March 12, 2018 Newsletter

The 2018 General Assembly Session has reached the end of it’s 60 day session. The House was productive and successful this year, advancing several major priorities as part of the practical solutions to everyday issues agenda, including legislation to address our teacher shortage, lower the cost of medical prescriptions, create avenues to get students into good paying jobs, and honor our veterans who gave so much to our country.  We have not yet reached an agreement on a two-year budget. We will now wait for the governor to call a special session.

The House and Senate adjourned sine die as scheduled on Saturday, but without an agreement on a new two-year state budget. When we return in a special session, which we expect the governor to call shortly, we will start with a fresh discussion on a new budget. The General Assembly will reconvene at the call of the Speaker and the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules.

 

Working out a final budget agreement is a process that sometimes takes more time than we have in a short, 60-day session. We will take a little time to let everyone go home and then begin talking about our next steps. We have until the end of June to adopt a budget, but it’s important to get it done as soon as possible to give school boards, local governments and state agencies certainty as they write their own spending plans.  We have some time, but need to work diligently. The sooner we get a plan the better it is for our Triple-A bond rating. The bond rating agencies will watch us carefully to see how we handle our budget discussions.

 

Even without the budget completed, the 2018 session was still productive and successful. We advanced our Practical Solutions to Everyday Issues agenda, reached bipartisan agreements with the governor on criminal justice and regulatory reform, and defeated $770 million in tax increases proposed by Democrats.

 

Protecting students must be one of our top priorities in the Virginia House of Delegates. Like yours, my heart was broken following the heinous acts of violence we saw in Florida. Our students should be able to go to school and feel safe. While Virginia has led by example in recent years in the area of school safety, the House of Delegates recently took a major step in giving parents and students the peace of mind they deserve.

 

Speaker Kirk Cox on Thursday announced the formation of the Select Committee on School Safety, the first select committee formed in the House in over 150 years. Select committees are reserved for matters of considerable significance that fall beyond the jurisdiction of conventional and established standing committees. Following the tragic events that took place in Parkland, Florida, we are reminded just how important it is to keep our children safe.

 

The Committee’s work will be limited to strengthening emergency preparedness, hardening school security infrastructure, implementing security best practices, deploying additional security personnel, providing additional behavioral health resources for students, and developing prevention protocols at primary and secondary institutions across the Commonwealth.

 

While many are pushing for stricter gun control laws, I believe we should focus on school safety. Speaker Cox has made it clear, guns will not be apart of the discussion involved in this Select Committee. Virginia currently has strong laws against gun violence and responsible gun safety laws that keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals while protecting the rights of law abiding citizens.

 

Due to the significance of this issue, Speaker Cox will be chairing this Select Committee. This Committee will adhere to the principles of proportionality set forth in the House rules with both Republicans and Democrats being well represented.

 

The House of Delegates successfully advanced several major priorities as part of the “Practical Solutions to Everyday Issues” agenda, including legislation to address our teacher shortage, lower the cost of medical prescriptions, create avenues to get students into good paying jobs, and honor our veterans who gave so much to our country. 

 

House Republicans also worked with Governor Northam to advance ideas important to both parties, announcing significant, bipartisan compromises on regulatory reform and criminal justice. The regulatory reform compromise will eliminate or streamline criminal justice and occupational licensing regulations by 25% over the next three years. On criminal justice, the House agreed to raise the felony larceny threshold to $500 in exchange for Governor Northam’s support for stronger restitution enforcement laws. Other accomplishments include adoption reform to help children find loving families sooner, legislation to help workers get the training they need to find a good-paying job, bills to fight the opioid crisis, and reforms to address transportation congestion and the aging Metro system.

 

House Republicans also stood up to protect taxpayers from significant tax hikes. Democrats introduced several tax increases that disproportionately affected millennials. One bill introduced by Democrats sought to tax things like Netflix, Pandora, and Hulu, while a separate proposal would tax Uber and Lyft. Other tax increases defeated by Republicans sought to institute the so called “Death Tax” and a tax on certain watercrafts.

 

Even without the budget completed, the 2018 session was still productive and successful. We advanced our Practical Solutions to Everyday Issues agenda, reached bipartisan agreements with the governor on criminal justice and regulatory reform, and defeated $770 million in tax increases proposed by Democrats.

 

It has been an honor to serve you in Richmond during this General Assembly Session. I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting with so many of you who have stopped by my Capitol office over the past several months. I look forward to meeting with many constituent groups back in the district now that the session has ended. You can reach me at my district office in Rustburg by calling (434)821-5929 or emailing DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov. I look forward to taking your questions and reporting back about the successes of this year’s General Assembly Session.

 

 

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