Legislative Update February 11, 2014
February 11, 2014

We are nearing the midway mark of the 2014 Senate session, with significant legislation passed and a change in the leadership of the Senate.  Since November, two special elections were held to fill the seats of former Senator Mark Herring, now the Attorney General, and former Senator Ralph Northam, now the Lieutenant Governor.  At the conclusion of those elections, the make-up of the Senate was an even 20 Republicans and 20 Democrats, with the new Democratic Lieutenant Governor casting the tie-breaking 21st vote in his capacity as President of the Senate.  In a series of somewhat controversial rulings by the new Lieutenant Governor, coupled with some unconventional floor procedures, the Senate voted to change the Senate rules, elect new leadership and change the Committee structures.  


While many expressed outrage at the process which seemingly broke Senate rules, elections have consequences and we merely serve under the good auspices of those who send us to Richmond.  We operate under a rule of 21 and I believe as one of only forty members of the Senate, I have tremendous opportunities for accomplishment no matter who has the majority. I am pleased to report that the Senate has acted favorably on most of my legislation considered thus far. Several bills have been carried over for further work by the stakeholders. Those that have passed include the following: SB310 which makes boundary adjustments in Loudoun County to accommodate changes in redistricting; SB312 which extends the annexation moratorium affecting localities; SB311 allowing the Board of Supervisors in Frederick County to appoint a member to the Frederick County Economic Development Authority and SB316 requested by Culpeper County which pertains to local Board appointments made by members of Boards of Supervisors.  




Other bills that I introduced which have passed include SB315 implementing reports by the State Board of Elections on list maintenance; SB317 increasing the number of judges in the 20th and 26th Judicial Circuits; SB391 expanding the Committee on Training membership in the Department of Criminal Justice Services; and SB392 allowing private institutions of higher education to purchase directly from state agency contracts.


My bill, SB393, which modernizes the definition of communications services and SB397, which provides parameters for preservation of the rural roads in Loudoun County, also passed the Senate.  Additionally, my bill SB461 which amended the Procurement Act related to certain term contracts and my bills, SJ77 and SJ90, which implement Governor's appointments, also passed the full Senate.  SB398 which I introduced to permit the Virginia Racing Commission to grant a license for Gold Cup to receive simulcast transmission from Churchill Downs recently passed
in the Senate, along with SB314 implementing electronic filing for campaigns; SB614 authorizing a standard decal for vehicles transporting waste kitchen grease; SB620 authorizing ABC sales of certain spirits for tasting and sale at the business site and SB631 expanding options for an Economic Development Authority to dissolve.


Much of the more contentious legislation remains for us to debate this week, including expansion of healthcare in Virginia and a multitude of budget measures related to education, public safety, mental health and transportation.  A number of bills addressing mental health have passed already, including SB115, which passed the Senate unanimously and extends the time frame for which a mentally ill person may be held under a temporary detention order and SB576 which requires courts to file involuntary commitment orders with the clerk and notify the Central Criminal Records Exchange within two days.   


Highlights of other bills that passed the Senate and gained attention include SB127, repealing the $64 tax on hybrid vehicles and SB651 requiring the Attorney General to notify the Governor when he appoints outside counsel on a matter where the AG believes he has a conflict of interest and requiring that the AG's office pay the costs of such representation.  In the wake of concerns raised over previous education reforms, the Senate passed SB324 to delay implementation of the A-F grading system and SB499 to delay for one year the implementation of the Opportunity Education Institution which has the authority to step in and take over for failing school systems. The Senate also passed legislation calling for a 25 percent reduction in the number of SOL tests that public school students take and requiring elementary school students to have 20 minutes of physical activity every day.  


As always, 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, P.O. Box 397, Richmond, VA  23218 or via email at district27@senate.virginia.gov.  Also, please visit our website at www.senatorjillvogel.com.