Legislation

Legislative Update
February 23, 2016



Last week marked our Crossover session. It is the midway point of every legislative session and this annual milestone marks the deadline by which the Senate must act on all bills filed by members of the Senate. Any successful Senate bills must be sent to the House by midnight. The House has the same deadline by which to complete their bills and transmit their successful legislation to the Senate.

Crossover is traditionally consumed by long sessions and lengthy debates on the floor of both houses of the General Assembly. This year, however, those sessions were not nearly as long, with both sides completing their work well in advance of the midnight deadline. We moved with efficiency because we have done a good job of weeding out the bad bills and perfecting the quality bills. Of the nearly 1002 bills filed by Senators, more than 552 were approved and sent to the House for consideration. Also, by Crossover, the Senate had already considered and approved a significant number of House bills, passing 249.

Prior to Crossover, an impressive range of substantive bills had passed the General Assembly. Highlights include bills to:

  • Establish the Virginia Shoreline Resiliency Fund for the purpose of creating a low-interest loan program to help residents and businesses subject to recurrent flooding;
  • Give state police authority to perform background checks on behalf of private citizens at gun shows, if requested;
  • Prohibit a person subject to a permanent protective order from possessing a firearm;
  • Override the governor's executive order banning guns in state buildings;
  • Remove hospitals, outpatient surgery centers, medical imaging services and similar facilities from the certificate of public need process, which requires state approval before new facilities can be built;
  • Allow production of cannabidiol oil and THC-A oil;
  • Provide that if the director of the Department of Corrections certifies that lethal injection is not possible as a means of execution, electrocution can be used instead;
  • Require the state police to include justifiable homicides involving a law-enforcement officer in the annual Crime in Virginia report;
  • Expand the definition of stalking to include if a woman feels fear;
  • Increase the penalty for repeat protective order violations, domestic violence and stalking from a misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony;
  • Clarify that killed in action includes a service member who dies of wounds received in action after reaching a medical treatment center, for purposes of the real property tax exemption on the residence of the surviving spouse;
  • Prohibit tolling a highway, bridge or tunnel without approval of the General Assembly except in limited circumstances;
  • Change the regional gas tax in Hampton Roads to a cents-per-gallon tax that decreases as the price of gas increases;
  • Require the Department of Environmental Quality to receive approval from the General Assembly for a state plan to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants before submitting the plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for approval; and
  • My bill which the Governor agreed to support recognizing concealed handgun permits for all states with a concealed carry permitting process.
It should be no surprise that the most controversial bills were being refined until the very end. In this case, one of the bills was my SB 416 which drew national attention. It is the current model framework for states attempting to construct laws that accommodate a new online sharing economy while protecting the economy that already exists. The bill was narrowly drawn to serve people in Virginia who wish to make lodging space available at their primary residences through online platforms like FlipKey and Airbnb. The bill protects consumers, while working with the Tax Department to create a process to fairly collect and remit taxes to localities. To me the bill offered the perfect solution. It leveled the playing field, satisfied localities by capturing revenue, protecting their local ordinance authority while it included a study at the request of the hotel and hospitality industry who asked that their issues with the industry be evaluated for future legislation. The bill passed in committee almost unanimously but had a tough debate on the Senate floor. I respect opponents who want local government to be able to ban the practice, but this is an issue of fundamental economic freedom and like Uber and Lyft, the modern sharing economy is here and Virginia ultimately has to adopt a fair framework to address it. I am pleased that the majority of my bills have passed and now remain to be considered in the House.

Finally, the biggest event of the week came Sunday afternoon when the Senate Finance Committee met to pass the Senate's version of the 2016-2018 Biennial Budget. It was the result of weeks of painstaking work. I chaired the subcommittee responsible for general government, technology, state employee compensation, the court system and the Virginia Retirement System, and I am very proud of the budget that we produced.

As always, I take your thoughts and opinions seriously and hope that you will get in touch with our office any time that you have questions or concerns. We have had a number of visitors in the Capitol this session and I urge you to visit if you have time before the session concludes on March 12th. It is a great experience and especially educational for kids. I can be reached during the General Assembly session at 804-698-7527, P.O. Box 397, Richmond, VA 23218 or you can email me at jillvogel@senate27.com.


Legislative Update
April 01, 2015

The Virginia Senate met the second week of April for our Veto Session, resolving most remaining controversies of the 2015 session. Between January and February, the House and Senate considered 2,776 bills and resolutions, sending a total of 800 bills to the Governor for action. He signed 733 into law, vetoed 17 and sent 50 back to the legislature with amendments for us to consider. I worked with the Governor on a number of amendments to my bills, including a horse industry bill that generated statewide attention. Days before the Governor was set to sign the bill, Colonial Downs acting as the sole racing licensee under the bill, decided in a surprise move to turn in their license effectively shutting down the deal that we struck during session. The historic tradition of the sport in Virginia is important to preserve, recognizing the enormous financial benefit to agriculture, tourism, veterinary medicine and higher education. A vote at veto session saved the bill by adding language to end Colonial Downs' monopoly and allow a non-profit equine alliance to move forward with racing in Virginia.  

require health insurers to provide coverage for diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders in children ages 2 to 10;
add certain misdemeanor convictions to the list of crimes for which DNA must be taken providing a valuable tool for law enforcement;
prohibit use of unmanned drones by law enforcement or other regulatory entities without a search warrant;
permit use of marijuana oil for treatment of certain rare forms of epilepsy;
reorganize the Virginia ABC;
establish new ethics and disclosure rules for state and local elected officials;
provide protection from prosecution for anyone who remains at the scene of a drug overdose to alert and assist law enforcement;
create new felonies for sex trafficking;
expand financing options for clean energy and water efficiency improvements for which loans may be offered;
require licensing and background checks for day care centers and family day homes;
allow person diagnosed with a terminal illness to be eligible for expanded access to investigational drugs;
allow cultivation of industrial hemp as part of research;
establish licensing process for transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft to operate in Virginia;
raise judicial retirement age from 70 to 73; and
institute omnibus transportation package to make funding for statewide transportation projects less political, overhaul the system for choosing which road projects will be built and allocate more resources to maintain older roads and bridges.


Among the most significant accomplishments was agreement on changes to the budget. We pass a budget every two years and while this was our interim year, we made broad budget revisions responding to urgent needs and revenue shortages. Due to revenue collections that were lower than budget projections set in 2013, the total shortfall was projected at the beginning of session to be $2.4 billion. There was virtually unanimous consensus on the budget revisions and the Governor signed the budget without sending any changes back to the legislature for the Veto Session, making it the first time a Virginia Governor has done so since 1998.

Despite the budget shortfalls, we managed to make improvements to the budget with no tax increases; no cuts to K-12 or higher education; pre-payment of $129.5 million for the 2017 rainy day fund to protect Virginians when we have serious economic downturns; new funding for public safety; and a raise for state employees and state-supported local government employees.

I chair the Finance Subcommittee responsible for a significant part of the budget. In my presentation to the committee, I pushed for many of the changes, especially highlighting public safety compensation and other employee issues. For example, our entry-level public safety officers have qualified for food stamps. Our employee compensation has been lower than all other sectors since 2003, with no take home pay increase since 2007, putting us 49th in the nation, next to last, in terms of state average as a percentage of the private sector average. We are losing extraordinary people who protect our communities, run our criminal justice system, work in our crime labs, teach our children and perform vital services. Hence our efforts are an important investment in Virginia.

Additionally, we funded judicial vacancies and I consider it a great accomplishment to have secured money for two new Circuit Court judgeships in my Senate district. This is also long overdue as our judge shortage has placed significant burdens on our community.

We have recently transitioned back to our district offices. If you have a constituent service need or question about legislation, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 540-662-4551 or district27@senate.virginia.gov. I am always happy to hear from you.  



Legislative Update January 19, 2015
January 19, 2015

 

The 2015 Senate Session convened January 14th at the Capitol followed by the Governorís State of the Commonwealth Address to the legislature.  It comes after a long 2014 session that extended through November.  We struggled with unexpected revenue shortfalls and pressure from bond rating agencies to address it swiftly.  Revenues were $438.3 million short at the end of 2014, with other factors spread over the two-year budget creating a $2.4 billion shortfall.

 

Throughout the summer and fall our committees met to formulate the agenda for 2015.  The full Senate met for a two-day briefing and the Governor briefed our money committees on his budget changes.  His proposal increased money for medical costs for prisoners; employer recruitment and job growth; per diem payments to jails; and state agency information technology among others.  His budget cuts included reduction in coal tax credits; cuts to land preservation tax credits; consolidation of tax holidays; repeal of income tax subtraction from gain on sale of land devoted to open-space; and cuts to tax credit for long term care insurance premiums.

 

In preparing for legislation, I met with local governments, public safety officials, school boards, supervisors, civic organizations and community advocates in each of the seven jurisdictions in the 27th District. Many of their requests are part of my current legislation.  Issues generally expected to draw attention this session include the Governorís gun control proposals; changes to standardized testing and school accreditation; ethics reform; increased reporting of sexual assault; and regulation of day care providers (following 54 tragic deaths).

 

I have almost completed final drafts of bills.  A partial summary of my legislation includes:

 

·         SB 1005 allowing taxpayers to receive income tax refunds by check and prohibiting prepaid debit cards for refunds;

·         SJ 284 establishing a bipartisan redistricting commission;

·         SB 1097 allocating resources more equitably for horsemen and revising structure for horse racing in the Commonwealth following Colonial Downs recent surrender of their license;

·         SB 1075 allowing employees of a school division to join the state employee health plan as a cost savings;

·         SB 1091 changing composite index calculation for school funding to value assessment of property instead of true value which currently cuts school monies in localities with land in conservation easement;

·         SB 1076 moving date of a primary to the third Tuesday in June to accommodate school polling locations;

·         SB 1082 making it a Class 1 misdemeanor to leave children unattended in a vehicle if they are age 4 or under;

·         SB 1083 adding the meningitis vaccine to the immunization list for school aged children;

·         SB 734 requiring reporting of sexual assault by public university employees;

·         SB 1077 implementing a pilot program for localities to employ vote centers in primary elections;

·         SB 1084 making boundary adjustments in precincts as requested by county registrars;

·         SB 1089 establishing the process to fill a vacancy in Constitutional officesí pending a special election;

·         SB 1086 establishing venue in a Medicaid fraud trial as the location in which the offense was committed or the residence at time of offense; 

·         SB 1081 prohibiting tripping or intentional roping of legs of horses except for medical purposes;

·         SB 1080 allowing e-filing of certain documents with the State Corporation Commission;

·         SB 1078 authorizing local school boards to set the school calendar;

·         SB 1093 requiring safety standards for soccer goals and provisions for non-tipping goals;

·         Budget proposal to expand resources for intellectual/developmental disability waivers;

·         Budget proposal to restore funding to Dept. of Aging & Rehab Services for long term employment support services;

·         Budget act to restore Governorís cuts to Civil War Historic Site Preservation Fund;

·         Budget proposal to provide resources for certain Constitutional Officer programs;

·         Budget proposal for implementing Lyme disease prevention strategies; and

·         Budget proposal to expand veteran education opportunities.

 

Please consider visiting the Capitol during session.  We welcome visitors and hope that you will contact my office any time that you have questions or concerns at 804-698-7527, P.O. Box 397, Richmond, VA 23218 or email jillvogel@senate27.com.