The 2019 General Assembly session is entering its final week! It’s hard to believe the session is almost over, but let me say it has been an honor once again serving you in the House of Delegates. Even though it's our last week, we still have a lot to do. There are have hundreds of bills to vote on and send to the Governor’s desk, plus conferees are making final adjustments to the budget. Here are some recent highlights...
House and Senate Overwhelmingly Approve $1 Billion Tax Relief Package!
Good News! Not only will you be protected from the Democrats' middle class tax increase, thanks to Republicans in the House and Senate, but come October you will also receive a rebate check in the mail. This is in addition to any tax refund you will be receiving in the next few months. Tax relief for the middle class was a major priority of House Republicans this year, and I am proud that we were able to pass this legislation.
The legislation will provide $420 million to Virginia taxpayers later this year, in the form of tax rebates of $110 for individual filers and $220 for married couples. It raises the standard deduction by fifty percent beginning in tax year 2019, the first such change for individual filers since 1989. The bill also maintains the current rules for state and local taxes (SALT), and includes key provisions for job creating businesses.
In total, the legislation will guarantee at least $976 million in tax relief and ensure that all additional revenues from the permanent provisions of the federal 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, ensuring Virginians will be able to file their state taxes without complications this May.
I am proud to have voted to support this legislation. You sent me to Richmond to fight for lower taxes and to put more money back in your pocket. It has been a very successful session in that regard. I strongly urge Governor Northam to sign this legislation.
Completing work on the Budget
The House and Senate have advanced similar budget proposals over the last week that work in tandem with the tax relief plan. The House budget eliminated all spending based on the tax increase proposed by Governor Northam. The House budget identified $120 million in healthcare savings and made a major commitment to reducing unfunded liabilities, eliminating over $700 million in spending over the next 25 years. The budget builds on our multi-year efforts to responsibly invest in a stronger economy, provide more funding and flexibility to local schools, and make college more affordable.
In K-12 education, the budget provides $155 million in increased funding, includes funding for a five percent teacher pay raise, and returns 45% of lottery money to local schools with no strings attached.
School Safety has been a top priority for the House this year and the budget includes $12 million in school safety initiatives, including more funding for school security equipment, School Resource Officers, and other innovative solutions that will help keep our kids safe in schools.
The House and Senate will negotiate the final terms of the budget over the next few days. If the Senate accepts House language to prevent taxpayer-funded late-term abortions of children who may be handicapped, I look forward to supporting a final budget that is conservative and limits the size of government.
New Judges for Commonwealth and Local Circuits
On Thursday, the General Assembly elected Virginia Court of Appeals Judge Teresa M. Chafin to the Supreme Court of Virginia. This is fantastic news for our Commonwealth, as the Supreme Court of Virginia will be well served by the addition of Justice Chafin.
This continues the Republican-led General Assembly’s long track record of elevating women to judgeships across the Commonwealth. Since Republicans have controlled at least one chamber of the General Assembly in 2001, over 100 women have been elected to judgeships across the Commonwealth, including four women who have been elected to full terms on the Supreme Court of Virginia.
We also elected Clifford L. Athey, Jr. to replace Judge Chafin on the Virginia Court of Appeals, as well as six additional judges to various positions in the Circuits which serve Loudoun (20th), and Clarke and Frederick Counties (26th). Since Judge Athey was serving on the 26th Circuit, we now have the opportunity to replace him on that circuit as well.
Circuit Court Judges
James E. Plowman, Twentieth Judicial Circuit
Kevin C. Black, Twenty-sixth Judicial Circuit
William W. Sharp, Twenty-sixth Judicial Circuit
Juvenile and Domestic Relations (JDR) Judges
Rachel E. Figura, Twenty-sixth Judicial District
Daryl L. Funk, Twenty-sixth Judicial District
Chad A. Logan, Twenty-sixth Judicial District
Bills already sent to the Governor
The General Assembly has already completed its work on a number of bills, and they are awaiting the Governor’s signature. Besides the tax relief bills, some other major priorities of the House Republican Caucus are already awaiting the Governor’s signature. They include bills to make schools safer, a bill to stop teenage vaping by raising the age to 21, and a bill to clean up coal ash ponds across the state.
I had six of my bills "cross over" from the House to the Senate; unfortunately, three of them were defeated in Senate Committees, leaving me with three bills going to the Governor. I'll give a more thorough recap of all my legislation later, but here's the latest on those which saw Senate consideration last week.
Monday morning, my HB2570, which would have changed the "Family Life Education" courses from allowing a parental "Opt-out" to requiring informed consent from parents via an "Opt-in" process, received a lengthy hearing. Eventually, it failed 5-10 in the Senate Education and Health Committee Thursday.
Tuesday afternoon, my HB2569, streamlining the zoning approval process for small in-home day care facilities, passed the Senate Local Government Committee. Also unanimously approved was my HB2572, rewriting the Berryville Town Charter. The Berryville bill is now on its way to the Governor, while the day care bill has to come back to the House to approve a Senate amendment.
Wednesday was another long day, with session going from Noon to about 8pm, but there were a couple of breaks. During one of these breaks, the Senate Transportation Committee heard my bill protecting access to handicapped parking spaces, and it passed unanimously. It will be heading to the Governor this week.
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. We are here to serve you! You can reach us at info@voteLaRock.us, 540-751-8364, Facebook, and Twitter