Update from Richmond: Week 6

Crossover took place this week, marking the midpoint of the General Assembly session. By crossover, the House and Senate must complete work on their own bills so that they may “crossover” to the other chamber for consideration. The exception to this is the state budget, which will be debated and voted upon by each chamber this upcoming week. We enjoyed a productive first half of session, and I am looking forward to continuing the people’s work during these final weeks of the legislative calendar. For a more detailed review of our accomplishments, click here.

Thoughts on Florida

Before I fully dive into actions the General Assembly has taken on various issues this past week, I’d like to briefly mention the horrific events that took place in Florida this week.

As a parent and a former teacher, it is difficult to begin to comprehend the pain that the Parkland, Florida community is feeling. We all want our children to be able to learn in a safe environment free from worry.

Over the coming weeks, law enforcement will release details surrounding the events that took place on the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. I ask that you join me in praying for the friends of families of the seventeen individuals that lost their lives this week.

Flags atop the State Capitol at half mast.

By order of the Governor, flags atop the State Capitol are flying at half staff in the honor and memory of the victims of this week’s shooting in Florida. Likewise, the House of Delegates adjourned in their honor and memory on Thursday, February 15th.

First Half of Session

Overwhelmingly, the first half of session was productive. While pundits predicted gridlock following last November’s election results, we have once again proved that the Virginia General Assembly can work together finding “Practical Solutions to Everyday Issues.”

This week I sat down with Woody Evans from the Virginia Cable Telecommunications Association to discuss the House’s accomplishments during the first half of session. Click here to watch my full interview.

I also authored an op-ed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch discussing the bipartisan approach the House has taken on a number of issues. While Governor Northam and I disagree on a number of issues, I commend him for his willingness to find common ground on other issues. We recently came together to announce a bipartisan plan to cut overburdensome government regulations. HB 883 will will remove bureaucratic red tape that keeps companies from hiring more people and paying higher wages.

To read my full op-ed, click here.

Fighting Against Tax Increases

During the first half of session, House Republicans defeated $770 million in tax increases proposed by Democrats. Their tax proposals included a new tax on streaming services such as Netflix, Pandora, and Hulu; a increase in the statewide hotel tax; and a new tax on ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft.

I am committed to keeping taxes low so Virginia businesses can be competitive and families can keep more of their hard earned money in their pocket. All of these tax increases were non-starters for the House and were easily defeated.

Combating the Opioid Crisis

The opioid crisis is impacting every zip code in our Commonwealth. No one is immune from this addiction. On average, more than three Virginians die each day from this devastating crisis. The House Republican Caucus carried and passed seven pieces of legislation to help combat the opioid crisis. Bills this year follow a series of bills passed last year that are already disrupting illegal opioid supply chains and saving lives.

HB 1157 will help provide additional care for babies born with an addiction due to a birth mother’s addiction. HB 842 will assist in training first responders to use naloxone, a life saving drug that can reverse the effects of an overdose. Click here to see a full list of House Republican bills aimed at fighting the opioid crisis.

Addressing the Teacher Shortage

Virginia is privileged to have one of the best education systems in large part due to our excellent teachers. And we are lucky to have many of our Commonwealth’s finest educators working in schools across Chesterfield and Colonial Heights. But more and more we are seeing our dedicated educators leaving the classroom for administration positions or worse yet, not pursuing the career at all because of licensure obstacles.

This year, the House of Delegates passed several pieces of legislation that will provide individuals an easier path to becoming a teacher. Three different bills specifically address streamlining the teacher licensure process. These bills will allow well qualified teachers to enter a classroom sooner and allow them to stay in the classroom teaching our students. House Bill 2 not only supports our teachers, but supports our veterans by allowing the spouse of a military member with a valid out–of-state teaching license to teach in Virginia without reapplying for a license.

The Budget

The state budget will be released this Sunday afternoon. We have laid the foundation for adopting a conservative, balanced budget that does not raise taxes. The budget is the most important thing we do, and we are committed to passing a budget on time without a government shutdown. Unlike Washington, we in Richmond are constitutionally required to balance our budget. My commitment will be to fund the core functions of government while being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.

Be sure to keep an eye out for next week’s update where I look forward to sharing specifics about the budget in next week’s update.

Visitors to the Capitol

I enjoyed welcoming additional visitors to the Capitol this week. First up was a group of outstanding students from John Tyler Community College in Chester. We discussed efforts that the House is taking to ensure college affordability, including HB 3. HB 3 will ensure that dual enrollment classes taken during high school through community colleges like John Tyler will be accepted at one of our public four-year colleges or universities.

Speaker Cox with students from John Tyler Community College.

I also welcomed Colonial Heights Sheriff Todd Wilson and deputy sheriffs from Colonial Heights and Chesterfield as part of the Virginia Sheriff’s Association annual lobby day. We discussed state efforts to boost starting pay for sheriff deputies to attract quality candidates. While Colonial Heights and Chesterfield have police departments that take the lead in day-to-day law enforcement, most counties across the state do not have a police department and rely on the sheriff’s department for primary law enforcement.

Speaker Cox with Sheriff Todd Wilson and sheriff deputies from Colonial Heights.

Links of Interest

Below are links to several news stories covering the General Assembly this past week.

 

It really has been a productive first half of session in the House of Delegates. To read a more comprehensive list of our accomplishments, click here.

I encourage you to keep in touch with me and my office during session. I value the feedback you provide on a continual basis as it helps me do a better job of representing you. You can email me at delkcox@house.virginia.gov or call me at (804) 698-1066. You can also join the conversation on our social media pages by liking my Facebook page or following me on Twitter.

Sincerely,

Kirk Cox