We are now one week away from the scheduled end of our 60-day legislative session. This week was a productive week for the House of Delegates. We are finishing committee work, reviewing amendments from the Senate, and continuing to work on the budget. As we wind down our General Assembly session, I want to update you on my legislation and other important topics.
Close the Door to Common Core:
My HB 259 prohibits the Virginia Board of Education (6 of the 8 current members are McAuliffe appointees) from implementing the Common Core State Standards without approval of the General Assembly. HB 259 passed with bipartisan support: in the House of Delegates, over 1/3 of the Democrat caucus supported this bill, and in the Senate, three Democrats voted for it. The Governor vetoed the bill this week, so we will vote to override him next week and try to get three more votes in the Senate.
Education Savings Accounts - Alive and Well:
Presenting my ESA bill to the Senate Finance Committee
Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) offer educational opportunity to all children, regardless of their circumstances in life. For three decades, states have tried to improve education outcomes by throwing more and more dollars at these challenges. This has yielded no significant academic improvement. Parental Choice ESAs are a proven example of problem solving with smart innovation, not endless appropriations. American voters overwhelmingly support school choice programs, including younger voters and minority groups. It’s time to give the people of Virginia what they are asking for - more education freedom through ESAs. Most important of all, through these accounts countless parents and children with disabilities in Virginia will be given the help they desperately need.
ESAs are endorsed by many leaders, including three of my distinguished constituents: Former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Education Dr. Barry Stern; former VP Virginia State Board of Education and former Virginia Delegate Winsome Sears; and Loudoun County School Board member Jill Turgeon
My Other Bills:
The marker board in the office where we track all my legislation
Clean Power Plan Update:
This past week, Governor McAuliffe announced his veto of Senate Bill 21, which is identical to a House bill that would require General Assembly approval before Virginia complies with President Obama’s Clean Power Plan regulations. This legislation would protect the Commonwealth from expending taxpayer resources on a set of unconstitutional regulations that are now being reviewed in court. In fact, the Supreme Court stayed the official implementation of the plan because it may be unconstitutional.
Because of the Governor’s veto, the House included a budget amendment that would prohibit any funds from being spent to comply with the Clean Power Plan. This budget amendment will effectively stop the Governor from continuing to implement this plan without approval of the Commonwealth’s elected representatives.
Domestic Violence Update:
The domestic violence legislation that passed the House earlier this session is making progress in the Senate. Several bills that would combat domestic violence by enacting tougher penalties for repeat offenders passed out of Senate committee and will be making their way onto the Senate floor in the next several days. Legislation to empower women to protect themselves from domestic violence offenders has already passed the Senate and is awaiting signature by the Governor. All of the bills received broad, bipartisan support and show that the House is leading the effort to combat domestic violence.
Last week, I detailed the House’s budget proposal. The House budget is a strong, conservative, and structurally balanced two-year budget that invests in the core functions of government while protecting taxpayer dollars and removing the Governor’s attempted Medicaid expansion. I am proud to report that our budget passed by a wide bipartisan margin in the House.
We now begin the budget conference process to work out the differences between the two budgets. The Speaker has named House Appropriations Committee Chairman S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk), Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman R. Steven Landes (R-Augusta), Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), Delegate John O’Bannon (R-Henrico), Delegate Tag Greason (R-Loudoun), and Delegate Luke Torian (D-Prince William) as the budget conferees.
The Senate and House conferees met throughout the week to discuss a final budget proposal. The House remains committed to conservative principles and ensuring the final budget does not contain any tax or fee increases, reduces the amount of bond borrowing, and increases the Commonwealth’s “rainy day fund” that acts as a savings account.
I am confident we will pass a budget before the General Assembly adjourns next week. We will also finish up conference committee agreements on many bills.
I will also be reaching out through the media on a couple of major issues. First, the proffer reform bill passed the legislature with broad bipartisan support, but the Loudoun Board of Supervisors is trying to enlist the Governor's help to kill it. I will have an Op-Ed in the Loudoun Times Mirror this week sharing some insights on why I support the bill. Second, this Thursday I will be holding a press conference on Attorney General Herring's refusal to fulfill his duty and respond to my request for an advisory opinion on the Sexual Orientation/ Gender Identity issue.
It will be a busy final week, but I am looking forward to being back home and seeing you around the district in the coming months!
Upcoming Public Meetings
I-66 Inside the Beltway Design Public Hearing
VDOT will host a Design Public Hearing for the Transform 66 Inside the Beltway Project. Information on how dynamically-priced toll lanes will operate on I-66 inside the Beltway, as well as proposed locations of toll gantries and pricing signs will be provided. The hearing will include the opportunity to view project displays and attend a formal presentation, followed by a public comment period.
Tuesday, March 8, 6-8 p.m., with a brief presentation beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Eagle Ridge Middle School Cafeteria
42901 Waxpool Road, Ashburn, VA 20148
Rt. 15 Interchange at Edwards Ferry & Fort Evans Roads
VDOT will hold its first public information meeting on proposals to relieve congestion, increase traffic capacity, and enhance safety along U.S. Route 15 at Edwards Ferry and Fort Evans Roads.
Thursday, March 10, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Leesburg Elementary School
323 Plaza Street NE, Leesburg, VA 20176.
The meeting will be an open-house format with VDOT staff on hand to discuss project information and answer questions.
Rt. 15 Interchange at Edwards Ferry & Fort Evans Roads project area
Loudoun's Real Estate Tax Relief Program
Commissioner of the Revenue Robert S. Wertz Jr. has scheduled free information sessions during March to familiarize residents with the eligibility criteria.
Loudoun County homeowners age 65 or older or with disabilities, that are below established income and wealth limits may benefit from a reduction in the amount of property taxes they pay. No appointment or RSVP is required to attend these free sessions.
Thursday, March 10, 10:30 AM, Purcellville Library
Tuesday, March 29, 10:30 AM, Rust Library
Additional information about the program is available online here.