The 2016 General Assembly Session officially reached the halfway point this week, known as “Crossover.” The House of Delegates is making good progress on the issues that matter most to you and your family: jobs, education, healthcare, transportation and public safety.
The House Appropriations Committee is also working to finish crafting a conservative and responsible state budget that wisely spends your taxpayer dollars while making strategic and targeted investments in the core functions of state government. The budget will be reported out of the Appropriations Committee on Sunday. I will share more information about the budget in my next update.
The highlight of the week was joining my colleague, Majority Leader Kirk Cox, for a floor presentation commending JMU Hall of Famer and five time Super Bowl champion, Charles Haley! Not only did Mr. Haley have a record breaking NFL career, he continues to act as a mentor to NFL rookies and regularly serves various charities in his community. The video of the floor presentation is directly below.
The Commonwealth is home to approximately 800,000 veterans and 150,000 active-duty military members and their families. Virginia’s longstanding goal is to be the most veteran and military friendly state in the nation. Since my election, I have made it a priority to sponsor and support measures that move us closer to achieving that goal. The House is leading the effort to provide our veterans with the care they deserve, access to affordable education, and good job opportunities.
Among the veterans legislation, Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) introduced HB477 which would establish two new veteran care centers, one in Hampton Roads and one in Northern Virginia, to help provide veterans with quality long-term healthcare. The two new centers will also free up more space for local area veterans close to Virginia’s two existing care centers in Richmond and Roanoke. Delegate Scott Taylor (R-Virginia Beach) introduced HB90, which would allow members of the Virginia National Guard to conceal-carry while they are on duty. Delegate David Yancey (R-Newport News), introduced HB405 which will extend the temporary occupational license period for spouses of military service members to help them find meaningful employment.
Delegate Taylor is also carrying HB450 that requires seven comprehensive community colleges with the highest veteran enrollment in the Commonwealth to employ at least one full-time veterans’ advisor to provide comprehensive and intensive enrollment and advising services to current and prospective students who are veterans. It also requires the establishment of a veterans’ resource center on campus to provide access to federal and state veterans’ resources. This legislation will be a big help to new veterans and service members leaving the military.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Delegate Chris Stolle’s HB825 also helps transitioning military personnel. It establishes a pilot program in which military medical personnel may practice and perform certain delegated acts that constitute the practice of medicine under the supervision of a licensed physician or podiatrist.
The aforementioned bills are among the 27 bills that have passed the House that support veterans, our military and their families.
I also want to note a bill that will not advance this year, but one that I chief co-patroned with my good friend, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter. HB 96, a bill that was continued to the 2017 Session in the Courts Committee would have authorized the creation of special court dockets to address specific focus areas. This legislation is modeled after our drug court statute, and would allow courts to create special dockets just for veterans or active military members whose transgressions were linked to PTSD or other mental health disorders that arose directly from their military service.
These specialized dockets would allow the court to take a more active role in connecting veterans with the appropriate specialized services and veteran mentors, so that they could receive the necessary treatment. These intensive efforts to address the root cause of their behavior would likely produce better outcomes that would allow them to lead productive lives and avoid re-offending in the future. The veteran court model is now being utilized by a large number of states. It is showing promising results to reduce recidivism and improve outcomes for veterans and their families. I’m hopeful the legislation will be taken back up next year.
This past Monday the House passed HB193, introduced by Delegate John O’Bannon (R- Henrico), which would significantly reform Virginia’s outdated Certificate of Public Need laws. Reforming COPN will improve access to care by giving providers the opportunity to offer needed services in their communities. Right now, for example, if a provider wants to add new imaging equipment – like an MRI or CT scanner – they have to go through a lengthy and costly process.
Reforming COPN could also lower costs for patients. Current providers are protected by the burdensome COPN process that makes it difficult for new providers to offer competitive services. By repealing portions of the COPN law, we have the opportunity to move towards a free market type system that could encourage healthy competition and drive down costs for patients and families. Other states that have repealed or heavily reformed their COPN laws have experienced downward cost pressure. HB193 will now move to the Senate for consideration.
Legislation – Status Update
At the halfway point, seven of the ten bills I carried this session passed the House and have now moved to the Senate for consideration. We were able to reach a non-legislative solution on one of the three measures that did not advance, making legislation unnecessary. The seven bills that have advanced to the Senate are as follows:
- HB 938 – Authorizes Community Colleges to conduct their own third party CDL skills testing to ease wait times and provide closer locations for testing
- HB 939 – Permits the use of auxiliary lighting on motorcycles to improve their visibility at night
- HB 940 – Raises the cap a mechanic is able to recover on a mechanics’ lien to permit them to recover more of their costs of completing the work
- HB 942 – Grants school access to leaders of youth groups, such as the Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts, for the purpose of encouraging student involvement
- HB 944 – Limits the Harrisonburg mulch ordinance to only apply to new structures, consistent with standard practice for changes to the Statewide Fire Prevention Code
- HB 945 – Extends the current moratorium on annexation by six years and creates a study with the intent to develop and recommend a permanent solution
- HB 1250 – Consolidates the Stormwater and Erosion and Sediment Control programs to simplify the regulatory process for landowners and localities
The survey results are in. Thanks to everyone that took the time to complete the survey and offer their feedback. The survey is one tool I use to gauge my constituents thoughts on certain issues. As always, you can also call and email to express your position on legislation or issues that are important to you. To view the survey results, please clickhere.
Visitors this Week
Given the expectation of longer floor sessions on crossover week, very few groups made the trip to Richmond. However, I still had the opportunity to meet with a large contingent of local realtors from the Harrisonburg/Rockingham Association of Realtors. I also met with Eric Paulson, the Executive Secretary of the Virginia Dairymen’s Association. The Association is actually headquartered in Bridgewater. Finally, Chad had the opportunity to speak with Jim Gibson of the Virginia Government Employees Association.
I encourage you to keep in touch with me throughout the duration of session. I value the feedback you provide on a continual basis as it helps me do my job of representing you better. While in Richmond, my office can be reached by phone at (804) 698-1026. You can continue to contact me by email at DelTWilt@house.virginia.gov.
If you would like to send written correspondence, please send it to P.O. Box 406, Richmond, VA 23218.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your Delegate!