The Senate is in full swing as the third week of this year’s Session comes to a close.
I serve on the Senate Finance Committee where we are busy working to address this year’s budget shortfall.
One of my top Finance priorities is addressing compensation for state employees, Sheriffs, Sheriffs’ deputies and other Constitutional officers and their staff. I chair the Finance subcommittee that oversees funding for all state employees, the Courts, and state technology among other areas. It is clear that our compensation issues are at a near crisis level, creating unfilled positions, unacceptable turnover and some staff who are eligible for food stamps based on their pay scale.
The House and Senate announced last week a partial agreement on budget areas with more cooperation to come we hope. We will work through next Sunday hammering out the details and the House and Senate will then each produce their own budget proposal on Sunday afternoon.
My own legislation continued to advance through the Senate. In total, seven of my bills passed the full Senate and will go to the House of Delegates to be voted upon after crossover. These include:
Regulatory Reform – SJ 295 passed out of committee this week. It is a Regulatory Rollback Constitutional Amendment I introduced which allows the General Assembly to vote down burdensome regulations. One of the greatest barriers to business success and economic growth in Virginia is gross over regulation. No one ever contemplated that the regulatory process would outgrow every other part of government and consume the economy. 24% of the cost of every new home built today is just the expense of regulation.
I served as Deputy General Counsel at the Department of Energy at the beginning of the Bush Administration and I was responsible for a one year “regulatory rollback” and review of all of Clinton regulations that had been pushed through as that Administration ended. They affected nearly every category of consumer goods. It was a shocking education at the harm government can do and with no oversight. It harmed industries but it was worse for consumers. What we lack is a process where there is oversight of the regulatory process and my bill would provide such a process in Virginia.
Virginia’s economic competitiveness has fallen from 5th to 13th and our growth to 48th in the nation and the regulatory environment is most often cited as a major factor.
Protecting Crime Victims – SB 1299, my bill to protect crime victims, passed the full Senate with strong, bipartisan support. The bill provides victims of domestic violence who have been issued a protective order enhanced rights to protect themselves through an expedited process to carry a concealed weapon.
Industrial Hemp – I was proud to help Virginia’s farmers win a major victory when my bill to streamline and commercialize industrial hemp cultivation in Virginia passed the Senate unanimously, 40-0. SB 1306 cuts through the red tape to open new options for Virginia farmers in growing a crop with over 25,000 uses – and one where Virginia can be a national leader. Currently Ford Motor Company, Patagonia, The Body Shop and countless other companies use industrial hemp in their products and they should be buying it from Virginia farmers.This is a huge boost for agriculture and rural jobs.
Reforming Meals Taxes – My SB 1296 to reform meals tax referenda passed the full Senate 32-7. The bill provides that county supervisors seeking a tax hike must spell out very plainly what the total tax rate will be if their tax referendum passes. It also prohibits a defeated meals tax from being reintroduced for another four years. Very misleading ballot language was a problem in Fairfax County last year and this bill will fix that.
Elections Reform – My trio of election reform bills all passed the full Senate this week. I am carrying these bills to help elections officials who have requested legislative action supporting smoother, more efficient elections. SB 1302 streamlines the tabulation of write-in votes, SB 1303 establishes a uniform voter registration deadline across the Commonwealth, and SB 1304 expands local control over the timing of local elections.
With four full weeks remaining, I will continue advancing my bills while working with my colleagues to address issues ranging from taxes to transportation to the high cost of college.
We have had record setting numbers of visitors to the Capitol in the last week. 5,000 visited last Monday, 5,000 again Tuesday, and 3,000 Wednesday. It is amazing.
If you have not yet had a chance to visit, please feel free to stop by my office in room 309 of the General Assembly Building. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my legislative office by calling 804-698-7527 or emailing email@example.com.