The 2017 General Assembly session has officially begun! This year will be a short session (46 days) as our primary responsibility is to make adjustments to our biennial budget. However, we are still putting forth a breadth of legislative proposals aimed at creating jobs, improving healthcare costs, and creating more educational opportunities. There is a lot before us this year, but we will be focused on doing the work of the people and completing the Session on time!
The House was officially gaveled into session on Wednesday, January 11th at 12 noon.
A new transparency measure was announced on the first day: the video archiving of each day’s session. The new archive, available from the Virginia General Assembly website, will allow the public to view the floor proceedings of the House during the 2017 session on demand. The House also has created a search feature that will allow viewers to search by bill or by member.
The House is committed to building on our previous advances in improved transparency and we take public access to the legislative proceedings seriously.
Later that evening, Governor McAuliffe delivered the annual State of the Commonwealth Address. As this is McAuliffe’s final year in office, a great deal of his speech was a review of his time as Governor.
Republican Delegate Ron Villanueva (Virginia Beach) and Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (Henrico) delivered the Republican perspective on the State of the Commonwealth. They reminded us that with last November’s elections, there are big changes coming to our nation’s Capital. Some of these changes, like rebuilding our national defense and including coal in a comprehensive approach to energy independence, will greatly benefit Virginia. But it is here in our state Capitol where a lot of work is going to be done that directly benefit all Virginians. We know Virginian’s have had enough of partisan squabbles and we in the legislature are committed to passing commonsense priorities that are conservative but can also garner widespread support.
In August of last year, Governor McAuliffe announced over a $1 billion shortfall. The shortfall is a result of a lagging economy that generated less tax revenue than expected. Unfortunately, the “New Virginia” economy Governor McAuliffe is always championing has been steadily replacing high paying full time jobs with lower paying part time jobs. Virginia’s economy has lost more than 4,000 jobs, weekly wages are down, and part-time employees are up by more than 20,000 since 2015.
However, unlike Washington, Virginia’s constitution requires a balanced budget. Last month Governor McAuliffe unveiled his proposed budget to the General Assembly. The Governor’s budget proposal is just the first step in a long process. It is now time for the House to develop our budget. Our goal is to craft a responsible, conservative budget that strategically invests in the core functions of government while protecting precious taxpayer resources. We will invest in key priorities, but we must do so in a fiscally prudent manner.
As we start the General Assembly, I encourage you to fill out my session survey. I encourage you to fill it out online here http://survey.house.virginia.gov/Survey.aspx?s=f0ffccb8b42a4fb08fb83000bfb1fe49. Please share the survey with your friends and neighbors in the 59th District to fill it out as well. Your thoughts on important issues like ways to make college more affordable and suggestions on how to stimulate our economy drive my work in Richmond. Please make sure you complete the survey by January 20th.
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.
I will be providing you Weekly Updates during the 2017 General Assembly Session and will be meeting with constituent groups after Session to report on the Session and take questions.