Last week there was a ceremonial signing of the Food Crop Donation Tax Credit legislation, which establishes an individual and corporate income tax credit beginning in 2016 for food crops grown and donated by farmers to nonprofit food banks. The bill defines food crops as grains, fruits, nuts or vegetables and its objective is to increase the donation of fresh, wholesome produce to food banks by reducing the costs to farmers for harvesting and transporting leftover fruits and vegetables in their fields. The credit will equal 30 percent of the fair market value of the food crops donated by the person during the taxable year, not to exceed an aggregate of $5,000 for any taxable year. This new budget allows for $250,000 to be issued in tax credits annually for farmers who participate in the program. This is an opportunity for our farmers to help provide healthy, Virginia-grown food to the hungry in their communities, while also receiving a valuable tax incentive. Allowing farmers to receive a small tax credit for donating crops that otherwise would have gone to waste is one of the simplest steps we can take as a Commonwealth to help our farmers and families. The funding in this year’s budget is just a starting point, and I hope we can grow this program to help eliminate malnutrition and hunger in Virginia. Delegate Ben Cline and Senator Creigh Deeds sponsored this bill. Earlier this month the public learned that Governor Terry McAuliffe’s executive action apparently included some still-incarcerated individuals who have committed brutal, violent crimes. Now, it appears his order also includes dozens of sexually violent predators who have been civilly committed to a state facility in Nottoway because they are too dangerous to release after incarceration. One hundred and thirty-two of the individuals held at the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation are listed as having had their voting and jury rights restored. These sexual offenders have completed their criminal sentences but remain locked up because they have been deemed too dangerous to release. The Governor’s office has since removed these individuals from their list. I question, how could an oversight like this happen? State Senator Bryce Reeves submitted a Freedom of Information Act request Thursday for any communication between the governor’s office and Hillary Clinton’s campaign team on the topic of restoring voting rights to ex-felons. In a letter to the Governor asking for the records, Reeves wrote that he was concerned the governor had “rushed” to restore voting rights to more than 200,000 former felons at the request of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s campaign. Senator Reeves stated that he has heard this concern raised repeatedly through constituents and the media, and I concur. I have also received emails and phone calls from constituents raising concern. No matter what's behind the governor's action, I believe it's a crucial step forward to allow those who have served their time and obligations to the state to re-enter their communities and become functioning citizens. But, it needs to be done the right way. The Governor’s handling of the matter appears to have been slack. He and his staff clearly should have done a better job vetting the 206,000 people getting back these rights. Each week it seems the layers are being peeled back and we are finding more and more errors in the process used for this blanket restoration, further solidifying the reasoning that restoring rights should remain on a case-to-case basis. If you have any concerns, questions, comments or issues that I or my Aide, Jenna, can help you with, please contact us at (434) 821-5929 or email at Delmfariss@house.virginia.gov. You can also keep up with me on my facebook page at www.facebook.com/DelegateMattFariss.
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