We are approaching the halfway point of the General Assembly Session known as “Crossover.” Crossover is the day when each chamber must finish work on its own legislation and then may only consider legislation from the other body. This year Crossover is on Tuesday, February 16, which means that the House must complete all of its work on House bills before the end of that day while the Senate must do the same for bills that originate in the Senate. The State Capitol is as busy as it has been all year with late night committee meetings and longer floor sessions as we try to finish work before crossover.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve updated you on the work we are doing to promote our priorities for this session such as providing opportunities to improve our K-12 education system and expanding the economy and creating good jobs. I want to update you on several other issues the General Assembly has been addressing this week as we near the halfway mark.
Earlier this session, my colleagues and I announced a lengthy agenda to help prevent domestic violence. I am pleased to report this legislative package passed out of the Court of Justice Committee unanimously this week and will be considered by the full House in the coming days.
The legislation enacts tougher penalties on repeat criminal offenders that commit domestic violence and empowers women to protect themselves in their most vulnerable moments. This legislation builds on our consistent record of leading the effort to prevent domestic violence. The House of Delegates has passed more than 36 pieces of legislation in the last 10 years aimed at combatting domestic violence.
The Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday passed, with major bi-partisan support, HB 834 and HB 846, the legislative centerpieces of the Virginia Initiative for Growth and Opportunity or “GO Virginia” act. GO Virginia is a business-led, bipartisan initiative to provide a new framework for strengthening Virginia’s economy by encouraging collaboration between business leaders, the education community, local government, and state government.
The two bills create an entirely voluntary program that allows localities to identify their workforce needs, apply for grants that must meet an objective scoring criteria to be awarded and then meet performance criteria to keep the money. The program gets the people who know how to create jobs (business leaders) involved in the decision making process. Our goal is to always find innovative ways to foster private-sector growth, strengthen our workforce, promote local collaboration, and maximize our economic development resources. This concept will help grow and strengthen the economy in all areas of the Commonwealth so our families and businesses can thrive.
Virginia’s business leaders, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) and over 80 other organizations support GO Virginia. To read more, visit: http://virginiahouse.gop/2016/02/09/house-of-delegates-passes-go-virginia-legislation-with-major-bipartisan-support/
On Wednesday, the House passed the legislative proposals that makes up the gun agreement that was reached between Governor McAuliffe and the General Assembly. The agreement restores and expands concealed carry reciprocity, requires State Police to be available for voluntary background checks at gun shows, and prohibits individuals under permanent domestic violence protective orders from possessing a firearm under state law. The National Rifle Association (NRA) and Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) both strongly support this legislative package.
The agreement secures the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens and takes reasonable steps to make our communities safer. Restoring reciprocity for concealed carry permit holders was a major priority for the House this session and I am glad we were able to reach an agreement to not only restore reciprocity, but also expand it.
To read more about the specific pieces of legislation, visit: http://virginiahouse.gop/2016/02/11/house-of-delegates-passes-bipartisan-gun-agreement/
Ensuring that all Virginians have access to quality and affordable healthcare is also one of our top priorities this session. Unfortunately, Obamacare continues to cost Virginians by driving up insurance rates and healthcare costs.
We remain committed to opposing Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. Instead of expanding an expensive, broken entitlement program, Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates are pushing for real health care reforms to increase access and keep health care costs under control.
The House of Delegates has passed legislation to increase access to primary care doctors, expand access to mobile health clinics, and combat prescription drug fraud in Virginia. These are meaningful reforms that will improve healthcare in the Commonwealth.
The House of Delegates passed a constitutional amendment on Friday that will lead to the creation of more public charter schools in Virginia. The amendment, introduced by Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albemarle), would allow the State Board of Education to establish public charter schools within the framework and limitations established by the General Assembly. All children in Virginia deserve access to a quality education, regardless of their zip code or how much money their parents make. Public charter schools encourage parental involvement, and can be especially equipped to meet the unique needs of all different types of children. Studies show that public charter schools help to close the achievement gap, giving children in minority and underserved communities the opportunity to succeed. I'm proud to support expanding public charter schools in Virginia.
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 my job of representing you better. You can email me at DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov or call me at (804)698-1059. You can also join get more details on any of the bills mentioned in this newsletter on my facebook page www.facebook.com/DelegateMattFariss .