By Callie Hietala
Though one bill sponsored by Del. Wren Williams, R-Stuart, has made national headlines, the Patrick County native has been hard at work during his first week in the General Assembly, crafting legislation that he hopes will fulfill his campaign promises and the mandates he feels he was given by voters in the November election.
In addition to his headline-making bill to ban critical race theory (CRT – see related story), Williams said he has introduced several other pieces of legislation including one that has yet to be entered into the state’s system, but which Williams said he is “most excited about for Patrick County.”
The bill directs the Virginia Department of Health to investigate and examine the feasibility of reopening that county’s hospital, either entirely or in a limited capacity “so that we can use the recently-renovated emergency department.
“This is a bill that I put in on behalf of the people of Patrick County who are obviously in need of an emergency room, healthcare services, EMS services,” he said. “I feel like this bill creates a door that Patrick County can walk through in order to really start to see some traction or movement on a problem that stretches back as far as 2018.”
Williams said the Division of Legislative Services is still working through all the submitted bills, and this one was not yet numbered or available to view, but he anticipates it soon would be.
He proposed another bill which would “eliminate the ability of our executive branch to ever close our places of worship ever again,” Williams said of House Bill 775 (HB 775).
Churches across the state were closed in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic as part of a statewide lockdown.
“I believe fully in the protections under the First Amendment, which say we have the right to peaceably assemble, and we have the right to practice our religion freely,” Williams said. “In the past couple of years, we have seen those rights trampled on. This bill would eliminate the ability to continue trampling on those rights.”
Williams also introduced House Bill 776 (HB 776), which he described as a “born alive infant protection act.” The proposal “creates an affirmative duty for doctors who deliver children to administer life-saving medical care” to those children.
A summary on the state’s Legislative Information System’s website (lis.virginia.gov) states the bill “requires every physician … who attempts to terminate a pregnancy to … exercise the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life and health of a human infant who has been born alive following such attempt as a reasonably diligent and conscientious health care practitioner would render to any child born alive at the same gestational age.”
Under the bill as currently written, physicians who fail to comply would be guilty of a Class 4 felony.
While the fate of his proposals remains unknown at this point, Williams said his first week as a delegate in the General Assembly has been “pretty amazing.
“This is a very, very historic place that’s steeped in tradition and procedure and as both a lover of Virginia history and a nerd for procedure and governmental interaction, it’s been absolutely a pleasure to get to serve this role for my community,” he said.
“I have learned a lot, I have met hundreds of people, I have been engaging with constituents that have been passionate about their bills. Lobbyists who have come to see me and other colleagues, other delegates are signing on to my bills or asking me to support theirs—the whole process has just been surreal, amazing, and absolutely humbling during my first week here,” Williams said.
He shares part of that experience during Facebook videos titled, ‘Walks with Wren,’ that are recorded on his morning walks to work and intended to give people the ability to connect with the day-to-day activity in Richmond. Williams said he plans to continue the videos, though perhaps not with the same frequency.
“Prior to my time as a delegate, I always felt we were a bit cut off from the information. It came to us through the news, it was sort of slow and we had to dig for it. I want to make it available and accessible to people back home” so they can see the process of governing, Williams said.
He thanked the voters who sent him to Richmond as their representative, adding that he hopes to hear from his constituents.
“If you come to Richmond, feel free to reach out. We can set up Capitol tours, we can host you. Give us a call, set up a Zoom meeting—we’re very accessible and we’d love to hear from our home district while we’re here,” he said.
The General Assembly is scheduled to be in session until March 12.