Virginia state Sen. Barbara Favola’s (D-District 31) constituents got right to the point when she asked those gathered around her at a table what their top concerns were.
Reston resident Debra Stuppel asked Favola whether the state had done anything to address the opioid epidemic. The senator replied that she hopes to expand the use of medical marijuana, which is legal in Virginia, as a treatment.
“But we can’t produce the cannabis oil in the state right now, so an individual would have to get a form from a doctor saying that they have that condition and go out of state to get it,” she said.
Favola said that the nasal spray Narcan, which is used to help treat addiction, is available in Virginia.
Favola was one of 23 Virginia legislators to meet voters on Dec. 6 at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia in Farifax for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington’s annual legislative reception. The politicians sat at tables discussing issues with constituents. About 150 members of the public attended.
Favola said she is concerned for citizens who have relied on the Affordable Care Act for health insurance, but may be without it if President-elect Donald Trump and Congress repeal the law. Virginia elected not to set up a health care exchange of its own, so there is no state apparatus to step in if the ACA is repealed.
Favola also said she anticipates “anti-woman legislation” in the form of a bill that bans some forms of contraception, and one that bans abortion after 20 weeks.
When the discussion turned to undocumented immigrants, Favola said that when sheriffs come across undocumented Virginians, they’re supposed to consult state police, who in turn check with the federal government.
The problem, she said, is that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rarely investigates cases in Virginia.
“So then the sheriffs are like, ‘you know what, [the immigrants have] constitutional rights. I’m only going to detain them for two or three days and then I’m releasing them,’” she said. “’If you don’t come get them ICE, we’re not paying for them.’ And that’s the reality on the street.”
Rabbi Bruce Aft of Congregation Adat Reyim in Springfield told the gathering that the biggest concern he hears in his synagogue is congregants worried about their safety.
He called on the community to foster a more inclusive atmosphere and quoted Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of the United Kingdom.
“A politics of hope is within our reach, but to create it we will have to find ways of strengthening families and communities, building a culture of collective responsibility, and insisting on an economics of the common good,” Aft said. “This is no longer a matter of party politics. It’s about the very viability of the freedom for which the West fought for so long and so hard.”