Crossover Week Update from Richmond
February 19, 2018

Last Tuesday was crossover in the General Assembly. It marks the halfway point of the legislative session when each chamber is required to complete work on its own bills. At the conclusion of crossover, the Senate had passed 591 Senate bills and resolutions and defeated 410.  

The time leading up to crossover is consumed by long sessions and lengthy debates, with the most controversial votes left until the end when details are finally refined. This time those bills were healthcare, energy, and infrastructure bills.


Addressing Health Care Costs
Among the most significant measures that passed last week were a series of health care bills providing relief to Virginians facing exorbitant premiums and staggering out of pocket expenses. SB935 creates small business pools, leveraging combined buying power to negotiate lower rates for coverage. SB844 increases private market participation and choice by requiring insurers doing business with Virginia to also offer plans on the private market. This is intended to prevent scenarios like in Charlottesville, where insurers left the area and then reentered the marketplace with premiums more than 300% higher than before. The bill also extends short-term health insurance coverage limits from 90 days to 364 days with potential option for renewal. 
SB964 also passed, permitting patients to choose catastrophic coverage policies which contain essential benefits with affordable premiums. It helps young professionals, entrepreneurs and those on tight budgets obtain coverage. Finally, we approved SB 915 which expands funding for mental health services, addiction treatment, and additional Priority One ID/DD wavers to help clear our backlog of those waiting for services, who now number more than 3,400. 

Expanding Utility Regulation
Another of the hotly debated subjects dealt with protecting customers of certain regulated utilities like Dominion. The primary bill would reinstitute periodic rate reviews by state regulators which are not happening now. Rates had been frozen in 2015 in anticipation of higher costs imposed by federal regulations. Those higher costs did not materialize, so it was important to pass legislation allowing for rate reviews which protect consumers.

We passed such a bill and while the review schedule and rebates are not as aggressive as I might have hoped, the bill sent to us from committee was a compromise and a step forward. The bill is still a work in progress and has wide support in concept, since virtually everyone believes that the status quo is terrible policy and unfair for ratepayers. The full Senate passed a version of the bill that had a broad coalition of supporters which included consumer advocates, business groups, the Governor, and conservation groups like the League of Conservation Voters. In addition to addressing rates, the bill directs surplus profits to needed grid modernization, improving energy security and incorporating more clean, renewable sources into our energy mix. The bill provides for a major expansion of investment in solar production. According to the Sierra Club, in 2016, Virginia had 238 megawatts of installed solar capacity and this bill would provide for expansion to 4,000 megawatts.


Our Budget
The most significant event came Sunday evening when the Senate Finance Committee on which I serve voted to pass the Senate budget. This balanced budget ensures Virginia will remain one of the nation’s most fiscally responsible states while protecting our coveted AAA bond rating. By setting clear priorities, we have been able to increase funding for public education by $565.8 million over the last biennium, all without raising taxes. This budget also increases need-based aid for higher education, as well as makes significant investments in much-needed rural broadband expansion. Additionally, it sets a high priority on directing money to improve mental health care, fight opioid abuse, and help students with special needs. While this bill substantially increases funding for health care services using existing revenues, it did not include full Medicaid expansion or the proposed “hospital tax” used to pay for it.

Other Measures
Some important measures which passed the Senate with my support and are now before the House include:
  • Measures to strengthen our prescription monitoring programs as part of our fight against opioid abuse.
  • Legislation developing a plan of action to reduce congestion on I-81.
  • A bill reducing fees for credit report freezes.
  • A restriction on using state funds in animal research on dogs and cats.
  • A measure increasing the grand larceny threshold as part of a bipartisan compromise on criminal justice reform and strengthened restitution requirements.
  • Legislation requiring compactness in Congressional and state legislative districts, as part of my fight against gerrymandering.
  • A measure to protect children by strengthening reporting of abuse and neglect.
  • A bill to train school bus drivers to better serve students with autism.
  • Legislation expanding Virginia’s production of industrial hemp.
  • New protections for taxpayers whose personal information is compromised while in the care of their tax preparer.
  • A bill legalizing non-psychoactive CBD oil when recommended by a patient’s doctor.
  • Several measures to fight voter fraud through better electronic verification of new registrations.
  • Legislation requiring student loan servicers to be licensed and subject to oversight.
  • A measure helping better coordinate the deployment of fiber optic infrastructure in public rights-of-way, as part of my commitment to expand broadband access.
  • Measures eliminating the possibility of jail time for first-time personal-use marijuana possession.
  • Legislation to strengthen our fair housing laws and protect tenant rights.
  • A bill increasing open space conservation in conversion transactions.
  • Legislation to fight human trafficking through heightened awareness of victim support resources.

I urge you to contact our office any time that you have questions or concerns. I can be reached during the General Assembly session at 804-698-7527 or by email at district27@senate.virginia.gov. Our office appreciates the opportunity to serve and we are very grateful for your continued support.



Senator Jill H. Vogel

Session Update from Richmond
February 09, 2018


Business in the Virginia Senate continues at a diligent pace with two months to complete this year’s business. So far, we have acted on 775 bills, passing 313 and laying the groundwork for many important proposals we will study over the summer and fall.

My Bills

Autism Insurance Coverage: Last week, my bill extending health insurance coverage for children with autism passed unanimously out of its final committee. When I first started working on this issue in 2009, it seemed as if the weight of opposition made this insurmountable. Finally, after years of work we secured coverage for diagnosis and treatment of autism through age 10. This year, I am hopeful that we finally extend this life changing coverage to age 18.

Fighting Opioid Abuse: Tackling Virginia’s opioid epidemic is one of my priorities this session. My first bill on the subject required pharmacies to take back unused prescription medications, while the other helped crack down on “pill mills” through better wholesale supply chain tracking. Just this week, it was reported that 20.8 million opioid pills were shipped to one town of 2900 people in West Virginia. We have to do more to address this issue and I am proud that we made progress on both bills and look forward to further study in the year ahead, as we work with all stakeholders on getting both life-saving bills passed into law. This will help curb misuse while also protecting legitimate patients who need their medication.

Strengthening Ethics: Last week I also presented my bill prohibiting candidates from spending campaign funds on personal expenses. Unfortunately, it did not pass in committee. I am sorry to see this ethics measure fail but I will continue working until we join the 47 other states which prohibit the practice. Read News 8's coverage of this issue here.

A New Addiction Treatment Facility: This week I successfully advanced legislation which would transfer surplus state property to Clarke County. Among the priorities in Clarke County has been to support a growing need in the region for addiction treatment and recovery services and the hope is to use a portion of the property to support that project.

Working to Lower Health Care Costs: Also this week I presented a bill to increase competition and choice in health care by expanding options for MRI and CT scans in our community. As health plan changes classify fewer imaging centers as in-network and healthcare options generally become less affordable, my constituents continue to request measures to create more competition and better choices. The bill was carried over for the year for further study.

Risk-Limiting Post-Election Audits: I advanced a bill out of committee this week to provide for post-election audits which verify the accuracy of reported vote totals and proper functioning of election equipment. After working with registrars, technical experts and non-partisan advocacy groups, I am pleased that we have agreement on legislation creating a panel of experts to develop the policies and statistical procedures we need for this important goal.


Virginia's Budget & Other Issues

Our work continues on other important issues, from relieving congestion and improving safety on I-81, to ensuring we protect agriculture and our environment. In response to your concerns, we have also debated legislation addressing the exorbitant tolls on I-66.

In the Senate Finance Committee on which I serve, we continue to work to construct a balanced and fiscally responsible budget without tax hikes. Billions of dollars are at stake and there are 508 separate budget amendments to be heard. We will examine every dollar in the budget to ensure taxpayer money is spent wisely and on our highest priorities.

For our district, I am working hard to secure funding for a new career and technical education center, a new local barracks for our state police, and additional resources to protect survivors of domestic violence among other measures.

While public attention often focuses on high profile issues which generate the most headlines, we work on bills dealing with everything from occupational licensing, to tourism promotion, to fire safety. Whether considering big issues like our budget or transportation funding, to lesser-known issues like adoption leave benefits, we have two months to get these bills right. That’s why we spend most of our time hearing bills in committee and meeting with stakeholders and representatives from home wishing to share their input.

I urge you to contact our office any time that you have questions or concerns. I can be reached during the General Assembly session at 804-698-7527 or by email at district27@senate.virginia.gov. Our office appreciates the opportunity to serve and we are very grateful for your continued support.



Senator Jill H. Vogel

2018 Legislative Session Update - January
January 29, 2018

The 2018 session of Virginia’s General Assembly convened January 10th. The Senate has returned with a new Governor Ralph Northam and new President of our Senate, Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax. I congratulate them and we are working together now on a number of issues critical for this year’s session.

In the months leading up to session, we were hard at work preparing legislation and in December, focused on moving into new offices adjacent to the Capitol while the old General Assembly Building will be demolished.

Amidst the moving chaos, 2,901 bills and resolutions have been introduced and our biggest challenge, drafting Virginia’s next biennial budget, is well underway. Crafting a fiscally responsible and balanced budget is a top priority. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, our focus should be to prepare a disciplined budget which adequately funds core government priorities, including education, transportation, and public safety.

I have introduced a number of bills important to our region, including:

  • A bill to fight opioid abuse by establishing a prescription drug takeback program at retail pharmacies
  • Legislation to fight gerrymandering and draw fairer and more compact legislative districts.
  • A bill to ban politicians’ personal use of campaign funds.
  • A bill to expand choice in health care by allowing for more MRI and CT machines in our district.
  • A constitutional amendment allowing for legislative review of outdated or overly-burdensome administrative rules.
  • A bill to expand health insurance coverage for people with autism.
  • A bill establishing a pilot program to help students with special needs in our public schools.
  • A bill to fight opioid abuse by tracking wholesale prescription drug shipments, allowing law enforcement to more quickly spot harmful activity associated with "pill mills."
  • A bill legalizing industrial hemp for commercial purposes and helping Virginia become a national leader in creating new agricultural jobs.
  • A bill legalizing the use of CBD oil for patients with very serious medical conditions.
  • A bill reforming discovery rules to help fight abusive lawsuits.
  • A measure to fund additional Sheriff's deputies.
  • A measure providing resources for a career and technical education center in Winchester.
  • Measures to fund additional Court clerk positions.
  • An amendment to provide resources for the critical Career Development Program which aides in retention of experienced staff in Constitutional Offices.
  • A measure to fully fund the state's share for Commissioners of the Revenue positions.
  • A provision to restore funding for Deputy Treasurers.
  • A measure to assist people with disabilities in state employment.
  • A measure to provide state surplus hardware to schools in order to implement IT training and certification.
  • A provision to study alternative ways to address college debt and financial aide..
  • A measure to provide resources for the historic Battlefield Preservation Fund.
  • A measure to provide funding for the Laurel Center in Winchester and for services for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence.
  • A measure to fund replacement of water quality monitoring equipment on the Shenandoah River and its tributaries.
  • A measure to provide resources for the State Police Area 13 barracks in Winchester.

I take your thoughts and opinions seriously and urge you to contact our office any time that you have questions or concerns. I can be reached during the General Assembly session at 804-698-7527 or by email at district27@senate.virginia.gov.

If you have an opportunity to be in Richmond between now and March 9th, please consider visiting the Capitol and joining me in the Senate as my guest, or visit our office in room E612 of the Pocahontas building.

Call ahead to let us know and we will make arrangements to welcome you. Everyone in our office appreciates the opportunity to do this important work and we are grateful for your support.



Senator Jill H. Vogel