On Friday the 2018 General Assembly session concluded its third week. Several very important bills have already passed through the House and are on the way to the Senate. We are working hard to address key issues such as adoption reform, improving our education system, and fighting the opioid crisis. As I have said before, House Republicans are focused on passing “Practical Solutions to Everyday Issues.” On Wednesday I gave a floor speech on some of these issues which you can listen to here.
House Republicans Lead the Way on Adoption Reform
Last week the House of Delegates passed three adoption bills that will help more children find loving adoptive parents. House Bills 241, 227, and 291 all passed through the House with bipartisan support. One bill in particular, House bill 227, requires courts to consider the results of a national criminal history background check conducted on the prospective adoptive parent. The legislation is in response to a case out of Virginia Beach where a young female was found dead from an overdose. It was learned after an investigation that her adoptive parent had a long felony criminal history. Another bill shortens the length of time that a child must live with a close family member before adoption proceedings can begin from three years to two years. The third bill simplifies access to adoption files regarding court orders for adoptees and/or adopters so they can more easily obtain personal vital record.
Three Major Tax Increases Proposed
Democrats have introduced three major tax increases. These bills would implement a tax on video streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, reinstate the so called “death tax”, and implement a statewide hotel tax. We don’t need higher taxes on hotels, Netflix and the assets of family members after they die! Over the past 15 years the Republican controlled House has defeated more than $30 billion in tax increases. This year we will add to that number and I remain committed to stand against these new tax increases. You work hard for your money and hardworking Virginians don’t need these tax increases.
House and Senate Leaders Announce Formation of Joint Subcommittee to Review Problems from 2017 Elections
Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox and Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment announced the formation of a Joint Subcommittee on Election Review. The Subcommittee will consider issues related to the conduct of elections that were brought to light following the November 2017 elections, including absentee balloting, the assignment of voters in split precincts, and recount law and procedures. One of the most sacred rights offered to the people of Virginia is the right to vote in a fair and free election. I appreciate the leadership demonstrated by Speaker Cox and Senate Majority Leader Norment on this issue, and I will keep you apprised of the findings of the joint subcommittee.
Protecting Your Second Amendment Rights
Democrats in the House have proposed a rule that would place restrictions on law abiding citizens carrying a firearm while visiting the House Gallery, which I oppose. My commitment to defending the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms remains firm. Under the current rules, only citizens who have a concealed carry permit are allowed to carry a weapon in the House Gallery. It is important to note that concealed carry permit holders account for less than 1% of all crimes committed with a gun. I will continue to fight attempts by those who wish to infringe on your Second Amendment rights.
Pre-Session Survey Results
Thank you to all of you who took the time to complete our 23rd annual legislative survey! These surveys help to provide me insight into the thoughts and opinions of the people I work hard to represent. These responses help keep me apprised of people’s opinions back home, as well as aid me in best representing the 25th District in the House of Delegates. The 2018 survey, which was provided online and mailed to constituent households, covered topics including what core services provided by state government are most important, what actions the General Assembly should take to address budget constraints and whether individuals support tolling or an increased gas tax to address safety issues and congestion on Interstate 81. If you’re interested in viewing the survey results, please visit www.stevelandes.com.
Key Results from the 2018 Pre-Session Survey:
- 28.70% of respondents ranked fostering jobs and economic development as the number 1 core service provided by state government, followed by 23.58% that believed providing health care and other services for those in need was most important.
- 39.15% believe cutting government spending is the best way to address budgetary constraints.
- 76.68% support legislation that would require all colleges to standardize how they evaluate “dual enrollment” programs.
- 90.95% support legislation to allow teachers licensed in other states to teach in Virginia on a temporary basis until they can obtain licensure.
- 65.83% supported repealing the law freezing base electricity rates and preventing state regulators from reviewing the earnings for power companies.
- People are divided on how to best address improvements for Interstate 81 with 34.89% supporting an increase in the gas tax, 33.19% supporting tolling, and 31.91% opposing either of those options.
- Medicaid expansion, redistricting reform and adding a lane to Interstate 81 were the top responses to the survey’s open-ended question.
Last week, a bipartisan group of Virginia Senators and Delegates wrote to members of the Congressional Delegation seeking federal assistance for Interstate 81 improvements. Senators Bill Carrico, Creigh Deeds and Mark Obenshain, along with Delegates Dickie Bell, Jeffrey Campbell, Ben Cline, Chris Collins, Todd Gilbert, Chris Head, Chris Hurst, Terry Kilgore, Dave LaRock, Israel O’Quinn, Todd Pillion, Nick Rush and Tony Wilt joined me in writing to U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, as well as Congressmen Bob Goodlatte, Morgan Griffith and Barbara Comstock. The letter encouraged the Delegation to work with President Donald Trump’s Administration to improve Interstate 81 and sought a commitment to address this issue in Congress this year. The letter may be viewed here.
In between committee meetings and session, it’s always nice to visit with folks from back home. Last week I had the pleasure of meeting with Augusta County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Bond and Augusta County School Board Member Dr. John Ocheltree, Carol Carter, Kim Cory, Christine McFeely, Gary Bloemer, and Carol Hunter, all from Albemarle County, Lori Epik Robush of Mount Sidney, Craig Shrewsbury of Fishersville, and Matthew Gibson of the Virginia Foundation for Humanities.
My staff enjoyed speaking with Shannon Mueller of Charlottesville, Jonno Alcaro and other members of the Albemarle School Board, Neal Frankel and Scott McLellan from Rockingham County, Verona’s Brock Barns and other students from Radford University, Davis Sligh, John Haycock and Kathryn Parker all from Charlottesville, Chrissy Johnson of Vector Industries and Melissa Williams of Waynesboro, Vrla Leach of Staunton, Charlotte Gibson and Douglas Miller of Charlottesville, and Lola Heffner of Verona. We appreciate you all stopping by!
In Case You Missed It
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.