We have come to the end of the 2019 General Assembly Session. The House adjourned Sine Die on Sunday, February 24th, and all members will be traveling back to their home districts. I am lucky and truly blessed that I am so close to the Capitol that I do not have far to go, and I wish all my colleagues safe travels on the road home.
The House and Senate have reached an agreement on the budget. I am most excited that the plan restores the $15.5 million in need based financial aid for students. The House plan originally cut the $15 million altogether, and I spoke against this on the House floor. Below is a brief overview of what the budget means for schools and higher education.
At risk add on funds were restored to about two-thirds of the originally proposed $36 million. The increased lottery funding proposed by the House was dropped. As a result, this will influence some of the Richmond region’s school funding. Specifically, Henrico will lose about $305,000.
Teachers will receive a 2% pay increase on top of the 3% that was included in last years budget. It will take effect on September 1.
The plan includes $12 million for schools to hire additional counselors. This is less than the $36 million proposed in the Governor’s December budget, however, the legislature will take a look at the ratio next year, with the goal of getting to 1:250 in 2020.
$56.4 million will be provided from the state for institutions that agree to freeze their tuition next year. This is an $11 million increase than what was originally planned. The goal is to save students and their families money on tuition, and the estimated savings are 4 to 5 percent.
My House Resolutions, 593 and 720, have passed the Senate. They will now go to the Governor’s Desk. You can find a list of legislation that has passed both Houses on the Legislative Information System.
Although my ABC coworking license bill, HB 2179 died along party lines, I was a chief co-patron on the same bill, SB 1420, which was carried by Sen. Glen Sturtevant. There were amendments made to the bill that expanded it to include ‘bespoke’ clothiers; custom made clothes retailers, who can now also sell beer and wine to customers. You can read more about the amended Senate bill in the Richmond BizSense article. This bill passed the House and will now go to the Governor’s desk.
The Chairman of the House Education Committee sent a letter to the Department of Education asking them to update teacher evaluation guidelines and criteria. I carried the legislation, HJ 592, and I signed on to the letter. I look forward to seeing the Department’s report in December.
HB 2593, the bill to expand mental health education to all grades, also will be getting a letter from the Chairman. I appreciate the work of the Department of Education to incorporate this instruction into the new health education plans.
The rules change to bring the ERA resolution to the floor of the House failed on a tied vote on Thursday. Therefore, the ERA will not be moving forward this year.
There have been big developments for redistricting. The legislature has agreed to create a 16 member commission that will redraw the political map after the 2020 census. The bipartisan plan is a step in the right direction, however, it does not reflect every wish of advocates who had pushed for reform, and it certainly has its downfalls. It is not perfect, but it is a start, and I was glad to support the bill. You can read more about the contrasting views of the measure here.
The House Clerk’s Office has provided an update on the number of bills enrolled and signed by the Governor. In total, 116 bills have been signed as of Friday morning. You can view the full list of enacted and signed bills by clicking here.
Finally, the Richmond Times Dispatch has provided a brief overview of some of the hot topic legislation that passed and failed this Session.
Legislation that passed:
ABC stores will open at 10am on Sundays rather than noon; assisted living facilities will be required to meet a minimum number of overnight staffers; the cap on autism insurance coverage has been lifted; JLARC will be studying casinos and casino laws in other states to produce a report for legislators; coal ash will be cleaned up and some will be recycled; tax will be reduced on certain personal hygiene products and will take effect Jan.1; tobacco and e-cigarettes will only be available to those 21 and older.
Legislation that failed:
Improvements to I-81; repealing the suspension of drivers licenses for unpaid court fees and costs; surprise hospital billing; prohibiting students from being charged with disorderly conduct at school; a referendum on the statewide ballot to give voters a chance to weigh in on how to fund improvements to school facilities; and giving notice to parents ahead of a lockdown drill.
The Week, in Brief
The House had been making its way through the remaining bills on the calendar and worked long hours to bring more than 50 bills out of conference. Thursday was a 10-hour floor session, Friday was a 7 hour floor Session, and Saturday was an 8 hour Session. We adjourned Sunday just before noon with a budget!
Henrico County is hosting a job fair on Saturday, March 30th from 9 am to 12 pm at the Public Safety Training Center (7701 E Parham Road). It is free and open to the public.
Henrico Schools has begun their Family Learning Workshop series. To register for a seminar, email Terry Talbott at firstname.lastname@example.org or call804-652-3787. Topics include smartphone secrets, raising confident kids, human trafficking, and a dyslexia simulation. The next seminar, “Are You Smarter than Your Child’s Smartphone? Social Media Tips, Tricks, and Secrets" will be held on February 26th from 6 to 7:30 pm at the New Bridge Learning Center (5915 Nine Mile Road). A detailed list of learning workshops can be found by clicking here.
It is Girl Scout cookie season! I’ve ordered mine, and there are several girl scout troops selling across Henrico. Troop 5103 will be selling at the following places and times:
Saturday, 2/23 from 10am-noon at Pigtails and Crewcuts in the Gayton Shopping Center
Saturday, 2/23 from 10am-4pm at Chick-fil-A at 1529 Parham Road
Monday, 2/25 from 5-7pm at the University of Richmond at The Commons
There are hundreds of board appointments waiting to be filled. If you or someone you know is qualified to fill a seat, please consider applying. There is a comprehensive list, and a step by step application process on the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s website. Specifically, there are 3 seats that need to be filled by a qualified, 7th Congressional district resident. Residents are needed for the Virginia Commission for the Arts (page 96), Board of Medicine (page 154), and the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation, Board of Trustees (page 177).
Thank you for reading the Debra Dispatch throughout Session! I look forward to continuing my communication with you throughout the year. The Debra Dispatch will resume at the end of March and continue going out at the end of each month.
As always, I am honored to be representing you in the Virginia General Assembly. Although the Assembly only met for 6 weeks this year, my job as your Delegate does not end. I am available year-round to meet with you, answer any questions, and connect you to state agencies for assistance. Please contact me at email@example.com or 804-698-1073 if I can be of service to you.
Have a wonderful week!