We are now one week away from the scheduled end of our 45-day legislative session. This past week was a productive week for the House of Delegates. We are finishing committee work, reviewing amendments from the Senate, and continuing to work on the budget. As we wind down our General Assembly session, I want to update you on a few important areas of interest.
The House has adopted a conservative and balanced state budget. Our recommendations adhere to our commitment to spend your taxpayer dollars on strategic and targeted investments that fund the core functions of state government. We also took several steps to advance Virginia on a fiscally responsible course to include the elimination of several fees and reduction in borrowing.
Governor McAuliffe included several fee increases in his budget to generate more revenue. The House eliminated a proposed increase in restaurant inspection fees that would have generated $3.2 million in fee revenue. We also eliminated a proposed increase in the shellfish facility inspection fee that would have generated $116,00 in fee revenue. Finally, we eliminated a proposed new fee for behavioral health adult service providers that would have generated $300,000 in fee revenue and required a new full time state employee position.
The House reduces the amount of proposed debt by almost $70 million.
Finally, we continue to cut underperforming or erroneous government programs. This year we cut 4 programs in higher education for a savings of $2.1 million.
In the House we have 21 veterans. 19 of those veterans are members of the House Republican Caucus. The 19 members represent every branch of service - Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. Service periods date back to the Vietnam War years right up to today's conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is at least one House Republican veteran on each of the 14 House Committees. Truly, our House Republican veterans represent a strong voice in support of Virginia's veterans, the military, and their families.
The Commonwealth is home to approximately 800,000 veterans and 150,000 active-duty military members and their families. Republicans in the House of Delegates are leading the effort to provide our veterans with the care they deserve, access to affordable education, and good job opportunities.
The Military and Veterans caucus, led by Delegate Rich Anderson (USA Col., retired), has several bi-partisan bills that are successfully progressing through the legislation process.
HB 2206, carried by Del Cox, is the number 1 priority of the Joint Leadership Council. The bill redefines the goals of the Virginia Veteran and Family Support Program, formerly Wounded Warrior, to help veterans and their families navigate the complex web of healthcare services available to them.
HB 1721, carried by Del. Rich Anderson, permits Community Colleges to charge reduce tuition to activity duty members enrolled in training that leads to a Military Occupational Specialty.
HJ 562, carried by Del. Jason Miyares, is a constitutional amendment that would provide a property tax exemption for the principal residence of the surviving spouse of a disabled veteran.
HB 1582, carried by Del. Jeff Campbell, allows a person between 18 and 21 years of age to apply for a concealed handgun permit if he is on activity military duty.
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 of 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.