The 2016 General Assembly Session is officially over. Speaker Howell gaveled the close of the session at 8:31 pm last evening, March 11th, one day ahead of schedule. We will return to Richmond for the Reconvened Session on April 20th where we will consider the Governor’s recommendations to bills, as well as appropriations vetoed or amended by the Governor. No other business may be considered during the Reconvened Session.
Speaker Howell gavels the end of the 2016 Session.
The 2016-2018 Biennial Budget - HB 30
One of the most important duties of the General Assembly during the "Long Session" held in the even years is the adoption of the Biennial Budget that will fund our Commonwealth for two years commencing on July 1st, 2016. As happens with every Biennial Budget, a conference committee is established to reconcile the House and Senate approved versions. Afters hours of negotiations, the conference committee publishes a conference report that is presented to the House of Delegates and the Senate. At approximately 8:15 pm last night, both houses of the General Assembly passed the House Biennial Budget bill (HB 30). That approved bill now moves on the Governor's desk. In mid-April, we will return to Richmond to consider the Governor's proposed amendments to the biennial budget.
The budget negotiations were completed ahead of schedule this year. The bipartisan and bicameral agreement produced a fiscally conservative balanced budget focusing on Virginia’s priorities. The final vote of approval was 91-8 in the House and 39-1 in the Senate.
Investments in K-12 and higher education were made while eliminating state liabilities and reducing borrowing. There are no new tax or fee increases in this budget. I am pleased to report that the Cost to Compete supplemental appropriation critical for our region was included, as well as pay raises for teachers, state employees and state police. We also accelerated repayment of contributions to the state employee retirement system six years ahead of schedule.
Here are a few important aspects on the approved Budget:
- Provides more than $900 million in new funding for K-12 education
- Includes a 2% teacher pay raise in the first year of the budget
- Provides $114 million to colleges and universities to mitigate tuition increases
- Includes $48 million for undergraduate financial aid
- Includes a 3% pay raise in the first year of the budget for state employees and a 3% pay raise for state police
- Deposits $605 million in the state’s rainy day fund, restoring the fund to 90% of its previous balance
- Funds strategic and targeted investments in economic development to ensure Virginia remains competitive in attracting businesses and job opportunities
- Eliminates the Accelerated Sales Tax on more than 90% of businesses by the end of FY 2018
For more information on the budget, click on the image below.
Supreme Court of Virginia – Election of Justice
Unlike in the federal system, where the President nominates and Senate confirms judges, the Virginia Constitution (Article VI, Section 7) obligates the General Assembly to elect judges. On Tuesday, March 2nd, the House of Delegates and Senate failed to agree on the election of Justice Jane Roush to the Supreme Court of Virginia, who had been given a recess appointment by the Governor last summer. In my job as a lawyer, I have appeared before her and have always found her to be a bright and hard working judge. In the House Courts of Justice Committee, I participated in the hearing on her application and voted to find her qualified to serve. When her nomination came to the House floor, I voted to confirm her as a Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court. After Justice Roush's nomination failed, we considered another highly-qualified jurist, Judge Rossie D. Alston of the Virginia Court of Appeals. On Tuesday, March 8th, the House of Delegates and Senate again failed to agree on a resolution electing him to the Virginia Supreme Court.
Given our obligation to elect a justice to our highest court, we went back to work and interviewed a judge that both houses could confirm, namely, Judge Stephen R. McCollough of our Court of Appeals. Judge McCollough has served the Commonwealth with distinction for 19 years and was previously endorsed by all the major bar associations when he sought a Court of Appeals seat a few years ago. His nomination was confirmed in both houses on Thursday, March 10, 2016. I had the opportunity to question Judge McCollough in the House Courts of Justice Committee and was very impressed by the depth of his intellect. Whenever I interview prospective judges, I seek to find out about their commitment to the Rule of Law and belief in the primacy of our Virginia and United States Constitutions. Judge McCollough passed these tests with flying colors. If you would like to see some evidence of his brilliance, click here to review a superb law review article he wrote.
Part of the legislative process is the necessity of conference committees when the House of Delegates and Senate cannot agree on the text of a piece of legislation. These conference committees harmonize House and Senate versions of approved legislation. I served on four conference committees, duly appointed by the Speaker as one of three House conferees to serve with three Senate conferees appointed by their Committee on Rules. These conference committees convened meetings this week to resolve issues related to our ethics and eminent domain laws.
Of the 749 bills that have been communicated to the Governor for his action, I am pleased to report that six of my bills have already been signed by Governor McAuliffe with six more awaiting his action. Two bills have been carried over to 2017 for further review. Finally, three bills are awaiting review by a special subcommittee of the House Commerce and Labor Committee that will be meeting over the summer to work on specific energy bills, including bills pertaining to the advancement of solar energy and protection of historic resources threatened by new transmission lines.
My legislation is always accessible through the Virginia General Assembly website and by clicking here.
Reflections from Our Legislative Intern
I was tremendously thankful that I was given the opportunity to work for Delegate Minchew this session, both as a Leesburg resident and as a college student studying public policy. As a student, the ability to walk the halls of the General Assembly Building and absorb the workings of our Commonwealth government has been invaluable, and has afforded me with an inside look at what it takes to accomplish legislative action in Virginia’s General Assembly. While I am stilling learning the intricacies of the legislative process in the House of Delegates, the University of Richmond program that fosters General Assembly internships, as well as Delegate Minchew’s mentorship, ensured that I had a most enriching experience over the course of the last two months.
~ Written by Bobby McCurdy, University of Richmond Legislative Intern
Legislative Intern Bobby McCurdy with Delegate Minchew
As a citizen legislator, I will drive back home to Northern Virginia today. If you ever need me, I am available by appointment in the district and, although the General Assembly session has ended, my responsibilities to the citizens of the 10th District continues. Please call my district office at 703-777-1570 or email me directly at DelRMinchew@house.virginia.gov if you wish to discuss an issue of public policy or a problem with a state agency, schedule an appointment, or request my presence at an event. We pride ourselves on constituent service and look forward to helping you when my staff and I are back home.
As always, thank you for the opportunity to serve you and the citizens of the 10th District.