School is back in session and summer has ended. I hope you and your family enjoyed much needed rest and time together during the summer months. I wish our students, parents, and teachers the best of luck during the upcoming academic year.
In this newsletter, I’ll discuss tax reform, school safety, and several other matters facing state government, as well as sharing with you several of my engagements throughout the district.
I first want to take a moment to update you on a significant development in Richmond. Recently, Governor Northam introduced a new tax plan that would result in a major tax increase on the middle class.
Democrats in the House of Delegates are already supporting this plan – but I simply cannot support raising your taxes. Instead, my colleagues and I will be rolling out a proposal to make sure you do not have to pay more in state taxes.
You may have seen the Governor claim that Virginia will have a “windfall” from federal tax cuts. However, what Governor Northam is calling a “windfall” is really just the state collecting higher taxes from hard working middle class families. People will receive tax cuts at the federal level, but a technical provision in Virginia law will require people to pay more on the state level. This impacts more than 640,000 families who in years past itemized their taxes, but would likely not be able to under the new law. That means you will lose your deductions for mortgage interest, real estate taxes, personal property taxes, and healthcare expenses.
Instead of fixing this problem and fully-implementing the Trump tax cuts, Governor Northam wants to redirect these middle-class tax dollars to pay for the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is a tax credit for low-income families that essentially eliminates any state taxes they would pay. Governor Northam wants to expand that and provide them with a refund.
We do not believe middle-class families should be stuck paying more in state taxes and will be rolling out a proposal soon to make sure we fully-implement the Trump tax cuts while preserving key deductions like the mortgage interest deduction, the healthcare expenses deduction, and the real-estate property tax deduction.
As I said the tax increase plan has the full support and backing of Governor Northam. That means it’s going to be a top priority of Democrats in the 2019 General Assembly Session. It’s going to be a fight to keep these tax increases out of Virginia.
I hope this helps you to better understand this complicated policy and why we must fight against it.
Select Committee on School Safety
Members of the House Select Committee on School Safety continue their work in ensuring that our students and teachers can learn and work in a safe environment. Throughout the summer, our three subcommittees have met across the state working in their fields of 1) infrastructure and security, 2) student behavior and intervention, and 3) prevention and response protocol.
In a meeting of the subcommittee examining student behavior and intervention at Blue Ridge Community College, members heard directly from area students on their concerns. A key part of the conversation centered around bullying and its impact on the school environment. As a sign of the times, the students shared with subcommittee members that bullying in 2018 primarily occurs online–often known as cyberbullying–and rarely face-to-face. Testimonies from students and adults are helping shape legislation that will help keep our schools safe.
You can read more about the recent subcommittee meeting at Blue Ridge Community College by clicking here.
A federal court recently ruled that 11 House of Delegates districts are unconstitutional and gave the General Assembly an October 30th deadline to address them. The Court ruled the districts are racial gerrymanders that unfairly dilute the strength of African American voters.
The 2011 redistricting plan was passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority, including the support of a majority of the Legislative Black Caucus. The plan was also approved by President Obama’s Justice Department.
Governor Ralph Northam called a special session that convened on August 30th. The House convened as constitutionally-required, even though I have appealed to the United States Supreme Court in my capacity as Speaker of the House of Delegates.
At the August 30th session, Democrats introduced a redistricting plan. Unfortunately, it was an overtly partisan plan that failed to adhere to the court’s requirements. The Democratic plan managed to take five Republican leaning districts and four swing districts and make them safe seats for Democrats. Of the 115 requirements listed in the court order, Democrats only fixed 29. When asked who drew their maps, the Minority Leader said “some consultants out of Washington.”
The House of Delegates will convene again later this month as we continue to consider this matter.
Each year, approximately 30 middle school students from across the Commonwealth serve as pages for the House of Delegates during regular session. As Speaker of the House, it is my honor to be able to appoint young men and women from all walks of life to fill these important positions.
Pages, who must be 13 or 14 on the first day of session (January 9, 2019), are vital to the smooth operation of the House of Delegates and the legislative process as a whole. Pages will have the opportunity to see lawmaking–including laws that will directly impact them–first hand. Young individuals serving as pages live in Richmond during session and participate in mandatory study hall each evening.
The House page application and the similar Senate page application can be found online by clicking here. All students seeking to apply must receive permission from their school as well as an endorsement letter from their member in the House of Delegates.
New Capitol Police Exhibit
A new exhibit has opened in the State Capitol commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Virginia Capitol Police. Founded in 1618, what we now refer to as the Capitol Police is the oldest law enforcement agency still in existence anywhere in the United States.
The exhibit, located in the underground extension of the Capitol, explores 400 years of service by the men, women, and canines of the Virginia Capitol Police to the people of Virginia. The exhibit is free and can easily be coupled with a guided tour of the Capitol. If you’re in Richmond in the near future, I highly recommend stopping by to view this exhibit.
Around the District
Many young Virginians participate in summer swim leagues each year. We have many such teams here in the 66th district. This year, I was happy to join swimmers at the Sherwood Hills and Harper’s Mill swim clubs at their end-of-the-year banquets. These swimmers trained hard all summer and had very successful seasons. I wish them the best of luck on their upcoming school year and next year’s swim season!
Cultural Center of India
I was recently invited to the Cultural Center of India’s celebration of the 72nd anniversary of the independence of India. I always enjoy visiting the Cultural Center, which serves as a great resource for the Indian community here in Central Virginia. The food, dancing, and music all pointed to a vibrant, active community. I thank everyone at the Cultural Center of India, including its founder Dr. Kamlesh Dave, for the work they do in our community.
MPBC 50th Anniversary
I recently joined the members of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church at their 50th anniversary celebration where I presented House Resolution 142 to commemorate their efforts. I enjoyed the two worship services and fellowshiping with members at a luncheon. I’m grateful for the work Mount Pleasant and other churches in our district do for our community.
Thank you to the members of the Sonshine Club for inviting me to speak at their monthly meeting. Together we discussed recent laws passed by the General Assembly and key upcoming issues such as school safety and tax reform. I always enjoy speaking to civic groups–whether elementary students or seniors–and listening to their feedback on state government.
Outside of session, you can contact me in my district office via phone at 526-5135; by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or by US mail at PO Box 1205, Colonial Heights, VA 23834. I encourage you to visit my Facebook page, Twitter page, and website to stay up to date with events taking place in the 66th district and your state government.