As I reported last week, “Crossover,” the day the House of Delegates and the Senate were required to complete work on their own bills, was this past Tuesday, February 16th. Since then, we in the House of Delegates have been considering Senate bills and are presenting our bills on the Senate side of the Capitol. As I write this memo, four of my bills have already passed their assigned Senate committees. Our work the next three weeks will center on consideration of legislation from the Senate and consideration of the Biennial Budget. I will discuss the budget process below.
Of the thirty bills I filed as Chief Patron, fifteen have crossed over to the Senate. Five bills were carried over to 2017 so that I could continue to work on them in their assigned committees in the “off season” and bring back improved versions in 2017. Two bills were stricken at my request and the remaining eight bills were left in Committee. In addition to my Chief Patron bills, there are many other bills that I have spent time supporting as co-patron. As always, you can look at my legislation online at the Virginia Legislative Information System.
The 2016-2018 Biennial Budget – HB 30
I will share more information on the contents of the House budget next week, after I have had an opportunity to review the Appropriations Committee’s work product that will be unveiled this Sunday. I am confident that this proposed Biennial Budget will be a conservative, structurally balanced, and responsible state budget that carefully spends your taxpayer dollars while making strategic and targeted investments in the core functions of state government.
Our Virginia Constitution mandates a balanced budget, and that requires us to use conservative revenue projections. It is dangerous and inappropriate for the General Assembly to make optimistic and liberal projections of our state revenues, particularly when our economic growth numbers are not robust. While I have not seen this final work product of the Appropriations Committee, I am advised that it will also contribute to the state’s rainy day fund, fully fund the state’s annual contribution to the Virginia Retirement System two years ahead of schedule, and will protect our Triple-A bond rating.
The 2016-2018 Biennial Budget bill will be released at 1:00 pm on Sunday, February 21, in House Room D of the General Assembly Building, and will also be available online at that time at http://hac.virginia.gov. We are required to complete our work on the House budget bills by next Thursday, February 25th, and will vote that day on passage of the bill. Please feel free to e-mail or call me if you have any thoughts on this Budget Bill after it is posted online this Sunday.
House Legislative Priorities
The House of Delegates has had a productive and successful session thus far on bills relating to our top legislative priorities. Before Crossover, the House of Delegates considered nearly 1,400 bills. The majority of the bills represent the General Assembly’s work on areas relating to our top 2016 priorities; namely, jobs and economic development initiatives, transportation, and K-12 education. Below I will highlight key legislation in the areas of jobs and economic growth and education.
Jobs and economic growth
Along with the bipartisan GOVirginia initiatives, which promote a pro-business climate and foster job creation, as well as incentivize long-term economic growth and protect small businesses by reforming regulatory processes (as discussed in our Week Three Memo), several other bills have passed the House to stimulate the economy and create jobs.
- HB 451 (passed 99-0) establishes a commission to study economic opportunities for aspiring and diverse communities in Virginia.
- HB 515 (passed 97-1) requires colleges and universities to report on their contributions to economic development in Virginia in order to foster better collaboration with other colleges, state agencies and local governments.
- HB 185 (passed 98-0) expands the duties of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership to include encouraging the import of products and services from international markets to the Commonwealth.
Education is always a top priority for the House of Delegates. It is a gateway to jobs and opportunity for our citizenry. Legislation which I supported to strengthen financial aid, SOL’s and public school choice made its way through the House.
- HB 568 (passed 97-1) strengthens financial aid grant requirements to low income families.
- HB 894 (passed 98-0) builds on our past efforts to reform the Standards of Learning (SOL’s) increasing the membership of the SOL Innovation Committee to include a member of the higher education community.
- HB 961 (passed 98-0) allows colleges and universities to offer flat-fee degrees to students in high demand fields.
- HB 66 (passed 96-3) incentivizes community colleges to offer workforce training credentials in high-demand fields by offering grants to pay for tuition, books and supplies and training.
It is also appropriate here to give you a briefing on charter school legislation. As I write this memo, it does not appear that the Senate will approve the proposed amendment to the Constitution of Virginia giving concurrent jurisdiction to the State Board of Education to approve charter schools. Along with local school boards, I support charter schools as determined by our local school boards and cannot support unfunded mandates upon our localities by our state government.
“My Door is Always Open”
I was pleased to participate in a Virginia General Assembly public policy seminar with this year’s class from Leadership Loudoun who were in the General Assembly Building yesterday. The 2016 class of Leadership Loudoun marks the 25th year of a great 9-month program that identifies and supports rising community leaders.
Delegate Minchew speaking with the 2016 class of Loudoun Leadership
Delegate Minchew welcomes the members of the Dulles Area Association of Realtors
Also, I was happy to welcome our Realtors from the 10thDistrict. The Blue Ridge Association of Realtors (BRAR) and the Dulles Area Association of Realtors (DAAR) came to Richmond for “Realtor Day” on Wednesday. I also had the opportunity to congratulate Jeanette Newton on her retirement after 25 years as Executive Director of DAAR. Virginia’s Realtors play an important role in the economy of our region and are steadfast advocates for the American Dream of home ownership by our families.
Delegate Minchew presents Jeanette Newton a certificate for 25 years of service to DAAR
Lastly, I was honored to introduce Reverend Jim Wishmyer, Pastor of the Leesburg United Methodist Church, who gave the Invocation for the House of Delegates on Wednesday. The roots of the Leesburg United Methodist Church go back to 1766 when the founder of Leesburg, Nicholas Minor, conveyed original Leesburg Lot 50 to the Methodist Society. I have seen firsthand Reverend Wishmyer’s leadership in the Loudoun County faith community along with his stewardship of the church and a number of key community service organizations. On a personal note, I cannot thank the Leesburg United Methodist Church enough for serving as the charter organization for Boy Scout Troop 998 where I served as Scoutmaster for many years.