Delegate Tony O. Wilt

Representing Virginia’s 26th District in the Virginia House of Delegates.


“It’s an honor to represent the citizens of Rockingham and Harrisonburg in Richmond. If you ever have a constituent concern or anything else you would like to discuss, please do not hesitate to contact me. I’m here to serve you!”

-Tony





News Feed

Session Update and Winter Storm Information

Yesterday officially marked the halfway point of session, otherwise known as “crossover.” It’s the last day that the House can consider legislation that originated in the House and the last day that the Senate can consider legislation that originated in the Senate (the exception being the budget bills).

While I still want to take this opportunity to offer some crossover highlights, I know what’s likely on most folks mind is the approaching winter storm. It is expected to impact the Shenandoah Valley beginning as early as Wednesday afternoon. Depending upon the track of storm, it appears that we will get 5+ inches with possible wind guest up to 20 MPH. For your convenience, I have provided some resources in the section below that I thought may be useful to you.

Road Conditions

Before getting behind the wheel, call 511, go to www.511virginia.org or download the 511 mobile app to get the latest road condition information

You can also call 800-FOR-ROAD (800-367-7623) to report road hazards or ask road-related questions at VDOT’s 24-hour Customer Service Center

For more winter travel information, go to www.virginiadot.org/travel/snow.asp

Other Resources
If you lose power, be sure to report the outage to your respective provider.
Dominion – 1-866-366-4357
Shenandoah Valley Electric Coop. – 1-800-234-7832
Harrisonburg Electric Commission – 540-434-5361

Please make sure to use 9-1-1 only for true emergencies.

For general information about the storm and the response effort, dial 211 or visit www.vaemergency.gov

Please stay safe!

SOL Reform Legislation Passes House

One prominent topic of this year’s session has been Standards of Learning (SOL) assessment reform. The new administration has stated that this is a priority for them, and it is something that many members of the General Assembly have made a priority as well.

When Virginia first adopted the SOL’s a number of years ago, we were pioneers in assessment and accountability. We set high standards, and created accountability among educators.

While I believe that our SOL’s have served us well, it has become apparent to educators, parents and legislators that some changes are needed. For that reason, Delegate Tag Greason introduced House Bill 930. I was pleased to sign on as a co-patron to this legislation. This bill has passed the House and will now move to the Senate for consideration.

House Bill 930 was the result of many months of collaboration between teachers, education leaders, parents, and legislators.

This legislation has four main goals:

To reduce the number of SOL’s in grades 3-8 from 22 to 17. This is a 23% reduction in standardized testing. At this time we did not address SOL testing for high school students, due to complications regarding SOL’s as a requirement for graduation.

To improve the SOL’s by requiring the Department of Education to evaluate the multiple-choice and memorization aspects of the current tests, and move toward more problem solving and critical thinking aspects.

To allow teachers in subjects that do not require an SOL the flexibility to utilize performance assessments to locally evaluate how their children are learning.

To establish a Standards of Learning Innovation Committee made up of stakeholders who will be tasked with evaluating our SOL’s on an ongoing basis.

“Ben’s Law” Moving Forward

I am please to report that HB 976 (Cline) passed the House yesterday. I am the chief co-patron of this legislation, which will make accessory after the fact to a homicide a class 6 felony rather than just a misdemeanor.

You likely recall the recent tragedy of a local young man you was killed outside of an apartment complex in Harrisonburg. While the man that pulled the trigger received a lengthy sentence, the accomplice only received a one year jail sentence. This legislation seeks to require a more appropriate punishment for assisting a homicide.

Update

At crossover I have six bills moving forward, in addition to the bill mentioned above.

Since my previous update, HB 960 has passed the House. This legislation would add computers to the list of items that would be tax exempt during the annual Back to School Tax Holiday. As an offset, the bill decreases the allowable clothing amount to a more appropriate level.

My legislation to prohibit school systems from dismissing teachers and other personnel simply for possessing a firearm in their personal vehicle passed the House yesterday. HB 786 will now move to the Senate for consideration.

Visitors

Bea Morris, a retired teacher who always keeps me informed about issues of importance to teachers and retired educators stopped in for a visit last week. In addition, I was able to meet with Virginia Tech students from our area, members of JMU Student Government, and students representing Virginia 21.

I also had the opportunity to speak with several members of our Rockingham County Board of Supervisors. Yesterday was 4-H day at the Capitol, our local group from Rockingham made the trip to Richmond.

Session Update 2

With less than two weeks until crossover, the General Assembly is deep in deliberation over numerous issues that are of importance to the citizens of the Commonwealth. The daily floor session has gotten progressively longer, and committee meetings are often running even longer yet.

In this update, I wanted to go ahead and outline several other bills that I’m patroning that are still moving forward. Additionally, I wanted to provide a brief update on two bills that I had mentioned previously.

HB 776

This legislation actually passed the House today. The bill would allow surviving spouses of military members killed in action to receive in-state tuition at Virginia institutions of higher learning without having to live in Virginia for a certain period of time. Under current Virginia law, veterans that have recently moved to the Commonwealth can receive in-state tuition without having to meet domicile requirements, but this same courtesy is not extended to the surviving spouse of a soldier that has been killed while serving their country.

This legislation will continue our commitment to ensure that the Commonwealth is the best state for veterans and military families to call home. Helping these individuals obtain a college education is one small thing we can do to honor their sacrifice.

The idea for the legislation derived from a constituent who moved to the area following the death of her husband, who was killed while serving in Afghanistan. Following his death, she wanted to start over somewhere fresh and had heard that Virginia had a reputation for being one of the most veteran and military friendly states in the country.

With passage in the House, it will now move to the Senate for consideration.

HB 786

This is a bill that provides some protection for teachers and other school employees that possess a weapon or ammunition in their locked vehicle or conceal carry while in their vehicle on school grounds. Right now, many school systems across the Commonwealth have adopted the policy that personnel can face administrative repercussions, up to and including dismissal, for having an otherwise lawfully obtained weapon in their vehicle. This should not be the case.

Currently, the law allows parents and the general public to conceal carry or possess a weapon in their vehicle while on school property without facing any repercussions. Why should the folks that we trust with our children on a daily basis be denied this same right?

Let me be clear, this bill does not permit or require teachers or administrators to possess a weapon in the school building. It simply addresses weapons in their vehicle. This bill is still awaiting a hearing by the Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee.

HB 960: Back to School Sales Tax Holiday Update

As you may recall, this bill limits the clothing and footwear that can be purchased during the annual Back to School Tax Holiday. It also adds computers to the list of tax exempt items. The intent of this legislation is to tailor the tax exempt items to better suit the needs of families sending their children back to school (or college).

While the bill was reported from subcommittee with some amendments, I still feel that the bill achieves that goal. It will be heard in the full House Finance Committee on Monday.

HB 780: TANF Purchase Restrictions Update

While we were unable to accomplish all that I set out to do with this legislation, I still feel that it contains some reasonable provisions that will help to ensure the proper use of tax dollars in the TANF program.

The bill passed out of the Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee this morning and will be heard on the House floor Monday. It still includes a provision to expand the purchase restrictions on alcohol, tobacco, gambling, etc., to all TANF payment methods. Additionally, the bill contains a provision to eliminate mailed checks as a payment method. This action will conserve resources as there will be cost savings by eliminating the need to print and mail checks every month.

Visitors

I had the privilege to meet with numerous constituents over the course of the past few weeks.

I would have to say that the largest contingent of visitors came from our local schools and colleges. I visited with President Alger of JMU, President Swartzentruber representing EMU, and Dr. Downey and students on behalf of Blue Ridge Community College. Additionally, I had a meeting with local school board members (including Kerri Wilson, the current Virginia School Board Association President and City School Board member) and Dr. Fenn and Dr. Kizner, Superintendents for Rockingham and Harrisonburg, respectively.

I also had the privilege to meet with representatives of the Harrisonburg/Rockingham Chamber of Commerce, Rockingham County Fair, Athletic Trainers Association, Shenandoah Valley Climate Action Alliance, Industrial Hemp Coalition, and Tom Rosengarth representing the interests of CPA’s.

While unfortunately sometimes my session schedule simply doesn’t allow me to meet with everyone, Chad was able to speak with folks representing VAIL (Valley Associates for Independent Living), the School Nutrition Association, and several EMU student groups.

If your in Richmond during the General Assembly Session, I would encourage you to stop by my office. I am on the 5th floor of the General Assembly Building, room 526.

Session Contact Information

As a reminder, we are currently working out of our Richmond office during the 2014 General Assembly Session. In Richmond, we can be reached by phone at (804) 698-1026. You can send mail to P.O. Box 406, Richmond, VA 23218. Please continue to send email to deltwilt@house.virginia.gov.

As you might imagine, we are receiving a substantial amount of email right now. While we do our best to respond in a reasonable time frame, I apologize in advance for any delayed response. However, I can assure you that we are making note of your emails regarding specific legislation that is being considered this session, and I will certainly keep your thoughts in mind when given the opportunity to vote on these matters.

Thank you for continuing to allow me to serve as your representative in Richmond!

Tony

Solid Mix: Session Update 1

The 2014 General Assembly Session officially began this past Wednesday, January 8. While we have 15 new faces in the House of Delegates this year, in addition to a new Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General, there are several familiar traditions that were honored this past week.

The first order of business was the swearing-in ceremony. While this was my third swearing-in, I can assure you that I still take that oath very seriously. I promise you that I will serve the citizens of the 26th District to the best of my ability. I greatly appreciate the continued opportunity to represent you in Richmond.

Wednesday evening Governor McDonnell gave his last State of the Commonwealth address to the Joint Assembly. He highlighted several accomplishments his office has achieved over the last four years and thanked the citizens of the Commonwealth, staff, and General Assembly members for helping return Virginia to the number one ranking as the best state for business. Virginia’s focus on job creation resulted in 177,000 new jobs and an unemployment rate of 5.4%, a full 2 points lower than when Governor McDonnell entered office. The Governor also highlighted our record budget surpluses, major reforms to our public education system, and the increased investment into our state’s savings account, the Rainy Day Fund. I consider Governor McDonnell a great colleague and friend and thank him for a very productive and beneficial four years. I believe he will be recognized as one of the most effective Governors in recent memory.

This Saturday Terry McAuliffe was sworn in as Virginia’s 72nd Governor, Ralph Northam as the Lieutenant Governor and Mark Herring as the Commonwealth’s Attorney General, respectively. While we will not always agree on the issues, I look forward to working with the new Governor and members across the aisle to find common ground on issues that matter to all Virginians. We must maintain Virginia’s status as one of the best states in which to live and do business. I think most everyone can agree that we do not want the gridlock and constant bickering that we see in Washington to become the norm in Virginia.

Chesapeake Subcommittee Chairmanship

I am pleased to announce that I have been appointed Chair of the Chesapeake Subcommittee of the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee. Agriculture Committee Chairman Ed Scott announced the appointment today.

I’m honored to be named Chair of a subcommittee that deals with matters that are of critical importance to many Valley residents, including our farmers. This subcommittee handles legislation related to water quality programs, the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, and fisheries. In the past decade, the Commonwealth has made great strides in improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. We need to continue this progress while taking a reasonable and measured approach to protect our resources. In this new role I will continue to remain mindful of the need to limit regulation on our farmers, waterman, and other businesses. With this appointment, I hope to provide a voice for Valley residents that utilize various water quality programs and that are impacted by numerous requirements and regulations that fall under the domain of this subcommittee.

My Legislation

While it’s not set in stone at this point, it appears that I will have eight or nine bills this session, along with several resolutions. In addition, I am chief co-patron on two pieces of legislation and will likely sign on as a co-patron to several measures. While none of my legislation has gone before committee to date, they will all be heard in the coming weeks. I won’t highlight all of my bills in this newsletter, but I would like to touch on a few of the measures.

HB 960: Back to School Sales Tax Holiday Reform

Every August Virginia holds what is commonly known as the “Back to School” Sales Tax Holiday. During the first weekend in August school supplies up to a $20 value per item and clothing and footwear up to a $100 value per item are exempt from Virginia’s sales tax. The idea is to give families some relief from the high costs associated with sending kids back to school.

However, I believe that some much needed changes are in order to refocus the intent of the tax holiday. My bill will narrow the scope of what items are exempt from sales tax during the annual holiday to those items which are customarily used on a regular basis by students during the school day. The current exempt list for clothing and footwear contains items such as bathing suits, lingerie, costumes, and wedding dresses, among many others that are in no way associated with regular school clothing or supplies. This bill will hopefully eliminate these items.

While reducing the permitted clothing list, I’m attempting to add personal computers to the list of tax exempt items. In today’s technological age, students at all grade levels utilize computers and computer supplies on a daily basis. I’m proposing a reasonable cap of $500 on the tax exempt price for personal computers. While I understand that there are many models with a retail price above $500, there are still numerous decent options available under this threshold.

Since it is the “Back to School” Sales Tax Holiday, the idea should be to offer families and students a break on items that are essential to starting the school year back, not for planning a wedding or going to the pool.

HB 780: TANF Purchase Restrictions

As you may recall, last year I successfully carried a bill which prohibits the purchase of certain products and services with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF – Welfare) benefits. These items include tobacco products, alcohol, pornography, tattoos, piercings, and patronage of strip clubs or gambling establishments. I think we can all agree that such items should not be purchased with taxpayer dollars.

While last year’s legislation was a good starting point, I’m proposing a few simple changes to the law that I’m hoping can promote compliance with the new requirement. I recognize that any solution needs to have minimal financial impact, as we need to be careful not to “spend a dollar to save a nickel”. Included in the bill is a provision to eliminate the check payment option. Additionally, I intend to extend the code language to include the purchase restrictions for direct deposit. Currently, the law only applies to electronic debit transactions. Additionally, the bill contains a provision requiring the debit card to contain an insignia that would clearly identify the card as a TANF benefit card. This way, retailers will be able to identify when someone is attempting to purchase a prohibited item or service with a TANF benefits debit card.

While I realize that the vast majority of TANF dollars in Virginia are being spent for basic necessities, I believe that we should have some basic solutions in place to ensure their proper use.

Weekly Visitors

I was pleasantly surprised to visit with numerous constituents last week. Among them, I met with several local veterans representing the VFW, a group of pro-life constituents, and ladies here for the annual Republican Women’s Federation Luncheon. Additionally, I was able to discuss issues of interest with Greg Godsey who represented local bankers, Susan Null of the Harrisonburg Pregnancy Center, and David McGraw who was here on behalf of JMU faculty.

If your in Richmond during the General Assembly Session, I would encourage you to stop by my office. I am on the 5th floor of the General Assembly Building, room 526.

Session Contact Information

We are currently working out of our Richmond office during the 2014 General Assembly Session. In Richmond, we can be reached by phone at (804) 698-1026. You can send mail to P.O. Box 406, Richmond, VA 23218. Please continue to send email to deltwilt@house.virginia.gov.

Tony

Please Take My 2014 Legislative Survey!

My 2014 legislative survey is now available for you to complete online. Simply click here to take the survey!

While we make an effort to address a number of issues facing Virginia, it is by no means a comprehensive overview of all the issues. In addition to the 16 questions, the survey provides a space to make additional comments. If you would like to address a matter that is not included in the survey questions, please feel free to share your comments.

I hope you will take the time to complete the survey. The results are one of the tools I utilize when making decisions on these important matters. Please let me know if you have any technical difficulty in completing the survey and we will try to have it resolved. If you or someone you know would like to complete the survey, but for whatever reason are unable to do so online, please let us know and we will be glad to mail a copy to you.

October Update

Despite the dysfunction in Washington that has led to a partial federal government shutdown, there was a great deal of good news for the Commonwealth in the last week. For starters, Virginia has once again been named the “Best State for Business” by Forbes.com after ranking second for the last three years. Virginia was the only state to rank in the top five in four of the six categories, receiving first in the regulatory environment category! Additionally, a report was recently released that shows Virginia’s film industry employment has increased by 15.7% from 2011. The study also shows that for every dollar invested in bringing film productions to the Commonwealth, $11.80 is returned to the state economy.

These are but a few recent indicators that the efforts of the General Assembly and the Governor to foster business growth and development are working. Both entrepreneurs and established businesses recognize that because of our controlled regulatory environment, strong right to work laws, capable workforce and high quality of life, Virginia is the ideal place in which to do business.

Another positive development is the announcement by the College Board that while SAT college-admission test scores have dropped nationally, the average score of Virginia public school students has risen in all three testing categories. This is further evidence that the vast majority of our public schools are doing an excellent job preparing students for college or the workforce. While we hold students and teachers accountable to rigorous standards, this news clearly suggests that they are largely meeting this challenge.

Harrisonburg DMV Staffing
Several of you have contacted me over the last few months regarding unusually long wait times during your visit to the Harrisonburg DMV office. I relayed your concerns to DMV officials in Richmond and I have since learned that several additional part-time customer service representatives have been hired to address the issue. Additionally, staff has been brought in from other area DMV offices to help reduce customer wait time. I hope the additional staff will allow citizens to take care of their DMV business in a more expeditious manner. Remember, many DMV transactions can be completed online by visiting dmvnow.com.

November 5th Election
The upcoming election is just over a month away, and now is the time to make sure you are prepared to have your vote counted. The deadline to register to vote is Tuesday, October 15th. You can register to vote by visiting your registrar’s office (listed below), or you can register online at vote.virginia.gov. State law allows you to vote absentee for a number of reasons. To request an absentee ballot, please visit vagopabsentee.com. You can also vote in-person absentee now through November 2nd. The Harrisonburg and Rockingham registrar’s offices will be open for in-person absentee voting from 8:00am to 5:00pm Monday through Friday and 9:00am to 5:00pm on October 26th and November 2nd.

Harrisonburg Voter Registrar
345 South Main Street
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
(540) 432-7707

Rockingham Voter Registrar
20 East Gay Street
Harrisonburg, VA 22802
(540) 564-3055

If we want to continue to maintain our position as a top state for business and one of the best states to live and raise a family, then we need to elect Ken Cuccinelli this November. Ken understands the need to limit the growth of government, keep taxes low, and maintain a regulatory environment that does not place unnecessary burdens on employers and families.

In stark contrast, I’m afraid his opponent has no intention of maintaining the pro-growth policies of the last several years. Terry McAullife’s support of job killing EPA regulations against the coal industry is just one example that when faced with a choice, he will pick the President’s harmful agenda over the needs of Virginia citizens. These regulations will significantly drive up the cost of energy for Virginians and will undoubtedly put us at an economic disadvantage.

I have complete confidence that Ken Cuccinelli will take a conservative approach to budgeting, prioritizing taxpayer dollars, and implementing common sense policies and reforms. I do not have that same confidence about his opponent.

How You Can Help

While I appreciate your continued support, because I don’t have an opponent for my re-election campaign this year, I would encourage you to keep your focus on the statewide races. Please visit the neighborhood victory office in Harrisonburg (behind the Valley Mall) to help with door knocks and phone calls for our Republican ticket. You can also get your yard signs and bumper stickers at this office. I will have “Wilt for Delegate” signs available at the neighborhood office as well. If you would like one of my signs, but can’t make it to the office, please let me know and we will get one to you as soon as possible.

 

 

Solid Mix From the 26th

There are several upcoming opportunities for families and entrepreneurs that I wanted to share with you. If you have questions about any of the events and activities listed below, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Back to School Sales Tax Holiday (August 2-4)

Today through Sunday, most school supplies and clothing will be exempt from sales tax for the eighth annual Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday! At a time when there are alot of expenses associated with sending kids back to school, this tax holiday helps to provide some savings for families.

School supplies costing $20 or less per item and clothing and footwear priced at $100 or less each will be exempt from Virginia’s 5.3% state and local sales tax. Anyone can benefit from the savings and there is no limit to the number of qualifying items that can be purchased. Retailers may also choose to pay the sales tax for customers on items that do not otherwise qualify.

To find out more details about what items qualify and to learn more about the holiday, please visit the Department of Taxation website by clicking here.

Valley Business Summit

On Monday, August 12 area legislators along with several local business and economic development organizations are joining together to host a Valley Business Summit event at the Robert Plecker Workforce Center at Blue Ridge Community College. This event is FREE to attend and open to anyone interesting in learning more about resources available for starting and growing a business. In addition to a keynote address from Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, Todd Haymore, there will be several breakout sessions for participants to attend, along with a feedback forum at the conclusion of the event for state legislators (including myself) to hear your suggestions and concerns related to the business climate in the Commonwealth.

The Business Summit will begin with registration from 7:30 am to 8:00 am and is set to conclude around noon. Again, it’s free to attend, but an RSVP is requested by Monday, August 5. Please click here to learn more.

Applications Now Being Accepted for the House Page Program

Every year, a number of 13 and 14 year-olds from across the Commonwealth are chosen to serve in the House of Delegates page program during the General Assembly session. Pages are an integral part of the legislative process in Richmond, and serve in various capacities assisting the Clerk’s office, legislators, and other staff. During this time, they also gain a greater understanding of how their state government operates. All of the pages I have spoken with find it to be a great experience, not to mention that they make alot of new friends along the way!

Applications are being accepted now through October 28 for 13 and 14 year-olds (as of January 1, 2014) who would like to serve as a page during the 2014 General Assembly Session. This year, the application must be completed online, please click here to access the application and instructions. Along with the application and other required documentation, the applicant’s Delegate must submit a letter of recommendation to the Speaker’s office. If you live within the 26th House District and plan to apply, please contact my office at (540) 437-1450 or email deltwilt@house.virginia.gov.

It’s also worth noting that there is a Senate page program as well, although you cannot serve as both a House and Senate page. To learn more about the House and Senate page programs, please click here.

Help Needed at the GOP Fair Booth!

The Rockingham and Harrisonburg Republican Committees are looking for folks to help man the booth at the Rockingham County Fair the week of August 12 to 17. The time slots are broken down into two hour shifts, so even if you can only volunteer for a few hours it would still be a big help to the local committees and our Republican ticket! The booth is always a great way for our party to reach out to potential voters in our community. If you’re willing to volunteer, you can simply add your name to the sign up form.

Contact Me
As always, feel free to reach out to me with any questions or concerns you may have. My office can be reached by calling (540) 437-1450 or by emailing deltwilt@house.virginia.gov.

Solid Mix From the 26th, Newsletter Update

Virginia Values Veterans Program
With many of our service members returning home from active duty and seeking employment in the private sector, we have an obligation to make sure that employers are made aware of this great resource from which to hire. With 73 percent of 18 year olds not meeting the minimum requirements for military service, businesses that hire a veteran are hiring from the top 30 percent of our youth. They are team players with leadership skills and a solid sense of responsibility – a great asset for business.

The Virginia Values Veterans program, which recently celebrated a successful inaugural year, is an initiative designed to energize Virginia’s economy by teaching Virginia’s employers how to re-capitalize their workforce by recruiting, hiring, training, and retaining Veterans. It involves an interagency team, and uses a public-private partnership with General Funds and the Veterans Services Foundation. The recently passed budget includes $450,000 for this worth-while program. If you are an employer with an interest in learning more about this program, I would encourage you to contact the Virginia Department of Veterans Services or visit www.virginiavaluesvets.com

New Laws
On July 1 most of the actions passed during the 2013 General Assembly Session officially became law and went into effect. Of the 2,575 bills and resolutions introduced during the 2013 Session, roughly 31 percent were signed into law.

The Division of Legislative Services publishes a document which highlights some of the new laws that will have a direct impact on the daily lives of Virginia citizens. You can view the publication by clicking here. It’s important to note that the publication is by no means comprehensive and only contains a small portion of the measures passed. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact my office. We will do our best to address your concerns.

Legislative Branch Savings
The Speaker of the House of Delegates recently announced over $1.8 million in legislative branch savings from this past budget cycle that have been returned to the general fund. This is the result of reduced or unused expenses that had been previously budgeted for the 11 various agencies within the legislative branch. Over $200,000 of this was derived from unused House of Delegates salaries and expenses.

Since 2003, the House of Delegates has sent over $5 million back to the general fund. This is the result of efforts to operate the House efficiently and effectively, just as citizens should expect it to.

Contact Us
As previously mentioned, please do not hesitate to let us know if you have any questions about new laws that went into effect on Monday. As always, feel free to contact us if you are having a problem related to state government or any other issue that you would like to bring to my attention.

You can visit my downtown Harrisonburg office, located at 2 South Main Street. You can also call (540) 437-1450 or email deltwilt@house.virginia.gov.

-Tony