The 2016 General Assembly session opened on Wednesday, January 13, and got off to a quick start. We have a lot to get done in our 60 day session to make life better for you and your neighbors. The first week of session was very organizational, spending time working on legislation. A lot of work can be done on legislation before it is presented and I was able to spend some time on mine and others’ legislation. I am very interested to see what is submitted by the January 22nd deadline.
On Wednesday at noon, the Speaker gaveled the House to order signifying the start to the 2016 General Assembly Session. During the opening ceremony, all new and returning members were sworn in. We were pleased to welcome 11 new members and look forward to working with them over the coming months. We then unanimously re-elected Bill Howell (R-Stafford) as Speaker of the House. In his opening remarks, Speaker Howell laid out the House Republican agenda for the year. He highlighted several area to include strengthening Virginia’s economy, investing in new educational opportunities, and the importance of being responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars. His full remarks are available at https://youtu.be/4E3LmQAl9YI
That evening, Governor Terry McAuliffe delivered the annual State of the Commonwealth address to the Joint Assembly of the House of Delegates and Senate. Unfortunately, the Governor continues to push for Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and more gun control. It also appeared the Governor was trying to take a lot of credit for issues that Republicans have been working on for years such as strengthening the economy, balancing the budget, K-12 reforms, and investing in higher education. These were our priorities before the Governor arrived, and they will be our priorities after his term.
In contrast, Delegate Rob Bell (Albemarle) and Senator Frank Ruff (Mecklenburg), while delivering the Republican response, laid out a positive agenda for the 2016 session which will focus on: Improving our public schools by investing in our teachers and resources to improve student success; Investing in workforce training targeted to growing industries to help more people get back to work; Being responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars throughout the entire budget process; Standing up and defending Virginians’ Second Amendment rights; Investing in our health safety net without expanding an already broken Medicaid system. You can watch our Republican response at https://youtu.be/Ufho3mzbQAE.
The Speaker appointed me to the following committees- Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources; Finance; and Militia, Police and Public Safety. If you would like to follow my committees, you can sign up for email notifications at http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/house/committees/all.php.
I want to update you on several pieces of legislation that I filed already this year. HB 476-Submission of animal intake policy. Requires animal control officers, humane investigators, and releasing agencies to include a description of their animal intake policy in their annual report to the State Veterinarian regarding animals in their custody. HB 1141 Invasion of privacy; civil action; damages; attorney fees and costs. Creates a civil cause of action for the physical and constructive invasion of privacy where a person, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, or harass enters onto the land or into the airspace above the land of another person to capture an image, as specified in the bill, of private property or an individual located on the private property without consent or uses any device, including an unmanned aircraft system, to capture such an image in lieu of physically entering the land or airspace. The bill allows a plaintiff to recover the greater of actual damages or $1,000, along with reasonable attorney fees and costs. The bill allows a court to award punitive damages when actual damages are awarded. HB 1142-Hunting with a slingshot. Allows the hunting of wild birds and wild animals, except deer, bear, elk, and turkey, with a slingshot unless shooting is expressly prohibited.
Please do fill out my pre-session survey, if you have not already done so. If you did not receive it via email or online, you can complete it by following this http://survey.house.virginia.gov/Survey.aspx?s=a243977d0302479d9b3304787c7615c2. It is important that you fill it out and share your feedback as we move forward this session.
I encourage you to keep in touch with me and my office over the coming months. I value the feedback you provide on a continual basis as it helps me do a better job representing you. You can email me at DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov or call me at (804)698-1059. You can also join the conversation on our social media page www.facebook.com/DelegateMattFariss.