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

Solid Mix From the 26th, Newsletter 2/3/15

Last week brought some good news with regard to our budget and revenue situation in the Commonwealth. Revenues are up approximately 6.8% year-to-date against the 3.1% revenue forecast. Assuming this trend remains, we will have additional funds beyond what was expected heading into fiscal year 2016.

This will allow us to eliminate proposed fee increases, protect our AAA bond rating by paying cash for capital projects, and provide modest pay raises for state employees, constitutional officer employees, and teachers. In addition, like the supplemental budget adopted in November of 2014, we will be able to protect funding for k-12 education and eliminate any further cuts to higher education.

While we have a long way to go in the budget process, it appears there is overall agreement with the Senate on our budget priorities. If this cooperation remains, it is my strong hope that we should be able to easily finish our budget work on time this session.

Budget Transparency
This past week Speaker Howell announced several steps the House will take to make the budget process more transparent for both citizens and legislators. While I would argue our current process is very efficient, we have to be careful not to concede transparency for the sake of efficiency.

The House will now wait 48 hours after the final budget conference report is posted online before taking a vote. This will allow time for the public to view the budget proposal and reach out to their legislators with comments and concerns. In addition, members will be provided a comprehensive list of all appropriations to non-state agencies, any items not included in the budgets as originally passed by each chamber, and any items that are similar to legislation that failed in either chamber.

These are a few modest, but important, steps that will help to ensure that both legislators and citizens have the time and information to properly consider the budget proposal. It is my hope that we can build upon these initiatives in the coming years.

Legislation
Like the past two weeks, I want to take an opportunity to highlight a few of the measures I am pursuing this session.

Concealed Handgun Permit for Firearm Purchase (HB 2029)

This legislation allows an individual who holds a valid concealed handgun permit to purchase a firearm without undergoing an unnecessary and duplicative background check.

In addition, the measure requires that a National Instant Criminal Check be performed when an individual applies for a Concealed Handgun Permit. This is the same check performed when an individual purchases a firearm, and that is why it’s necessary to add this check to the Concealed Handgun Permit background check process. This legislation is a top priority for pro-Second Amendment groups such as the NRA and VCDL.

Bondsmen License Suspension (HB2313)
As you might recall, a few years ago I successfully carried a measure on behalf of the bail bond industry that aimed to eliminate some of the bad actors in that industry. I have another bill this year that is an industry self-policing bill.

HB 2314 requires the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) to suspend the license of any bondsmen who is arrested on a felony charge, pending the outcome of his or her case. Right now DCJS may suspend their license, but they are not required to do so. In Virginia we have bondsmen who were arrested for serious felony charges, but they are still allowed to post bond for others charged with a crime. The primary purpose of a bondsmen is to help ensure that the individual securing bond does not skip town and fail to appear in court. If the bondsmen’s future is rather uncertain due to the fact that they may be incarcerated in the near future themselves, it is probably not a good idea for them to be posting bond for others. If their charges are dropped or they win their case, their license would be restored. The bill passed subcommittee last week and will be in full committee this week.

Legislative Survey – Last Chance!
I will close out my legislative survey at the end of the week. If you have not already taken my survey, please click here to do so. Results will be listed in future updates.

Visitors
Last week I had the pleasure to meet with members of the Shenandoah Valley Electric Coop. I also had the privilege of meeting with various business and industry constituent representatives. These visitors included Neal Menefee with Rockingham Group, Frank Tamberrino representing the Harrisonburg/Rockingham Chamber of Commerce, a group of ladies representing the Dental Hygienists Association, several of our local Farm Bureau members, and several employees of our local Miller Coors plant.

Last week also saw numerous visitors representing interests associated with K-12 and higher education. President Alger and Charlie King stopped in for a visit to discuss issues important to JMU. Our school superintendents and several board members made the trip to Richmond to highlight their priorities. I also had a nice discussion with students advocating the preservation of the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant (TAG). Chad was able to speak with a group of students advocating for polices that can work to prevent and reduce campus sexual assault.

The Family Foundation had a lobby day on Tuesday, and it was great to see several familiar faces representing interests that seek to promote family values. While unfortunately I was tied up, Chad was also able to meet with Valley representatives of the Hospitality and Travel Association to discuss various tourism initiatives and legislation that is a priority for their industry. Finally, I enjoyed speaking with the Treasurer’s and Commissioner’s of the Revenue for both Harrisonburg and Rockingham.

Contact Me
I welcome you to reach out to my office if you would like to share your thoughts on any matter before the General Assembly.

In Richmond we can be reached by phone at (804) 698-1026. If you are visiting Richmond, my office is located in room 526 of the General Assembly Building. You can continue to email DelTWilt@house.virginia.gov.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to represent you in Richmond!

Tony

Solid Mix From the 26th, Newsletter 1-26-15

Friday marked the end of the first full week of session. I believe everyone agrees that it was one of the busiest in recent memory! While legislation was slow to make it to the floor for consideration, there was no shortage of bills to take up in committee.

Focus on Education
There are several measures I fully support that will make improvements to our education system, both higher ed. and K-12.

As you know, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to save and pay for college. Virginia students are now borrowing more than $1 billion every year to pay for school. In his State of the Union Address last week, President Obama outlined a tax scheme that includes targeting 529 college savings accounts for taxation. This would make it even more difficult for parents and students to save. Despite this threat at the federal level, I joined my colleagues in supporting a bi-partisan measure that will work to make college more affordable by capping expensive athletic fees and making it easier for small schools to cut wasteful spending.

The House will also take up a final vote this week on two measures that provide some much needed flexibility for our school systems. I co-patroned a bill which will allow the Department of Education to review the accreditation status of public schools either on an annual basis, every three years, or every five years, as opposed to the current annual requirement for all schools. In a nutshell, this will alleviate unnecessary paperwork and administrative burden for many of our schools. I will also be voting for a measure that will permit the SOLs to incorporate multiple subject areas into one test. This authorizing legislation can hopefully serve as a way to continue our efforts to reduce the total number of assessments that children are required to take.

These are just a few of the bills that House Republicans are pursuing this session that work to make improvements to our education system and provide greater opportunities for all students across the Commonwealth. I hope to highlight others in the coming weeks.

Legislation
Last week I took the opportunity to discuss a few of my bills and I would like to highlight a few additional measure this week.

Scenic Rivers Program (HB 2028)
Virginia has a program that allows the General Assembly to designate various segments of rivers and other waterways as a Scenic River. The idea is to protect and preserve these segments and to prevent actions that might alter the scenic quality or the flow of the waterway. While certainly a noble goal, my concern with this program and other similar programs is the potential risks for adverse impact on property owners attempting to use their land as they see fit (within the bounds of local zoning requirements). In addition, I have concerns about the ability of a Scenic River designation to prohibit or significantly limit the ability of a government entity or public utility to proceed with a project that most all would agree is for the benefit of the public. For example, if a small vocal minority wanted to prohibit VDOT construction of a bridge over a river designated as scenic, I can easily envision a scenario where the designation would provide the necessary leverage to do so quite successfully.

My legislation simply seeks to clarify current code by reiterating that the program can in no way restrict riparian land or water uses along or in the designated section of the river. The Department of Conservation and Recreation is the agency that administers the program, and they are responsible for making recommendations to local governing bodies concerning the rivers designated as scenic. The bill makes it clear that such recommendations can not include measures that would act to restrict land use. This bill adds a layer of protection for property owners against any future threat from an overzealous government agency or official.

Dismissal, Expired Registration and Inspection (HB 2315)

In the hectic pace of life, it’s sometimes easy to forget to renew your vehicle registration or get your car inspected on time. We all have been there. Unfortunately, we are often reminded of our tardiness when we receive a ticket from law enforcement. While I certainly don’t condone or endorse failing to meet these deadlines, I think we can agree that generally such a violation is often the result of an honest mistake and oversight. Therefore, I have introduced a bill that makes it a bit easier on the citizen receiving such a traffic infraction, and will hopefully act to free up some docket time for our judges so they can focus on more pressing matters.

I introduced HB 2315 to allows the court to permit an individual who receives a ticket for an expired vehicle registration or dead inspection to present proof to the court that the issue has been corrected prior to their scheduled court appearance. By doing so, the citizen will not be required to pay the fine and will only likely be responsible for court costs. The bill also requires law enforcement to notify the citizen of this option when they issue the citation, provided it’s a permissible option in that particular jurisdiction.

Currently, individuals can choose to either pay the fine and court costs in advance, or they can plan to take the time to appear in court in hopes that the judge will drop the fine…which they often do. However, when this is the case, it seems an unnecessary waste of time for all involved. The citizen often has to take valuable time away from work or family to go to court, and given our general shortage of judges across the Commonwealth, it seems less than productive for them to use valuable court time to hear these cases.

The bill is permissive, meaning that it does not require every General District Court in the Commonwealth to allow this, it simply gives them the ability to offer this option. If this bill becomes law, it’s my hope that it will make life a bit easier on individuals who simply made an oversight on one of the many details of life we encounter every day.

Legislative Survey
If you have not had an opportunity to complete my online legislative survey, there is still time to do so. You can access the online survey by clicking here. I value your input, and this survey is one of the tools I use to try to gauge where my constituents stand on a number of issues.

Visitors
Like I said earlier, last week was a busy one. Given that last Monday was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, alot of folks utilize the holiday to make the trip to Richmond and advocate on issues of importance to them. On Monday I met with constituents with the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), a pro-Second Amendment group that advocates for the rights of gun owners. I met with the Virginia Young Democrats to discuss legislation of common interest to all Virginians. Last week, I also had the pleasure to meet with representatives of the Virginia Environmental Coalition, local correctional officers, Gerald Lehman who is the Director of Food Service with Rockingham County Public Schools, representatives of the Collins Center in Harrisonburg, local supporters of the Hemp legislation, Baker Garber on behalf of our local free clinic, and Dr. Downey with a group of Blue Ridge Community College Students. Finally, I also had the privilege to meet with a large group of folks representing the Valley Associates for Independent Living (VAIL). It so happens that they came on the same day that my NAP credit legislation (that I touched on last week) was heard in the Finance Subcommittee. Since they receive an allocation of NAP credits and fully support my bill, I was pleased to have VAIL’s Director, Gayl Brunk, speak in favor of the measure. It reported unanimously out of the subcommittee as well as the full committee. It will be up for debate on the floor Wednesday.

Contact Me
I welcome you to reach out to my office if you would like to share your thoughts on any matter before the General Assembly.

In Richmond we can be reached by phone at (804) 698-1026. If you are visiting Richmond, my office is located in room 526 of the General Assembly Building. You can continue to email DelTWilt@house.virginia.gov.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to represent you in Richmond!

Tony

Solid Mix From the 26th, Newsletter 1-17-15

The 2015 General Assembly Session opened on Wednesday, January 14 and got off to a brisk start. Delegates old and new are working hard to get a lot done in a short, 46 day session. I look forward to a productive session working for you in Richmond this year.

Speaker Bill Howell opened up the first day of session by welcoming our five new members and going over some of the top priorities for this session, including continuing with reforms of our K-12 education system, making higher education more affordable, holding the assembly to the highest ethical standards, and adopting a responsible budget that funds the core functions of government without raising taxes. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance these priorities.

On Wednesday evening, Governor Terry McAuliffe delivered the annual State of the Commonwealth address to the Joint Assembly of the House of Delegates and Senate. I do believe there are areas where we can work with the Governor, such as economic development and ethics reform. However, it was disappointing to see him spend a significant amount of time Wednesday discussing issues that he has to know will not find favor in the legislature. I am hopeful that we can move past the bitter tone of last session, and work to find common ground on the issues that matter most to Virginians.

Legislation
This session I will personally be moving forward with about ten bills. I still have a few that I am finalizing that will be submitted and assigned numbers this week. In the coming days and weeks, I will also be signing on to legislation that I believe will work to make our higher education system more affordable, improve K-12 education, and foster an environment that promotes economic development and job creation. I have highlighted a few of my bills below this week, and will discuss others in the weeks ahead. To view my legislation and other legislation being considered during the 2015 General Assembly Session, please visit lis.virginia.gov.

School Survey (HB 1698)
During the course of a child’s school career, there may likely be a handful of times that they are asked to participate in a student survey that asks questions touching on some sensitive information (sexual activity, drug use, mental illness). While the groups that administer these surveys have the noble goal of trying to collect accurate data to assess and understand the largest problems that impact young people in a particular community, I strongly believe it is the right and responsibility of every parent and guardian to at least be aware their child is being asked information that many would consider to be sensitive in nature. We do have a law in Virginia that requires some form of parental notice, and gives parents the ability to opt their child out of the survey. However, HB 1698 will better define how this notice should be given and what information should be conveyed to parents.

The bill requires notification to parents via mailed notice, as well as through some form of electronic notice (email, text alert). In addition, it requires that the organization administering the survey provide a bit more information than is currently required about the nature of the survey and how the information will be used. Finally, it gives parents the ability to review the survey questions via a method that is convenient for them.

NAP Credit Choice (HB 1701)
Virginia has a tax credit program whereby businesses and individuals can donate to certain non-profits and receive a 65% tax credit for this donation.While a benefit to the donor because it can help reduce their tax liability, it is very helpful to non-profits that provide assistance and services to lower income individuals in the community. It acts as a way to boost their contributions, which allows them to serve more folks in need.

However, there are two concerns with the current program that this bill seeks to resolve. First, there is significant debate among the non-profit sector as to whether it is most effective to offer a 65% credit, or if it would be preferable to offer a lower percentage in order to receive contributions from more donors. It’s my understanding that it is split fairly evenly among non-profit groups as to the number of groups that support 65% credits and those that would prefer to lower the credit percentage. There have been unsuccessful legislative attempts in the past to lower the percentage (there are a few bills this year as well). My bill gives the non-profit the choice to offer whatever credit percentage (at or below 65%) that they feel will best suit their needs and leverage the most private dollars. To be clear, the bill does not in any way call for more taxpayer funding for this program, it simply allows for some flexibility that will hopefully help maximize its effectiveness.

Secondly, the bill gives non-profits the ability to fully utilize their allocation of tax credits. This aspect of the bill is a bit more technical in nature. Currently, if the donations a non-profit receives for the year do not match the total amount of tax credits they are permitted to allocate, then they must return the left over balance to Social Services for reallocation to another non-profit. The bill will permit a business or individual to donate to a non-profit and knowingly accept a percentage below the maximum of 65% in order for the group to fully utilize the tax credit amount permitted for the year.

The idea for this legislation actually came from a constituent. If I believe they are feasible solutions, I am always happy to pursue measures that derive from members of our community that will have a positive impact in some way.

Legislative Survey
If you have not had an opportunity to complete my online legislative survey, there is still time to do so. You can access the online survey by clicking here. I value your input, and this survey is one of the tools I use to try to gauge where my constituents stand on a number of issues.

Visitors
Even though session just got started this week, I still had a few visitors from home. Colleen Whiteford and several students made the trip to Richmond on behalf of the Virginia Physical Therapy Association. Thursday was Bankers’ Day at the Capitol, and I enjoyed visiting with Greg Godsey of Union First Market Bank and Josh Hale and Jonah Pence of Farmers and Merchants Bank to discuss issues that could have an impact on the banking industry. Also on Thursday, I attended the annual Republican Women’s Luncheon. Several of the ladies from the Harrisonburg/Rockingham group made the trip. I appreciate the kind words of support and encouragement from the ladies, as well as all their efforts on behalf of the Republican Party and our candidates. Finally, Chad had the opportunity on Friday to meet with Dr. Caitlin Batchelor to briefly discuss issues of importance to the Virginia Dental Association. Dr. Batchelor started her own practice in Harrisonburg in 2013.

Contact Me
I welcome you to reach out to my office if you would like to share your thoughts on any matter before the General Assembly.
Now that we are in Richmond we can be reached by phone at (804) 698-1026. If you are visiting Richmond, my office is located in room 526 of the General Assembly Building. You can continue to email DelTWilt@house.virginia.gov.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to represent you in Richmond!

Tony