RICHMOND REPORT/David Englin – Bills move forward while budget negotiations begin

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Last week was the deadline by which a bill must have passed the House and crossed over to the Senate (or visa-versa) to remain alive.  I am pleased to report that several of my bills made it through crossover and have moved forward. 

My bills to add WaterSense products to the Energy Star sales tax holiday, to better proliferate the autism training available to law enforcement personnel, and to correct a problem that delayed vote tallies in Fairfax County each moved forward after being combined with similar bills.  Five of my bills passed the House of Delegates outright and are now being considered by the Virginia Senate:

HB 805 will be an instrument to provide equal legal protection to all Virginians, including gay and lesbian couples, during medical emergencies.  The bill would create a medical registry for living wills and advanced medical directives so medical professionals and emergency responders can access these documents when they are needed most.  This system will enable gay and lesbian Virginians to designate their partners as the people to make medical decisions on their behalf a legal power married couples enjoy by default.

HB 1084 will strengthen the ability of communities and local governments to negotiate proffered pedestrian improvements from developers by preventing VDOT from blocking those improvements after the fact.  This comes out of two cases in the Fairfax County part of the 45th District where VDOT refused to issue permits for previously negotiated pedestrian improvements, causing neighborhoods to miss out on tens of thousands of dollars worth of street-level improvements that would have come at no cost to taxpayers.

HB 806 will help protect vulnerable citizens in assisted living residences, adult day care centers, child care centers, and certain other licensed group homes from infectious disease outbreaks by requiring these facilities to immediately report outbreaks to the Department of Health.  Currently there is no such requirement, which last year resulted in a serious outbreak of norovirus going unreported for nine days, delaying the appropriate response and resulting in 85 elderly people getting sick.

HB 798 will make it easier for military and overseas voters to exercise their right to vote even when they are deployed to far-flung locations by allowing them to receive absentee balloting materials electronically.

HB 800 will solve a problem that arose during the special election for Alexandria City Council in July, where absentee balloting procedures changed in midstream during that election.  This bill will ensures that if a special election is called when new election laws are about to go into effect, then the pre-existing election laws will remain in effect for that special election.

With the halfway point behind us, the bulk of our attention now turns to crafting the states $78-billion biennial budget.  Based on the latest revised revenue projections, which we received last week, we are facing roughly a $2-billion shortfall.  ($1.4 billion on top of the $600 million projected in October.)  Therefore, we have some very difficult choices to make.  My goals will be to preserve full funding for public education so our children will have every opportunity to succeed, to oppose further cuts to higher education institutions that have already borne significant cuts based on the shortfall announced in October, and to make sure we follow through on our commitment to improving our mental health system.  Additionally, I hope we can still provide raises for teachers and state employees that will keep Virginia competitive in the classroom and ensure that our government agencies continue to deliver excellent services for the people of Virginia.  Fortunately, during our recent strong economic years, we more than doubled the size of the states Revenue Stabilization Fund (sometimes called the rainy day fund), giving us a fiscally responsible source of hundreds of millions of dollars we can tap into to help close the gap.

As we move forward with some very difficult budget negotiations, I hope you will share your thoughts and feedback at [email protected] or 703-549-3203.
 

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