Friday concluded our second week of the 2019 General Assembly session. We are now in full swing as the first pieces of legislation have already passed the House! This is our short session where things always seem to move much faster during this 46-day session. Last week our Republican Leadership Team delivered speeches on the House floor highlighting our priorities; protecting taxpayers from a hidden middle-class tax hike and protecting our pro-business policies that keep our economy growing.
2019 House of Delegates Priorities
Last week, Republicans delivered three speeches on the floor of the House of Delegates laying out in clear terms what is at stake this session and beyond. On Monday, House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, spoke about our priorities for the 2019 session, which include providing middle-class tax relief, improving school safety, and lowering healthcare costs. On Tuesday, Caucus Chairman Tim Hugo, R-Centreville, discussed in detail our proposal to provide middle-class tax relief to hardworking families. Interestingly, our Democratic colleagues claimed that Governor Ralph Northam’s budget did not include a tax increase, despite the fact that a number of editorial boards have blasted his proposal for making Virginians pay higher taxes.
Finally, on Wednesday, Majority Whip Nick Rush, R-Christiansburg, spoke about our plans to transform Virginia’s economy for the future by promoting major economic development deals with Amazon and Micron, aligning our higher education system to meet the needs of our economy, and funding research and commercial development. In contrast to this agenda, Democrats have put forth proposals to raise taxes, increase the cost of doing business, and empower unions by repealing right to work laws.
Update on My Legislation
House Bill 1727, which requires each school counselor employed by a school board in a public elementary or secondary school to spend at least 80 percent of his staff time during normal school hours in the direct counseling of individual students or groups of students, was reported out of the House Education Committee with an amendment with 22-0 vote. I have two bills that will be considered this week that will provide more transparency and accountability in higher education. House Bill 2336 prohibits the salary of any executive officer of a public institution of higher education from exceeding the salary limit for the chief executive officer of such institution set forth in Part 4 of the general appropriation act but provides that the governing board of any institution may supplement the salary of any such executive officer with private gifts, endowment funds, foundation funds, and income from private gifts and endowments. House Bill 2337 requires the governing board of each public institution of higher education to approve rates for tuition and mandatory fees for each academic year no later than December 1 of the immediately preceding academic year. This bill will likely contain changes. Additionally, the House Education Committee will take up House Bill 1611, which will make Prepaid529 tuition contracts more affordable, while ensuring the overall status of the fund remains actuarially sound, saving parents more than $3,000 on an 8-semester tuition contract.
House Republicans Help Elect Female Judge to the State Corporation Commission
On Wednesday, Judge Patricia West was confirmed by the House and Senate as the newest judge on the State Corporation Commission (SCC). Judge West is a highly qualified judge with the resume necessary to serve in this role. The SCC regulates and oversees some of Virginia’s largest industries, including electric utilities, financial institutions, and insurance companies. The SCC also manages all corporate filings - including the paperwork needed to start a business in Virginia.
The SCC is a constitutional entity whose judges are elected by the General Assembly. Like with all judges, we seek to elect people who will uphold the law as it is written. Judge West’s election to the SCC means women will now hold the majority on this important court. Judge West has served as a judge in the Virginia Beach Circuit Court, served as chief deputy attorney general of Virginia, and served as Chair of the Virginia Ethics Council. Currently, she is a distinguished professor of law and government at Regent University where she also serves as associate dean in the School of Law. I was proud to support this highly qualified woman to serve in this important role. Unfortunately, despite her remarkable resume, no Democrat supported her.
Joint Leadership Council of Veteran Services Organizations
This week I was proud to welcome the Joint Leadership Council (JLC) of Veteran Services Organizations to the Capitol. The JLC members spent the morning visiting legislators and advocating for their seven legislative priorities for this 2019 session. The JLC is a state board whose mission is to provide advice and assistance to the Governor, General Assembly and the Department of Veterans Services (DVS) on matters of concern to the veterans’ community and it provides a conduit of information to and from the veteran service organizations (VSO) on policy and legislation, pending and enacted, as well as information on existing services. The board currently is comprised of 25 VSO representatives from around the Commonwealth.
Wednesday was also the American Legion’s Day on Capitol Square. Members also visited general assembly members and briefed them on the JLC and other priorities. House Joint Resolution No. 670 (HJ 670), which I have patroned, is ranked third on the JLC’s 2019 Policy Initiatives. HJ 670 requests the Secretary of Administration to oversee and develop a charter and directives for the State Board of Elections to form a working group to study the implementation of electronic return of voted military-overseas ballots. I am grateful for their support of HJ 670 and all of the work done by the JLC to advocate on behalf of our Veterans.
Virginia Loves Teachers
I would like to bring your attention to the opportunity for the Commonwealth of Virginia to honor its teachers with a specialized license plate. Delegate John McGuire, R-Henrico, has introduced House Bill 1805, which authorizes the issuance of special license plates for supporters of teachers in the Commonwealth bearing the legend VIRGINIA LOVES TEACHERS. Delegate McGuire partnered with students and teachers at Louisa County Public Schools to design the plate. 450 commitments are required by January 31st and I hope you'll consider purchasing your rights to a "Virginia Loves Teachers" license plate to support this worthwhile effort! Please share this information with your friends, family, neighbors, and most importantly your favorite teachers! To sign up for your Virginia Loves Teachers license plate, please click here.
The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) now offers Virginians the option to upgrade their current Virginia driver’s license or identification card to a REAL ID-compliant credential. Beginning October 1, 2020, federal officials will require state-issued driver’s licenses or IDs presented as identification to board a domestic flight or enter a secure federal facility to be REAL ID compliant. Several other forms of ID, including a U.S. Passport, Passport Card and some military IDs, will also be accepted for federal identification.
Until October 1, 2020, Virginians are able to use their current Virginia driver’s license or ID as identification to board a domestic flight or enter a secure federal facility. Virginians with a current standard driver’s license and ID card should check the expiration date. If the credential expires before October 1, 2020, make the decision whether REAL ID is right for you so you can be prepared at the time of renewal. If your credential expires after October 1, 2020, you may want to visit a DMV office to apply for REAL ID before the October 1, 2020 federal enforcement deadline. First-time applicants will also have the choice between a REAL ID compliant or standard credential.
To obtain a REAL ID-compliant credential, all Virginians must visit a DMV office in person to apply. This step in the process is mandated by federal law. The documents needed to apply for a REAL ID are readily accessible to most Virginians and are similar to those needed when many applied for their original Virginia driver’s license or ID. You can find a list of acceptable documents on "Obtaining a Virginia Driver's License or Identification Card” (DMV 141). A REAL ID compliant credential can be used for all of the same purposes as a current driver’s license – including driving, voting and accessing federal benefits. It will be available for a one-time $10 surcharge, in addition to standard fees.
Since REAL ID is optional, many Virginians may decide they don’t want or need one. Those Virginians may continue to renew their driver’s license or ID as they always have. Should they need to board a domestic flight or enter a secure federal facility, they may use another approved form of ID; a full list is available at dmvNOW.com/REALID. For more information about REAL ID, visit dmvNOW.com/REALID.
Virginia Board, Commission, and Council Vacancies
Governor Ralph Northam is welcoming recommendations for Virginia’s boards, commissions, and councils. A list of all of the current vacancies for the upcoming year, as well as the link to apply or submit nominations, can be found here: www.commonwealth.virginia.gov/boards. The list is easily searchable and generally updated monthly as positions are filled or become vacant. If you are interested in serving, please fill out an application on the previously referenced website.
Welcome Back Owen Thacker
Owen Thacker of Crozet, who participated in the Virginia House of Delegates Page Program in 2015, will be assisting me as in intern here in Richmond for the 2019 General Assembly session. Owen is a senior at Western Albemarle High School and son of proud parents Maggie and Ken Thacker. Since serving as a House Page, Owen has remained intrigued and involved ever since. He has volunteered for my 2017 re-election campaign, participated in a non-partisan program at the University of Virginia in the summer of 2018, and is the President and Founder of the Young Conservatives club at Western Albemarle High School. Owen hopes to attend the University of Virginia in the fall and remain involved in politics.
I enjoyed meeting with members of the Virginia Economic Development Association, University of Virginia President James Ryan, Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands, and members of the Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Chamber of Commerce Leadership Class (pictured below).
My staff had a chance to speak with Dr. John Downey, President of BRCC, and students from BRCC; Steve Grepps, Vice President of the Augusta County Professional Firefighters and Paramedics, and Justin Beard of the Staunton Professional Firefighters; Whit Sours of the Dupont Credit Union and other members of the Virginia Credit Union League; and Dr. Jim Plews-Ogan of Charlottesville, accompanied by a large delegation of the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
In Case You Missed It
As always, 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.
Please visit my website at www.stevelandes.com for my latest press releases and newsletters. Also, be sure to “like” my Facebook Fan Page or you can now follow me on Twitter @steve_landes by clicking the buttons below:
Thank you again for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.