I hope your summer has been filled with fun and relaxation, whether you’ve stayed locally or ventured out to other regions. Since my last e-mail newsletter, new laws have gone into effect. For a full-report, I encourage you to review the Division of Legislative Services’ “In Due Course." Here are some bills that may be of interest to you and your family:
Grand larceny threshold increase (HB1550/SB105)
The law increases from $200 to $500 the threshold amount of money taken or value of goods taken at which the crime rises from petit larceny to grand larceny. As part of the Criminal Justice Reform Compromise, the General Assembly also strengthened the restitution laws in the Commonwealth. This new law allows a Defendant to remain on probation until restitution payments are complete, for up to 10 years, with review hearings monitoring compliance with restitution.
Unstructured recreational time for public elementary schools (HB1419/SB273)
Local schools boards can now provide elementary schools a certain amount of unstructured recreational time that is intended to develop teamwork, social skills, and overall physical fitness for students.
Student discipline; long-term suspension (HB1600)
The maximum length of a long-term suspension was reduced from 364 calendar days to 45 school days. Long-term suspension can extend beyond a 45-school-day period, if the offense involves weapons, drugs, serious bodily injury, or if the school board or division superintendent finds that aggravating circumstances exist.
Certification of use and dispensing CBD oil and THC-A oil (HB1251/SB726)
This law became effective on March 9, 2018, and provides that a practitioner may issue a written certification for the use of cannabidiol (CBD) or THC-A oil for the treatment or to alleviate the symptoms of any diagnosed condition or disease determined by the practitioner to benefit from such use. The law also increases the supply of CBD oil or THC-A oil a pharmaceutical process may dispense from a 30-day supply to a 90-day supply. This came at the recommendation of the Joint Commission on Health Care.
Horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering (HB1609)
Historical horse racing is now established as a form of horse racing. Historical horse racing is defined as a form of racing that creates pari-mutuel pools from wagers placed on previously conducted horse races and is hosted at a racetrack owned or operated by a significant infrastructure limited licensee or a satellite facility that is owned and operated by a significant infrastructure licensee or a nonprofit industry stakeholder organization recognized by the Virginia Racing Commission.
Local regulation of solar facilities (HB508/SB429)
A property owner may install a solar facility on the roof of a dwelling or other building to serve the electricity or thermal needs of that dwelling or building, provided that such installation is in compliance with any height and setback requirements in the zoning district as well as any provisions pertaining to any local historic or architectural preservation district.
Rear-facing child restraint devices (HB708)
Effective July 1, 2019, child restraint devices are prohibited from being forward-facing until, at least, the child reaches two years of age or until the child reaches the minimum weight limit for forward-facing car seats as prescribed by the manufacturer.
Public safety answering points; deployment of text to 911 (SB418)
Each public safety answering point (PSAP), by July 1, 2020, must be able to receive and process calls for emergency assistance via text message.
Use of handheld personal communications devices (HB1525)
There is now a mandatory fine of $250 for using a cellphone for reading emails or texting while operating a motor vehicle in a highway work zone when workers are present.
Electric Utility Regulation (SB966)
In lieu of the biennial review proceedings previously required, Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power will be subject to triennial reviews of their rates, terms, and conditions for generation, distribution, and transmission services. Dominion’s first review will be held in 2021, which is one year earlier than currently scheduled and Appalachian’s will be held in 2020 and will utilize the three 12-month test periods beginning January 1, 2018 and ending December 31, 2019. There is also a new rate adjustment clause for expenses of electric distribution grid transformation projects and declares that these projects be in the public interest. The cost of such projects may be recovered through a rate adjustment clause or a customer credit reinvestment offset.
Recycling Study (SB218)
The Department of Environmental Quality will study and then report to the General Assembly on how to improve recycling in Virginia over the next ten years by November 1, 2019. In addition, it adds the definition of Beneficial Use, Beneficiation Facility, and Recycling Center to the code all in an effort to improve recycling in the Commonwealth.
Pre-Filing Legislation for 2019
The General Assembly has already made preparations for the 2019 legislative session. As of July 16, legislators began pre-filing legislation for the coming year. If you have a concern with potential policy-related solutions, please reach out to my office. My office is happy to explore legislative possibilities that could improve the lives of citizens in our Commonwealth.
As I mentioned in my last update, on June 7th, Governor Northam signed the new state budget that expands eligibility for health coverage for up to 400,000 Virginia adults, beginning on January 1, 2019. There is still a great deal of work ahead to implement the changes to the Medicaid program, as outlined in the budget. If you are interested or seeking medicaid coverage, please read the eligibility requirements, the frequently asked questions, and visit www.CoverVA.org to learn more. There is also a toll-free number to call, 1-855-242-8282.
New coverage will apply to adults ages 19-64 with incomes under 138% of the Federal Poverty Level. For example, a single adult making $16,750 or less annually would meet income requirements. Coverage will include primary and acute care, behavioral health services, addiction and recovery treatment services, pharmacy services, and preventive care and treatment.
If you have any issues or questions, you are always welcome to contact my office at 804-698-1169.
Virginia is a Top State for Doing Business
This year, Virginia was named the 4th best state to do business in the country in CNBC’s 2018 “Top States for Business” ranking. Rising from #7 in 2017 and through bi-partisan efforts, Virginia’s highly-qualified workforce and increased educational opportunities have helped pave the way to 4th place. CNBC scores states in 10 categories, including economy, cost of living, and education. Virginia received high marks in workforce and business friendliness, but lower marks in the cost of living and cost of doing business. Read more about Virginia in comparison to other top ranked states here.
Exploring the Commonwealth
As much as I love our greater Richmond community, it is refreshing to visit other parts of the state to learn about their local economies and cultures. Recently, I had the opportunity to join the legislative Sportsmen's Caucus on a trip to St. Paul, Virginia, located in the southwestern region.Kayaking and floating down the Clinch River, as well as ATV riding on the Spearhead Trails, were highlights of the trip. Additionally, learning about the much needed economic growth of southwest Virginia was interesting and inspiring. This new economic development offers an opportunity for those affected by coal and manufacturing job losses.
Focusing on outdoor activity, the state and other organizations, like the Nature Conservancy, are purchasing plots of acreage along the Clinch River in order to develop a state park. In 2016, the General Assembly approved $2.5 million for the first phase, and the goal is for the park to stretch from Tazewell County through Russell, Wise, and Scott counties into Tennessee. The Clinch River, the “coral reef of North America,” is one of the world’s most biodiverse rivers and home to a large number of aquatic species and 46 mussel species, 20 of which are endangered. The Nature Conservancy is working with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to improve conservation and restoration efforts. If you are looking for an in-state vacation, I encourage you to consider southwest Virginia for your next trip. Feel free to reach out to me for tips on where to stay and what to do.
News from State Agencies
Paid Parental Leave and Child Care Options
Earlier this summer, Governor Northam issued two executive orders to provide support for state employees both at work and at home, which include paid parental leave and early child care and education. Executive Order Number Twelve authorizes paid parental leave for employees of executive branch state agencies, and provides up to eight weeks of paid parental leave to enable employees to care for and bond with a newborn, or for a child under the age of eighteen newly-placed for adoption, foster, or custodial care.
Executive Order Number Thirteen set up an Advisory Commission on Quality Child Care to study early child care and learning options for state employees. It will study the feasibility of providing evidence-based early care and learning programs for young children of state employees working on or around Capitol Square in Richmond. It will also explore the creation of similar programs for state workers in other parts of the Commonwealth.
I think this is an excellent step forward for parents working in the administration and hopefully will provide a model for potential legislation that can extend to all state employees. The Commonwealth needs to attract and retain talented state employees, and this is a great way to recognize those with young children and growing families. You can find more details at the Department of Human Resource Management’s website at www.dhrm.virginia.gov.
Virginia Retirement System
As a member of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), I had the opportunity to hear the Virginia Retirement System’s (VRS) report. The VRS hit its long-term target of increasing investment income by 7 percent in the recent fiscal year, and a new analysis suggests VRS should consider lowering the target for returns in the short term, which would range from 6.4 percent for the average annual return. The system will not reset contribution rates until 2019 for the next biennial budget. You can read more about the VRS report here, and if you are a state employee with questions about your VRS account, please contact my office at 804-698-1169 to be connected with a VRS representative who can assist you.
DMV - Virginia REAL ID and Veteran Indicator
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has begun its Virginia REAL ID Public Education Campaign ahead of the October 1, 2018 first issuance date.
On October 1, the DMV will begin offering Virginians the option of applying for a Virginia REAL ID compliant driver’s license or identification card. A REAL ID compliant credential allows the holder to prove their identity for certain federal purposes, like boarding a domestic flight or entering a military base. It will cost an additional $10 for the first issuance and will require applicants to come into the DMV with their required proof documents. The Department of Homeland Security’s enforcement of REAL ID regulations will begin on October 1, 2020. For more information, you can visit, www.dmvNOW.com/REALID.
The DMV is also now offering driver’s licenses and ID cards with a Veteran Indicator. As a result of recent legislation, the DMV has replaced its previously issued Veteran ID card with an optional Veteran Indicator on its driver’s licenses and ID cards. In the first week, the DMV issued 726 credentials with Veteran Indicators. If you currently hold a Virginia driver’s license or ID card, you can apply online for a replacement or renewal credential with the new Veteran Indicator. Customers who have already proven their Veteran Status can simply click “yes” to request an indicator on their new credential. Otherwise, customers can click a link to submit the required proof documents showing their discharge date and status. Applying for the indicator is free though standard fees apply to whatever credential they are requesting.
Serving on a State Board
Do you have a skill set or interest and would like to put it to use by serving on a state board or commission? Gubernatorial appointments are made on an ongoing basis with about 900 appointments being made throughout the year. There are three types of boards and commissions: Advisory, Policy, and Supervisory. Serving the Commonwealth of Virginia is both an honor and privilege, and I encourage you to seek opportunities that may be of interest to you. You can learn more at the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s website and here is the link to current open positions.
National Night Out
One of my favorite evenings of the year is coming up - National Night Out. A great evening to meet and fellowship with your neighbors and community. National Night Out is “America’s Night Out Against Crime.” Some neighborhoods have block parties, others have activities for youth or cookouts. There is also an opportunity to get to know your local public safety officers and elected officials. I always enjoy visiting several events in the 69th district and seeing the diversity of our Richmond community in full display.
To find out more information or register your neighborhood event, visit the City of Richmond’s website.
Richmond Peace Education Center’s Conflict Resolution Training
Today, our country and local communities are experiencing conflict both politically and culturally. If you are interested in gaining skills on how to effectively resolve disputes in a peaceful manner, then consider taking RPEC’s two-day conflict resolution training. This is open to both teachers and any adult interested and includes engaging group exercises where you can strengthen your communication, active and empathetic listening, and conflict problem-solving skills. This is a great tool to have under your belt at home, the workplace, the classroom and community. Learn more here.
The McShin Foundation’s Authentic Recovery Coach Training
Virginia and many other states are facing an opioid epidemic. Locally, the McShin Foundation is leading the way to help people with substance abuse issues seek long-term recovery, and they are ready to help you, or anyone interested, in becoming a “Recovery Coach.” Taking place monthly on the final Thursday and Friday, this is an opportunity to begin learning how to turn your lived experience into a career of helping others. You will learn how to remove barriers and obstacles to recovery and serve as a personal guide and mentor for people seeking or already in recovery. CEUs will be accepted through the NAADAC Certification Commission and the VA Certification Board. You can register and learn more information here.
Save the Date
I am excited and proud to announce my 7th annual Taste of the 69th District will be on Tuesday, October 16, 2018. Featuring 25+ restaurants from around the 69th district, this is an excellent opportunity to sample local cuisine as well as meet your neighbors and local elected officials, like myself. Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks.
It is an honor and privilege to serve you in the General Assembly. If you have questions, concerns, or need help with a state agency, please never hesitate to contact my office at 804-698-1169 or email me at email@example.com.
Betsy B. Carr