The second half of Session 2019 was challenging and productive. My colleagues and I have dispensed with hundreds of bills and resolutions, and I want to share the progress we’ve made and how new legislation will impact the 12th District!
Bills, Bills, Bills…
We passed 9 bills out of both chambers this session, all of which are now headed to the Governor’s desk! I was able to pass two thirds of the bills I introduced, the highest success rate of any Democrat in the House of Delegates. While not every bill was successfully passed, I am proud of each piece of legislation I introduced, because each one was motivated by YOU! Below is a list of the bills I passed this year, plus a few that were not successful but that I intend to introduce again next year. Click on the bill numbers below to see a copy of the full text of the bill and to track its progress through the General Assembly.
|Bill Number||Purpose of the Bill||Status|
|HB 1786||Allows for the use of Other Power Driven Mobility Devices by persons with a verified mobility disability on sidewalks in the Commonwealh.||Passed|
|HB 1905||Allows Doe Creek Farms in Giles County to be eligible for a liquor-by-the-drink ABC license.||Passed|
|HB 2045||Establishes a voluntary certification process for recovery residences (i.e. “sober homes”) to be regulated by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.||Passed|
|HB 2634||Makes all counties in the Commonwealth “wet”, with a local option to become dry via referendum.||Passed|
|HB 1719||Requires that candidates for town office in towns of less than 25,000 people disclose campaign contributions and expenditures if they are in excess of $25,000.||Passed|
|HB 1720||Creates protections for students with a written certification from a physician to use CBD and THCA oils on school property; extends protections to school nurses who possess oils on student’s behalf.||Passed|
|HB 1868||Establishes the Exemplar School Recognition Program, administered by the Board of Education||Passed|
|HB 1973||Includes 2 historically AfricanAmerican cemeteries in Pulaski County in the list of sites eligible to receive state funding for the maintenance of graves.||Passed|
|HB 2380||Requires that institutions of higher education include in the online course catalogue or online registration system information about which courses use exclusively low or no-cost educational materials.||Passed|
|HB 2381||Establishes the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman which will take in and investigate complaints against child-serving agencies. To read more, click here.||Defeated in Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Resources|
|HB 2382||Creates freedom of expression protections for student journalists who report well-vetted and factual stories. The bill would ensure that students aren’t censored unless their reporting would cause a clear and present danger to orderly operation of the school. To read more, click here.||Defeated in Education Subcommittee #1, 53|
The House and Senate were able to pass a budget on time this year, the product of intensive negotiation between both parties and both chambers of the legislature. The budget bill itself is more than 400 pages long (linked here), but below are some highlights that I feel are among the most important to our region.
- The At-Risk Add-On funding was restored to about two-thirds of the Governor’s originally proposed $36 million. These funds will be administered on a sliding scale depending on how many at-risk students are in a locality. All of the schools in the 12th District will be receiving more funds because of this. While it isn’t everything we had hoped to get, it is a significant step in the right direction for K12 funding. We will continue to push for more next year when we begin budget negotiations for the new biennium.
- Teachers will be receiving a 2% pay increase on top of the 3% that was included in last year’s budget. These teacher raises will take effect on September 1, 2019.
- The budget increased funding to reduce the student to school counselor ratio. An additional $12 million was allotted for this purpose.
- $56.4 million will be provided this year from the state for public universities that agree to not increase their tuition next year. This will effectively freeze tuition for the next year, which the General Assembly money committees estimate will save students and their families approximately 45%.
Other Important Legislation
Unfortunately, we leave session with I81 remaining the only major interstate without a dedicated funding stream in the Commonwealth. This year, at least 4 different funding mechanisms were proposed for I81. I always advocated for the ones that brought in the most revenue with the least impact to local commuters. However, after lengthy debate, no consensus was reached. We were able to pass a bill establishing a new committee of lawmakers and transportation engineers as well as local advocates who will be negotiating funding options for the rest of the year. Currently, I81 poses a public safety risk and economic development risk to our region if not improved. I remain committed to finding a dedicated funding source to fix I81.
This session, several bills and resolutions were introduced to address the need for nonpartisan redistricting. I have always be an advocate for an independent redistricting commission with nonpartisan criteria. While we didn’t get exactly what we wanted, we did pass a resolution that I believe is a step in the right direction. The resolution establishes a committee of 16 members. Of those, 8 are legislators and 8 are citizen members. The legislators will be evenly divided between the House and the Senate, as well as evenly divided between party.
I’m honored and proud to serve on both the House Committee on Education and the House Committee on Science & Technology.
Click the links below to learn more about my fellow committee members, the bills we’ve voted on, and to watch live video of committee proceedings.