The 2019 Regular Session of the General Assembly is now over. For the books, we adjourned one day late due to the length of discussions over the budget. A budget agreement was not reached until the morning of February 23. We amended the rules several years ago to require posting of the budget 48 hours before the vote. Even with the extra day, we did not comply with the rules. The budget work during the short session consists solely of amending the two year budget we adopted the prior year. However, there is good reason to allow an intentional “waiting period” before a final vote is taken. [Read more…]
The last week of the 2019 General Assembly Session is drawing to a close. Conference committees are trying rapidly to come to agreement and produce a final compromise. The budget conferees just reached agreement, and the details should be available soon. I will provide an update on the budget in the coming days.
I’ve been using some time this past week to meet with various shareholders to make certain that the work of the Joint Subcommittee on Mental Health is planned out for the next nine months or so. I carried legislation (SJ 301) this year that passed both the House and the Senate extending the work of the Subcommittee through 2021. What I have found is that despite our best intentions to complete the work in timely manner, the work goes on. Transforming mental health care into a true system is monumental work. The slow progress is frustrating but ultimately rewarding. [Read more…]
Only one week remains of the 2019 Session the General Assembly. Bills are being heard and meeting their fates at an ever quicker pace. Multiple meetings are scheduled at the same time. Legislators, staff, interested citizens, and lobbyists are all running around trying to protect their turf or see that their interests are being met.
This past week, any legislation dealing with revenues had to be considered by both houses and put into conference if the two chambers had any disagreement over the language of the bills. Conference committees generally are made up of three senators and three delegates. The most significant conference committee appointed every year is on the budget. Seven members of each chamber achieve that coveted assignment. Unlike past years, broad agreement exists already on key elements of the budget. Over $900 million of the surplus will be returned to citizens over the biennium through larger tax returns and in a one-time payment later this year.
Even with the rebates, this budget invests considerable new money into a number of priorities. The budget will include a 5% pay increase for teachers and significant expenditures on mental health services. The full funding of the earned income tax credit, as the Governor proposed, is no longer under consideration. That proposal would have helped those who struggle the most financially. [Read more…]
A lot of turmoil has embroiled many of the top officials in Richmond over the past week. Amidst the uncertainty and onslaught of national media, we must focus on the work at hand. We only have until February 23 to act on hundreds of bills and finalize the budget. With crossover behind us, I can report on a number of controversial topics.
We came into the 2019 session with bold ideas to fix Interstate 81. As I’ve said before, I-81 is the economic lifeline of western Virginia. Due in large part to the high volume of truck traffic, drivers cannot rely upon traveling on I-81 in a timely manner. Traffic is often stopped, sometimes for long periods of time, due to accidents. Last year the General Assembly directed the Commonwealth Transportation Board to develop a plan (Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Plan) to address the problems. While a plan was developed, consensus was not reached. As a result, multiple approaches developed and were put forward by legislators in the corridor. [Read more…]
The 2019 Session has almost reached crossover, the point at which the Senate and House can only consider legislation introduced in the other chamber. While the date falls just past the midpoint of each session, it is considered halftime. The big issues remain unresolved.
Hundreds of bills have been discussed and have met their fates. For example, the ERA does not appear that it will pass although there was talk of resurrecting the legislation in the House. Many of the Governor’s gun safety proposals were rejected in both the House and the Senate. While many more conversations remain on the transportation bills, many of the big issues seem unresolved. The budget remains in the state of flux. [Read more…]