Tuesday will mark the halfway point of the 2016 General Assembly Session, otherwise known as “crossover.” Crossover is the day when each chamber must finish work on its own legislation and then may only consider legislation from the other body. The State Capitol is as busy as it has been all year with late night committee meetings and longer floor sessions as we work to complete work before crossover. I want to update you on several initiatives the General Assembly addressed this past week.
Tuesday the House of Delegates passed, with major bi-partisan support, HB 834 and HB 846, the legislative centerpieces of the Virginia Initiative for Growth and Opportunity or “GO Virginia” act. GO Virginia is a business-led, bipartisan initiative to provide a new framework for strengthening Virginia’s economy by encouraging collaboration between business leaders, the education community, local government, and state government.
The two bills create an entirely voluntary program that allows localities to identify their workforce needs, apply for grants that must meet an objective scoring criteria to be awarded and then meet performance criteria to keep the money. The program gets the people who know how to create jobs (business leaders) involved in the decision making process. Our goal is to always find innovative ways to foster private-sector growth, strengthen our workforce, promote local collaboration, and maximize our economic development resources. This concept will help grow and strengthen the economy in all areas of the Commonwealth so our families and businesses can thrive.
Virginia’s business leaders, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) and over 80 other organizations support GO Virginia. To read more, visit: http://virginiahouse.gop/2016/02/09/house-of-delegates-passes-go-virginia-legislation-with-major-bipartisan-support/
Charter School Amendment
On Friday, the House of Delegates passed legislation authorizing a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that could allow for the creation of more charter schools in Virginia. The amendment, introduced by Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albemarle), would allow the State Board of Education to establish public charter schools within the framework and limitations established by the General Assembly. All children in Virginia deserve access to a quality education, regardless of their zip code or how much money their parents make. Public charter schools encourage parental involvement, and can be especially equipped to meet the unique needs of all different types of children. They are granted more autonomy than traditional public schools, but still must meet certain accountability requirements.
We are fortunate to have great schools in our area and the Commonwealth has good schools overall. Unfortunately, however, there are areas that consistently under perform and do not adequately prepare students for higher education or the workforce. For these school systems, charter schools could be a great tool to improve outcomes for students.
Agreement to Restore & Expand Reciprocity Passes
You may recall a few weeks ago an agreement was reached between Governor McAuliffe and the General Assembly to restore and expand concealed carry reciprocity. The agreement also requires State Police to be available for voluntary background checks at gun shows, and prohibits individuals under permanent domestic violence protective orders from possessing a firearm under state law. This past week the legislation initiating this agreement passed the House of Delegates. The National Rifle Association (NRA) and Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) both strongly support this legislative package.
When the Attorney General announced his action in December to remove reciprocity with 25 states, it was extremely concerning. I’m glad to see resolution on this issue that secures the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens and takes reasonable steps to make our communities safer.
HB 1250 – Greater Efficiency and Reduced Red Tape for Water Quality Regulations
In order to improve the water quality in our tributaries and the Chesapeake Bay, the Commonwealth has regulations in place that regulate the water quantity and water quality that flow from larger construction projects and properties, as well as regulations requiring certain best management practices to reduce erosion. Some of these regulations derive from EPA requirements, but they are administered by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and localities. Currently these programs are administered through two separate permitting requirements, Stormwater, and Erosion and Sediment Control. This means that property owners wishing to develop a property must go through two separate permitting processes and pay two separate fees.
This session I am carrying legislation, HB 1250, that merges these two separate programs into one. Rather than having to go through the red tape of two permitting processes, permit applicants will be able to go through a streamlined process. It will also be easier for localities to administer. This legislation is supported by the business community, as well as local governments.
Visitors this Week
We didn’t have as many visitors last week, but we still had several groups and individuals that stopped by. Thursday I was pleased to speak with social work students from JMU, EMU and CNU. Local supporters of the ARC of Virginia met with me to discuss their legislative agenda this session. I’m pleased to support their effort to adopt more ID/DD waivers that will expand services to more individuals and reduce the waiting list. On Wednesday school officials had their lobby day in Richmond. I was able to speak briefly with Harrisonburg School Board member, Tom Domonoske.
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!