I’m continuing my weekly series highlighting 51 unique accomplishments by the Republican-led House of Delegates. I’ll be sending weekly emails about our successful efforts, as well as daily posts on my Facebook and Twitter pages. If you missed last week’s email, you can read it here.
Our tax reform package was the highlight of this year’s legislative session. It provides nearly $1 billion in tax relief for Virginia families. In addition to tax reform, here are some more of our legislative accomplishments:
#40 – Lowering Medical Costs by Making Coupons Count Towards Deductibles
Managing a chronic illness is difficult enough on its own without adding paperwork and expense to the equation. For Virginians dealing with illness like high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, or depression, a regular trip to the pharmacy counter is many times a life-saving endeavor.
It’s no surprise then that a number of Virginians look for every way they can to save money on these drugs, including coupons or prescription discount programs. But until now, only the money paid out of pocket toward these drugs was counted toward health insurance deductible costs. For example, someone who used a $30 discount toward a $50 co-pay would see only $20 counted toward their health insurance deductible.
When Del. Tim Hugo heard about this from his constituents, he brought the issue to his Republican colleagues and, working together, we took action. Delegate Hugo’s legislation clarifies that it doesn’t matter who funds the co-pay. Any money paid forward to cover the cost, regardless of where it comes from, is counted toward the patient’s deductibles.
#41 – Keeping the Right Records, Keeping Virginians Safe
If someone in Virginia has committed a serious crime, it should show up in their criminal record.
But with any system as complex as Virginia’s system of courts and law enforcement, sometimes things slip through the cracks. While understandable, it’s not acceptable.
That’s why I was proud to support legislation from Del. Rob Bell this session that requires the various Clerks of Court in Virginia to go through their records and ensure that any criminal record information that hasn’t been applied to the Virginia Central Criminal Records Exchange is included, and the files are updated.
Ensuring that Virginia’s criminal records are accurate and include all the legally-required information isn’t just a matter of good governance; various agencies depend on it. Local governments, the Virginia State Police, and other departments rely on this data for background checks for everything from employment decisions — can someone be trusted to work with young children — to firearm purchases.
Keeping these records correct is critical to keeping Virginians safe. Thanks to this bill, the odds of dangerous people falling through the cracks to purchase firearms or work in sensitive occupations will be greatly reduced.
#42 – Fostering Collaboration for Safety and Savings
There’s nothing quite as satisfying as driving over a newly paved stretch of road, but there is nothing quite as maddening as watching a utility crew come through a week later and dig it up to replace a water line or electrical cable.
Likewise, we all want our children to be safe but at the same time, we don’t want Richmond or our local governments wasting our hard-earned dollars. A little bit of coordination and planning can go a long way toward saving taxpayer money when it comes to school renovations.
That’s why I was proud to support House Bill 1725 from Del. Barry Knight, which requires local school officials to work with their local fire marshals and building inspectors to make sure that any enhancements to school safety are done in line with fire safety and building safety codes.
What looks like a great security idea on paper could wind up being a fire hazard or a significant violation of building codes. And if those violations are found after the security work has been done, they have to be ripped out — wasting time and money.
As the old saying goes, measure twice, cut once.
#43 – Ensuring Fair, Unbiased Elections for All
If there’s any part of state government that must be absolutely trusted to be above politics, it’s the Department of Elections. Unfortunately, the Department has suffered in recent years in terms of public perception.
Charged with running fair and impartial elections, political appointees at the top of the department sent what was once one of the most trusted parts of Virginia government down a dangerous road.
In late 2018, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission issued a report on the Department, and what they found was disturbing. Under the leadership of political appointees, there was an environment of open support for one party over the other. That’s why I was proud to support Del. Margaret Ransone’s House Bill 1620, which makes significant reforms to the department.
Under Del. Ransone’s bill, the State Board of Elections expands from three members to five members, maintaining the partisan advantage for the party of the sitting Governor, but adding two more voices to the board. The bill also moves the appointment of the Commissioner of the Department from the Governor’s office to the Board of Elections. Additionally the Commissioner must be supported by four out of the five members, meaning the choice must receive bipartisan support.
This piece of legislation is still awaiting the Governor’s signature. We are hopeful that Governor Northam will agree with this common-sense piece of legislation.
#44 – Bringing Experts to the Table for School Emergency Planning
Virginia is nationally-recognized as a leader on school safety, and the House Select Committee on School Safety furthered that reputation with a series of recommendations designed to help keep our kids safe in school.
While every step possible is taken to prevent disaster from happening, we also need to take practical steps on how to handle any number of threats in a school environment.
Delegate Tommy Wright introduced legislation this year that requires local fire, police, and other first responders to collaborate on school emergency planning. Virginia has long required schools to have a crisis plan in place, but now we will bring a more experts to the table for emergency planning.
This bill works hand-in-hand with our legislation requiring local school divisions to sign MOUs with law enforcement, and will help ensure better coordination when we need it most.
Not only will first responders know what schools will do if there is an emergency, they will also know the plan is the best that it could be.