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 email@example.com.
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!
The 2022 General Assembly session is now in full swing as both bodies work to get bills through committees prior to crossover. Crossover, February 15, is the last day that the House and Senate can act on their respective bills. That makes for some busy days (and nights). This past Wednesday I had eight bills up before different committees – each of which, of course, seemed to be located on opposite ends of Capitol Square!
Town Hall Meeting
I am pleased to host my annual Town Hall meeting on February 12. We will be at Katherine Johnson Middle School to allow for greater social distancing. You can also join us virtually. We are still working out details, but information about how to join virtually will be on www.davidbulova.com prior to the event. Senator Chap Petersen will be joining us. The meeting will include an overview of issues being considered before the General Assembly and lots of time for Q&A.
What: Town Hall Meeting
Location: Katherine Johnson Middle School
Time: 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
Legislative Groundhog Day!
Much like the classic movie Groundhog Day, many of the issues being debated in the House this year are the same as the last two years – only this time in reverse. For example, HB58 would undo a law that allows local governments to require contractors to pay the prevailing wage. HB827 would repeal the authority of local governments to prohibit firearms in public buildings, public parks, and public areas subject to an event permit. HB1301 would end Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (the proceeds of which go to flood resilience and energy efficiency programs). Several bills would shorten the period for in-person early voting (HB945, HB178, HB39) and bring back the requirement to have an excuse to vote absentee (HB35). And HB320 would freeze the ramp up of the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2026 (which now stands at $11 per hour). To put that into context, $11 per hour equals $22,880 annual salary – which is the poverty level for a family of three. I voted in support of the original bills and against the repeal measures.
Another issue that is being hotly debated is the role of charter schools. I have nothing against charter schools in concept. Just like anything, there have been spectacular successes and dismal failures. However, I do believe that to be successful, charter schools need to be publicly accountable and have the buy-in of the local community. This is especially true for us here in Fairfax where local taxes pay for the lion’s share of public education. If a charter school fails, we get left with the academic and fiscal consequences. Current law, in my opinion, strikes the right balance. The Virginia Board of Education provides support and technical assistance in the review of charter school applications. However, ultimate approval is the responsibility of the locally elected school board. The proposal by Governor Youngkin (HB344) would bypass the current system and allow the unelected Board of Education to approve charter school applications over local objections.
Unsung Good Legislation
While not headline makers, there are often bills that come to the General Assembly where you think to yourself “Wow, that is a great idea!” Two such bills have passed in the last week.
The first deals with “free trials” where the service automatically starts to charge after the trial period ends. HB78 requires the service provider to notify the customer at least seven days prior to the expiration of the free trail and obtain the customer’s affirmative consent to the renewal. In addition, it requires that if the service provider allows for signing up through the website, it must also allow cancelling through the website (no having to send in cancellation by mail or waiting hours on the phone). This one passed the House 99Y-0N and is now on its way to the Senate.
Another good idea (at least I think so), is to eliminate the practice of quotas for writing tickets or making arrests. Now, that doesn’t mean I think people shouldn’t be ticketed for parking too long or going over the speed limit. However, law enforcement should be about enforcing the law – not bringing in a certain amount of revenue. HB750 prohibits any law-enforcement agency from establishing a formal or informal quota system. The bill passed the House 100Y-0N.
A frequent complaint I receive is the proliferation of cars with modified exhaust systems designed to make them purposefully louder. Anyone who lives even somewhat close to a major road knows that the noise from these vehicles can literally rattle windows and ruin the tranquility of our neighborhoods. While not the cause of the problem, well meaning legislation passed in 2020 has made it nearly impossible to ticket these vehicles (I voted against the bill, for the record).
Kudos to my colleague Delegate Vivian Watts for introducing HB367, which would give law enforcement numerous new tools to deal with the situation. This includes detection of modified mufflers during the state safety inspection process. I was proud to be a chief co-patron of the bill. Unfortunately, that bill failed to report out of subcommittee. However, a more narrowly crafted bill (HB632) did make it out of subcommittee. While not perfect, I plan to vote for the measure on the House floor.
This year I introduced 24 bills. So far, 13 have been voted on in the affirmative and are moving through the system (either committee or full House). Six were not quite as fortunate. Another five will be heard next week. A couple of highlights include:
I am looking forward to seeing many of you at the Town Hall and hearing your thoughts and questions!
Greetings from Richmond! This past Wednesday the 2022 General Assembly roared to life. That evening, Governor Northam provided his State of the Commonwealth address, where I was thrilled to get a shout out for my work on increasing opportunities for outdoor recreation. And, on Saturday, Glenn Youngkin will be sworn in as the 74th Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. While hard to believe, I have now been around long enough to be part of the escort ceremony – so look for pictures on of me in an English morning suit!
In addition to a new administration, the House is now back under Republican leadership. I am pleased to have been re-appointed to the committees on Appropriations, General Laws, and Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources. Sadly, the shift means that I will no longer be serving on Education. I will continue to be a strong advocate for public education through my bills and budget amendments!
2022 Budget Priorities
Many of my priorities are already in the proposed budget. While the outgoing Governor introduces the budget, the General Assembly can amend it in any way it likes. There is an old saying “The Governor proposes, the General Assembly disposes.” My goal is to make sure we “dispose” as little as possible!
There are a lot of important investments in the budget. This includes funding for a 10% pay raise for teachers, mental health, services for people with disabilities, water quality, school construction/modernization, affordable housing, and higher education – just to name a few. Click here for a great overview of the 2022 budget. While we go into session with a healthy surplus, it is important to ensure that our budget remains structurally balanced – that is, not committing to long-term programs with short-term funding. I am also mindful that many of our essential state services haven’t yet recovered from drastic cuts we made during the 2008 Great Recession. Ensuring that we meet our existing commitments needs to be a priority.
While there is a lot to love, I have filed several budget amendments! Here are two that I want to highlight:
My Legislative Agenda
Thank you to the many constituents who have written about their legislative priorities or have suggest bills. This year I have introduced over 20 bills. Click here for the full list of bills. See below for highlights.
So far, 1,170 bills have been filed - with more on the way! While there are lots of good bills, I am also tracking bills that give me great cause for concern. One example is a suite of bills that would roll back progress on improving access to the ballot box -- including making it harder to vote absentee. See here and here. More to come in future updates.
I love hearing from constituents during session! Click here if you are interested in looking through all bills filed to-date by category. It is an honor to serve you!