We are now in the final week of the scheduled end of our 45-day legislative session. Last week continued to be productive for the House of Delegates. We were finishing committee work, reviewing amendments from the Senate, and continuing to work on the budget. As we approach the end our General Assembly session, I want to update you on a few important areas of interest.
The House has adopted a conservative and balanced state budget. Our recommendations adhere to our commitment to spend your taxpayer dollars on strategic and targeted investments that fund the core functions of state government. We also took several steps to advance Virginia on a fiscally responsible course to include the elimination of several fees and a reduction in borrowing.
Governor McAuliffe included numerous fee increases in his budget to generate more revenue. The non-restaurant food inspection fee in VDACS that would have generated $480,000 in General Funds and the restaurant inspection fee increase proposed with the Health Department that would have generated $4.3 million in General Funds were both eliminated. We also eliminated a proposed increase in the shellfish facility inspection fee that would have generated $116,00 in fee revenue. Finally, we eliminated a proposed new fee for behavioral health adult service providers that would have generated $300,000 in fee revenue and required a new full time state employee position. The House has reduced the amount of proposed debt by almost $70 million and we continue to cut underperforming or erroneous government programs. This year we cut 4 programs in higher education for $2.1 million in savings.
Veterans Initiatives Pass with Strong Bi-Partisan Support
We have 21 veterans in the House of Delegates, 19 of whom are members of the House Republican Caucus. The 19 members represent every branch of service - Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. Service periods date back to the Vietnam War years up to today's conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is at least one House Republican veteran on each of the 14 House Committees. Truly, our House Republican veterans represent a strong voice in support of Virginia's veterans, the military, and their families.
The Commonwealth is home to approximately 800,000 veterans and 150,000 active-duty military members and their families. Republicans in the House of Delegates are leading the effort to provide our veterans with the care they deserve, access to affordable education, and good job opportunities. The Military and Veterans caucus, led by Delegate Rich Anderson, R-Woodbridge, (USA Col., retired), has several bi-partisan bills that are successfully progressing through the legislative process.
House Bill 2206, carried by Del Cox, R-Colonial Heights, is the number 1 priority of the Joint Leadership Council. The bill redefines the goals of the Virginia Veteran and Family Support Program, formerly Wounded Warrior, to help veterans and their families navigate the complex web of healthcare services available to them.
House Bill 1721, carried by Del. Rich Anderson, R-Woodbridge, permits Community Colleges to charge reduce tuition to activity duty members enrolled in training that leads to a Military Occupational Specialty.
House Joint Resolution 562, carried by Del. Jason Miyares, R-Virginia Beach, is a constitutional amendment that would provide a property tax exemption for the principal residence of the surviving spouse of a disabled veteran.
House Bill 1582, carried by Del. Jeff Campbell, R-Marion, allows a person between 18 and 21 years of age to apply for a concealed handgun permit if he is on activity military duty.
Here is one last update on the status of my legislation before we wrap things up here in Richmond this week. Below is a list of the legislation I have introduced that has been passed in the House of Delegates along with the most recent Senate actions:
- House Bill 1396 Charter; Town of Grottoes. Authorizes the town council to appoint a member to the office of vice-mayor, to serve in the event of the mayor's absence or inability to act. (Passed Senate 40-0)
- House Bill 1401 Public institutions of higher education; speech on campus. Prohibits public institutions of higher education from abridging the freedom of any individual, including enrolled students, faculty and other employees, and invited guests, to speak on campus, except as otherwise permitted by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. (Reported from Senate Committee on Education and Health 15-0)
- House Bill 1402, Governing boards of public institutions of higher education; leadership; residency. Requires the president of the board of visitors of Virginia Military Institute and each chairman and vice-chairman or rector and vice-rector of the governing board of each other public institution of higher education to be a resident of the Commonwealth. (Reported from Senate Committee on Education and Health with substitute 9-6)
- House Bill 1968 Virginia Small Business Financing Authority; administration of Small Business Investment Grant Fund. Makes changes to the Small Business Investment Grant Fund to make it easier for investor applicants to qualify for grants and provide more benefits for investor applicants. (Passed Senate 40-0)
- House Bill 1969 Small Business Jobs Grant Fund Program. Reduces from 50 percent to 35 percent the minimum percentage of revenues that a small business must derive from out-of-state sources in order to be eligible for grants from the Small Business Jobs Grant Fund Program. The bill provides that to be eligible for assistance under the Program a company must make a new capital investment of at least $50,000. Finally, the bill changes the definition of small business for purposes of the Program from a company that has 250 or fewer employees to one that has 50 or fewer employees in its base year and average annual gross receipts of $3 million or less averaged over the previous 24-month period. (Passed Senate 40-0)
- House Bill 1970 Creation of economic revitalization zones in counties. Grants counties authority to create economic revitalization zones. The zones shall be for the purpose of providing incentives to private entities to purchase real property and interests in real property to assemble parcels suitable for economic development. Each county establishing an economic revitalization zone may grant incentives and provide regulatory flexibility. This authority currently exists for cities. (Passed Senate 40-0)
- House Bill 2053 Direct primary care agreements. Provides that direct agreement between a patient, the patient's legal representative, or the patient's employer and a health care provider for ongoing primary care services in exchange for the payment of a monthly periodic fee is not health insurance or a health maintenance organization, if patients are not required to pay monthly periodic fees prior to initiation of the direct agreement coverage period. The measure also provides that a health care provider who participates in a direct primary care practice may participate in a health insurance carrier network so long as the provider is willing and able to meet the terms and conditions of network membership set by the health insurance carrier. (Passed the Senate with substitute 39-0-1)
- House Bill 2191 School boards; procedures; sexually explicit instructional materials or related academic activities. Requires each school board's procedures for handling challenged controversial instructional materials to include procedures for annually notifying the parent of any student enrolled in a course in which the instructional materials or related academic activities may include sexually explicit content of the potential for such sexually explicit content in such course and providing, as a replacement for instructional materials or related academic activities that include sexually explicit content, nonexplicit instructional materials or related academic activities to any student whose parent so requests. The bill defines "sexually explicit content" as content that involves any criminal sexual assault defined and punishable as a felony under Article 7 (§ 18.2-61 et seq.) of Chapter 4 of Title 18.2 of the Code of Virginia. (Reported from Senate Committee on Education and Health with substitute 9-6)
- House Bill 2220 Alcoholic beverage control; limited mixed beverage license for retail cigar shops. Creates a new limited mixed beverage license for retail cigar shops. The bill sets out the privileges of this new license, including a requirement that at least 60 percent of the licensee's annual gross revenue be from the sale of premium tobacco products. The bill also defines cigar shop and sets out the state and local license taxes for this license. (Reported from Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services with amendments 7-6)
- House Bill 2341 Board of Education; membership. Requires at least two of the nine members of the Board of Education to represent business and industry in the private sector in the Commonwealth. (Reported from Senate Committee on Education and Health 15-0)
- House Bill 2342 Public schools; regional charter school divisions. Authorizes the Board of Education (Board) to establish regional charter school divisions consisting of at least two but not more than three existing school divisions in regions in which each underlying school division has an enrollment of more than 3,000 students and one or more schools that have accreditation denied status for two out of the past three years. The bill requires such regional charter school divisions to be supervised by a school board that consists of eight members appointed by the Board and one member appointed by the localities of each of the underlying divisions. The bill authorizes the school board, after a review by the Board, to review and approve public charter school applications in the regional charter school divisions and to contract with the applicant. The bill requires the state share of Standards of Quality per pupil funding of the underlying school district in which the student resides transferred to such school. (Reported from Senate Finance Committee 6-4-1)
- House Bill 2417 Department of Medical Assistance Services; fraud prevention; prepayment analytics. Directs the Department of Medical Assistance Services to establish a program to mitigate, through the use of prepayment analytics, the risk of improper payments to providers of services furnished under the state plan for medical assistance who commit fraud, abuse, or errors. (Reported from Senate Finance Committee with amendment 11-0)
Last week John Stonebraker, Plant Manager, and members of the MillerCoors team came by to visit with me (pictured left), as did Augusta County Commissioner of Reveue Jean Shrewsberry and Augusta County Sheriff Donald Smith. Rockingham County Treasurer Todd Garber stopped by to speak with my staff. Jon Nafzinger and other members of the Charlottesville CHIP also dropped in for a visit.
In Case You Missed It:
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Thank you again for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.