We have reached the final week of the 2017 General Assembly session. All introduced bills have been addressed. If you have a particular bill that you want to know the status, please go to http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/ and type in the bill number in the box provided. From there, you can trace the history of all actions taken.
This week, Speaker Bill Howell announced that he will be retiring at the end of this year. His leadership ability was hailed on the floor of the House for over an hour from both Republicans and Democrats. It has been my privilege to serve under such a good leader for the past eight years. I wish him well. He will be sorely missed.
Delegate Kirk Cox, from Colonial Beach, has been named the next speaker. Delegate Cox should continue in the same leadership style as Speaker Howell.
The end of this session also marks the end of the building that I have been privileged in serve in for the past eight years. Next year, session will be held in the old attorney general's office on Main Street. We will meet there for the next four years while the old GA building is demolished and rebuilt at its current site.
I'm very proud to represent Moton Museum in Prince Edward County! Barbara Johns stood up for what was right. If you haven't been to the Moton Museum, you need to. What a gem to the area it is and a really good way for kids (and adults) to learn the backstory of desegregation. Most recently, the new attorney general building here in Richmond was named the Barbara Johns Building - a fitting honor! The monument shown below sits on the Capitol grounds.
The budget has been agreed to by the budget conferees ahead of schedule for the third year in a row. Some Key Takeaways from the budget are:
- The conference budget is a conservative, responsible, and structurally-balanced budget; general fund spending has decreased by 5% over 10 years when adjusted for population and inflation
Exceeds the Governor's investment in K-12 education by approximately $18 million while increasing flexibility for local schools and reducing tax burden on local government
- Invests in higher education by reducing the Governor's cuts by $20 million, ensuring no school has a reduction that exceeds 1.5% of education & general
- Makes strategic and targeted investments in economic development while emphasizing accountability and oversight
- Funds a comprehensive package to combat domestic violence, including additional funding for prevention, treatment and counseling services
- Builds on previous efforts to strengthen the health care safety net, creating new additional waiver slots, and expands access to mental health services.
- Invests in Virginia's hardworking state employees by providing a 3% pay raise and invests in our State Police by providing a salary increase.
The House remains committed to providing our public schools with the resources they need to ensure our children succeed. Last year, the adopted budget sent 29% of lottery funds, or $157 million, back to local school divisions. This mechanism gives local schools more flexibility by not requiring matching local funds or mandating how the funds must be spent. State dollars sent to local schools from the lottery are able to be used for teacher pay raises should the local school board allocate it for that method. While revenue triggers last year prohibited the state portion of teacher raises, all but 12 of Virginia's 135 school districts provided their teachers with raises.
This year's adopted budget exceeds the Governor's investment in K-12 education by more than $18 million. We are investing $15 million for direct aid to public education and build on our lottery investment by sending $191 million, or 35% of lottery funds, back to localities with no strings attached. Additionally, we've secured $32 million for a 2% teacher pay raise, with no local match required, effective February 2018.
Our budget also establishes a plan to support smaller school divisions with declining enrollment. This will send an additional $7.3 million to rural schools.
Now that the budget has been finalized, we have final figures for proceeds for funds from the lottery and from the rural school fund. In 2017 (through June 30, 2017) funds from the rural school fund in the following amounts, will be available:
Prince Edward $247,748
Additional lottery funding (in addition to each county's lottery PPA) for fiscal year 2017-2018 will be:
Charlotte $ 65,787
Prince Edward $ 68,717
Lastly, a few other initiatives that are being funded by the General Assembly this year include: a Career and Technical Education Vocational Laboratory pilot that will focus on an advanced manufacturing and virtual reality related education experience, College Partnership Schools that allow public K-12 schools to benefit from resources at higher education institutions that wouldn't be otherwise available to them, and Summer School partnerships between school divisions and the Virginia Alliance of YMCAs to enhance summer school learning and retention.
I want to point out one other bill I co-patroned this year is HB 1656, that would provide health insurance coverage for proton therapy treatment. Proton treatment has been proven to be more effective than other treatments. My district has a high concentration of cancer cases and I feel that this bill will help many people overcome this disease. This bill has an emergency clause which means it will take effect immediately upon passage. Please contact my office or Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute for additional information 757/727-5310.
I was visited this week by about 30 students from Fuqua School. I particularly enjoy talking to students who are learning about the government process.
Quote of the Day:
"When government takes away citizens' right to bear arms it becomes the citizens' duty to take away government's right to govern!" George Washington
Beginning Monday, February 27th, I will be back in the district office and can be reached at
434/476-0077. I encourage you to contact me anytime I can be of assistance.