2016: New Session, New Budget

The 2016 General Assembly Session opened Wednesday, January 13th, and got off to a quick start! We have a lot to get done in our sixty day Session to make life better for Virginia’s citizens.
In this update, I recap opening day ceremonies, discuss the Governor’s State of the Commonwealth address, the budget, some of my legislation, ways for you to be have your voice heard, and showcase some of my visitors to the Capitol.
Opening Day Ceremonies 
At noon, the House was officially gaveled to order signifying the start of the 2016 session. All members were sworn in for the 2 year term.

This year the House welcomed eleven new members, to include my Tri-City area colleague and the youngest woman to be elected to the House- Lashrecse Aird. I look forward to working with Delegates, both old and new, in the coming months.

Speaker Howell, elected to his eighth term as Speaker, and Paul Nardo elected to his fourth term as Clerk of the House.

We then unanimously reelected Bill Howell (R-Stafford) as Speaker for his eighth term. In his opening remarks, the Speaker noted some of our past legislative successes, but reiterated hard work is ahead in key areas such as education and healthcare to continue to advance the Commonwealth.

State of the Commonwealth Address 
Later in the evening, Governor McAuliffe delivered the annual State of the Commonwealth Address. Unfortunately, the Governor continues to push for Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and more gun control despite multiple votes by the General Assembly against such actions. The Governor also appeared to take credit for many issues Republicans have taken the lead on for years such as strengthening the economy, balancing the budget, K-12 education reforms, and investing in higher education. These were Republican priorities before the Governor was elected, and they’ll be our priorities long after his term.
In his address, he also mentioned a few bipartisan areas that we can work on together. One such area concerns our veterans. He noted the Virginia Values Veterans (V3) program has “helped to connect more than 13,000 veterans with companies eager to hire them.” I was proud to have carried legislation that established the V3 program. The Governor also noted the House led legislative efforts to secure funding for veterans’ care centers in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia. My first bill for an additional veterans’ care center was put in nearly a decade ago. I am pleased to be carrying legislation this year that will complete our efforts to build two new veteran care centers.
Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albemarle) and Senator Frank Ruff (R-Mecklenburg) delivered the Republican response that laid out a positive agenda for the 2016 session. Republicans will continue to invest in both K-12 and higher education to make sure Virginia students have the best tools to succeed in today’s globalized economy. We will invest in workforce training programs to help more people get back to work. Republicans will continue to be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars and will continue to defend Virginians’ Second Amendment rights. And we will continue to reform healthcare in Virginia without expanding a broken Medicaid system.
State Budget 
One of the most important tasks for this coming session is to pass a new two year budget for the Commonwealth. Last month Governor McAuliffe unveiled his budget. The Governor’s budget proposal is just the first step in a long process. It is now time for the House to develop our budget. Our goal is to craft a responsible, conservative budget that strategically invests in the core functions of government while protecting taxpayer resources. We will invest in key priorities, but we must do so in a fiscally prudent manner. The Governor has, unfortunately, raised expectations and overpromised as his budget includes over $3 billion in new initiatives.
My Legislation 
This year, I have already filed 16 pieces of legislation and will add several others in the next week. My HB 477 allows the Virginia Public Building Authority to issue bonds to build two additional veterans’ care centers, one in Hampton Roads and one in Northern Virginia. The new centers will help make more spaces available in our area at the Sitter Barfoot care center. GO Virginia, HB 847, recognizes that jobs are not created by the government. GO Virginia will give regions grant money so they can work to build industries vital to their locations.
2016 Survey and Telephone Town Hall 
On Tuesday, January 19th at 7 PM, I will be holding my first telephone town hall of the General Assembly session for 66th House District Constituents. During the town hall, I’ll use a unique polling feature that allows me to share results within minutes, as well as answer questions directly from the audience. I hope that you will consider joining me for this telephone town hall. To make sure that you are on the call list, email kirk@kirk.aodev4.com and provide your name and the best phone number to call.
Don’t forget to return my 2016 pre-session survey. This survey covers important topics that I’ll be considering this session. Whenever I vote on legislation, I always consider the views of 66th district residents. Knowing your views helps me represent you better in Richmond.
Visitors to the Capitol

I was honored to welcome Pastor Jay Carey and his family to the Capitol this week. Pastor Carey gave the opening invocation during Session January 14th on behalf of the 66th House District. He has been appointed to Bethia United Methodist in Chesterfield for the last 18 years. We are all so thankful for his service to our community.

Del. Cox thanks statewide Veteran Leaders on the 2nd day of Session for advocating for Virginia’s 800,000 veterans and reports on his Veteran Care Centers Bill.

I met with Virginia Tech’s President Timothy Sands and Government Relations Director Elizabeth Hooper to discuss research opportunities.

Chesterfield Government Relations Director Mary Ann Curtin and her associate Kim Conley stopped by to talk about legislative issues.

Representatives from the Bank of Southside Virginia stopped by my office.

I met with several area bank representatives during their lobby day. Some of the representatives are from Bank of McKenney and EVB branches.