As we wrap up the third week of Session, I want to update you on the work we are doing in Richmond. All legislators are busy meeting with constituents, attending committee hearings, and making up for time lost due to last week’s snow storm.
The House continues to focus on top agenda items like providing opportunities in education, fighting Federal regulations, promoting religious liberty, and protecting your second amendment rights.
On Tuesday, Republican members of the House of Delegates outlined the House’s legislative agenda to promote opportunities in education. This agenda focuses on continuing to enact reforms in public education, promoting choice and flexibility, and encouraging early childhood education. Our ideas will help strengthen Virginia’s public school system so all children have the opportunity to succeed.
Delegate Rob Bell is carrying a constitutional amendment that would give the Board of Education the authority to establish charter schools in Virginia. For years, Virginia has lagged behind other states when it comes to charter schools. New York has 197 and Washington D.C. has over 115 while Virginia has nine. This amendment would set up a framework for the state to establish charter schools, which will likely lead to more charter schools in Virginia. This amendment must pass the General Assembly this year before being sent to voters for final approval this fall in the form of a referendum. A charter school is a public school that is given more flexibility to improve student outcome.
Delegate Dave LaRock is carrying legislation to create Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). ESAs allow parents to receive 90 percent of the State’s portion of education funding for their child, which would then deposited annually in to a savings account that can be accessed via a debit card. The funds can then be used for tuition, tutoring, private courses, instructional supplies for homeschooling, online learning, and more. Funds not used can be saved for college.
The General Assembly is looking at several ways to increase access such as: creating a pilot program to test a mixed-delivery early childhood education model; establishing a stakeholder committee to explore how to break down barriers that limit the use of private providers; and expanding the eligibility of the successful Educational Improvement Scholarship Tax Credit to include early education providers.
This week we announced an agreement with Governor McAuliffe to restore and expand Virginia’s concealed carry reciprocity agreements. After Attorney General Herring’s announcement to sever Virginia’s reciprocity agreements, the House of Delegates made reversing that decision a top priority. After some candid discussions, we reached an agreement to grant universal reciprocity in return for allowing voluntary background checks at gun shows, and prohibiting individuals under permanent protective orders due to a domestic violence offense from possessing a firearm.
It is only RIGHT that all law abiding CCP holders can now continue to carry into reciprocating states as before. This is a victory for law abiding handgun owners. The committee that I hold seat on has been working hard during session to restore rights to law abiding citizens and I am very pleased with the outcome of this agreement. This is a good, bipartisan agreement. Bipartisanship takes some give and take from both sides. This agreement restores the rights of law-abiding citizens while sending a clear signal about the House’s commitment to preventing and combating domestic violence.
On Wednesday, the House passed legislation to require General Assembly approval of Virginia’s implementation of the federal Clean Power Plan thereby restoring legislative oversight of energy regulations. House Bill 2, introduced by Delegate Israel O’Quinn (R-Washington), passed the House of Delegates 66-34. The bill would restore legislative oversight by requiring the Department of Environmental Quality to receive approval from the General Assembly for a state implementation plan to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants.
These regulations are another example of the overreaching federal government and more proof of the Obama-Clinton-McAuliffe war on coal. They will have a devastating impact on Virginia’s economy, killing jobs and significantly driving up energy costs for families and businesses. The independent and nonpartisan State Corporation Commission estimates these regulations will increase electricity costs in Virginia by $5.5 to $6 billion and force the closure of reliable power plants ahead of schedule.
By passing this legislation, we are able to protect Virginians from job losses and significant rate hikes. I am urging Governor McAuliffe to sign this legislation if it reaches his desk.
The House also announced our agenda to protect religious liberty in Virginia. Delegates Gilbert, Head, and Adams outlined their proposals to strengthen protections for individuals with strongly held religious beliefs.
Delegate Gilbert filed the Government Nondiscrimination Act that would prohibit a government entity from taking any discriminatory action against a person on the basis that a person believes marriage is between a man and a woman. Delegate Head filed legislation that would clarify that licensed ministers who receive an oath of office from their local Clerk of Court are not officers of the Commonwealth. Finally, Delegate Adams has proposed legislation that would reaffirm the religious rights are the natural and unalienable rights of mankind. The House is committed to protecting and strengthening religious liberty in Virginia.
This week I want to talk about the landfill bill being introduced, HB1358- Control of gas emission from certain landfills. Requires all active sanitary landfills that hold a Title V operating permit issued by the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board and are located within one-half mile of any residence or residentially zoned property to install a landfill gas collection and control system by July 1, 2018, whether or not the Title V operating permit requires such installation. The bill (i) requires any application for the expansion of any such landfill to include certification from the governing body of the locality where the facility is located that the expansion of the facility has been approved and (ii) prohibits the Department of Environmental Quality from issuing a Certificate to Operate for any expansion of an area within such facility before the Department receives such certification of approval, if the sanitary landfill has not received such Certificate to Operate by January 1, 2016. As of February 1st, it has been assigned to the Natural Resources Sub Committee and I will give my constituents updates as it moves along.
If you haven’t yet, please fill out my legislative survey at http://survey.house.virginia.gov/Survey.aspx?s=a243977d0302479d9b3304787c7615c2 to share your priorities for this General Assembly 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 my job representing you better. 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 pages at www.facebook.com/DelegateMattFariss.