As we close out our ninth week in Richmond, the 2016 session is coming to an end. During this legislative session, The House Clerk’s Office has enrolled 774 bills and 749 bills have been sent to the Governor’s office for final review. 245 bills have been acted on already by the Governor, and an additional 100 bills are expected to receive final approval before the end of session on Saturday, March 12. The House Republican Majority has made major progress in economic development, protecting women, families and veterans, and building a balanced budget. Though the session is coming to an end, we will continue to work hard in the district office throughout the year preparing for the 2017 session!
This session, seven of the bills I patroned passed both the House and the Senate. HB329, HB434, HB501, HB507, HB1101, HB1111, and HB1269. The Committee on Courts of Justice considered two of these bills, HB434 and HB1101. HB434 gives the Director of the Department of Criminal Justice Services the responsibility to grant or deny a waiver of the prohibition of licensure in cases concerning private security services personnel. The intent of the bill is to give private security personnel the ability to appeal any waiver of their licensure. HB1101 gives common interest communities the ability to request and receive from the State Police notice of the registration of sex offenders within the community. This family safety bill provides necessary information to keep our communities protected.
This year, I became the Chairman of the Transportation Committee. The House of Transportation Committee heard over 150 bills this session. I am pleased to report that several of my bills passed this session. HB329, a bill to allow flashing amber lights on transit buses, is a safety improvement for pedestrians and buses. HB501, concerning design-build transportation projects, allows for the submission and consideration of alternative technical concepts during the Request for Proposal process. This is aimed at incorporating creative business solutions in Virginia’s transit projects. HB507 and HB1269 create important exceptions to motor vehicle inspection requirements to save tax dollars and preserve our roadways. HB1111 ensures that Hampton Roads Transportation Fund is distributed strategically in order to make the most prudent investments in Hampton Roads transit and puts further accountability measures to ensure tax payer dollars are spent efficiently.
This year, the House proposed a responsible, balanced budget for the state of Virginia. Transportation funding under the new budget includes grants to Dulles Airport to safeguard their contracts with major airlines. The budget includes funding for the Port of Virginia to continue to improve and expand operation to compete on a global scale. Also included in the House budget is a major new statewide tolling policy. The deal, which represents a major bi-partisan victory, is a plan to reduce congestion on I-66 inside the beltway by widening a four mile stretch from the Dulles Connector Road to Balston, improving transit, and adding new options for single drivers. I chief co-patroned along Chairman Chris Jones the bills that make up this plan, HB1069 and HB1070. The new policy creates reciprocity with other states so that no outstanding toll goes unpaid.
My budget amendment, Item 449-4, sets the policy that Virginia will not invest in increased higher speed rail capacity to other states until we fund increased rail transit between Norfolk and Roanoke. Virginia’s light rail project is one of about two dozen projects nationwide. The rail will eventually connect the major metropolitan regions of the East Coast. Our participation is integral to the advancement of Virginia economically and structurally. As Chairman, I am proud to take a leading role in the major transportation changes facing the Commonwealth.
The House budget proposal expertly invests in regional economic development and research partnerships with universities and private partners. It invests $73 million through GO Virginia, made up of HB834 and HB846. GO Virginia is an entirely voluntary program that allows localities to identify their workforce needs and apply for grants based on objective scoring criteria. The program limits each region to a maximum of 25% of the funding, and allocates a certain amount of money to each district in Virginia for economic development.
The House has kept its commitment to empowering veterans through the fiscal budget. The budget includes funding and jobs for two veteran care centers, the opening of which we fought for during the 2015 session. I am the Chief co-patron of HB825, Stolle, which has passed through both the House and the Senate. The bill creates a pilot program for veterans with applicable experience to practice medicine under supervision. This bill will help our veterans to translate the skills learned in the service to employment in the civilian sector.
As Co-Chairman to the Virginia General Assembly Tourism Caucus, I am an advocate for the tourism industry in Virginia. The House budget proposal includes a $2 million increase over two years for the advertising budget. It is estimated that the return on each dollar invested in tourism advertisement is 5 to 1. Virginia has made strategic investments to maximize returns and diversify the information that tourists receive about our beautiful state. In Virginia Beach, tourism is largely reliant on our beaches. My bill to protect our beaches and communities from coastal flooding, HB351, will be carried over to the 2017 session for further review. The bill is important to help protect and mitigate against flooding.
As Co-Chairman to the Virginia General Assembly Bioscience Caucus, I am an advocate of Virginia’s bioscience industry. Bioscience is an emergent field with the potential to diversify the economy and the job market in the Commonwealth. The House budget allocates $6.7 million to bioscience grants, which will be matched with $19.6 million in private funds. By partnering with Universities and research companies, Virginia will continue to expand in bioscience. This session, the Caucus has learned about revolutionary bioscience materials that will improve the quality of life for countless citizens. These innovations include copper-infused tiles for hospitals and restaurants that naturally ward off infection and sweat-resistant military gear designed for durability and longevity. The reach of bioscience is great, and I will continue to champion the industry in Virginia.
Session Shout Out
Thank you to all of our visitors this session. I truly enjoyed meeting with each and every one of you. This week I had the pleasure of meeting with the Miss Philippines Pre-Teens and the Heavy Construction Workers Association. Thank you for traveling to Richmond and spending the day at the Capitol. I would like to give a big thanks to the House Pages for all of their hard work and dedication to the 2016 Virginia General Assembly.
As always, I offer multiple options to stay connected. My website, www.ronv21.com, continues to be a valuable resource. I encourage you to sign up for our email blast, and to ‘like’ us on facebook. I can be reached at (757) 955-3522 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find me in my district office and throughout the district during the remainder of the year. Your thoughts and opinions are important to me, and enable me to better represent you.
I also encourage you to take a moment to share your thoughts by completing the 2016 Legislative Survey.