Hello again to my friends in the 33rd District. I hope this update helps you keep track of what’s happening in the 2017 Session of the General Assembly.
This week marked the official halfway point of the 2017 Session, also known as "Crossover." My Constitutional Amendment, on page 98 of the day's calendar, was the final legislation acted on in Monday's 10am to 7:25pm marathon session. Final votes were on Tuesday, and then the Budget was considered Wednesday and Thursday.
For the remainder of this session, the House will consider legislation passed in the Senate and accept or reject Senate amendments to House bills. Additionally, the House formally passed our version of the budget bill this week. It will now go into "conference" between House conferees and their Senate counterparts to finalize a budget that will be sent to the Governor for his signature.
A few key elements of the House budget bill:
- Includes a 3% pay raise for the Virginia State Police, Sheriffs and higher education classified personnel
- Raises the starting salary for the Virginia State Police
- Allocates funds to help Sheriff's Deputies deal with salary compression issues
- Increases the amount of lottery funds directly returned to localities for education from 29% to 40%, sending $219 million back to localities with no strings attached. School divisions will be able to use these additional funds for teacher pay raises that do not require a local match.
- Restores a portion of the $78 million cut from higher education in the Governor's budget
- Does not include any tax or fee increases for hard working Virginians
Today my welfare spending reform bill was passed out of a full Senate committee on a party line vote. It will help identify people applying for or receiving public assistance who are not eligible and help Virginia avoid handing out millions of taxpayer dollars to ineligible persons.
This is a common sense anti-fraud initiative that ensures individuals receiving welfare benefits actually qualify. It will require the local director or commissioner to use existing databases to verify each applicant’s eligibility for assistance by checking Identity, income, assets, death records, lottery winnings, and correctional status.
Evidence from other states where this effort has been made has exposed significant fraud. For example- Illinois in 2010 audited their Medicaid program and found over 14,000 dead people on Medicaid rolls. Arkansas in 2014 took a look at their Medicaid enrollees and found 3% were ineligible. The savings to Virginia taxpayers would be significant.
For lawmakers this is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to responsible management of taxpayer dollars by rooting out and eliminating waste, fraud and abuse.
Protecting Lives: Heroin Epidemic and Naloxone
Great news on my House Bill 1453 which appears to be close to passing out of the Senate without a single no vote in House or Senate. It has an emergency clause which means that once passed it will begin saving lives as soon as the Governor signs it. The bill was brought to me by Lisa Wilkins, a constituent from Berryville.
Opioid overdose is now the number one cause of accidental death in Virginia. To stop this, we must increase public access to the opioid overdose antidote, Naloxone. Naloxone/Narcan is an extremely safe medication that has saved many thousands of people from overdose death. The problem is that most of the people who need it don't have it. Pharmacies may now dispense Naloxone without a prescription, but logistical, financial, and stigma-related reasons keep some of the most at-risk individuals from getting it there, and many pharmacies do not carry it. HB 1453 will greatly increase the availability of this medication for the people who need it most by allowing state certified overdose reversal instructors to give it out at their trainings in the community – and save more lives.
Protecting Lives: The Unborn
As the chief patron of HB1473, the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, I owe you an update. We hoped and prayed for an immediate victory this year which would have sent this bill to Governor McAuliffe in spite of his promise to veto it. However, we are past the point where the procedure limiting how bills pass from House to Senate makes passage in 2017 possible. While we are continuing to pray and work to advance this effort, which we know is according to His purposes, we are now looking at an expanded timeline.
We want you to know that your prayers are being answered and seeds have been sown this Session. Over the next two weeks while legislators are gathered in Richmond, we will continue working to change hearts and minds. Please double your efforts with us because protecting little boys and girls in important to God and to us and we are in this battle for as long as it takes.
Yesterday, we shared this flyer with all 140 members of the legislature. Miss Pennsylvania 2014 is a living example of the lost human potential that results from the taking of a life in an abortion.
Transportation Funding - Constitutional Lockbox
Last but not least, I’m spending every free moment I can find recruiting support for a resolution that proposes protecting against those who ignore the importance of keeping transportation dollars for transportation. HJ 693 Transportation Lockbox provides greater security that funds will be spent as intended. It also will bring more bidders for projects when funds appropriated are not repurposed. It is supported by the business community and sends the message that we are serious about getting the economy going, facilitating commerce and restoring aging infrastructure.
You can look at all my bills here.
Visits from constituents have slowed down somewhat, but we did still have several folks come by. Here are some highlights from the week.
Emily Welty and others representing Physician Assistants
Nicole and Angela Apintiloaiei, Wendy King, and Anthony Bauer visited regarding the Loudoun County Public Schools AP programs
Wednesday was a beautiful day at Jefferson's Capitol!
Wednesday afternoon, we received a briefing on the budget amendments approved by the Appropriations Committee. I was pleased to see funding for coyote and black vulture control, which has been a major problem for agriculture in our district. Start-up funding for Education Savings Accounts was also included.
Del. Minchew and I met with Leadership Loudoun, including four constituents, Thursday morning
Pamela Saenz-Zulueta of Leesburg came by to talk about the importance of clean water.
I appreciate those of you who have contacted us or visited us the last few weeks; please know that I do receive and listen to your input, even if you haven't received a response back from me yet.
P.S. I will be providing you with these Session Updates throughout the 2017 General Assembly Session. I encourage you to keep in touch with me and my office over the coming months. I value the feedback you provide on a continual basis as it helps me do a better job of representing you. If I can be of assistance in any way, please do not hesitate to email me at DelDLaRock@house.virginia.gov or call me at 540-751-8364. You can also follow me via social media on Facebook and Twitter.