The 2016 General Assembly session officially reached the halfway point this week, known as “Crossover.” The Republican-led House of Delegates is making good progress on the issues that matter most to you and your family: jobs, education, healthcare, transportation and public safety. The House of Delegates is also working to craft a conservative and responsible state budget that prudently spends your taxpayer dollars while making strategic and targeted investments in the core functions of state government. The House continues to defend and advance conservative principles. We brokered a bipartisan agreement to secure the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens, advanced legislation to protect religious liberty, are fighting back against federal government overreach, and defeated major pieces of the McAuliffe-Clinton agenda.
To read more about the status of our legislative priorities at crossover, click here: http://virginiahouse.gop/2016/02/17/house-republicans-highlight-successful-and-productive-start-to-2016-general-assembly-session/. Our work will continue through the second half of this session. We will consider legislation from the Senate and complete work on the state budget. The General Assembly is set to adjourn on March 13.
The House budget proposal will be released on Sunday. The House will introduce a conservative, responsible budget proposal that carefully uses taxpayer dollars while making responsible investments in the core functions of state government. Our first priority is always to structurally balance our budget without Washington-style gimmicks to mask over spending and to make responsible decisions that keep Virginia on solid financial footing.
The House budget will build on its longstanding commitment to conservative budgeting. We are placing a high emphasis on the Virginia Retirement System to ensure the program is solvent for our state employees and teachers. Our budget will fully fund the state’s annual contribution to the Virginia Retirement System, two years ahead of schedule. In addition, we are accelerating the $189.5 million repayment to the VRS for the contribution rate deferral in 2010. This is six years ahead of schedule.
The Appropriations Committee previewed part of the state budget on Thursday. To learn more, click here: http://virginiahouse.gop/2016/02/18/house-of-delegates-to-present-conservative-responsible-budget-proposal-on-sunday/
Republican members of the Military and Veteran’s Caucus met this week to highlight the legislative accomplishments of the 2016 session. The Commonwealth is home to approximately 800,000 veterans and 150,000 active-duty military members and their families. Virginia’s longstanding goal is to be the most veteran-friendly state in the nation. 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.
Some of the veterans’ legislative package includes the following bills. Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) introduced HB477 which would establish two new veteran care centers, one in Hampton Roads and one in Northern Virginia, to help provide veterans with quality long-term healthcare. The two new centers will also free up more space for local area veterans close to Virginia’s two existing care centers in Richmond and Roanoke. Delegate Scott Taylor (R-Virginia Beach) introduced HB90, which would allow members of the Virginia National Guard to conceal-carry while they are on duty. Delegate David Yancey (R-Newport News), introduced HB405 which will extend the temporary occupational license period for spouses of military service members to help them find meaningful employment.
Delegate Taylor is also carrying HB450 that requires seven comprehensive community colleges with the highest veterans enrollment in the Commonwealth to employ at least one full-time veterans’ advisor to provide comprehensive and intensive enrollment and advising services to current and prospective students who are veterans. It also requires the establishment of a veterans’ resource center on campus to provide access to federal and state veterans’ resources. This legislation will be a big help to new veterans and service members leaving the military.
Delegate Chris Stolle’s (R-Virginia Beach) HB825 also helps transitioning military personnel. It establishes a pilot program in which military medical personnel may practice and perform certain delegated acts that constitute the practice of medicine under the supervision of a licensed physician or podiatrist.
The aforementioned bills are among the 27 bills that have passed the House that support veterans, our military and their families.
This past Monday the House passed HB193, introduced by Delegate John O’Bannon (R- Henrico), which would significantly reform Virginia’s outdated Certificate of Public Need laws. Reforming COPN will improve access to care by giving providers the opportunity to offer needed services in their communities. Right now, if a provider wants to add new imaging equipment – like an MRI or CT scanner – they have to go through a lengthy and costly process. Reforming COPN could also lower costs. Right now, providers are protected by the burdensome COPN process that makes it difficult for new providers to offer competitive services. By repealing COPN, we could have real competition that will help drive down costs for patients and families. HB193 will now be taken up in the Senate for their consideration.
This week we also passed HB773, introduced by Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah). HB 773 protects individuals with sincerely held religious beliefs from discrimination solely based on what they believe. People of faith should not be denied basic government services or access simply because they believe in traditional marriage or natural gender roles. HB 773 protects people of faith from being denied these things. The bill would prohibit the government from revoking or denying tax exempt status to churches, denying grants, contracts or scholarships, and denying licensure or certification just because of someone’s religious beliefs – like traditional marriage or natural gender roles.
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 the conversation on our social media page and get access to any of the reports and presentations mentioned in this newsletter at www.facebook.com/DelegateMattFariss.