The 2015 session of The Virginia General Assembly has come to an end - on time and on budget! In total, 2739 bills and resolutions were introduced this "short" session of 45 days. I received thousands of emails and calls, both from the 60th district and from all around the state, on a wide variety of these bills and budget items. I would like to take this opportunity to update you on some of the issues that generated the most interest and have the greatest impact on all of us.
The House of Delegates advanced a conservative governing agenda that will enact reforms to improve our schools, make college more affordable, support our veterans, and grow our economy. I am committed to protecting our second amendment rights while advancing the cause of liberty, protecting private property rights, and protecting innocent lives.
We also proposed a fiscally conservative, balanced budget, as the Constitution requires, by eliminating fees, protecting the Commonwealth's AAA credit rating by paying cash for capital projects, maintaining tax incentives that work for families and businesses, and providing pay raises for state police, state employees, and teachers. The conservative budget proposed by the House will fund the core functions of government and not create new wasteful government programs. We have done this and passed a budget in the House that is $1.1 billion less than the enacted 2014 budget.
The Conservative House budget:
- Does not raise taxes
- Provides 1.5% raises for teachers and support personnel
- Provides 2% college faculty pay raise
- Deposits additional $43 M into teacher retirement
- Pays cash for all college capital projects, including Longwood University and Danville Community College
- Provides 2% raise for state police, state employees and state supported local employees, including compression adjustments for senior classified employees
- Sets aside money for the rainy-day fund
- Provides funding for seriously mentally-ill patients, including prescription drug benefits
- Doubles operational funding for free clinics
- Funds behavioral health community services
- Includes $27 M for the Governor's Opportunity Fund to lure new economic development
- Authorizes bonds to build two new Veterans Care Centers in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads
- Provides $9 M for the Housing Trust Fund and rapid rehousing efforts for the homeless
- Eliminates $10.2 million in fees proposed by Governor McAuliffe
- Restaurant Inspection Fee
- VDACS Inspection Fee
- Weights & Measures Fee
- Underground storage cleanup deductible
You can access the full report on budget amendments by clicking on this link: http://leg2.state.va.us/MoneyWeb.NSF/Bud2015.
Important Legislative Issues:
I patroned three successful bills this year that designated a segment of the Dan River as a scenic river (HB 1507); that allowed the use of Virginia Battlefield Preservation Funds for battlefield preservation (HB 2193); and that updated State Park master plans (HB 2226). Three other bills did not make it through both houses for approval.
I also carried resolutions honoring several local people: Nancy Pool, retiring from the Halifax County Chamber of Commerce; Bob Cage, Artist; Charles McKay, retiring from the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors; Jim Ennis, retiring as Prince Edward County Commonwealth Attorney; the William Campbell Combined School golf team for winning a state championship.
I co-patroned important bills to fund two new veteran's centers (HB 1275, HB 1276); to allow industrial hemp farming (HB1277); to crack down on sex offenders (HB 1353); SOL changes (HB 1419); vision care plans (HB 1444); breast-feeding in public places (HB 1499); sales and use tax exemption (HB 1648); administrative process act (HB 1751); commercial sex trafficking (HB 1964); conflict of interest Act (HB 2070); detention and removal of citizens (HB 2144); delinquent tax waiver (HB 2173); auxiliary lights on public vehicles (HB 2289); as well as a number of resolutions honoring citizens.
I would like to highlight a few important bills that I supported this year.
- The "Right to Try" legislation (HB 1750, SB 732) expands access to experimental drugs for terminally ill patients.
- Autism insurance coverage for children has been expanded through age 10 (HB 1940).
- HB 1286 Allows the option to receive your tax refund by paper check rather than debit card.
- Virginia's Right to Work (HJ 490) insures that an employee does not have to join a union to work at an organized plant.
- Industrial hemp can now be raised in the Commonwealth (HB 1277).
- The "Tebow Bill" (HB 1626) allows home schooled students to participate in interscholastic programs, at the localities' option.
- Law enforcement agencies must obtain a search warrant to use drones during investigations (SB 1301).
- Bills calling for a constitutional amendment to allow a Convention of States did not pass.
- SB 1381 clarifies that the role of private animal shelters should be to find permanent homes for animals.
- Hospitals are now required to provide caregivers more instruction on how to care for their loved ones after discharge (HB 1413, SB 851).
- The Virginia Retirement System will now be required to review state and federal programs that encourage individuals to save for retirement (HB 1998).
The full text of any of these bills can be found at http://lis.virginia.gov.
There were many other important issues addressed by this body this year. I take very seriously my responsibility to represent you in a way that best represents the values of the 60th District. I value input from constituents as that helps me to make decisions on those issues that are most important to us and encourage you to continue to share those opinions with me.
Quote of the Day:
"The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office." - Dwight D. Eisenhower