As baseball legend Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” While the General Assembly convened last Wednesday to vote on the long-delayed budget (I voted yes), the Governor could still propose amendments or even veto provisions. Today, the Governor signed the Budget Bill (HB6001) as passed by the General Assembly. Meaning that it is truly over, for now.
While the press has covered many of the higher-level items of the budget, I know my constituents enjoy getting into the details! But before I do that, a couple of other items.
House and Senate Page Program
Attention parents! Each year, students from across Virginia become part of the General Assembly family by participating in the Senate and House Page programs. This is a unique opportunity for our future leaders to get a first-hand look at how government works and build friendships that last a lifetime. Applicants must be 13 or 14 years old on the first day of session (second Wednesday of January). Click here for more information and the application process. The deadline is October 16. Don’t hesitate to contact me if I can help answer any questions.
I’ve proudly represented the 37th District in the House of Delegates since 2006. As many of you know, the recent redistricting process resulted in new boundaries and district numbers. Most of 37th District is now in the new 11th District.
The new 11th District consists of the City of Fairfax and the current 37th District precincts of University, Villa, Monument, Mosby #1, and Eagle View #1. New precincts include Hunters Branch, Blake, Oakton, Flint Hill #2, Difficult Run, Oaktree Crossing, Penderbrook, Island Pond, and Centrepoint. I am thrilled to be running for re-election in the new 11th District and look forward to meeting my new constituents. I am, however, very sorry to lose my Centreville precincts and areas south of Braddock Road, including Middleridge, Country Club View, and Fairfax Club Estates. Should I be fortunate enough to be re-elected, please consider yourselves honorary constituents.
Visit Who’s My Legislator to find out how redistricting affected your community.
The primary disagreement between the House and Senate (and Governor) revolved around tax policy. The final budget includes:
In terms of expenditures, the adopted budget takes a cautious view of the fiscal environment and assumes that revenue growth will likely slow. As a result, the focus is on one-time initiatives over increasing ongoing programs or creating new programs. Approximately $3.5B is directed toward non-recurring activities while $1.1 billion goes toward ongoing programs. I think this is a prudent approach.
Click here for a useful document by the Commonwealth Institute that compares the final budget to proposed budgets by the Governor, House, and Senate. You can also download a presentation by the House Appropriations staff that provides a great overview by policy area.
Summer Homework – Legislative Commissions
Although we are a part-time legislature, General Assembly members are appointed to various commissions that meet throughout the year. This allows us to focus on specific issues and develop recommendations for action outside of the pressure of the regular session.
Here are a few highlights of the commissions on which I serve:
As we prepare to celebrate our nation’s Independence Day, I am happy to share with you the new laws that go into effect in Virginia today.
Each January, 140 representatives of the people (100 delegates and 40 senators) gather in Richmond to propose, debate, and vote on legislation. This year, 1,906 bills were introduced. Of those, 804 were ultimately signed into law. I am pleased that nine of my bills made it to the Governor’s desk. These include:
HB2317 – Jury Duty Pay. Increases the jury duty allowance from $30 to $50 per day.
HB1517 – Automatic Renewals. For any free trial lasting more than 30 days, requires the customer to be notified of their option to cancel the free trial within 30 days of the end of the trial period.
HB1770 – Control of Energy Rates. Strengthens the State Corporation Commission’s ability to review the earnings of electric utilities and to adjust rates paid by customers if they exceed a fair rate of return.
HB1572 – “Swatting.” Makes it a felony to knowingly make a false emergency communication (i.e., 911) that results in serious bodily injury or death. Swatting is the term used when a fake emergency is called into law enforcement with the purpose of eliciting a mass law enforcement response.
HB1682 – Fentanyl/Weapon of Terrorism. Adds any mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of fentanyl to the state definition of “weapon of terrorism.” This increases the penalty for manufacturing and distribution of fentanyl to a Class 4 felony.
HB2330 – Public Transportation Safety. Creates new penalties to protect public transportation drivers who are the victims of assault and/or battery. In addition to other penalties, a conviction includes a ban from public transportation for at least six months.
HB2372 – Catalytic Converters. Creates a presumption that possession of a catalytic converter removed from a vehicle by someone not in the auto repair or salvage business is guilty of theft. The penalty is a Class 6 felony.
HB2298 – Stiletto Knives. Removes switchblade knives and adds stiletto knives to the list of concealed weapons that may not be carried in public.
HB2387 – Firearm Safety Tax Credit. Establishes a $300 tax credit for years 2023 through 2027 for the purchase of firearm safety devices (gun safes, locks, etc.). The total program may not exceed $5 million in any given year.
HB2007 – Freedom of Information Act. Requires public bodies to post fee and pricing information for a Freedom of Information Act request on their website or in a written policy.
HB1446 – Nursing Home Standards. Effective July 1, 2025, establishes nursing staffing requirements for certified nursing facilities and imposes sanctions on facilities that do not comply.
SB1221 – Assisted Living Facilities. Directs the Board of Social Services to establish minimum liability insurance requirements for assisted living facilities.
HB2028 – Guardianships. Requires a guardian to visit an incapacitated person at least three times per year and at least once every 120 days.
HB1602 – Telemedicine. Removes the requirement that a health care provider must maintain a physical presence in Virginia to serve Medicaid patients.
HB2274 – Pharmacist Scope of Practice. Allows pharmacists to initiate treatment and administer controlled substances for group A Streptococcus, influenza, COVID-19, and urinary tract infection.
SB1003 – Hearing Aids for Minors. Requires health insurers to cover the cost of hearing aids and related services for children 18 years or younger when recommended by an otolaryngologist.
HB1895 – Nondisclosure and Sexual Harassment. Prohibits an employer from requiring a nondisclosure or confidentiality agreement with the purpose of concealing the details of a sexual harassment claim.
SB1040 – Social Security Numbers. Prohibits an employer from using an employee’s social security number, or any derivative of, as part of an employee’s identification number or access badge or card.
HB2082 – Rental Keys and Key Codes. Requires large rental property companies (200 units or more) to require any applicant for employment that will have access to keys to go through a pre-employment criminal history records check.
SB1455 – Curfews. Enables the chief law-enforcement officer of a locality to enact a curfew under certain circumstances during a civil disturbance. The curfew may not last longer than 24 hours without approval from the local governing body.
HB2294 – THC in Hemp Products. Limits the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that can be included in a hemp product to 0.3%, with certain exceptions when the amount of CBD is at least 25 times greater than the amount of THC. The law also creates a regulated hemp product retail facility registration process to oversee the new law.
HB2428 – Cannabis Advertising. Prohibits advertising any cannabis product or product containing synthetic THC or similar product that may not be legally sold in Virginia. The law also prohibits advertising from targeting minors, being placed near schools, referencing intoxicating effects, etc.
SB855 – Blue Headlights. Prohibits the use of blue headlights on vehicles.
SB951 – Uninsured Motorists. Effective July 1, 2024, repeals the option to register as an uninsured motorist and to instead pay a fee. All motorists will now be required to obtain insurance.
HB1516 – Towing. Prohibits a towing operator from refusing to allow the owner of a towed vehicle from accessing and recovering personal items without first paying the towing fee.
HB1932 – Move Over on Hazard Lights. Requires drivers to make a lane change or reduce speed when passing stationary vehicles that have activated hazard warning signal flashers, caution signs, or flares.
HB1388 – National Guard Passport. Directs the Department of Conservation and Recreation to establish a program allowing members of the Virginia National Guard to enter state parks without paying a fee.
HB1592 – Bullying. Requires a school to notify the parent of any student who is involved in an alleged bullying incident within 24 hours. Current law only requires notification within five school days.
SB1175 – Virginia Literacy Act. Expands the Virginia Literacy Act in several ways, including requiring each local school board to provide reading intervention services to students who demonstrate substantial deficiencies based on SOL or other screening tests.
HB1592 – Teacher Arrests. Requires state law enforcement agencies to notify school systems within 48 hours of the arrest of a school employee for a felony or a Class 1 misdemeanor.
SB1453 – Defibrillators. Requires the placement of an automated external defibrillator in every public school. Under current law, schools have the option to place defibrillators but are not required to do so.
SB1515 – Pornography Age Verification. Requires pornographic websites (defined as having more than one-third of its content focused on sexual conduct) to implement an age verification system to prevent children under the age of 18 from accessing the site.
HB1948 – Absentee Voting. Removes the witness requirement for absentee ballots and replaces it with providing the last four digits of a social security number and birth year.
Having trouble sleeping at night? There are 770 more bills to go! The Division of Legislative Services 2023 Session Summary provides a complete list of bills introduced by subject area and whether they passed, failed, or were carried over.
Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have thoughts or questions. It is an honor to represent you. Have a safe and happy 4th of July!
Thanks to everyone who came out to my Town Hall meeting earlier this month. We had a great turn out and lots of good discussion. If you missed it, the event can be viewed in its entirety on CityScreen-12.
They don’t call it a short session for nothing! The past two weeks have flown by. February 7 was “cross-over,” which is traditionally the busiest day of the session. Cross-over is the half-way point where the House and Senate must complete work on their own bills. During a roughly eight-hour span we acted on over 145 bills. These included everything from very simple bills to extremely complicated subjects such as digital tokens and decentralized autonomous organizations (HB1784). Click here for a quick explanation in case you are similarly challenged in this area!
On February 9, the House and Senate acted on their respective versions of the budget. Since Virginia has a biennial budget process, this year we are amending the two-year budget adopted last year. The Governor introduces the initial amendments, and then the House and Senate add and subtract accordingly. Both budgets have plenty to like – and some things to dislike.
Here are just a few of the major differences in the three budgets (Governor’s original and the House and Senate changes):
You can find a good side-by-side comparison of the budgets by the Commonwealth Institute. A detailed overview by the House Appropriations Committee staff can be found here.
The budget bill is now in conference where differences between the House and Senate versions are being worked out. I am looking forward to reviewing the final recommendations.
Unsung Hero Bills
This week, the General Assembly passed legislation to create a new Department of Workforce Development and Advancement (HB2195). The Department will be responsible for administering workforce development programs and overseeing a coordinated approach to program evaluation and data sharing.
In 2019, the Southern Regional Education Board (on which I serve as an advisory member) published “Unprepared and Unaware.” The document was a wakeup call that states need to not only focus more on workforce development – but also shift to highly adaptable programs that can keep up with wildly shifting workforce needs. The report notes that up to 44% of current manual work activities in the Unites States could be automated by 2030 and that “by 2030, between 3% and 14% of the global workforce will need to be able to perform a completely different job function than the one they did in 2016.”
While Virginia has made significant investments in workforce development, these programs are scattered among several different agencies. This new legislation will ensure that Virginia has an overall strategy for dealing with shifting technologies and market forces. That said, it is important to get this right! Simply consolidating programs, without linking them to industry experts in the field, can do more harm than good. But after many iterations, this bi-partisan effort was passed on a nearly unanimous vote.
Once upon a time, if a car was coming toward you and you were being blinded, it meant that the person forgot to turn off their high beams. Today, being blinded by an oncoming car is just as likely to come from purposefully installed “blue lights.” While these xenon (as opposed to halogen) bulbs can certainly light up the road, they are also a safety hazard for everyone else. There is a scientific reason for this. Not only are the bulbs brighter, but the blue wavelength achieves greater penetration into the retina, which results in more glare than other colors. The same phenomenon happens with blue holiday lights. They are pretty – but it is hard to look at them for a long period of time.
SB855 prohibits aftermarket modifications that make headlights appear as a blue light. The bill passed the House 87Y-11N and is now headed to the Governor.
Now that session is wrapping up, I am happy to attend community meetings to provide an overview of issues debated and to get your feedback. If you are interested, please reach out to my legislative assistant, Rama Van Pelt, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (703) 310-6752.
The first two and a half weeks of the General Assembly session have been a whirlwind of activity. Floor sessions are now getting longer as legislation starts to report out of the committees. Thanks to the many constituents who visited me in Richmond to advocate for (and against) a wide range of issues.
I am excited to be holding my annual Town Hall meeting next Saturday, February 4 from 9-11 a.m. at Fairfax City Hall. We will be joined by Senator Chap Petersen. The meeting will include an overview of major issues, the status of our legislative initiatives, and lots of time for Q&A.
This past week I spoke on the House floor against HB1485, which would undermine key legislation passed in 2020 to ensure that Virginia meets its Chesapeake Bay restoration targets. The 2020 legislation set a deadline of 2026 for larger agricultural operations to implement nutrient management plans and fence livestock out of streams. HB1485 would move that target to 2030, placing Virginia at risk of not meeting U.S. EPA mandates and risking penalties that would most likely target urban areas like Northern Virginia. While the bill passed on a 52Y-47N vote, I am hopeful that it will either be defeated or significantly amended in the Senate.
Update on My Legislation
So far, three of my bills have made it through committee, including one that has now passed the House and is on its way to the Senate.
Unsung Hero Bill – Nursing Home Standards
While there is no shortage of controversial bills that are highlighted in the news, I like to highlight good bills that often don’t get the attention they deserve. One of these deals with minimum staffing standards for nursing homes.
This issue has been debated in the General Assembly for as long as I’ve served in the House. Virginia is one of only 12 states with no laws setting minimum standards. According to a report from the
This may finally be the year that we pass minimum standards! HB1446 sets minimum hourly standards for daily care per resident and imposes administrative sanctions on those out of compliance. The bill is up for debate on the House floor this Monday.
Raise the Red Flag Bill – Short-Term Rentals
There are also sleepy bills that could have a big impact on our community if passed. Such is the case with HB2271 dealing with short-term rentals (Airbnb, Vrbo, etc.). When short-term rentals started to become popular in the early 2010s, the General Assembly debated whether to regulate them at the state-level or to empower localities to regulate them based on local needs. The latter argument won out with legislation in 2017. Many localities, including Fairfax County, spent years working with stakeholders to adopt local ordinances.
HB2271 would circumvent these local ordinances if the property is managed by a real estate salesperson licensed by the Real Estate Board. When originally conceived, short-term rentals were presented as a way for a property owner to make some extra money by periodically renting out a room or renting a home out over a weekend. HB2271 would nullify many of these local rules. Specifically, localities would no longer be able to limit the number of days that a home could be rented out or be able to require that the property be primarily occupied by the owner. That basically turns short-term rentals into small hotels. I have nothing against short-term rentals, but I do have a serious concern about commercializing our neighborhoods. The bill is still in committee where I hope it will stay.
Please do not hesitate to send me a note if you want more information on a particular issue or want to advocate for or against legislation. I hope to see you at my Town Hall meeting next Saturday!
And we are off! The 2023 General Assembly session sprang to life on January 11 with the crack of the gavel. Thus began our 46-day sprint to consider 1,800+ bills and several hundred proposed amendments to the biennial budget.
Mark your calendar for my annual Town Hall meeting on Saturday, February 4, from 9-11 a.m. This is one of my favorite traditions and I’m excited that we will be returning to Fairfax City Hall. The meeting will include an overview of major issues and then lots of time for robust Q&A.
Thank you to everyone who emailed in response to my last newsletter, where I invited feedback on the Governor’s budget amendments and other priorities. I am still working through responses – but please know that I have read them all and greatly appreciate the input. I also want to share a more comprehensive overview of the Governor’s proposed amendments by our House Appropriations Committee for those who are interested in more details.
This year I have introduced 14 bills dealing with a wide range of issues. Below are a few highlights. Click here for the full list.
Thank you to the many constituents who came down to Richmond this week to visit and advocate for a wide range of issues. It is an honor to serve you in the General Assembly!
Happy New Year! I hope you and your loved ones have a joyful and prosperous 2023.
It is hard to believe that at high noon on January 11 we will gavel in for the 2023 General Assembly session. Odd years are “short” sessions, meaning we will complete (hopefully) our business in 46 days. Virginia packs a lot into these short sessions. On average, over 2,000 bills are introduced. In addition, General Assembly members and the Governor have an opportunity to propose amendments to Virginia’s biennial budget.
You can help shape this year’s session by sharing what is important to you. The easiest way is to email me. I greatly value the diversity of expertise and perspectives of my constituents. Hearing from you helps me to make more informed decisions. Send me a note anytime at email@example.com.
In addition, you can participate in two upcoming forums designed to receive community feedback.
Public Hearings on Proposed Budget Amendments
The House Appropriations and Senate Finance and Appropriations committees will hold virtual public hearings on the Governor’s proposed budget amendments (see below for details). There are four hearings, including one specifically for Northern Virginia. Speakers are asked to limit comments to three minutes or less.
Those wishing to speak must register on Wednesday, January 4. Visit hac.virginia.gov to register and for more information.
If you are unable to attend, you may submit comments electronically. The public hearings will be livestreamed on the Virginia General Assembly web site.
Fairfax Delegation Public Forum
The Fairfax Delegation to the General Assembly will also hold its annual public forum. The forum is limited to Fairfax residents speaking for themselves and/or a community-based organization. Speakers are allotted three minutes on a first-come first-served basis.
Those wishing to speak must register by noon on Thursday, January 5. More information (including how to register and how to watch remotely) can be found here.
Governor Youngkin’s Proposed Budget
Last month, Governor Youngkin presented his proposed budget amendments for consideration by the General Assembly. You can read his proposed budget at this link or you can watch the Governor’s remarks here. In addition, we received a report on the economic outlook from the Secretary of Finance. The key takeaway is “caution.” While FY2022 ended on a revenue high note, the budget assumes a recession beginning at the end of Q3 of FY 2023 and lasting two to three quarters.
In addition to the Governor, each member of the House and Senate may also introduce amendments. It is then ultimately up to the General Assembly to pass a budget. As often quoted in state capitals everywhere “The Governor proposes; the legislature disposes.”
Below is a summary of amendments proposed by the Governor. As always, there are things I agree with and disagree with – with the devil often being in the details. And, just because something is a good idea, it doesn’t make it a priority. In Virginia, we must balance the budget every year.
New Laws – Grocery Tax Decrease
Most laws passed by the General Assembly go into effect July 1. However, some laws have delayed enactments for a variety of reasons. This is the case for a decrease in the grocery tax, which went from 2.5% to 1% effective January 1. The tax cut includes food for home consumption and specific personal hygiene items. Click here for a full list of eligible items. The 1.5% that was eliminated is the state’s portion of the grocery tax. The General Assembly left in place the 1% local sales tax that goes fund local programs.
It is an honor to represent you in the General Assembly! Watch for updates on my legislation and our annual Town Hall meeting in early February.
I hope you are staying cool in this summer weather! While I personally love the heat, it can also be dangerous. Heat was a factor in 1,577 deaths nationally in 2021, so please make sure to take care of yourself and check on vulnerable neighbors.
Annual Sales Tax Holiday
If you are like the Bulova family, your kids are getting ready to go back to school in just a few weeks. And, if your kids are like Grayson Bulova (our rising 9th grader), they may have grown a couple extra inches over the summer!
This weekend you can save money on back-to-school supplies and clothing during Virginia’s annual sales tax holiday.
The holiday begins Friday, August 5 and goes through Sunday, August 7.
Don’t have children? You can also enjoy tax free shopping on hurricane and emergency preparedness supplies as well as certain ENERGY STAR and WaterSense products.
Details can be found at Virginia Sales Tax Holiday. It’s a great time to stock up on gear for the new school year, plan for emergency situations, or simply invest in energy efficiency to save money for the long haul.
General Assembly Tax Reforms
Speaking of taxes, the General Assembly made several changes to tax policy that will go into effect for Tax Year 2023.
Not too long ago, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Virginia had to cut its budget by $2.8 billion in the face of severe revenue shortfalls. Fortunately, our historically conservative budgeting process, in combination with a significant infusion of federal dollars, allowed us to weather the financial storm. Two years later, revenues are far outpacing forecasts – with FY2022 ending in a $2 billion surplus.
We do need to be careful not to get ahead of ourselves by creating new programs that can’t be sustained in the long term or by over-cutting taxes in a way that structurally unbalances our budget. However, the situation presents a rare opportunity to make much needed structural adjustments to our tax system.
It also comes at a time when Virginians are hurting with the impacts of high inflation.
In the end, I believe the General Assembly struck a good balance between one-time rebates (which do not create a long-term obligation) and changes to our tax system. Here is an overview of the major items.
State Tax Rebate Checks. Everyone who paid state income taxes for Tax Year 2021 is eligible for a rebate check. Single filers will receive up to $250 and couples filing jointly will get up to $500. Checks will be distributed in October. Click here for details. A rebate program provides the most flexibility since it can be used on gas, food, clothing, or any other items.
Tax Policy Changes. In addition to one-time rebates, the General Assembly made several permanent changes to tax policy:
In all, these changes are expected to reduce the average family’s tax burden by more than $1,000 in Tax Year 2023.
In addition to tax reforms, we were able to make significant one-time expenditures to help ensure that our budget is structurally balanced and to address long-standing needs. This includes $750 million to stabilize the Virginia Retirement System, $499 million to further bolster the revenue stabilization fund, and $2.5 billion to implement previously authorized but unfunded infrastructure improvements and deferred maintenance that otherwise would have been funded with debt.
A Problem – Legislating Through the Budget
One of the things I love about Virginia’s legislative process is the “one-object rule.” This is enshrined in the Virginia Constitution and means that each bill can only address one issue. As a result, most bills are only a couple of paragraphs or pages long. The system creates transparency by ensuring legislators and voters know exactly what is being voted on. This makes us patently different than what happens in Washington, where massive omnibus bills are often the norm.
The budget is supposed to abide by this rule and deal only with appropriations-related items. That doesn’t mean there isn’t language directing how money should be used. That is totally appropriate. But it does mean we should avoid creating new laws through the budget bill.
While the General Assembly has not always lived up to the spirit of this rule, the most recent budget presents a caution flag that we need to take very seriously. As noted in this Virginian-Pilot article, the budget includes several items that should have been debated as separate bills. And in fact, some of them were debated – and defeated – during the regular session. This includes language on casinos, criminal justice reform, and marijuana possession – just to name a few. Since the final budget is negotiated by a conference committee and is an up-or-down vote, legislating through the budget means the public is denied an opportunity to weigh in. We need to do better in the future.
House and Senate Page Programs
The House and Senate Page Programs are now accepting applications for the 2023 General Assembly session!
These are fantastic learning experiences where students have an opportunity to gain valuable civic and professional experience by working directly with legislators and legislative staff. Applicants must be 13 or 14 years old by January 11, 2023 and in good academic standing. The position is paid, and pages live in Richmond during session (they come home on weekends). The program ends with a mock session where pages introduce, debate, and vote on legislative initiatives on the House and Senate floors. Click here for more information and let me know if I can answer any questions.
It is an honor to serve you! Please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance.
Happy Independence Day weekend! I would be remiss if I also didn’t mention that June 30 is the 403rd anniversary of the first meeting of the Virginia House of Delegates (then the House of Burgesses) and that on June 29, 1776 the first Constitution of Virginia was ratified. And, on June 25, 1788, Virginia became the 10th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. This is a historic time of year!
As we prepare to celebrate our freedom, I am also happy to share the fruits of our representative democracy here in Virginia. Each year, the General Assembly debates and votes on literally thousands of bills. This year, 807 of those bills were signed into law. The Division of Legislative Services publishes "In Due Course," which provides a summary of legislation passed that is likely to impact the daily lives of Virginians.
This year, I am pleased that three of my bills made the cut!
HB426 extends cocktails to go through July 2024 and creates a new license for third parties to deliver alcoholic beverages from restaurants to consumers. While many people have enjoyed cocktails to go during the pandemic, we also found enforcement issues when it comes to deliveries by third parties. The bill strives to ensure that people can continue to enjoy cocktails to go while keeping alcohol out of the hands of minors. HB1309 creates the Resilient Virginia Revolving Fund, which will provide low-interest loans and grants for projects designed to make Virginia more resilient against climate change. Virginia’s coastal areas are among the most vulnerable in the nation to sea level rise and coastal flooding. HB429 modernizes and streamlines Virginia’s procurement process for architectural and engineering services. This is actually a great bill, and I am proud of it, but have no idea how it got on the list of legislation likely to affect people’s daily lives! Finally, I was pleased to serve as chief co-patron of HB632, which reinstates the ability of local police to ticket drivers for operating a vehicle with an excessively loud exhaust system (AKA, “macho mufflers).
Below is a selection of some of the other bills that go into effect today. I hope you will take the time to look through the full In Due Course. Also available is the 2022 Session Summary, which provides a complete list of bills introduced by subject area and whether they passed, failed, or were carried over.
SB493 – “Cyber Flashers.” Makes it illegal for someone to knowingly send intimate images to another adult online without that person’s consent. The fine is the greater of $500 or actual damages, plus reasonable attorney fees.
HB358 – Veteran-Owned Businesses. Directs the Secretary of Veterans and Defense affairs to examine waiving fees associated with permits to establish a veteran-owned small business.
HB497 – Elder Abuse. Makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor for an agent under a power of attorney to knowingly or intentionally engage in financial exploitation of an incapacitated adult who is the principal of that agent.
HB750 – Law Enforcement Quotas. Prohibits any law enforcement agency from establishing formal or informal quotas that require an officer to make a specific number of arrests or issue a specific number of tickets within a designated period of time.
HB1140 – Voter Registration Cancellation. Requires general registrars to provide notice of the cancellation of a voter’s registration to the address listed in the voter’s registration and by email, if the email was provided on the application form.
HB158 – Governor’s Emergency Powers. Limits the duration of executive orders issued by the Governor pursuant to emergency powers to no more than 45 days from issuance unless the General Assembly takes subsequent action. Under the previous law, executive orders could remain in effect until June 30 after the next regular session of the General Assembly (which could be longer than a year depending on when the order is issued).
HB758 – Switchblades. Eliminates the prohibition on selling or possessing a switchblade.
HB763 – Charitable Gaming. Tightens rules that provide an exemption for charitable organizations to engage in electronic gambling. While most charitable organizations play by the rules, some unscrupulous groups were using a loophole in the law to set up electronic gambling operations in the bar area of restaurants.
SB96 – “Virginia is for Bettors.” Prohibits gaming businesses from using the term “Virginia is for Bettors” in their advertising. I’m not a big fan of gambling, but I also love free speech and voted no on this one…
HB481 – Hospital Price Transparency. Requires every hospital to make information about standard charges for items and services to be provided on the hospital’s website by July 1, 2023.
HB525 – Anti-Hazing. Mandates stronger anti-hazing education at institutions of higher learning and provides a safe harbor from discipline from drug or alcohol violations for good faith reports of hazing.
HB1203 – Veteran Suicide Prevention. Establishes the position of Suicide Prevention Coordinator in the Department of Veterans Services to support and coordinate effective mental health care services for military service members and veterans.
SB741 – Facial Recognition Technology. Authorizes public law enforcement agencies to use facial recognition technology for certain uses, including criminal investigations. This was one of the most complicated bills of the session, which attempts to balance the benefits of this technology for solving crimes/helping victims with the fact that the technology is imperfect and can be abused.
SB345 – Blood Type on Drivers License. Requires DMV to establish a way for an applicant to voluntarily indicate their blood type on a license or card for the purpose of alerting emergency medical services.
SB8 – Hunting on Sundays. Permits hunting on Sundays on public or private land so long as it takes place more than 200 yards from a place of worship. Up until now, Sunday hunting was only allowed on private land.
HB4 – School Incident Reports. Requires that school principals report to law enforcement certain acts that may constitute a misdemeanor. Under current law, principals are only required to make such reports for acts that may constitute a felony offense. This was another hotly debated bill, not because serious misdemeanors shouldn’t be reported, but because some misdemeanors can be very broad. Assault, for example, can be any threat that puts the victim in reasonable apprehension of offensive touching, harm, or danger. The question wasn’t about whether those situations should be dealt with, but whether they should always be reported to the police. Hopefully we struck the right balance with the final legislation.
SB656 – Sexually Explicit Content in Instructional Material. Requires school boards to adopt policies that notify parents of any instructional material that include sexually explicit content. For any such material, the parent must be permitted to review the material and be provide a non-explicit alternative at the parent’s request.
HB50 – Infant Safe Haven Hotline. Requires establishment of a toll-free, 24-hour hotline with information about Virginia’s safe-haven laws for the relinquishment of an infant.
HB450 – Electric Vehicle Parking. Prohibits a person from parking a vehicle not capable of receiving an electric charge in a spot clearly marked as reserved for charging electric vehicles. A violation is subject to a $25 civil penalty.
SB777 – Banning the “Carolina Squat.” Provides that no vehicle may be modified to cause the height of the front bumper to be four or more inches greater than the rear bumper. The practice, known as the “Carolina Squat,” makes it very difficult to see immediately in front of the vehicle. Why people… why??
HB319 – Virginia Literacy Act. Increases access to literacy specialists in school and requires school boards to establish division-wide literacy plans and offer literacy intervention services for struggling students.
SB362 – Bicycles Two Abreast. Prohibits bicyclists riding two abreast from impeding the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and requires moving to a single-file formation as quickly as practicable when being overtaken from the rear by a faster moving vehicle.
There is a lot more in the online version! Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have thoughts or questions. It is an honor to represent you. Have a safe and happy 4th of July!
Goodbye 2022 regular session. Hello special session!
On Saturday, the General Assembly adjourned Sine Die – meaning the regular session is now over. While we were able to wrap up most of the legislative agenda, the FY2023-2024 budget is still a work in progress. Instead of extending the regular session, we will go back to Richmond once the conferees are able to come to final consensus.
The primary area of disagreement on the budget centers around the extent of tax reductions and rebates – the resolution of which will drive resources available to invest in K-12 education, higher education, teacher/state employee raises, school construction and modernization, transportation, health care, water quality, housing, and economic development. We also have the opportunity to significantly reduce unfunded liabilities to our Virginia Retirement System and stabilize the Virginia Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. All of this is set against the backdrop of whether the increases in revenue we are experiencing are short-term versus sustainable in the long-term.
Comparing versions of the budget (Governor versus House versus Senate) can be difficult since each (not surprisingly) is usually presented in the best or worst light possible. Thanks to the Commonwealth Institute for putting together this great side-by-side comparison of the competing budget policies that will be considered over the next couple of weeks.
Highlighted Issues – Facial Recognition, THC, and Charitable Gaming!
The last week of session is usually when the more complicated bills hit the House floor – since they take more time and effort to get through the legislative process. This year there were several bills fitting that profile.
Facial Recognition (SB741). This bill sets the conditions under which law enforcement can use facial recognition technology. Facial recognition technology involves the use of algorithms to compare an individual’s facial features against pictures aggregated from across a wide range of existing sources. The concept is very similar to technology used by many social media companies. While this can be a powerful tool to identify criminals as well as crime victims (such as victims of human trafficking), it is also an imperfect technology that can be abused without the right guardrails. Ultimately, I think we got it right by ensuring that there is always a human component before law enforcement can act on a potential match and by imposing very stiff penalties for misuse. The bill passed the House 54Y-42N and the Senate 27Y-13N with Democrats and Republicans splitting both ways.
Regulation of THC (SB591). Throughout the debate on legalizing marijuana, there has been strong consensus on the need for consumer safety and keeping these products out of the hands of children. While THC is most often associated with marijuana, different variations can be produced synthetically, including hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD). One of these variations, delta-8 THC, has spread throughout Virginia and has resulted in an alarming spike in poison control calls and hospital visits. Because these products are not technically defined as marijuana, there are no age-restrictions, no labeling requirements, and no required third-party quality control testing. In response, SB591 shifts from regulating marijuana to regulating the amount of THC across the board. The legislation also prohibits THC products from being sold in forms that are attractive to children (such as animal or fruit shapes). Groups profiting from the current loophole worked very hard to kill the legislation. However, thanks to a fascinating coalition of the Virginia Farm Bureau, Family Foundation, Virginia Catholic Conference, and pro-legalization organizations such as NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) the bill passed and is on its way to the Governor’s desk.
Charitable Gaming (HB763). Charitable gaming sponsored by social and fraternal organizations has long played an important role in supporting community charities. The idea is that charitable gaming can occur in the social quarters of these organizations for the enjoyment of members and guests. Unfortunately, several unscrupulous organizations and manufacturers have taken advantage of a loophole that allows them to declare a local bar or similar area to be their “social quarters” and to set up in multiple locations. This has resulted in a proliferation of unregulated gaming that actually undercuts legitimate organizations. In response, the Office of the State Inspector General conducted a study to make recommendations for how to protect legitimate charities while reigning in those taking advantage of the loophole. Through many iterations (and much valued feedback from genuine charities) I supported the final legislation, which closes the loophole and increases enforcement at the state level.
Out of my 24 bills introduced, 14 made it through the Senate and are now awaiting action by the Governor. A couple of highlights include:
Early Childhood Education Delivery (HB389). This bill strengthens Virginia’s early childhood education system by establishing regional entities to help parents better understand their options and connect providers to resources to help them improve overall quality.
Cocktails-to-Go (HB426). This bill extends the ability of restaurants to provide cocktails-to-go, while also tightening up safety requirements designed to ensure that deliveries aren’t made to underage customers.
Public Meetings for State Projects (HB437). This bill ensures that large state capital projects take local concerns into consideration by requiring the state agency in charge of the project to have at least one public meeting at the request of the locality.
Campaign Finance Reform (HB492). This bill enhances oversight of campaign finance disclosure requirements by requiring the Department of Elections to review a certain number of disclosure reports each election cycle. Currently, there is no review of these reports for accuracy after they are filed by a candidate.
Climate/Flood Resiliency (HB516 and HB1309). These bills expand and strengthen Virginia’s resilience planning efforts and create a Resilient Virginia Revolving Loan Fund. Virginia is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
In addition, I am pleased that the Governor has signed into law my HB473. This bill was at the request of the Virginia Retirement System and is designed to make the system more efficient and provide employees with greater flexibility in how they invest their retirement funds.
Meeting with Your Organization
My most important job is to engage my constituents – both to ensure that they understand the issues being debated and to gather feedback to help inform my votes. In that spirit, I would be pleased to speak at one of your community meetings or events. My legislative assistant, Rama Van Pelt, is available during the week to help with scheduling. He can be reached at (703) 310-6752 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is great to be home! Thank you for the opportunity to represent our community.
I am looking forward to my annual Town Hall meeting this Saturday, February 12. Senator Chap Petersen will be joining us. We will be meeting at Katherine Johnson Middle School to allow for greater social distancing. Please also bring a mask to make sure everyone stays safe and comfortable.
What: Town Hall Meeting
Location: Katherine Johnson Middle School
Address: 3801 Jermantown Road, Fairfax, VA 22030
Time: 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
You can also join the meeting virtually from your computer, tablet, or smart phone. We will have someone monitoring the chat room to relay your questions.
Access Code: 357-422-253
Finally, you can dial in using your phone at +1 (224) 501-3412.
We will begin the meeting with an overview of the General Assembly session to-date and then open the floor for Q&A. Coffee will be served.
I am looking forward to a great discussion!