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.
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.
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.
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.
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!