The 2017 General Assembly session has officially begun! This year will be a short session (46 days) as our primary responsibility is to make adjustments to our biennial budget. However, we are still putting forth a breadth of legislative proposals aimed at creating jobs, improving healthcare costs, and creating more educational opportunities. There is a lot before us this year, but we will be focused on doing the work of the people and completing the session on time!
First Day of Session
The House was officially gaveled into session on Wednesday, January 11th at 12 noon.
A new transparency measure was announced on the first day: the video archiving of each day’s session. The new archive, available from the Virginia General Assembly website, will allow the public to view the floor proceedings of the House during the 2017 session on demand. The House also has created a search feature that will allow viewers to search by bill or by member.
The House is committed to building on our previous advances in improved transparency (i.e two day waiting period before voting on budget and prohibiting committee meetings held at member desks on the chamber floor). We take public access to the legislative proceedings seriously.
State of the Commonwealth Address
Later that evening, Governor McAuliffe delivered the annual State of the Commonwealth Address. As this is McAuliffe’s final year in office, a great deal of his speech was a review of his time as Governor.
Republican Delegate Ron Villanueva (Virginia Beach) and Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (Henrico) delivered the Republican perspective on the State of the Commonwealth. You can read the text of their address here.
Delegate Villanueva and Senator Dunnanvant reminded us that with last November’s elections, there are big changes coming to our nation’s Capital. Some of these changes, like rebuilding our national defense and including coal in a comprehensive approach to energy independence, will greatly benefit Virginia. But it is here in our state Capitol where a lot of work is going to be done that directly benefit all Virginians. We know Virginian’s have had enough of partisan squabbles and we in the legislature are committed to passing commonsense priorities that are conservative but can also garner widespread support.
In August of last year, Governor McAuliffe announced over a $1 billion shortfall. The shortfall is a result of a lagging economy that generated less tax revenue than expected. Unfortunately, the “New Virginia” economy Governor McAuliffe is always championing has been steadily replacing high paying full time jobs with lower paying part time jobs. Virginia’s economy has lost more than 4,000 jobs, weekly wages are down, and part-time employees are up by more than 20,000 since 2015
However, unlike Washington, Virginia’s constitution requires a balanced budget. Last month Governor McAuliffe unveiled his proposed budget to the General Assembly. 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 precious taxpayer resources. We will invest in key priorities, but we must do so in a fiscally prudent manner.
As the House considers amendments to the budget, my top priority is increasing pay for our state police. Our officers receive a pay that is on average lower than state police in surrounding states. Many officers have left the state police force to join local law enforcement agencies or the private sector. I will work with colleagues in the House and Senate to help make a pay raise for our state police a reality.
As we start the General Assembly, I encourage you to fill out my session survey. Many of you may have already received it in the mail, but I encourage you to fill it out online here. Please share the survey with your friends and neighbors in the 66th district so that they may fill it out as well. Your thoughts on important issues like ways to make college more affordable and suggestions on how to stimulate our economy drive my work in Richmond. Please make sure you complete and send in your survey by January 31st.
Pre-Session Telephone Town Hall
On January 5th, I held my annual pre-session telephone town hall. Over 1,000 residents of Chesterfield and Colonial Heights participated in the call.
Delegate Cox and his Chief of Staff during the telephone town hall.
I appreciate the questions asked of me during the telephone town hall and the responses given on the poll questions. A full list of results from poll questions asked on the call can be found here.
A second telephone town hall will be conducted in February.
Welcome Delegate Holcomb
This week I had the pleasure of welcoming Rocky Holcomb, the newest Republican member of the House of Delegates, to Richmond. Rocky, a deputy sheriff in Virginia Beach, won a special election for the 85th district created by Scott Taylor’s election to Congress.
Delegate Cox with Delegate Rocky Holcomb of Virginia Beach.
Last night, I was awarded the Distinguished Friend of Agribusiness Award by the Virginia Agribusiness Council. This award is given to a government official who has shown his or her support of the agribusiness community over a number of years. Other recipients of this award include Senator Mark Obenshain, Delegates Steve Landes and Bobby Orrock, and former Governor Bob McDonnell.
Delegate Cox speaking with attendees of the annual Virginia Agribusiness Council’s Appreciation Banquet.
During session, you can contact me at my Richmond office by phone at 698-1066; by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or by mail at PO Box 406, Richmond, VA 23218. I appreciate your views on legislation that will help me do a better job for the people I represent.
Please visit my Facebook page and my Twitter page. These pages, along with my website, have information/links to the 2017 General Assembly session to include my legislation, visitors’ photos, my legislative survey, videos of floor remarks, and related topics.