We have crossed the halfway point of the 2012 General Assembly Session, and the House has completed action on all House bills and begun to take action on the 403 bills that passed out of the Senate. On the other side, the Senate has begun to take action on the 603 bills that passed the House.
House Highlight Successful Legislative Agenda at Crossover
On Wednesday, the House Republican Caucus held a press conference to highlight a number of successful Republican bills related to our primary focus – creating jobs, expanding educational opportunities, protecting our families, and reforming state government.
To help businesses create new jobs and opportunities, we advanced HB-33 and HB-714, respectively that protect non-unionized labor and extend the Major Jobs Business Facility Tax Credit. These bills, along with several other measures, will have a positive impact on job growth and keep Virginia among the best states to do business.
To expand educational opportunities, we put forward and passed HB-321 and HB-1173 which, respectively, provide tax credits for businesses that contribute to scholarships for children who qualify for free or reduced lunches and increase flexibility for charter schools.
We are also committed to making our state government as efficient and effective as possible. Our top priority in the area of government reform is to ensure that current and future employees have a reliable retirement system. HB-1130 will allow existing or new government employees the option of choosing a defined contribution plan, similar to the 401(k) plans used throughout the private sector. Other major government reform bills include HB-1291 and HB-1295, which will eliminate a number of boards and commissions and reduce mandates on local government.
Last, but certainly not least, we are committed to ensuring the safety of the citizens of the Commonwealth. We passed a number of public safety measures that will increase penalties for drunk drivers, pedophiles, and rapists. We also passed two bills that will codify the castle doctrine to allow for homeowners to defend themselves from an intruder without fear of civil or criminal prosecution.
While House Republicans worked to pass legislation to move Virginia forward, the House Democrats have continued to emphasize a handful of bills to generate extensive debate in order to divert attention from the extreme legislation sponsored by their members. After House Democrats introduced legislation to study the sale of marijuana in ABC stores and reinstate parole, it is little wonder they want to divert attention. Tax increases were also a top item on their legislative agenda. In total, House Democrats introduced eleven tax increases with an estimated fiscal impact ranging from $2.0 million to $744.4 million in increased taxes for Virginia families and businesses. To keep Virginia’s economic recovery on track, House Republicans successfully blocked all tax increases proposed by House Democrats.
Budget Leaders Begin to Unveil Biennial Budget
With Crossover behind us, the primary focus for the second half of Session will turn to the state budget. On Thursday, Delegate Lacey Putney, Chairman, House Appropriations Committee, gave a preview of the House budget. He summed up the House budget when he said, “Our [budget] will provide additional funding for both our public schools and our local governments so that they can keep local taxes low, use one-time savings to fund non-recurring costs such as capital projects, minimize the amount of new debt, provide full funding of the VRS contribution rates, reduce the burden on Virginia’s businesses with fewer and lower fees, provide additional support to attract new industry and promote tourism, and make the largest investment in over a decade to our colleges and universities.”
Following Delegate Putney’s speech, Majority Leader Cox rose to highlight the additional funding for localities and K-12 public education included in the House budget. The House’s budget puts nearly $580 million in new funding into our children’s classrooms and begins the process to restore funding for localities that had been cut in prior year budgets.
Tebow Bill Passes House
On the floor this week, the House passed HB-947, which paves the way for homeschooled children to participate on high school athletics teams. The bill, nicknamed the “Tebow Bill”, requires the Virginia High School League, the organization that governs high school athletics in Virginia, to allow home school students to try out for public schools teams. Currently, twenty-two states allow for homeschooled children to participate on high school athletics teams, including Florida where Tim Tebow was allowed to play on his high school football team. After the bill had passed, Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albermarle) “Tebowed” on the floor of the House. (picture & story: (News article)
House Unveil 2012 Public Safety Agenda
This week, some of my Republican colleagues held a press conference to highlight a number of public safety initiatives to keep families safe from habitual drug traffickers, individuals who prey on children, drunk drivers, gang members, and those who commit domestic violence.
Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albermarle) discussed two of his bills, HB-968, which will increase penalties for habitual drug traffickers, keeping our kids away from drugs and drug-related violence, and HB-973, which would impose a mandatory life sentence for raping a child under the age of 12. In the last two years, 228 children under the age of 12 have been victims of these horrific crimes, and only 10 of these cases resulted in a life sentence, with a median sentence of 13 years.
Delegate Ben Cline (R-Rockingham) introduced two bills to address strangulation and gang recruitment.HB-752 raises the penalty of assault and battery via strangulation in an attempt to curb the elevation of domestic violence. To help combat gang violence, Cline also introduced HB-751, which will make it a felony to induce criminal activity or recruit a gang member via the internet, a telephone, or text message. With technological developments, gangs are using new methods of communication to recruit, discuss, and plan criminal activities.
Protecting our families and keeping our streets safe is one of the most important responsibilities of the government. I, along with my Republican colleagues, are 100% committed to doing everything we can when it comes to protecting children and keeping families safe from the dangers of this world.
Making Virginia the Most Veteran Friendly State
This week, the House passed a handful of bills aimed at accomplishing Governor McDonnell’s goal of making Virginia the most veteran and military friendly state in the Nation. On Monday, the House passed HB-719, a bill that allows for a veteran with a permanently disabled service-connected disability to purchase a lifetime hunting, fishing, or combined hunting and fishing license at a discounted rate. The House also passed HB-384 which would give hiring preference for state jobs to members of the Virginia National Guard. This bill builds from last year’s successful efforts to give hiring preference for state jobs to veterans.
Family Foundation Pastor’s Day
Photo’s of recent visitors
Sunday night we had a brief snow storm – which covered Capitol square –
As always, my staff and I are here in Richmond to serve you. We want to hear what you think about the legislation pending before the House, or if there’s anything we can do to help you in dealing with a state government agency. My office can be reached at (804) 698-1098 or via the Internet at Email me Here. If you are planning to visit Richmond during Session, I encourage you to visit me in Room 821.
Thank you again for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.