
On another front, I know many of you were frustrated with the way the 2020 Election was handled in Virginia, and in other states. A raft of changes made to election laws by Democrats in 2020 eroded the transparency in our system and left too many Virginians with less faith that our elections are free and fair.
Restoring confidence in our elections has been one of our biggest priorities this session. Working with my Republican colleagues, we have introduced legislation to require signature matching for those who cast absentee ballots. We’ve also put in bills that would bring back photo ID requirements for voting and others that would make last minute instructions to registrars and other officials readily available to the public.
Other legislation we’ve put forward would put an end to late night absentee ballot “dumps” by counting those ballots ahead of time and reporting them in the precincts where they would have otherwise been cast. We’ve also put in legislation to require those ballots to be counted on video.
Democrats, unfortunately, have decided that there’s no room to improve our election laws and are on track to kill all of these bills before they even make it to the floor for a vote. If they succeed, we will try again next year, hopefully with 51 Republican votes behind it.
REPEAL OF MANDATORY MINIMUM SENTENCES
The news on the public safety front isn’t much better. Democrats have filed their bill to remove mandatory minimum sentences for crimes ranging from drunken driving to the rape of a child. These sentences were put in place by the General Assembly for a reason — in some crimes, there must be a safeguard to ensure that these serious felonies receive adequate punishment.
Worse, this legislation would give many of these dangerous felons a chance to be re-sentenced. That would drag victims back before the courts for a second time, forcing them to relive the trauma they lived through, or to recount the loss of the loved one. I will oppose this bill.
We say it often, but it remains true — this is an unprecedented session of the General Assembly, and it presents unprecedented challenges. Nonetheless, I remain committed to being your voice in Richmond.
JAMES EDMUNDS represents the 60th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He can be reached at DelJEdmunds@house.virginia.gov.