Well we have made it to the half way point of session and House and Senate bills are already
“crossing over” as we say in Richmond, from one side to another side of the Capitol to be voted
on for a second time. Democracy is certainly at work!
A Conservative Budget:
We have made difficult choices over the last year in the House of Delegates to address the
budget shortfall caused by President Obama’s sequestration and tax increase. The governor
proposed in his budget more than $10 million in new fees on Virginia families and $42 million in
new government debt. The House took a different approach, paying for building projects with
existing revenues and eliminating $10.2 million in fees. $99.5 million was put in Virginia’s rainy
day fund to guard against future tax increases.
Medicaid expansion was a pressing issue last year and it’s an even more consequential issue this
year. The House of Delegates has advanced a conservative governing agenda, and we will stand
strong and resist any efforts to implement Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in Virginia.
We targeted more money to classrooms and making college more affordable and accessible,
where it can make the most difference for Virginia families. Overall, the House general fund
budget this year spends $1.1 billion dollars less than last year’s budget.
Budget Amendments Secured:
I am pleased to report that three of my budget amendments were passed this week. As a member
of the Virginia Disability Commission, I have partnered over the years with Virginians that have
physical and sensory disabilities to develop and coordinate efforts for programs, funding, and
awareness so that our fellow Virginians have opportunities and resources.
First, my $1.0m budget request was included in the budget for additional funding for the
Vocational Rehabilitation Program that helps individuals with disabilities get ready for, find, and
keep jobs by providing training, placement, and job coaching services along with workplace
accommodations. In addition to this budget request, I was able to secure $364,943.00 for the
long-term employment support services (LTESS) program for individuals for disabilities. These
efforts support our “Opportunities for All Virginians” emphasis.
Furthermore, I was able to secure $1.0m in funding to support a new grant and program that
provides incentives to small businesses that hire veterans who are transitioning out of the
military. As you may know, Hampton Roads is home to the one of the largest concentrations of
veterans on the east coast and these highly trained individuals are vital to our workforce where
we need to retain and recruit them for our local businesses. As part of the Virginians Value
Veterans Program, I was proud that my colleagues on Appropriations supported these initiatives.
Virginia has some of the top colleges and universities in the country, but costs have been
increasing and too many Virginia students find themselves on waitlists or unable to attend our
best schools. We worked to address both those issues in the budget by targeting funds to opening
up new enrollment slots and providing additional funding to make it more affordable to transfer
from a Community college to a Four Year Institution.
The House has already passed several pieces of legislation to make college more affordable for
Virginia students, as well as bills that cap student athletic fees. House Bill 1692 gives students
pursuing degrees in high-demand fields the option of a more affordable “flat-fee degree.” I
supported these bills to give Virginia students more affordable pathways to the opportunities that
a good education provides.
Classroom Success K-12 Education Agenda:
Education is always one of the most important issues we address in Richmond. Over the last
several years, the House of Delegates has made reforming and improving our schools central to
our legislative agenda.
In 2013, we funded a 2% teacher pay raise. In 2014, we reformed our Standards of Learning
tests, eliminating five SOLs for students in grades 3-8. Partly because of these efforts, but mostly
because of the work of our hardworking educators, Virginia has some of the best public schools
in the nation. We are building on these efforts this year.
The House budget includes $55 million in state funding for a 1.5 percent teacher pay raise, as
well as $1.1 million in state funding to support teacher, principal and school board members’
professional development. I supported several bills that improve Virginia’s Standards of
Learning Assessments so that they better measure student learning and give students additional
opportunities to succeed. We also passed legislation to develop a standardized system for
granting college credits for high school AP or other advanced classes.
The Virginia Lottery is proud to partner with the Virginia PTA and The Supply Room
companies to sponsor the Super Teacher awards for the sixth year. Eight teachers from across
the state will be selected to receive the Virginia Lottery Super Teacher award. Each of the eight
winners will receive a $2,000 cash prize from the Virginia Lottery, and a $2,000 classroom.
Session Shout Out
I would like to say thank you to all the visitors that we stopped by this week – The Food Bank of
Southeastern Virginia of the Eastern Shore, National Association of Women Business Owners,
VDOT, Virginia American Massage Therapy Association, VCU Medical Center, The Center for
Human-Animal Interaction, Girl Scout Council of Colonial Coast, Chesapeake Regional Medical
Board, and many more.
Thank you to those who took my legislative survey. Your feedback is valuable and will
go a long way in helping me prioritize the issues we face. To review the results, please
visit my website at ronv21.com.
As always, I look forward to working on your behalf in Richmond. If you are in the area,
please visit me at the State Capitol.
With Pride in Our Commonwealth,
State Delegate, 21st District