We are officially in the second half of the 2018 General Assembly session! Last Tuesday was “Crossover,” which is our “halfway point.” All of the bills passed by the House are now in the Senate for consideration, and we have begun considering all of the bills passed by the Senate. I would like to take a moment to discuss the many accomplishments achieved by House Republicans in just the first half of the 2018 Session. As you may know, this year we have been focused on passing “Practical Solutions to Everyday Issues.” During the first 30 days of session, we advanced our “Practical Solutions” Agenda, announced several major bipartisan agreements, stood up to higher taxes, and started work on a balanced budget.
House Budget Proposal Released
Yesterday, we released on budget proposal. We have laid the foundation for adopting a conservative, balanced budget. The budget is the most important thing we do, and we are committed to balancing the budget on time without a government shutdown. My commitment will be to fund the core functions of government while safeguarding your precious taxpayer dollars. Our budget prioritizes savings, eliminates state liabilities, reduces borrowing, and makes key investments in our top priorities. I am pleased a number of my budget amendments were included and you can learn more about those amendments here. Having said that, I did object, as was disappointed in the inclusion of Medicaid expansion in our budget, including a provider tax on hospitals.
Addressing the Teacher Shortage
Virginia is privileged to have one of the best education systems in large part due to our excellent teachers. Unfortunately, we see more and more of our dedicated educators leaving the classroom for administration positions or worse yet, not pursuing the career at all because of licensure obstacles. This year, several pieces of legislation have passed that will provide individuals an easier path to achieve their career goals. Three different bills specifically address streamlining the teacher licensure process. These bills will allow great teachers to enter a classroom sooner and keep great teachers in the classroom.
House Bill 2, sponsored by Delegate Dickie Bell, R-Staunton, supports our military members by removing burdens that spouses of military members were facing when they moved to Virginia and wanted to continue teaching. House Bill 215, sponsored by Delegate Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach, allows adjunct professors to qualify for a provisional teaching license as long as they have passed a teacher’s assessment in the subject matter. House Bill 1125, which I sponsored, permits teachers with a valid out–of-state license, with full credentials and without deficiencies, to receive Virginia licensure by reciprocity without passing additional licensing assessments.
Fighting Against Tax Increases
One of our biggest accomplishments in the first half of session was defeating $770 million in new taxes proposed by Democrats. These irresponsible proposals sought to institute a new tax on Netflix, Pandora, and Hulu and increase taxes on hotel stays and jet skis. They even considered an Uber and Lyft tax! I am committed to keeping taxes low so our Virginia businesses can be competitive and families can keep more of their hard earned money in their pockets. All of these tax increases were non-starters for the House.
Combating the Opioid Crisis
We continue to lose people to opioid-overdoses. No one is immune from this addiction, and we will not sit idly by. Our legislation takes a proactive approach to helping curb this disease. On average, more than three Virginians die each day from this devastating crisis. The House Republican Caucus carried and passed seven pieces of legislation to help end the Opioid Crisis. Among these bills are legislation to create teams to review overdose deaths to better understand how and where they occur, and help with caring for infants who are birthed by substance-using women. You can learn more about the opioid legislation we passed here.
I am pleased to note that the vast majority of the bills I introduced have been passed in the House of Delegates and now stand before the Virginia State Senate for consideration. The legislation reflects my continued commitment and advocacy for promoting economic development and providing the highest quality education for Virginia’s students. House Bills 3, 344, 347, 760, 775, 776, 897, 916, 1125, 1148, 1540, 1541, 1551, 1568, and 1599 were all passed in the Virginia House of Delegates. For a complete listing of my legislation that has advanced, please click here.
The highlight of last week for me was a visit by my Mom, Betty Landes, and two of her good friends, Emma Jordan and Betty Clemmer (pictured left). I also appreciated the opportunity to sit down with Augusta County Sheriff Donald Smith and Lieutenant Gary Taylor (pictured below). My staff enjoyed speaking with Leigh Wion of the Bridgeline, Rob Hammill of Bridgewater College, and David Blount of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.
In Case You Missed It
This week’s staff spotlight is on my Legislative Director, Judy Wyatt, who has worked for me for 17 years. Originally, Judy was a first-grade teacher in Staunton City Schools for 17 years plus 5 years prior to that long-term substituting in K-5 and Special Education. She loved her students and parents but was ready for a new adventure when she applied to my office. Having been President of the Staunton Education Association (SEA), working on school and city budget issues, and drafting newsletters for the SEA made her a good fit for the skills I was seeking. Since I am Chairman of the House Education Committee, Judy is always happy to provide me information from an “educator’s viewpoint.”
Judy has been happily married to her high school sweetheart for 49 years, Charles Wyatt. They live in Augusta County and have two wonderful children and three fantastic grandchildren.
My Legislative Director, Judy Wyatt, Communications Director, Will Wrobleski, and I are here to serve you. If you need help with a state government agency or issue, we can be reached by phone at 804.698.1025 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our address is Post Office Box 406, Richmond, Virginia 23219. For scheduling requests, please contact my Administrative Assistant Pam Stump in my Richmond office.
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Thank you again for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.