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!