As we enter the fourth week of the Virginia General Assembly, it is important to provide you with an update on my legislation. As of Tuesday morning, 12 of my 14 bills have been given at least an initial hearing. Last week, I highlighted six pieces of legislation including three that have passed the House. Below, I have provided a brief update on changes to some of those bills along with legislation that was brought before sub and full committees this past week.
HB 1710, which requires seat belts on school buses, passed 6-4 in Education Subcommittee #2 and was referred to the full Committee on Education. Full Committee voted in support 13-8 on this bill, on Jan. 21, and further referred it to the Appropriations Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee. Unfortunately, this subcommittee voted the bill down. Critics viewed it as an unfunded mandate on localities. However, the seat belts would have been phased in only on new buses over the next 20 years which is the average lifespan of a bus. Additionally, seat belts on school buses only account for a small increases in the total cost of buses while providing additional safety for our children.
HB 2576, a bill that establishes a Sex Trafficking Response Coordinator, was referred to Courts of Justice Subcommittee #1 and passed unanimously with an 8-0 vote. It was then reported to full Courts of Justice and passed unanimously, 18-0. It is now referred to Appropriations Public Safety Subcommittee and is awaiting a hearing. As a unanimous recommendation of the Crime Commission, I am hopeful this important bill will pass, especially since I serve on the Public Safety Subcommittee.
HB 2498, a bill which would codify the current practice that the Virginia State Police issue a public or media alert regarding a missing and endangered child who does not meet the definition of an abducted child, was assigned to Militia, Police, and Public Subcommittee #2. I am regretful to say this bill failed to move to full Committee with the vote 3-2 against.
HB 2264, which would require all passengers, front seat and back seat, to wear seat belts, was assigned to Transportation Subcommittee #1 and defeated on a party line vote. Republicans see this bill as government overreach but I remain hopeful to pass this legislation in the future to ensure the safety of all Virginians.
HB 2263, which updates the Code of Virginia so that no firefighter can be fired unjustly, was assigned to Courts of Justice Subcommittee #2 and passed unanimously with a substitute. The bill requires that no evidence can be used against a firefighter in an interrogation that violates the Firefight Conduct of Interrogation. It moved to full Courts of Justice and also passed unanimously. The bill was on its first floor reading on Tuesday.
HB 2009, a bill that establishes a ranking procedure for Virginia Land Conservation Foundation proposals, was first referred to Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources Subcommittee #1 and passed unanimously with a substitute. This substitute streamlines the procedure into one step, which was previously two. It was then voted unanimously from full Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources and referred to Committee on Appropriations.
HB 1936, which allows dependents of Foreign Service Officers to receive a one-year residency waiver for in-state tuition, was first assigned to Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee and passed unanimously with a substitution. This substitute lays out a 90-day residency requirement before qualifying for the one-year residency waiver. It was then passed unanimously, 20-0, from full Appropriations Committee. HB 1936 has passed through its second reading and was on its third reading on Tuesday, Jan. 29.
HB 1790, a bill which provides that a person who is line to cast a ballot for in-person absentee voting shall be permitted to vote, is assigned to Privilege and Election Subcommittee #1 and awaiting its first hearing.
HB 1687 provides a private cause of action against employers who fail to pay their employees their wages, is referred to Commerce and Labor Subcommittee #2 and is awaiting a vote.
HJ 597, a bill which requests the Department of Environmental Quality to study the impact of littering, had its first hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 29.
Additionally, I introduced a budget amendment (Item 136 #22h) to increase state share of education costs. The state direct aid for public schools has fallen while the student population has been increasing. Local governments are experiencing a large amount of this burden and the budget amendment aimed to alleviate this problem by increasing the State’s share of funding. Unfortunately, the 2 percent increase I requested was turned down in Appropriations.
It is hard to believe we are almost halfway through this year’s legislative session. It has been a great session so far as we have had three bills already pass through the House. During the remainder of session, I remain hopeful that I can pass additional pieces of legislation, many generated from our community and that will be good for our Commonwealth, and continue my work on the budget as a member of the Appropriations Committee.