It is an honor to represent the citizens of Harrisonburg and Rockingham in the Virginia House of Delegates. I thank you for your support as we work to make Virginia a better place to live, work and raise a family.

As your Delegate, I represent your voice in the General Assembly. I want to know your concerns and ideas pertaining to state issues. Never hesitate to contact me, I am here to serve you!

Wilt Signature 2014

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Solid Mix Session Update

The 2016 General Assembly adjourned sine die on Friday, March 11. For the second year in a row we were able to complete our work a day ahead of schedule, allowing us to save taxpayer dollars.

Before I discuss the budget and other legislative initiatives, I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone that took the time to write or call about legislation and issues that were important to you. Please know that I appreciated your input as I deliberated over the various matters that we are sent to Richmond to address.

This year, the House of Delegates worked tirelessly to strengthen Virginia’s economy to help middle class families, improve our education system so all children have the opportunity to succeed, and chart a responsible fiscal course for the future.

One of the key measures that we approved to strengthen our economy was the establishment of the GO Virginia program. This is a business-led, bipartisan initiative to provide a new framework for economic and workforce development by encouraging collaboration between business leaders, the education community, local government, and state government. We also passed the necessary legislation to put a constitutional amendment for right to work on the ballot this fall. Assuming the measure is approved by the voters in November, this will add another layer of protection to keep labor unions from forcing Virginia workers to join as a condition of employment. Finally, we approved several bills that prevent local governments or state agencies from establishing job killing wage floors or prevailing wage requirements.

Improving our education system is a top priority for the House of Delegates. In addition to the over $900 million in new K-12 funding that was included in the budget conference report, we passed several initiatives to make sure every child has the opportunity to succeed. I was pleased to co-patron a measure to reform our high school graduation requirements to ensure they adequately prepare students for higher education or the workforce. We also approved several school choice initiatives that provide parents with options to obtain a great education for their child, regardless of their zip code or unique educational needs.

Budget Update
One of the most important tasks of the General Assembly is crafting the two year state budget. I am happy to report that the final budget conference report that passed both houses of the General Assembly is a responsible and structurally-balanced budget that invests in the core functions of government, while protecting precious taxpayer resources. It’s worth noting that the budget conference report does not contain any tax or fee increases.

Some highlights of the 2016-2018 budget conference report are as follows:

  • A number of steps were taken to set Virginia on a responsible fiscal course – Among them is a $605 million deposit in the Rainy Day Fund, funding the annual contributions to the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) at 100% of the Board certified rate, accelerating the $190 million repayment six years ahead of schedule for the VRS contribution rate deferral that occurred during the height of the great recession (moving forward this will save $44 million per year), and eliminating the accelerated sales tax requirement for 90% of Virginia businesses.
  • We are investing over $900 million in new funding for K-12, significantly more than Governor McAuliffe proposed. Our funding also gives local school divisions added flexibility and offers the state portion of a 2% salary increase in the first year of the biennium for our teachers and support staff.
  • The budget provides over $114 million in new funding for higher education to hold down tuition costs for Virginia families.
  • It offers strategic investments in economic development by providing over $30 million in new funding for the GO Virginia initiative, doubling our investment in the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development fund, and additional support for broadband expansion initiatives in currently underserved rural areas. We also adopted additional oversight of our economic development programs to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.
  • The budget does not include Medicaid expansion or the Medicaid provider tax that Governor McAuliffe proposed. Instead, we continue to build on our work to strengthen the healthcare safety net for our most vulnerable citizens. We made additional investments in mental health and substance abuse treatment and approved over 350 new waiver slots above the Governor’s introduced budget to serve disabled individuals in our community.
    As with all legislation that was passed by the General Assembly, the Governor has the opportunity to offer amendments to the budget. We are scheduled to return to Richmond on April 20 to consider the Governor’s amendments and vetoes.

Legislation Update
Overall, I was pleased with the outcome of my legislation this session. I had six bills and five commending and memorial resolutions that passed the General Assembly. Among the bills, one has already been signed by the Governor and the others await his consideration.

The bill that has already been signed into law is HB 945. As you may recall, this legislation extends the moratorium on city initiated annexation. While I originally offered a ten year extension, a six year extension was approved. I felt this was reasonable, and still grants localities and businesses a degree of certainty when planning infrastructure improvements and development in areas that could potentially be affected by annexation in the near future.

While extending the moratorium was the prudent and appropriate thing to do, I would still prefer to see a permanent solution that satisfies all stakeholders involved. The moratorium was never intended to be a permanent ban. The legislation calls for the Commission on Local Government, in consultation with the stakeholders, to examine this issue and propose ideas for a permanent solution to the General Assembly by December 1, 2018.

I’m pleased to report that the legislation granting our Community Colleges the ability to conduct third-party CDL skills testing passed the legislature unanimously. This is one important component in addressing the testing issues brought about by new federal mandates last year. These requirements significantly reduced the number of CDL testing sites, causing delay for testing appointments and requiring applicants to travel longer distances to test (often at a somewhat significant expense to the employer). When the demand for qualified drivers has never been higher, we have a responsibility to ensure our government is not an impediment to meeting the demand in the economy for these high paying jobs.

Finally, I would like to highlight HB 942. This is the legislation that grants school access to volunteers and leaders of youth organizations like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Once the bill reached the Senate, we were able to work with school officials to address some of their concerns with the legislation. However, I believe the final product moves the dial by ensuring improved access for these groups to reach young people who could benefit from the programs these groups offer. The legislation will be of most benefit in localities that currently grant no access to these groups, or only offer extremely limited access.

For a full list of the legislation I patroned this year, please visit the following link: http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?161+mbr+H231C

Contact Me
Now that session has concluded, you can again contact my district office in Harrisonburg. Our office is located at 420 Neff Avenue, Suite 130. The mailing address is P.O. Box 1425, Harrisonburg, VA 22803. You can reach us by phone at (540) 208-0735 or by email at deltwilt@house.virginia.gov.

It is a privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates. I hope you will stay connected with me over the coming months. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I may be of assistance to you in any way.

Tony

Solid Mix Session Update

It’s hard to believe, but there are just two weeks left in the 2016 General Assembly session. This past week the House passed a new two-year spending plan. The budget is the most important work we do each year at the State Capitol. It sets the priorities for what services the Commonwealth will support over the course of the next two years.

With passage of the House and Senate budgets, the conferees from both bodies will work to craft a final agreement that can be sent to Governor McAuliffe. While there are some differences between the two plans, there are also many similarities. I’m confident completing our work on time should not be difficult this year.

The House produced a conservative and responsible state budget that holds the line on tax and fee increases. It reduces borrowing and prioritizes savings. We also make targeted investments in our schools, universities, economic development programs and the health safety net.

This is a structurally sound budget that deposits $605 million in the state’s rainy day fund, restoring the fund to 90% of its previous balance, saving for when there might be future economic downturns. The budget reduces what Virginia will borrow over the next few years by over $900 million compared to what Governor McAuliffe proposed. For our state employees, it offers a 3% salary increase in the first year of the biennium and makes good on our commitment to fully fund VRS contribution rates, two years ahead of schedule. In addition, it fully repays the VRS payments that were deferred during the worst of the recession. Finally, it eliminates the accelerated sales tax for 90% of businesses. This is an accounting gimmick that the General Assembly relied on during the recession, and I believe it’s prudent to phase it out.

Additional support for K-12 education has been a bi-partisan focus of crafting this budget. The House budget invests almost $70 million above and beyond the new funding the Governor proposed. It offers maximum flexibility for local school systems to meet their most urgent needs in the classroom by sending over $270 million additional lottery dollars back to school divisions, without requiring a local match.

The budget makes additional investments in higher education in order to help make college more affordable for Virginia families. $237 million is designated to hold tuition increases to three percent or less per year.

 The House budget does not include Medicaid expansion. Just this week an AP story revealed the financial squeeze that expansion has placed on Kentucky’s budget. Their program faces a $611 million shortfall in the next two years. The Kentucky Health Secretary stated that the program is hemorrhaging, and she is working to identify cuts that can be made to other services in an attempt to make up for the shortfall. These outcomes that expansion states are experiencing are what my colleagues and I were concerned would occur if we chose to expand in the Commonwealth.

Instead of expanding the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, the House budget offers nearly $30 million additional dollars in targeted investments to strengthen our current safety net for those most in need. Among this funding is new support for substance abuse treatment and expanded services for patients with serious mental illnesses. In addition, the House budget provides for 100 additional Developmental Disability waiver slots beyond those required by the Department of Justice Settlement Agreement. This is always a strong priority, and I’m hopeful we can continue to build on this increase. These slots allow individuals to live and receive services in their community, rather than in an institution.

The budget funds strategic and targeted investments in economic development, while promoting increased accountability and oversight in coordination with our legislative priorities. New economic development funding is primarily directed to two initiatives, GO Virginia and the Virginia Research, Development and Commercialization Fund, both of which have strict accountability measures to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.

Primary Day Tuesday!

I would like to offer a friendly reminder that Tuesday (March 1) is the Virginia Presidential Primary for both the Republicans and Democrats. Since we are earlier in the primary season calendar this year, we will have a more significant influence on the outcome of the nomination. Regardless of who you support, I encourage you to exercise your right to vote. The polls will be open from 6:00am until 7:00pm. You vote at your normal polling location.

 Visitors this Week

I was pleased to have several great groups of visitors this week. Tuesday was 4-H Day at the Capitol. I also enjoyed meeting with local representatives of the Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Virginia Athletic Trainers Association. Thanks to everyone that has made the trip to Richmond thus far!

Contact Me

Throughout the remainder of session you can continue to contact my office in Richmond. We can be reached by phone at (804) 698-1026. You can contact me by email atDelTWilt@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!

Tony

 

Solid Mix Session Update

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.

Veterans

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.

COPN Reform

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

Survey Results

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.

Contact Me

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!

Tony