General Assembly Update

Posted February 15 2015 by Campaign Team

This week in the Senate of Virginia has been hectic and busy. This Tuesday was the last day the Senate had to consider the bills introduced in that chamber in order for the House of Delegates to begin their consideration of the legislation; and the House has done the same. Beginning Wednesday until the end of the session, the Senate will only be hearing bills that originated from the House of Delegates.

There are a total of 661 House of Delegates bills that the Senate has to consider, and the Senate sent the House a total of 542 bills. There still remains some hope of an early adjournment.

The Senate and House this week each presented its version of the budget. While there are differences between the two budgets, they are not nearly as great as they often times are and the Conference Committee is expected to iron out the differences fairly easily. It was great to see a heightened commitment in both budgets to agricultural best management practices cost-share programs; one of the budget amendments that I proposed had requested full funding for the programs. Funding for the Eastern Shore Community College to build an academic and administrative building is included in the budget as well. Another very important budget provision is the Physicians’ Reimbursement Supplement for Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters. Senator Alexander and I were co-patrons on that budget amendment for CHKD.

Early this week, my bill, SJ 291, a study the advantages and disadvantages of the Commonwealth’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, did not pass a vote on the Senate floor. It gained 21 aye votes and 17 no votes, but the bill needed 27 affirmative votes in order to pass. I am disappointed that some of my colleagues fail to see the benefit in even studying in a non-partisan way the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s potential here in the Commonwealth. This program has the potential to not only protect the delicate ecosystem on which the Commonwealth relies and ensure our long-term sustainability, but also to provide revenue that would help deal with imminent problems such as sea level rise in Hampton Roads. This study which would also have looked at the experience in participating states, would have been a great first step in understanding what has the potential to be important for the future of Virginia. We are not going to tackle climate change by turning a blind eye to the problem; we need to confront the problem head on.

SB 1000, my bill to set up nonpartisan redistricting in Virginia, was tabled very earlyThursday morning, along with other nonpartisan redistricting bills presented by my colleagues, including Senator John Miller. Senator Jill Vogel has also patroned a constitutional amendment, SJ 284, for nonpartisan redistricting that has not yet been heard by the House Privileges and Elections Committee. The way these districts are drawn significantly impedes upon our ability to do our jobs and to deal with the big issues which confront our Commonwealth. I hope the House of Delegates can see the need for unbiased districts for the fair representation of the citizens of the Commonwealth.

In the Education and Health Committee we considered an important piece of legislation that could have been useful to troubled public schools, HB 1585, carried by Delegate Chris Stolle. The bill would have allowed school divisions with schools which have failed to obtain full accreditation to adjust the start times and length of the school year without having to apply to Richmond for waivers. I voted in committee to keep HB 1585 alive but it was passed by indefinitely on a vote of 8 to 6.

House Transportation Committee voted unanimously to report my SB 956, relating to easing the congestion at the HRBT. The measure, if passed by the House of Delegates, will provide an incentive for truck drivers to agree to be turned around at a less congested time in order to ease headaches of commuters. This could provide some significant relief at the HRBT.

I am proud to represent the constituents of the Sixth District of Virginia, and I always welcome your questions, comments, and input. I will be in Richmond until adjournment on February 28th. Please don’t hesitate to call my Richmond office at (804) 698-7506, or send us an email at [email protected] with any concerns you may have.