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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Session Wrap-Up Edition

The 2017 General Assembly adjourned sine die Saturday, completing our work on time.

However, before I highlight some of our work this session, I want to take a moment to thank Speaker Howell for his years of public service to the Commonwealth. The Speaker announced his retirement last week. Speaker Howell has served honorably, placing the well-being of our historic institution and the Commonwealth over partisan politics. During his tenure as Speaker, he implemented numerous initiatives to bring transparency and fairness to the legislative process. It has been a privilege to serve with Speaker Howell and I wish him and Cessie all the best.

Following the Speaker’s announcement, the House Republican Caucus unanimously elected Kirk Cox as Speaker-Designee. Delegate Cox currently serves as our Majority Leader. Delegate Todd Gilbert, our local Shenandoah Valley representative to the North, was unanimously elected as Majority Leader-Designee. I have every confidence this new leadership team will continue the legacy of proactive, responsible and conservative governance that Speaker Howell initiated. Congratulations to both Delegates Cox and Gilbert on their new leadership roles.

To bolster the sluggish economic environment in the Commonwealth, we advanced proposals aimed at promoting a positive, pro-business climate and protecting small businesses through regulatory reform. Republicans in the House of Delegates are also leading the effort to review Virginia’s economic development spending to ensure that we are maximizing the effectiveness of your tax dollars. In light of the disappointing report last year that revealed poor performance and mismanagement at the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the General Assembly approved specific legislation this session reforming that entity.

Improving our education system is always a top priority for the legislature. Despite the shortfall, we were able to protect the new investment made in K-12 education last year and restore funding for the 2% teacher pay raise later in fiscal year 2018.

While overall Virginia’s public schools perform extremely well when compared to the other states, there are some school divisions that are struggling. There are also individuals students, even in high performing school divisions, that slip through the cracks. We approved several proposals and funding initiatives designed to support both struggling school divisions and individual students. The General Assembly invested over $7 million in a proposal designed to offer support for school divisions that have seen at least a 5% decline in enrollment the past five years. It is no coincidence that in many instances the lower performing divisions also have seen significant enrollment decreases. In addition, we approved a charter school proposal specifically targeted towards poor performing schools. This legislation allows the Department of Education to create a charter school on a regional basis. Under this new legislation, local school boards still maintain significant decision making authority. Finally, we took steps to finalize the establishment of Virginia’s virtual school.  This legislation would greatly benefit students that may not thrive or even be able to participate in the traditional classroom setting. The bottom line is we want to make sure all students have the opportunity to succeed, despite their unique circumstances.

The most critical task every year is crafting and revising the two year state budget. Despite facing over a billion dollar shortfall heading into session, I am happy to report that we passed a responsible, and structurally-balanced amended budget that continues to offer targeted investments in core services

Here are some of the highlights of the amended 2016-2018 state budget:

 

  • The budget does not contain any tax or fee increases on hardworking Virginians.
  • 3% salary increase for state employees, as well as starting pay increase for State Police, sheriff and jail compression adjustment, and other targeted increases for various groups of state employees and state-supported local employees.
  • Revised budget invests an additional $18 million in new funding for K-12 over the Governor’s proposal. Our funding also gives local school divisions added flexibility to spend the money as best suits them.
  • Includes $32 million for a 2% teacher pay raise, with no local match required, effective February 2018.
  • The budget does not include Medicaid expansion. Given the likely replacement of the Affordable Care Act, it would be pure folly to consider Medicaid expansion when it is highly likely the federal funding for expansion will be eliminated or significantly reduced in the near future. Instead, we continued to build on our work to strengthen the healthcare safety net through targeted investment in mental health and substance abuse treatment services.
  • The final budget maintains the Governor’s accelerated sales tax expansion to a larger pool of retailers. However, I was somewhat encouraged to see budget language that directs the Department of Taxation to convene a workgroup for the purpose of reviewing the accelerated sales tax and making recommendations to the General Assembly. Time will tell if this initiative leads to a successful effort to eliminate its use.

 

We will return to Richmond on April 5 for the Reconvene Session to consider the Governor’s amendments to the budget and other legislation, as well as any legislation he has vetoed.

 

Need Regulation Relief?

Now that session has concluded, many of the various boards and commissions that meet in the interim are beginning to develop their work plan for the coming year. The Chairman of one of these entities that I serve on, the Small Business Commission, recently sent out a call to the membership to solicit feedback from small business owners on what state regulations might be in need of repeal or revision.

So with that, I want to hear from you. If you have a specific regulation in mind that impacts small businesses that needs to be repealed or revised, please let me know! I will be sure to share your suggestions with the other Commission members. I expect that once all of the feedback has been considered, the Commission will pick a number of suggestions to investigate further and present possible remedies for later in the year.

Even if your suggestions are not picked up by the Commission for formal review, I welcome the opportunity to follow up on your concerns as part of my normal legislative duties. Doing so over the course of my tenure has resulted in a sizeable portion of my legislation.

Save the Date!

This year my annual clay shoot fundraiser will be held on Friday, May 5 at the Flying Rabbit in Mount Crawford. Please mark your calendar for this fun event! Even if you have never shot clays before, I would encourage you to join us. There are always several folks new to the sport and there will be plenty of seasoned marksmen on-hand to help you out. More details to follow.

Given that the 2017 General Assembly session is complete, we are now able to resume fundraising activities. If you wish to contribute to my campaign, please click here to donate. You can also mail contributions to P.O. Box 1147, Harrisonburg, VA 22803. Make checks payable to “Wilt for Delegate.” Thank you in advance for your support!

Contact My Office

I appreciate all of your calls, emails and personal visits over the course of session. Please know that this critical feedback is an important factor in my decision making process when considering my vote on legislation.

I hope you will continue to stay connected with me over the coming months. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if we might be of assistance to you in any way.

 

We are once again working out of the Harrisonburg district office. You may call (540) 208-0735 to reach us by phone. The district office is located at 420 Neff Avenue, Suite 130, Harrisonburg. Please continue to email DelTWilt@house.virginia.gov.

Session Update Week 6

We are now one week away from the scheduled end of our 45-day legislative session. This week was a productive week for the House of Delegates. We are finishing committee work, reviewing amendments from the Senate, and continuing to work on the budget.

We have also started the process of packing up our General Assembly Building (GAB) office in preparation for a move to the Pocahontas building later this year. The Pocahontas building is located on Bank Street in front of the Capitol. It will be the legislatures home for the next four years while a new building is being constructed on the current site. The current GAB has been in use for over four decades, and while it has served the legislature well, there are maintenance and safety issues that are becoming expensive and in some cases nearly impossible to mitigate.  Starting next session we will be located in the Pocahontas building while construction begins on the new General Assembly building. The Pocahontas building is located in front of the Capitol on Bank Street. As we wind down our General Assembly session, I want to update you on a few important areas of interest.

 

Veterans Initiatives Pass with Strong Bi-Partisan Support

In the House we have 21 veterans. The 21 members represent every branch of service – Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. Service periods date back to the Vietnam War years right up to today’s conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is at least one veteran on each of the 14 House Committees. Truly, our veterans represent a strong voice in support of Virginia’s veterans, the military, and their families.

With a significant veteran and military presence in the Commonwealth, Virginia’s longstanding goal is to be the most veteran and military friendly state in the nation. I continue to make it a priority to sponsor and support measures that help achieve 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.

This year I was pleased to co-patron HB 2206. This legislation is the top priority of the Joint Leadership Council of Veteran Service Organizations. The bill redefines the goals of the Virginia Veteran and Family Support Program, formerly Wounded Warrior, to help veterans and their families navigate the complex web of healthcare and mental health services available to them. In addition, I supported a measure that permits community college to reduce tuition costs to active duty military members enrolled in training that leads to a Military Occupational Specialty. To learn more about other veteran and military initiatives, please visit lis.virginia.gov or contact my office and we would be glad to provide you a list of bills.

 

Update – My Legislation

The five pieces of legislation that passed out of the House of Delegate have all now passed in the State Senate. In fact, one has already been signed into law by the Governor, HB 2076. The other four that passed the Senate and will be heading to the Governor are HB 2075, HB 2077, HB 2078 and HB 2276.

In addition to legislation, I will be introducing several commending resolutions next week honoring noteworthy individuals on the occasion of their retirement.  These include Dr. Jerry Benson, the current JMU Provost and Senior Vice-President of Academic Affairs,  Marshall Price who recently retired as the principal at Massanutten Technical Center, as well as Dr. Carol Fenn, our Rockingham County Schools Superintendent. In addition, I will also submit memorial resolutions celebrating the life of Charlie Wampler Jr. and Abram Clymer.

Visitors

It certainly slowed down this week, but I still had several groups of constituents from home. A few ladies with Sentara RMH and the Resource Mothers and Healthy Families program came by to discuss the positive impact they are having in our community for new and expecting mothers. I spoke to a large group of Rockingham Federation FFA members and their advisors on Wednesday. A group of students from J. Frank Hillyard Middle School Student Council Association led by their advisor, Clay Gordon, also came for a visit to the Capitol. Finally, I had the opportunity to meet with officials from one of our local companies, Miller-Coors.

Session Update Week 5

This past week we reached the official half way point of session known as “crossover.” As of Wednesday, the House is only hearing bills from the Senate with the exception of the budget, which was taken up Thursday – more on that later.

The highlight of the week was undoubtedly a center aisle presentation in honor of the JMU football national championship. It was a privilege to be able to recognize the outstanding student-athletes, coaching staff, and the entire JMU Nation in this presentation! I have tremendous respect for the effort, skill and determination that went into making this championship a reality. I know the Harrisonburg community and entire Commonwealth is extremely proud of this team.

We were pleased to have Coach Houston, quarterback Bryan Schor, safety Raven Greene, President Alger, Senior Vice-President Charlie King and numerous other JMU alumni and supporters that made the trip to Richmond to join us for the presentation of the commending resolution, HJ 829.

There are typically only a handful of center aisle presentations each session, and it has to be something significant to the entire Commonwealth for the Speaker to grant permission. This win certainly met that criteria. The Speaker even joined in on the fun by wearing a JMU championship ball cap on the floor! 

If you would like to view the video footage of the presentation, please click here. You can also read the full commending resolution here.

House Budget

While the House considered a significant amount of legislation last week, none was more important than the budget. The budget bill is the Commonwealth’s entire spending plan. Beyond spending for stage agencies and services, it also accounts for a sizeable portion of spending for local services.

In December of last year, Governor McAuliffe announced his introduced budget. The driving force behind adjustments to the 2016-2018 biennial budget is the over $1 billion shortfall that was announced last fall. Since the Governor’s presentation, the House Appropriations Committee conducted 5 public hearings across the state to receive input from our citizens on the priorities they would like to see addressed.

On Thursday, the House voted on our version of the budget. Our budget reflects the difficult choices and priority setting necessary to present a balanced budget. We reviewed all discretionary spending and held fast to conservative budgeting while striving to invest in the core functions of government.

K-12 Education: Last year the House re-established the policy of sending back a portion of the Lottery proceeds to our school divisions on a per-pupil basis without requiring a local match. This year the House budget sends an additional $61.6 million in Lottery Profits directly back to our school divisions. The schools get much needed flexibility in allocating these dollars where they think it is best served, be it a pay raise for their teachers or funding their share of getting to 100% of the required VRS contribution rate.

Health and Human Resources: The House, working collaboratively with the Senate and the Governor, have made significant investments in the area of mental health. The House will provide a $28.5 million increase in mental health services, to include expanding the GAP program to cover individuals up to 100% of the federal poverty level. We will also provide funding for supportive housing and same day access. Our budget recommendations will add an additional 144 DD waiver slots to meet the needs of Virginia’s most vulnerable citizens.

Higher Education: Access and affordability in higher education has been a top priority. Earlier this session I highlighted several initiatives designed to improve affordability, including my own efforts related to student loan awareness. Last session we made a significant additional investment in higher education. However, because of the shortfall the Governor proposed $80 million in cuts. While cuts remain necessary, the House restored $21.0 million to Higher Education so that no school had a reduction greater than 1.4% of their budget.

State Employees and State Troopers: As I mentioned last week, our budget invests resources to provide a compensation boost for state employees and law enforcement. An additional $88.7 million was invested to make the 3% pay raise for state employees and 2% raise for state-supported local employees a reality. Funding is also included to provide targeted increases and compression adjustments to our Deputy Sheriffs and District Court staff. Finally, an additional $15 million is included to address the starting salaries and compression of our State Troopers and Capitol Police Officers.

While overall I am supportive of the House budget proposal and voted in favor of the measure, admittedly I’m disappointed that we could not find a way to reduce or eliminate the accelerated sales tax that the Governor reinstated on a larger portion of retailers. Moving forward, I will continue to support that effort and share my sentiment with my colleagues on Appropriations.

While no budget is perfect, the House recommendations adhere to our commitment to strategically focus our resources, by keeping our promises to our state employees, and to fund the core services of government. It is important to remember this is simply another step in the budget process, next budget conferees will begin to work out the differences between the House and Senate budget proposals.

Visitors

While I was on the floor until late Monday evening, Chad had the opportunity to meet with representatives of the Virginia Manufacturer’s Association, including Broadway Mayor Tim Proctor. On Tuesday I had the pleasure of meeting a group of athletic trainers from JMU. These folks played a large part in keeping our national championship players healthy and injury free.

Later in the week I was joined by a group representing Rockingham County Schools, including Superintendent Dr. Carol Fenn.  Rockingham County was recognized as one of only five school districts in the Commonwealth to achieve the AP Honor Role. School divisions are recognized with this distinction if they have achieved significant improvement in Advanced Placement course offerings and scores. I also had a visit from a group of ladies with the Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to discuss their policy priorities. Finally a large contingent of our local realtors stopped in this week, as well as EMU social work students.

While we are scheduled to adjourn in two weeks, there is still time to come visit. Please stop by my office in room 526 of the General Assembly Building if you will be in Richmond. I continue to welcome your calls and emails as well.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve as your representative in Richmond!