The 2018 legislative session of the Virginia General Assembly adjourned sine die on March 10, with unfinished business. The House of Delegates and Senate budget negotiators were unable to reach a compromise before the General Assembly adjourned. Governor Northam has now called a special session April 11, for the Assembly to complete work on the budget for 2019-2020 and for the remainder of 2018, which is called the “caboose budget.”
Expansion of health care coverage for low-income Virginians remains the major conflict between the House and Senate budgets. The House budget provides for this expansion using federal dollars, thereby providing savings to be used in crucial areas such as education and public safety. The Senate budget did not expand health care coverage, and thus had significantly less to spend on other areas. As noted by Mayor Stoney, the House version of the budget has an additional $2 million for Richmond Public Schools. I supported the House version of the budget, as did my House colleagues from the Richmond delegation.
As I wrote earlier, the General Assembly passed legislation that I introduced this session. The Richmond Times-Dispatchfeatured an article on my HB 594 which gives localities another tool to help combat criminal blight. The Virginia Housing Commission, on which I serve, worked with the City of Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham on this issue. Chief Durham wanted additional tools to combat situations including prostitution and excessive calls for service due to drugs and other crimes at the same locations. Each individual locality in the state will now be able to set up an ordinance within the scope of the law passed by the General Assembly.
The General Assembly also passed my bill HB 609, which will improve safety in homes that are rented. The bill lays out guidelines for how and when landlords must install and update smoke alarms in their managed properties. This will help ensure that dwellers have sufficient time to reach safety if a fire or smoke incident does occur.
My bills HB 590 and HB 591 will make it easier for land banks and land trusts to acquire property that they can develop, and ensure that the property then remains affordable for the long term. Entities such as Richmond’s own Maggie Walker Community Land Trust will be able to benefit from this type of legislation, a continuation of legislation that I have worked on for serveral years with colleagues on the Housing Commission.
Other legislative efforts during the 2018 session included reforms to school suspensions, an increase in the felony larceny threshold so that we can ensure that one mistake does not ruin an entire life and the expansion of the state revenue reserve funds. The expansion of state revenue reserves is important because it is one of the top priorities of the bond rating agencies. Virginia needs to exceed compliance with these regulations so that we can continue to borrow money for capital construction projects and other needs at the lowest possible interest rate in the market, thus saving the most taxpayer money possible.
A discussion of other legislation that will affect everyday life for Virginians can be found in this article printed in The Virginian-Pilot.
After the Special Session of the General Assembly on April 11, the regularly scheduled Reconvened Session, which meets 6 weeks after the sine die adjournment, will take place April 18. During that session the legislature approves the Governor’s bill and budget amendments.
During the coming months, committees and commissions on which I serve – the Advisory Council on Economic Justice, the Appropriations Committee, the Housing Commission, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, and the Joint Rules Committee – will continue to hold meetings.
In addition, neighborhood and civic groups will hold their regular and special annual meetings, clean-ups, house and garden tours, block parties, spring markets and family festivals. Please let my office know if you would like more information.
It is a tremendous honor to serve you in the House of Delegates. I am available to meet with any constituents throughout the year in my office or in their local district community.
Please never hesitate to contact me if I can be helpful with a state agency or with legislative information. My phone number is 804-698-1069 and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to our continuing work together.