Our first full week of the General Assembly Session was cut short due to the significant winter storm headed our way. For the first time since 2010, the House of Delegates cancelled a floor session. It was announced during Thursday’s Floor Session that the House would adjourn until Monday, January 25th at noon.
Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) spoke on the House floor this week about many of our key priorities for the 2016 Session. In his remarks, Leader Cox spoke about the House’s commitment to improving our economy by encouraging private sector job growth. He outlined our intentions to continue our strong support for education and the importance of promoting choice and flexibility for students. Finally, Cox spoke to our healthcare agenda. He reiterated our commitment to stand firm against expanding Medicaid and to promote free market alternatives to increase access to quality affordable healthcare.
Last week we became painfully aware of a failed economic development deal orchestrated by Governor McAuliffe and his administration. A recent investigation by the Roanoke Times, revealed that Governor McAuliffe gave $1.4 million dollars to a company with plans to establish a new factory in Appomattox County. The plans were based on false information and not properly vetted. The County will not see new jobs and the Commonwealth is out of those tax dollars. Del. Scott Garrett (R-Lynchburg) in floor remarks called for more oversight and scrutiny on all economic development incentive packages. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Chris Jones has committed to fully reviewing the use of taxpayer dollars for economic development projects like this. I am committed to protecting taxpayer dollars from waste and ensuring that we make wise and prudent investments.
A group of legislators from the House and Senate gathered this week to announce their plans to reform the Certificate of Public Need (COPN) law. Virginia is one of 36 states with COPN laws that were developed in the 1970s to regulate healthcare services. Basically the laws require a provider to obtain a certificate of public need in order to expand services or bring new equipment to their practice. These laws were meant to control costs and protect providers who offer charity care services to the community. Many now argue that COPN requirements reduce access to care and drive up costs by creating healthcare monopolies. The state bureaucracy determines what services are available and the circumstances under which they are offered. I believe reforming or repealing the burdensome COPN regulations would promote free market principles like competition, which will drive down costs and improve access. Del. Chris Peace (R-Hanover), one of the House’s leading proponents for change, spoke on the floor about the need for meaningful COPN reform.
House Republicans also announced their agenda to combat domestic violence and empower women. Delegates introduced a number of bills that provide for tougher penalties on repeat criminal offenders that commit domestic violence. The bills will also empower women with training to protect themselves in their most vulnerable moments. House Appropriations Committee Chairman S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk) on Thursday also committed to looking at additional investments in the House budget for domestic violence crisis services, treatment, and educational resources. This legislation builds on House Republicans 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 decade aimed at combating domestic violence.
Friday, January 22nd, was the last day to introduce legislation for the 2016 session. One of the bills I introduced I would like to share this week. HB 1338: Law-enforcement officers providing personal security for the Governor. Which prohibits any law-enforcement officer who is assigned by the law-enforcement agency employing such officer to accompany the Governor or otherwise provide for the personal security of the Governor from carrying, possessing, or transporting a firearm (i) upon any property that is owned, leased, or otherwise controlled by the Governor, any of the Governor's Secretaries, or any executive branch agency where the carrying, possession, or transportation of a firearm upon such property by a citizen of the Commonwealth is prohibited by regulation or by a policy adopted by the Governor, any of the Governor's Secretaries, or any executive branch agency or (ii) in any state whose concealed handgun permits or licenses were granted reciprocity in Virginia prior to February 1, 2016. While I do not think this will pass, I do want to send a message to the Governor. First, If he is going to pass executive orders restricting law abiding citizens of their rights, he should not be an exception to the rule and should have to adhere to the same order. It needs to be understood that all of these areas that law abiding citizens are now not allowed to carry protection are now targets to the criminals who do not obey any of the laws that are currently in place.
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 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.