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…]
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…]
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…]
We are rapidly moving through the 2019 short session. One of the main sticking points is disagreement over how to use the budget surplus. The parties are in a stalemate over routine tax conformity questions and larger policy issues.
Every year, one of the first pieces of legislation to pass is a tax conformity bill that brings our definitions in line with the federal government as it relates to taxes. Unless we pass legislation soon, Virginians may need to delay the filing of their tax returns. Of course, the federal government is shut down, so we do not know when tax returns can get processed or refunds issued. If we don’t conform to federal policy, we will make the process of filing state returns nearly impossible and drive up the cost of doing so. Therefore, I join with many of my colleagues to urge conformity as soon as possible. The Virginia Association of Certified Public Accountants put together a helpful frequently asked questions about this matter.
Much attention has been paid in recent years to the way districts are drawn in Virginia. Many, including me, blame many of the problems in government to the polarization that partisan redistricting produces. This is the primary reason I have pushed redistricting reform for many years. The Senate Privileges and Elections Committee had three distinct approaches to consider this year. [Read more…]
The 2019 Session of the General Assembly is underway. This is a short session, set to adjourn on the 23rd of February. The Session began with a committee meeting and a speech from the Governor.
Usually it takes several days of preliminary work before the real action begins. This year, however, on the first day of session, the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections met to consider certain constitutional amendments. Most constitutional amendments simply aim to put a matter on the ballot to let the people decide. Typically I have had no problem putting things on the ballot so the people could have their voices heard. The one notable exception to the rule this year was the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The ERA legislation does not require a ballot initiative rather it only requires ratification by the Virginia General Assembly to make the ERA part of the U.S. Constitution.[Read more…]