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.