Life in Blue Virginia: Several Bills Water Down Voting Integrity in the Commonwealth
Election Day is set to become a state holiday as both chambers approved scrapping Lee-Jackson Day in favor of Election Day on the state calendar. The legislature also has backed no-excuse absentee voting and a repeal of the state’s photo ID law. Bills are pending that would not require a voter to ever vote in person, even after registering to vote on-line.
Life in Blue Virginia: Assault Weapons Bill Passes House Committee – Full Vote in House This Week
The Richmond Times filed the following report on February 7, 2020:
A House of Delegates committee on Friday backed the most controversial bill of Virginia Democrats’ gun control package, a vote that led to gun rights supporters being escorted out of a committee room.
The House Public Safety Committee voted 12-9 to send a revised version of an assault weapons ban proposed by Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, to the full House of Delegates. The House will have to act on the measure, House Bill 961, by Tuesday — the deadline for the Senate and House to vote on their own bills so approved measures can cross over to the other chamber.
“These assault weapon laws have been shown consistently to reduce mass murder,” Levine said of the measure, which is one of the eight gun control bills that Gov. Ralph Northam backs. “We’re not banning guns … but we will reduce the incidents of mass murder and we will reduce, in particular, the fatalities from mass murder.”
The original version of the bill called for people who already own an assault weapon to register it with state police. The amended version of the bill gets rid of that requirement.
The substitute bans high-capacity magazines that hold more than 12 rounds while also outlawing bump stocks. The shooters in the Virginia Tech and Virginia Beach mass shootings each used high-capacity magazines.
Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran said that assault weapons “are not protected by the Second Amendment” and that the court system will uphold the legislation. A federal assault weapons ban was in place from 1994 until 2004.
“You just need to pass it,” he said.
The committee, in its final meeting before crossover, agreed, advancing the bill on a party-line vote.
The endorsement came during a tense early morning meeting at which gun rights proponents — many of whom came to Richmond on Jan. 20 for a rally that drew an estimated 22,000 people — said the bill would infringe on their Second Amendment rights.
“They’re not listening to massive numbers of people saying, ‘No, you’re not going to violate my constitutional rights,’ ” Philip Van Cleave, the president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said in an interview.
Immediately after the vote, gun rights supporters, who wore VCDL’s “Guns Save Lives” stickers, started yelling at committee members, saying things such as: “We will not comply.”
The crowd, which filled the House Committee Room in the Pocahontas Building and had overflow supporters in the hallways, was then forced to leave the room under threat from Capitol Police that people who did not leave would be arrested. (In the opening days of the session last month, Democrats approved a prohibition against carrying firearms either concealed or openly into the state Capitol and the Pocahontas Building. Members of the public must now go through metal detectors.)
Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, the committee’s chairman, stood behind the decision to have Capitol Police clear the room.
“I just thought just for the safety of the committee, safety of the public, safety of the staff that have to be here, we made the best decision,” he said in an interview after the meeting.
The meeting continued after the incident, with only committee members, police and media present.
The proposed ban on assault weapons is the only bill of the Northam-backed package that hasn’t yet cleared the House of Delegates.
Even with the changed version of the bill, which Levine described as a compromise so current assault weapon owners can keep their guns without registration, supporters of the bill say it will save lives.
“These guns were never, ever designed for civilian use,” said Del. Jeff Bourne, D-Richmond. “They are military assault rifles designed to kill as many people as possible.”
Opponents say it infringes on the Second Amendment.
“We have a right to protect ourselves,” said Del. Tommy Wright, R-Lunenburg.
NRA spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen called the proposed ban “egregious.”
If the House approves the bill, it will go to the Senate, which does not have its own bill to ban assault weapons.
Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, had proposed an assault weapons ban, a measure that did not include a “grandfather” provision for current owners of weapons deemed assault weapons. That prompted concerns from gun rights supporters about confiscation. Saslaw withdrew his bill the first week of the session.
Hope, chairman of the House Public Safety Committee, said he’s optimistic about the bill’s future if it gets to the Senate.
“We want to do something about this. Our House members feel very strongly about leading in this area,” Hope said. “It’s a strong bill, and I think the Senate will be supportive.”
Also Friday, the committee voted to remove the option for people trying to get a concealed handgun permit to demonstrate their competence by completing an online test. The Senate has already approved that measure.
Life in Blue Virginia: Anti-Gun Bills Passed So Far (…and more to come)
Last year the The HEAR Project warned Virginia residents about the fate of gun ownership if Democrats took control of the General Assembly. Throughout the 2019 legislative session The HEAR Project posted numerous gun bills targeting lawful gun owners that the Republican majority killed in committee. Under Democrat rule, life in “blue Virginia” just became more difficult for lawful gun owners. Sadly, these measures will not prevent criminals from using guns to commit crimes.
On January 30th, the Virginia House of Delegates voted to pass all of the anti-gun bills before them not long after floor session convened for the day. The Senate previously passed four anti-gun bills. Neither chamber has considered a bill from the other yet.
House Bill 2 passed by a vote of 54-46. It criminalizes private transfers of firearms without first paying fees, with limited exceptions. Most transfers between friends, neighbors, or fellow hunters are not exempted. Thes
House Bill 9 passed by a vote of 55-44. It victimizes gun owners who suffer loss or theft of their property with a fine if they don’t report a lost or stolen firearm within 24 hours of discovering them missing.
House Bill 421 passed by a vote of 50-48. It allows local governments to enact their own gun control ordinances, potentially resulting in a patchwork of laws and the Second Amendment not being protected across the state.
House Bill 1083 passed by a vote of 54-46. It severely restricts parental decisions about firearms in the home while attaching excessive penalties for violations.
House Bill 674 passed by a vote of 52-46. It allows the seizure of an individual’s firearms on baseless accusations without a hearing or other opportunity for the person to be heard in court. It permits the government to seize firearms based on weak evidence and nebulous standards of evidence.
A person subject to a suspension of a Constitutional right should be entitled to high evidentiary standards, an opportunity to be heard, and the right to face his or her accusers. Civil liberties advocates from across the political spectrum have expressed concerns on these “red flag” bills and how the procedure might lead to abuses of the process because of insufficient due process protections in the bill.
House Bill 812 passed by a vote of 53-47. It arbitrarily rations an individual’s right to lawfully purchase a handgun to once within 30 days.
Welcome to “Blue Virginia!”
Life in Blue Virginia: Bill prevents ICE from knowing if illegal immigrants are in jail
HB244 removes provisions requiring jail officers to ascertain the citizenship of any inmate taken into custody at a jail; probation and parole officers to inquire as to the citizenship status of an individual convicted of a felony in circuit court and referred to such officers, and officers in charge of correctional facilities to inquire as to the citizenship of any person committed to a correctional facility,
The bill also removes the mandatory duty of the clerk of a court committing a convicted alien to a correctional facility to furnish related court records to a United States immigration officer.
EFFECT: If this bill is passed and becomes law, ICE will not know if illegal immigrants are in jail, which prevents deportation.
Life in Blue Virginia: HB567 Places Restrictions on Indoor Shooting Ranges
Prohibits the operation of an indoor shooting range, defined in the bill, in any building not owned or leased by the Commonwealth or federal government unless (i) fewer than 50 employees work in the building or (ii) (a) at least 90 percent of the users of the indoor shooting range are law-enforcement officers or federal law-enforcement officers, (b) the indoor shooting range maintains a log of each user’s name, phone number, address, and the law-enforcement agency where such user is employed, and (c) the indoor shooting range verifies each user’s identity and address by requiring all users to present a government-issued photo-identification card. The bill provides that any person that violates the provisions of this section is subject to a civil penalty of not less than $1,000 nor more than $100,000 for the initial violation and $5,000 per day for each day of violation thereafter.
Life in Blue Virginia: Senate Bill 16 – The First Volley at Restricting Firearm Ownership
Expands the definition of “assault firearm” and prohibits any person from importing, selling, transferring, manufacturing, purchasing, possessing, or transporting an assault firearm. A violation is a Class 6 felony. The bill prohibits a dealer from selling, renting, trading, or transferring from his inventory an assault firearm to any person. The bill also prohibits a person from carrying a shotgun with a magazine that will hold more than seven rounds of the longest ammunition for which it is chambered in a public place; under existing law, this prohibition applies only in certain localities. The bill makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to import, sell, barter, or transfer any firearm magazine designed to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Life in “Blue Virginia”
Life in “Blue Virginia” is off to a sharp left turn. A number of bills have been introduced that will turn pisotls into assault weapons, restrict the rights of gun owners, raise taxes, repeal the Voter ID law, and allow minors to have an abortion without the consent (or knowledge) of their parents. Voters can follow the bills at https://lis.virginia.gov/. The HEAR Project will be providing regular updates on new bills and their progress through the House, Senate, and to the Governor’s desk.
Welcome to “Blue Virginia”
The Democrats have now gained control of the Virginia General Assembly. Welcome to “Blue Virginia.” Will the Old Dominion go the way of Illinois, California, New York and other Democrat controlled states?
Expect their far-left agenda to begin immediately. The HEAR Project will continue to follow Democrat bills and keep you informed, using their own words and policy statements.
See Their Voting Records for Yourself
The HEAR Project has pulled together the legislative records of the Democrat incumbents so that voters can see what they support – their bills, their words, their votes.
Prince William Freshman Democrats are Bad for Business – See the ScoresFINAL RELEASE - Prince William Freshman Democrats Are Bad For Business
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)
During the 2019 General Assembly Session, the State Corporation Commission testified before a House subcommittee and stated that if Virginia were to join RGGI, residential customers would see their energy bills increase by up to $144 per year.
House Democrat incumbents and candidates in competitive districts who support the RGGI energy tax scheme include:
- House District 13: Danica Roem (D-Prince William)
- House District 31: Elizabeth Guzman (D-Prince William)
- House District 50: Lee Carter (D-Manassas)
- House District 51: Hala Ayala (D-Prince William)
Steady financial leadership from Republican General Assembly leads to positive results for Virginia’s financial outlook
The Commonwealth of Virginia ended the fiscal year with a $797.7 million revenue surplus, according to final figures provided at Tuesday’s joint meeting of the General Assembly’s money committees. The surplus will allow Virginia to set aside additional resources in our state reserve funds, and means the taxpayer relief passed by the General Assembly in January remains on track. Virginia will have over $1.6 billion, or approximately seven percent of general fund revenue, in its reserve funds at the end of the biennium.
“The strong revenue surplus, increased reserve funding, and taxpayer relief fund rebate checks is a trifecta of good news for taxpayers and our Commonwealth,” said Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights). “The steady financial leadership from the Republican-led General Assembly is producing positive results for Virginia. We protected our AAA bond rating through the Great Recession, took action to shore up our reserve funds throughout this period of economic expansion, and provided tax relief for hardworking Virginians, all while continuing to invest in top priorities, including a teacher pay raise and a college tuition freeze.”
“We are seeing the results of our steady and conservative budgeting approach,” said House Appropriations Chairman S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk). “I am proud of the work the House Appropriations Committee, along with our Senate colleagues, have done to get us to this point. However, I am cognizant of the uncertainty on the horizon, and this tells me we need to recommit ourselves to a cautious financial approach that hedges against future economic downturns. A surplus does not mean there is money to spend, so there’s not much to be excited about. It will be business as usual in January.”
New Laws Going into Effect in Virginia on July 1, 2019
Below is a summary of the laws passed in this year’s legislative session that go into effect on July 1, 2019.2019 Laws Going into Effect
Glimpse of the Future: A different 51 x 51
Over the past ten weeks, we’ve brought you 51 of the accomplishments from the Republican-led House of Delegates, including our plan to provide over $1 billion in tax relief to middle-class families, freeze tuition at colleges and universities, raise teacher pay, improve access to affordable health care, improve life for our veterans, and make our schools safer for children.
But, what would things look like if Republicans were not in the majority? Here’s a preview of what you will see in your inboxes next year if Democrats gain a majority in the House of Delegates.
For the first time in more than two decades, Democrats control the Governor’s Mansion, the Senate of Virginia, and the House of Delegates. We wasted no time passing one of the most progressive agendas in the country!
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting 51 accomplishments from the 51 members of the Democrat-led House of Delegates. Most of our progressive agenda was able to be passed in basically just two afternoons! It’s not bragging to say that we have fundamentally transformed life in Virginia!
Below are just a few highlights of what you can expect over the next 51 days.
We passed $770 million in new tax increases, all of which were killed by the Republican Majority in 2018.
Over the objections of greedy business leaders, we raised the minimum wage to $15 per hour, which Republicans have consistently defeated ever year.
Even though we said this was something we would never do, we repealed Virginia’s “Right To Work” law, thanks to the courage of our comrade Delegate Lee Carter!
We repealed the Republican tax plan that cut taxes by nearly $1 billion.
We joined RGGI, even though the State Corporation Commission staff estimates it will cost between $3 and $5 billion and raise electricity rates by $7 to $12 per customer per month.
We passed Delegate Sam Rasoul’s historic “Green New Deal” legislation, which Republicans killed in 2019, before Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez could even pass her legislation in Congress. Production of fossil fuels will be prohibited by 2021.
We passed Delegate Kathy Tran’s legislation, ending all meaningful restrictions on abortion so a woman can abort her unborn child at any time for any reason.
In fact, as Delegate Ibraheem Samirah promised, abortion is now on its way to becoming a constitutional right in the Commonwealth – much like the right to religious freedom, the right to free elections, and the right to due process.
We repealed Virginia’s law requiring voters to show a photo ID at the polls, even though it’s supported by over two-thirds of Virginians as a commonsense measure to protect our elections.
Under Marcus Simon’s constitutional amendment that we passed, prisoners, convicted felons and death row inmates will all now get to vote – just like Bernie Sanders promised. This is something Republicans defeated in 2019 but your new Democrat majority made it a priority!
- Drug dealers will also now be able to receive food stamps, something else Republicans had defeated in previous sessions.
Virginia has been fundamentally transformed, and you have all 51 members of the Democrat-led House of Delegates to thank for that!
Setting Boundaries and Expectations for Safer Schools
With law enforcement and schools, it’s difficult to think of two divisions of local government that could be more different. One serves to educate the future of Virginia, while the other works to maintain law and order.
But those two parts of local government merge in a significant way in the form of School Resource Officers, the law enforcement professionals whose time is spent walking the halls of our local schools, not out on the community streets.
Those differences lead to different professional cultures, and differing expectations and priorities — how a trained police officer handles any given situation may be far different from how a school would handle it. That’s why Republicans were proud to support legislation from Majority Leader Todd Gilbert which requires local schools and police agencies to sign a memorandum of understanding that lays out everyone’s expectations and responsibilities. This legislation was a direct result of the Select Committee on School Safety.
School Resource Officers are responsible for upholding the law, not school board policy; therefore, it is imperative localities clearly discuss and agree upon the role and responsibilities of School Resource Officers.
The Select Committee worked hard to improve security and safety in our public schools, and this legislation is just one more common-sense step in that direction.
Fostering Collaboration for Safety and Savings
There’s nothing quite as satisfying as driving over a newly paved stretch of road, but there is nothing quite as maddening as watching a utility crew come through a week later and dig it up to replace a water line or electrical cable.
Likewise, we all want our children to be safe but at the same time, we don’t want Richmond or our local governments wasting our hard-earned dollars. A little bit of coordination and planning can go a long way toward saving taxpayer money when it comes to school renovations.
That’s why Republicans were proud to support House Bill 1725 from Del. Barry Knight, which requires local school officials to work with their local fire marshals and building inspectors to make sure that any enhancements to school safety are done in line with fire safety and building safety codes.
What looks like a great security idea on paper could wind up being a fire hazard or a significant violation of building codes. And if those violations are found after the security work has been done, they have to be ripped out — wasting time and money.
As the old saying goes, measure twice, cut once.
Fostering collaboration for safety and savings is another one of the 51 accomplishments by the 51 members of the Republican-led House of Delegates.
Celebrating 100 Years of a Woman’s Right To Vote
1919 was a historic year when it came to ensuring women’s right to vote. On May 21, 1919, the Republican House of Representatives passed what would become the 19th amendment, and 2 weeks later, the Senate followed sending the proposed amendment to the states for ratification. In just over a year’s time, three-fourths of the states ratified the amendment and the Secretary of State certified the ratification, forever ensuring women would have the right to vote. Republicans had fought for this since 1878.
Fast forward 100 years as we honor the significance of that historic amendment ratification. This year Delegate Kathy Byron introduced a budget amendment to support efforts to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the women’s right to vote.
The amendment allocated $395,000 the first year and $100,000 the second year from the general fund to provide funds, to be matched at 50% by the Virginia Historical Society, to support this commemoration.
Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Right to Vote is another one of the 51 accomplishments by the 51 members of the Republican-led House of Delegates.
Dems Try Desperately to Make The Scandals Go Away…
In the space of a week in early February, the public was stunned by revelations about each of the three highest statewide elected officials, all Democrats: the racist photo in the governor’s yearbook; accusations of sexual assault against the lieutenant governor; and the attorney general’s appearance in blackface at a party in college. Protesters and news crews swarmed the Statehouse. Calls for resignations came from fellow Virginia Democrats, Republicans and even 2020 presidential candidates.
And then? “It just went poof,” said Natalie Draper, a librarian sitting in the back of a coffeehouse last week in Richmond. “It’s like it never happened.”
Protecting Our Children
Protecting our children must always be a top priority for the General Assembly and that is why enacting tougher penalties for prostituting children is another one of the 51 accomplishments by the 51 members of the Republican-led House of Delegates.
Stopping Late Term Abortions in Virginia
Protecting families starts with protecting the unborn.
The House of Delegates was on the front line of the national effort to protect innocent life and defend the unborn this year by defeating a bill to expand access to late-term abortion for almost any reason.
The world was outraged when a video went viral showing a House Democrat introducing an extreme measure that would make late-term abortion legal up to the moment of birth for almost any reason.
House Bill 2491 would have eliminated all meaningful restrictions on abortions. In the committee testimony, the patron admitted that the bill would allow a mother to seek an abortion even if she was in labor. The patron also admitted that the bill lowered the standards for a late-term abortion.
The national firestorm that ensued has exposed the far-left position of Democrats when it comes to abortion. If they take control of the General Assembly, this bill will become law.
Protecting innocent human life and preventing unfettered access to late-term abortions is another one of our 51 accomplishments by the 51 members of the Republican-led House of Delegates.
U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Important Case on Redistricting in Virginia
Virginia Republicans will try to convince U.S. Supreme Court justices Monday that a state legislative map drawn nearly a decade ago is fair and doesn’t improperly use voters’ race as a factor.
At stake is what House of Delegates candidates thousands of Virginia voters will see on their ballots this fall — which could help determine whether Republicans keep their narrow majority or Democrats take control.
51 by 51:
Better Insurance Access
This year, the Republican-led House of Delegates passed a series of bills to help lower health insurance costs, improve transparency, and ensure better care. Our reforms put patients first.
The House passed legislation to make it easier for small businesses to join together on health insurance coverage through “association” health plans. For too many small business owners, providing healthcare to their employees, or even just for their own family is too expensive. This legislation will allow members of a sponsoring association, such as a chamber of commerce, to access more affordable health insurance plans.
We need to help our small businesses succeed and level the playing field by lowering the cost of providing healthcare to their employees.
Cutting the cost of healthcare is yet another one of our 51 unique accomplishments by the 51 members of the Republican-led House of Delegates.
Funding for School Safety
Republicans led efforts to include approximately $12 million in the budget in funding for school resource officers, school safety infrastructure, and other initiatives designed to keep our students safe in schools. Also included in the budget is significant funding to support school counselors and direct-student counseling services.
A main priority of the Select Committee on School Safety, formed by Speaker Cox in March of 2018, was to secure our schools and keep students safe without creating unfunded mandates for localities.
New Jobs Coming to Virginia!
Virginia is consistently ranked as a top state for doing business by numerous publications. This year the Republican-led House of Delegates passed legislation and incentives packages to help bring tens of thousands of new jobs to Virginia.
Most notably after a nationwide search, Amazon chose Virginia as the location for their “HQ2” project, bringing more than 25,000 jobs. Additionally, Micron plans a $3 billion expansion of their Virginia plant, creating 1,100 new jobs.
The House of Delegates passed major incentive packages for both Amazon and Micron. Both packages are fiscally responsible and take important steps to safeguard taxpayers.
More importantly, though, the House passed a series of bills to build out a massive “tech-talent pipeline” that will give our students the right skills to succeed in the high-tech jobs that companies like Amazon and Micron are bringing to Virginia. These transformative ideas along new job creations will keep our economy growing, raising wages for everyone.
Our record on job creation in the Commonwealth is yet another of the 51 accomplishments by the 51 members of the Republican-led House of Delegates.
Mandate would force localities to fund more prosecutor positions for reviewing body camera footage
Localities in Virginia must each fund at least one prosecutor position for every 75 body-worn cameras deployed by their police departments, under language adopted by legislators in the state’s revised budget.
The move aims to alleviate the taxing workload faced by commonwealth’s attorneys across the state who must review and edit thousands of hours of video while conducting criminal investigations.
Keeping Our Children Safe in School
A main priority of each of our members this session was keeping our children safe in school. That is why it is another one of our 51 unique accomplishments of the 51 members of the Republican-led House of Delegates.
In March of last year, Speaker Cox formed the Select Committee on School Safety following the tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida. The Select Committee was the first of its kind in over 150 years in Virginia.
The committee presented a comprehensive final report with 24 priority recommendations that became nearly a dozen pieces of legislation that are now awaiting the Governor’s signature.
One piece of legislation will re-align the roles and responsibilities of school counselors to emphasize direct student services including emotional, behavioral, career, and life counseling and guidance. Right now, school counselors are often being asked to do a number of other duties – like test proctoring – instead of focusing on the needs of our students.
The budget also incorporates several key recommendations, including increased funding for new School Resource Officer positions in middle and high schools across the Commonwealth. The budget also provides additional funding and broadened purchase authority for the School Safety Equipment Grant Fund to assist local school divisions with school safety upgrades.
The final report also includes best practices for localities on mutual aid agreements, school design and security planning, and infrastructure improvements. While we do not want to create unfunded mandates, these proposals are smart and should be implemented by localities.
House of Delegates Adjourns 2019 Session — Passes Tax Relief, Balanced Budget & School Safety Legislation
The Virginia House of Delegates adjourned sine die on Sunday, concluding an overwhelmingly successful 2019 General Assembly session. The House of Delegates passed a $1 billion tax relief package, balanced the budget without raising taxes, advanced over a dozen measures to make schools safer, passed bills to make college more affordable, and acted on a package of legislation to address the rising cost of health insurance.
“I am proud of the work and accomplishments of the 2019 General Assembly Session,” said Speaker Kirk Cox (R – Colonial Heights). “The General Assembly brought stable leadership and delivered results on the issues that matter most at a time when the Commonwealth needed it most. Four-hundred years ago, Virginia set in motion an experiment in representative democracy. I consider it a high honor to have led this institution through its 400th year and am immensely proud of the work we accomplished.”
Once again, the House of Delegates steadfastly opposed policies that are bad for business and out of the mainstream. The House of Delegates defeated legislation that would have allowed abortions for virtually any reason up until the moment of birth, more than doubled the state minimum wage, increased the cost of taking a family vacation, restricted the second amendment rights of law-abiding citizens, and provided taxpayer funded food stamps to drug felons.
“The 2019 General Assembly Session should be an eye-opener for the people for Virginia,” said Majority Leader Todd Gilbert (R – Shenandoah). “The Republican-led General Assembly consistently delivered results on issues like tax relief, school safety, college affordability, and healthcare costs. That leadership stands in stark contrast to the chaos and embarrassment brought by the executive branch controversies, and the misplaced priorities of our Democratic colleagues.”
In just a few months, Virginia taxpayers will all be receiving rebate checks that are part of a $1 billion tax relief package championed by Republicans in the General Assembly. Most families will receive nearly $400 in direct tax relief over the next two years, including the $220 rebate checks later this year.
“The House of Delegates led the discussion on tax relief this year, pushing from the very beginning to return the money to taxpayers,” said Caucus Chairman Tim Hugo (R – Fairfax). “I am proud that my colleagues stood strong to prevent a tax increase and instead passed the most significant tax relief package in almost two decades.
The final budget agreement unwinds over $1 billion in spending proposed by Governor Northam, builds on our multi-year efforts to invest in a stronger economy, provides teacher pay raises, and includes $57 million to freeze tuition at colleges and universities. The budget does not include any tax increases, and deposits an additional $565.5 in the Revenue Reserve Fund bringing our total cash reserves to $1.45 billion. This reflects our prudent and responsible long-term approach Virginia takes to its finances.
“The biggest winners from this year’s budget are taxpayers,” said House Appropriations Chairman S. Chris Jones (R – Suffolk). “We balanced the budget without raising taxes, and responsibly used the resources we have to take major steps in public education and college affordability. This budget charts the right course for Virginia’s future.”
The House of Delegates also passed a package of transformative legislation to build Virginia’s “tech talent pipeline,” centralize Virginia’s research efforts, and create a new framework for collaboration between the state, colleges, and businesses.
“The 2019 General Assembly could prove to be a major turning point for Virginia’s economic future,” said Delegate Nick Rush (R-Montgomery). “We acted decisively to secure two major economic development deals with an innovative approach that should be a model for long-term economic development. By combining targeted incentives with significant investments in higher education and a new model for collaboration with the private sector, we have, in my mind, once again made Virginia the best state in the nation for business. But more important than that, these steps will lead to good paying jobs for the people of our Commonwealth.”
The House and Senate passed a robust school safety initiative to make our students and schools safer through threat prevention, counseling realignment and increased mental health services, and increased training for school personnel and school security. The House passed nearly a dozen pieces of legislation that were direct results of the 24 priority recommendations from the House Select Committee on School Safety.
“People expect us to do all we can to ensure their children are safe while in school,” said House Education Committee Chairman Steve Landes (R – Agusta). “Virginia has always been a leader in school safety, but the work of the Select Committee and the legislation we passed this year will set the course for other states to follow. We are making our schools – and our children – safer.”
General Assembly Kills ERA –
At Least For This Year
The General Assembly voted down an attempt to change House rules that would allow a floor debate and vote on the ERA after a sub-committee killed the measure earlier in February. Opponents of the ERA questioned the unintended consequences of language written in the 1970’s when applied to today’s social standards. Concerns included looser abortion laws, laws requiring 18-year old women to register for the draft, and the potential for a “genderless society,” where “equality among the sexes” would eliminate references to gender at all. Click here for more.
General Assembly Republicans Set to Advance $1 Billion Tax Relief Package to the Governor’s Desk by Next Week
Virginia General Assembly leaders are advancing twin bills to provide nearly $1 billion in tax relief. The House and Senate Finance Committees will both meet Friday to act on legislation that is expected to be voted on by the House and Senate on Monday, then forwarded to Governor Northam. The Senate Finance Committee will take up House Bill 2529, carried by Delegate Timothy D. Hugo (R-Fairfax), and the House Finance Committee will take up Senate Bill 1372, carried by Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (R-James City).
The bicameral compromise will provide $420 million in tax refunds to Virginia taxpayers in October of 2019, increase the standard deduction by fifty percent beginning in tax year 2019, maintain the current rules for state and local taxes (SALT), and include key business tax provisions for Virginia’s largest job creators. The total package will guarantee at least $976 million in tax relief and ensure that all additional revenues from the permanent provisions of Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are placed in the state’s cash reserve fund. The legislation also conforms Virginia tax law to the federal law but will not include an emergency clause.
Delegate Hugo’s Bill Will Guarantee $950M in Tax Relief
The Virginia House of Delegates passed a package of legislation Tuesday to guarantee at least $950 million in tax relief.
Legislation carried by Delegate Tim Hugo (HB2529) and Delegate Chris Jones (HB2533) works in tandem to ensure that all additional individual tax revenue from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is set aside in a Taxpayer Relief Fund and used to provide tax relief for those affected by federal and state tax law changes. The conformity legislation passed Tuesday without an emergency clause after 34 Democrats opposed the creation of a Taxpayer Relief Fund on Monday.
“Since we rolled out our tax relief plan last month, Republicans in the House of Delegates have been unified in our efforts to use increased revenues from the federal tax law changes to provide tax relief to middle-class taxpayers,” said House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights). “Our plan guarantees that all money from the federal tax law changes are put in a lockbox and returned to taxpayers. I appreciate Chairman Ware, Chairman Hugo, and Chairman Jones for their leadership on this important issue.”
House Bill 2533 conforms state tax law to federal tax law after the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, but without an emergency clause. On Monday, 34 Democrats opposed the legislation with an emergency clause, denying the 80 votes necessary for passage. On Tuesday, 32 Democrats opposed the legislation without an emergency clause. Without conformity legislation, Virginia taxpayers will have to make up to 50 modifications to their tax filings and the state tax department will not be able to process refunds. The legislation becomes effective July 1, after tax season is over.
“The House budget does not spend revenues from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and this legislation guarantees that revenue from the individual provisions will be placed in the Taxpayer Relief Fund,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk). “Virginians would be far better off if the House could adopt this legislation with an emergency clause, but unfortunately some of our colleagues are preventing that. The tax filing season will be significantly disrupted.”
House Bill 2529 allows taxpayers to itemize their state taxes regardless of how they file their federal return. This will allow middle-class families to receive the maximum amount of tax relief at the federal and state level. This will protect over 600,000 middle-class tax filers from a hidden tax increase. The proposal will also increases the state standard deduction from $3,000 to $4,000 for an individual and from $6,000 to $8,000 for a married couple. This will provide broad tax relief for 2.7 million Virginians who claim the standard deduction. This plan will fully implement the federal tax cuts at the state level, protecting a middle class family that itemizes from what could be an $805 tax increase or providing an additional $115 in tax relief to a family that chooses the standard deduction.
“This legislation is the most significant tax relief legislation to pass the House of Delegates in 15 years,” said House Republican Caucus Chairman Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax). “Our proposal keeps more money in the pockets of Virginians without costing the state one penny. Even after providing this tax relief, the state will have more money for teachers, transportation and other key services than it did last year. Our plan says “no” to a tax hike on the middle class and “yes” to cutting taxes for all Virginians. I appreciate the work of Chairman Ware, as well as my co-patrons, on this legislation.”
Dems and Gov. Northam Support Late Term Abortions
President Trump, Republican lawmakers in Virginia and conservatives across the country attacked Gov. Ralph Northam and other state Democrats on Wednesday after they defended a failed bill that sought to reduce restrictions on late-term abortions.
The furor escalated quickly after Republicans circulated a video of Del. Kathy Tran (D-Fairfax) acknowledging that her bill, like current law, would allow abortions up to the point of delivery in cases when the mother’s life or health was at serious risk. Northam, a pediatric neurologist, was asked about the issue in a radio interview and gave an answer that was later used by Republicans to suggest he favored killing live babies.
Republicans Get 5% Raise for Teachers!
In a speech on the floor of the Virginia House of Delegates Monday, Appropriations Committee Vice-Chairman Steve Landes (R) announced that the House budget to be released on Sunday will include a five percent pay raise for public school teachers, and does so without raising taxes on hard-working Virginians.
“I am proud of Chairman Jones and Vice-Chairman Landes for the hard work and dedication they have shown to ensuring our teachers know how much they are appreciated in the Commonwealth,” said Speaker Kirk Cox (R – Colonial Heights). “As a public school teacher for 30 years, I know how hard teachers work to educate Virginia’s future leaders. We must make it a priority to keep great teachers in the classroom and that starts with making sure our teachers a fairly compensated.”
“Providing teacher pay raises does not have to come with a tax on the middle class attached to it,” said Delegate Chris Jones (R – Suffolk), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “Under conservative leadership in the House of Delegates, this will be the fourth teacher pay raise in the last six years.”
Delegate Hugo’s Bill Will Reduce Classroom Overcrowding
Delegate Tim Hugo (R-40th District) introduced HB2646, which will reduce overcrowding in Virginia’s classrooms. If the bill is signed into law, it will reduce from 29 to 28 the maximum class size in kindergarten; from 30 to 28 the maximum class size in grades one, two, and three; and from 35 to 29 the maximum class size in grades four, five, and six.
Members of the Prince William County School Board recently met with Tim to discuss the bill and thank him for sponsoring this important legislation (pictured left to right: Loree Williams, Lillie Jesse, Del. Hugo, and Alyson Satterwhite).
Minimum Wage Increase Dies in State Senate
The first minimum wage bill in five years to make it to the floor of the one of the houses of Virginia’s legislature died Monday on a party line vote in the state Senate.
The bill, proposed by state Sen. Rosalyn Dance, D-Petersburg, would have increased the minimum wage in steps from the current $7.25 an hour to $15 by 2021.
After checking with the state’s central personnel office, Senator Tommy Norment said he learned that a $15 a hour minimum wage would boost the state government’s payroll cost by $20 million a year.
Republicans Welcome a Debate on Right To Work Law
In the 1940s, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers announced it was planning a strike against the Virginia Electric Power and Light Company, an effort to get higher wages. The governor at the time responded by drafting all the union’s members into a Virginia militia and ordered them to continue their jobs. The next year he signed Virginia’s right to work law, preventing employers from compelling employees to pay union dues.
This year, Democrats have introduced a bill that would reverse this law and compel workers to pay union dues whether they want to or not.
Republicans are taking unusual steps to send the bill to the House floor without having to vote in favor of the bill in committee, which will result in a public debate about business and labor. After debating the issue, it is expected that Republicans will kill the bill. Read the full story here.
Virginians Lose Tax Deductions – Without Legislation to Do So
Virginia’s economy is linked to Washington, D.C. in important ways—and so is its tax code, in reverse. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) cut federal taxes for most Virginians, but for many of them, it means higher taxes at the state level.
Virginia is one of only nine states which requires taxpayers who take the federal standard deduction (now a generous $12,200 for single filers and twice that for married couples) to also take the state’s standard deduction. In Virginia, it’s a comparatively stingy $3,000 standard deduction that about 650,000 filers will have to take, even though it would otherwise be to their advantage to itemize on their state return.
Numerous Bills Introduced on Early/Absentee Voting
The 2019 General Assembly had 29 bills introduced that concerned early/absentee voting including one (HB2130 – Guzman) that would require businesses to give paid time off to vote. HB1984 would make Election Day a state holiday. Some highlights:
HB1641 permits any registered voter to vote by absentee ballot in any election in which he is qualified to vote. The bill removes the current list of statutory reasons under which a person may be entitled to vote by absentee ballot. Senate Bills 114, 136, 254, and 602 offered similar provisions but were killed in committee. SB1035, SB1198, and SB1206 are still alive and is similar to the House version.
Several bills were introduced to create a new category of absentee voter — being 65 years old.
2019 General Assembly Starts January 9th
Virginia lawmakers will take up a host of hot-button issues in the 46-day election-year session that begins Wednesday, including gambling, redistricting, coal ash and school renovations. Read the full article here.
Hot Topic in 2019 General Assembly – Higher Tax Bill for Virginians
Virginians could face higher state tax bills this year.
The tax cuts approved by Congress doubled the standard deduction offered to people who do not itemize their federal returns. Virginia law requires people to use the same method of filing their state taxes they do on their federal.
The Commonwealth has not changed its standard deduction rate. If the legislature doesn’t change the standard deduction it is estimated the state will receive an extra $600 million every year until the federal tax cuts partially expire in 2024.
As the legislature prepares to open its 46 day session Jan. 9 Democrats and Republicans are lining up ways to deal with the excess revenue and those are expected to be a hot topic of the session. Read the full article here.
Hot Topic in 2019 General Assembly – Redistricting
When most people hear the word “redistricting,” their minds go numb…it’s just another thing that happens every couple of years behind closed doors, right? Wrong. It’s one of the most important responsibilities carried out by the legislature. The effects can be profound — potentially tipping the political control of the state in favor of one Party over the other for many years.
In two weeks, state lawmakers will meet in Richmond to kick off the 2019 session of the General Assembly. One thing already be on their minds is state political boundaries, which are set to be redrawn in two years.
A Democratic takeover of the General Assembly in 2019 will have a dramatic effect in Republican-held districts. Read the full article here.
PWC Democrat Leader Fined by the State Election Board
The Virginia Board of Elections voted unanimously Friday to assess a $500 civil fine against a former chairman of the Prince William County Democratic Committee in connection with campaign activity local Republicans say was intended to affect the outcome of last month’s special election for school board chairman.
The $500 fine amounts to a civil penalty against Harry Wiggins, a Lake Ridge resident behind the controversial “Republicans for Stanley Bender” political action committee. Read the full story here.
Governor Northam’s Big Spending Plans
“Unfortunately, it appears much of the proposed spending is predicated on allowing over 600,000 middle-class taxpayers to pay higher taxes. Before we can contemplate new spending, the General Assembly will have to resolve the governor’s willingness to allow by inaction a tax increase and the elimination of key deductions on mortgage interest and property taxes.” Read the full article here.
The Democrats representing Prince William County in the House of Delegates are supporting these spending proposals. We await their suggestions for paying for the new spending plans, which will likely mean tax increases.
Prince William’s Commonwealth’s Attorney Will Name Special Prosecutor to Investigate Questionable PAC
Prince William Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert said Monday he will name a special prosecutor to investigate “Republicans for Stanley Bender,” a political action committee (PAC) accused of breaking state laws to help Dr. Babur Lateef win the Nov. 6 special election for chairman of the county school board. The questionable PAC was established by Harry Wiggins, the former Chairman of the Prince William County Democratic Committee.
State Lawmakers Eye Tighter Oversight After Botched Cost Predictions Yielded $462.5M in Unexpected Medicaid Costs
Flubbed predictions of Virginia’s Medicaid costs have lawmakers eyeing tighter oversight of the program’s forecasting process after a surprise $462.5 million tab landed on the statehouse with a thud just as the state began enrolling newly eligible Virginians.
Read the full article here.
House of Delegates GOP Asks for 2019 Primary Schedule to be Delayed
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the long running Virginia redistricting case. The Supreme Court will hear the case in February and issue their ruling in June, the same month that primaries are now scheduled. Lawyers for Speaker of the House of Delegates Kirk Cox have asked the district court to suspend its efforts to re-draw the 11 districts in Virginia ruled to be gerrymander to make majority-minority districts.
Read the full article here.