A flurry of activity as General Assembly crosses halfway point


Tuesday night at midnight officially marked crossover here in the Capitolthe deadline for the House and Senate to finish work on their respective bills and pass them on to the other chamber. It marks the end of a busy 4-week periodin which the House considered 1,503 pieces of legislation and passed 871 of themand the start of a new one as we begin work on 627 bills, resolutions, and amendments coming over from the Senate.  

While I wont be able to cover it all here, I wanted to give a quick update on where some of the major pieces of legislation stand in the General Assembly:

Transportation Versions of Governor McDonnells $4 billion transportation plan have made it through both the House and the Senate. 

Autism Coverage Both the House and Senate passed bills to mandate that health insurers cover treatment for children with autism when theyre between the ages of 2 and 6 years old. 

Immigration The House passed a package of bad bills targeting immigrants, including one that would bar undocumented immigrants from enrolling in public colleges and universities. 

Privatizing ABC The Governors proposal to privatize the states government-run liquor stores met with bipartisan opposition and did not get voted on in either chamber.

State Pension Fund A House bill would require state employees make a 5% contribution to the underfunded Virginia Retirement System, offset by a 5% raise. 

Physical Education Requirement Bills passed by the House and Senate would require elementary and middle schools to offer at least 150 minutes per week of physical education.

Talking on Cell Phone While Driving Yesterday the Senate approved a bill that would make driving while talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device a primary offense.
Also, I am pleased to report that the House passed three of my bills, which now travel to the Senate for consideration:

HB 2191 Loans for Solar Energy Projects: Establishes a Solar Resource Development Fund which will provide low-interest loans to help customers overcome the initial upfront costs of installing solar energy systems, ensuring that more Virginians have the opportunity to power their homes with cheap, clean, renewable energy.

HB 2190 Aiding Victims of Human Trafficking: Creates a coordinated state plan to provide needed services to victims of human trafficking and handle them when they come in contact with social services and law enforcementwho often dont know whether to treat them as criminals or victims. 

HB 2193 Simplifying Medical Procedures: Allows podiatrists to treat certain wounds extending beyond the foot and ankle that currently have to be outsourced to another physician for a second procedure. This will simplify medical procedures and reduce costs for patients and Medicaid. 

We made progress on a number of other important priorities as well, including school bullying. When I introduced legislation to stem this growing epidemic, I could not have anticipated the overwhelming support weve received. This issue clearly struck a chord with a lot of parents and teachers, and my bill was backed by Governor McDonnell and the Virginia Education Association, among others.

A subcommittee chose not to act on the bill this session and instead referred it to a study by the state Department of Education that will examine ways to combat bullying in Virginia public schools. However, we brought a lot of attention to the issue and forced legislators to acknowledge that something needs to be done. Hopefully the study will continue building momentum for action and put us in an even stronger position to tackle this problem during next years legislative session. 

I want to thank all who have sent emails and letters, given us a phone call, or visited our office in Richmond to share your views. Youve guided my consideration on a wide range of legislative proposals, and your input has helped me represent you better.

The writer represents the 49th District, which includes parts of Alexandria, in the Virginia General Assembly.