On Tuesday, we reached crossover. With the exception of the budget, the House of Delegates can only consider bills originating in the Senate and the Senate can only consider House bills. There were some momentous votes this past week.
Senate Bill 631, which was introduced by Senator George Barker, was considered by some to be a retraction of worker rights. In fact, it was a bill that was trying to set the record straight. Related legislation was introduced last year to improve overtime protections in Virginia. During session, you vote on the best information available, and sometimes you just do not have the best information. SB 631 accomplishes what we were trying to do last year and also sets up a workgroup to examine the issue and come up with a better solution for the future.
Senator Saslaw’s Senate Bill 727 establishes the Virginia Football Stadium Authority. I have heard from some constituents who are concerned about this legislation, characterizing it as corporate welfare for Dan Snyder. In fact, it was based on the economic development legislation that we have passed in response to many major economic development projects in the past. Most notably, over a decade ago we used the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority in an unsuccessful attempt to bring the former Montreal Expos, now the Washington Nationals, to Virginia.
It is clear that the newly named Washington Commanders are going to build a new stadium, and the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia are competing for the project. Locations in Prince William and Loudoun Counties are under consideration. Senator Saslaw’s bill sets up an Authority that has the ability to issue bonds to build a stadium and a campus, similar to the year-round entertainment districts seen in many modern athletic complexes. The sales tax revenue generated in the campus area will service the debt incurred by the bonds. If the revenues are insufficient, it is a matter between the bondholders, the team, and the owner. The legislation does not direct any state tax revenue towards the project and requires the team to sign a lease for at least 30 years. This is not a statement about Dan Snyder or about the Washington Commanders, rather it is about bringing jobs, investment, and tax revenue to Virginia.
Senate Bill 739, the joint effort between Senators Siobhan Dunnavant and Chap Petersen to keep schools open and strip local school boards of their ability to follow CDC guidance and require masks, passed the House quickly and came back from the Governor with four amendments. The four amendments are substantive. The first adds an emergency clause to the bill, meaning the bill takes effect as soon as it is signed by the Governor unless otherwise stated in the bill. A second one requires school divisions to comply by March 1. Another amendment ensures the Governor can still overrule the new law in the case of a public health crisis. The legislation passed the Senate 21 to 19. I voted no.
Three weeks remain in the 2022 Regular Session of the General Assembly. On Sunday, both the House and the Senate money committees will release versions of the budget. I can tell you that many hours from both Democratic and Republican members of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee have gone into producing a budget. Expect there to be stark differences between the House and the Senate budgets. I expect the House will incorporate all of the Governor’s proposed tax cuts. If you are interested, the meetings on Sunday will be live-streamed. The House Appropriations Committee is meeting at 1 p.m. and the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee is meeting at 4 p.m.
The Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee will incorporate the tax cut envisioned by the grocery tax compromise we reached several weeks ago and use the budget surplus to address some of the unmet needs, particularly in the areas of health and human services, throughout Virginia. I’ve listened to my constituents and worked hard to protect my priorities and theirs during the budgetary process. Nothing is perfect, but I expect that overall people will be pleased with what the Senate presents.
The next three weeks will be spent with each house considering the bills from the other chamber, but the bulk of the work will be to reach a compromise between the two versions of the budget. We will have to adjourn in March with a balanced budget that meets the needs of the majority of the Commonwealth.
Thank you again for the honor of serving you in the Senate of Virginia. If I may be of service to you, please reach out to my office at (804) 698-7525 or [email protected].