Legislation

Legislative Update June 2014
June 30, 2014

The 2014 Senate session formally adjourned in March.  However, immediately upon adjournment, the Senate convened a special session to address ongoing budget and Medicaid issues.  The Legislature continued to meet throughout the Spring, including for the Veto session in April.  We addressed an extraordinary number of complex matters this session, considering 2,888 bills and resolutions.  A total of 1,647 bills passed both the House and the Senate.  Of those bills, 57 were amended by the Governor and 10 were vetoed.

 

The tone of the session was productive with widespread consensus on most major legislation.  The Legislature reached agreement on comprehensive ethics reform, legislation to improve delivery of mental health services, criminal measures to address drug trafficking and human trafficking, and education reform among a long list of other issues.  We had also largely agreed on a budget until the final days when the subject of Medicaid was debated.  Until then, the House and Senate versions of the budget were similar and moving toward agreement.  However, the Governor then announced that he would not sign any budget unless it included Medicaid expansion.  He was also emphatic that he would not consider decoupling the issue from the budget so that we could pass a clean budget before the June 30th deadline that would trigger a government shut-down. 

 

While it is certainly the Governor's prerogative to use his leverage to force Medicaid expansion, it seemed gratuitous and wasteful to hold the budget hostage to make that point.  Thousands of people around the state including localities, school boards and countless other groups who rely on state funding for services and salaries, were begging the Governor to support a clean budget and set aside the Medicaid debate until a later vote in the summer.  The Senate majority joined the Governor in stopping the budget so that the session ended with no budget.  

That impasse continued until the resignation of Senator Phil Puckett on June 9th.  His resignation shifted the majority of the State Senate from Democrats, who backed the Governor's position, to Republicans, who were anxious to separate Medicaid from the debate and pass a budget.  Just two days after leadership changed in the Senate, our caucus called the Senate into session and we voted 21 to 18 to pass a clean budget.  The House came back into session and passed it immediately by a vote of 69 to 31.  That was an enormous relief and puts us back on track to meet our budget deadline. 

 

The Senate will likely meet through the rest of the summer.  We must meet this week to consider any budget amendments the Governor proposes.  We also must fill judicial vacancies and will have a special session to discuss Medicaid.

In the meantime, July 1, 2014 is fast approaching and a number of bills of special interest to constituents go into effect on that date.  

 

The $64 annual hybrid vehicle tax will be repealed.  Individuals purchasing hybrids prior to July 1, 2014, will still be required to pay the tax, which is not subject to a refund or pro-ration.  However, those who have pre-paid to register their hybrid vehicles for multiple years will be entitled to a refund for the pre-paid registration years that begin on July 1, 2014 and after.

The Sales and Use Tax will increase from 4 percent to 4.05 percent. This increase is part of the transportation funding package adopted by the General Assembly last year, which gradually increases the SUT to 4.15 percent by 2016.  

The DMV will require installation of vehicle ignition locks for those individuals convicted of a DUI first offense.

All mopeds operating on the public roads must be titled, registered, and carry license plates by July 1, 2014.  More information is available at http://dmvnow.com/vehicles/#moped.html.

 

Active military members residing in Virginia who return from an official absence will now have 14 days to obtain a current vehicle safety inspection sticker. 

 

Other measures that recently passed the House and Senate include bills to:

  • extend to 8 hours the time that a person may be held for psychiatric reasons under an emergency custody order, stipulating that no state facility may fail to admit someone unless an alternative facility has agreed to accept the person;
  • allow Sunday hunting for a landowner and his immediate family or a person with written permission from the landowner;
  • provide that good cause for leaving a job exists for purposes of unemployment compensation if a person voluntarily leaves a job to follow a military spouse under certain conditions;
  • provide a property tax exemption for the primary residence of surviving spouses of military killed in action if approved by voter referendum;
  • amend the Sex Offender Registry Act to include solicitation of prostitution from a minor;
  • implement reform of the Standards of Learning assessments, including reducing the number of SOLs in grades 3 through 8; and
  • delay implementation of the A to F school grading system for two years.

For those interested in learning more about the laws that we passed this session, visit http://lis.virginia.gov.  Click on "Publications" and then select "In Due Course:  Changes to VA's Laws" where you will find summaries explaining the bills.

 

The end of the regular session means that we are back in our district offices.  As always, I take your thoughts and opinions seriously and hope that you will contact our office any time that you have questions or concerns.  You may contact the Winchester office at 540-662-4551, the Warrenton office at 540-341-8808 or send an email to district27@senate.virginia.gov.



DMV to Implement Legislative Changes Effective July 1, 2014 Important Information for DMV Customers
June 13, 2014

RICHMOND - As a result of 2014 General Assembly action, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is advising customers of important new laws.

Medical Indicators
Current law allows DMV customers to indicate a hearing or speech impairment or a condition of insulin-dependent diabetes on their driver's licenses. Starting July 1, 2014, drivers may also designate an intellectual disability or autism spectrum disorder on their drivers' licenses, and holders of identification cards may also designate any of these conditions on those cards as well.

Customers requesting one of these indicators on their credential must present a signed statement by a licensed physician confirming the applicant's condition.

Hybrid Vehicle License Tax Repeal
Effective July 1, 2014, the $64 annual hybrid vehicle tax will be repealed. The hybrid tax is still required to be paid on all registration periods due prior to July 1, 2014. Owners of hybrid vehicles with registrations expiring on or before June 30, 2014 are required to pay the $64 hybrid tax. The tax will also be assessed on hybrid vehicles purchased and registered between now and July 1, 2014.

Customers who renewed their hybrid vehicle registrations for multiple years are entitled to a refund of prepaid hybrid taxes for registration years beginning July 2014 and after. There will be no prorated refunds for time periods prior to July 1. Starting in July, refund checks will be issued to the primary owner's mailing address currently on file with DMV.

Ignition Interlock
If someone is convicted of a DUI first offense, and the court does not require installation of an ignition interlock system on at least one vehicle and any vehicles he or she operates as a condition of restricted driving privileges, then effective July 1, 2014, DMV will require it.

SUT Increase
Beginning July 1, 2014, the sales and use tax (SUT) increases from 4 percent to 4.05 percent. This increase is part of the transportation funding package adopted by the General Assembly last year, which gradually increases the SUT to 4.15 percent by 2016. The minimum SUT remains $75.

Vehicle Inspection for Military Members
Effective July 1, 2014, active military members residing in Virginia and returning from an official absence have 14 calendar days to obtain a current vehicle safety inspection sticker. Under current law, updated inspection stickers are due within five business days.