General Assembly Update: Week 5

As of February 10th, we have finished day 31 of this year’s 46-day session. Two major deadlines passed this week – crossover and the vote each chamber’s budget.


Crossover Highlights

Tuesday was the halfway point of the 2017 session, known as “crossover”. The Republican-led House of Delegate is making good progress on issues that matter most to you. Whether it is the need to strengthen our education system to maintain our global competitiveness or continue to enact conservative reforms that make government smaller and more efficient, our first and foremost responsibility is and always will be to govern

Jobs

We recognize that creating good paying jobs remains a top priority. The House passed legislation to prohibit local governments from adopting ordinance setting the minimum wage higher than the state government. We also passed legislation protecting small business owners that operate franchises from being forced to unionize their employees.

A major cornerstone of the House job growth agenda in 2016 legislation that established the Growth & Opportunity Board, the centerpiece of “GO Virginia”. This legislation suffered major cuts by the Governor. However, the House budget restored $7.5 million to continue this initiative that will foster job growth. GO Virginia is a business-driven initiative facilitates greater collaboration between the business community, higher education and local governments. By aligning the needs of the three segments, we will encourage the creation of good paying jobs in high demand fields, and make economic development dollars go further.

Education

Education is the gateway to opportunity. No matter where a student comes from or what his or her background is, a good education can make anything possible. The House has worked hard to scale back SOL tests that sometimes emphasize memorize rote memorization. This year we expanded on this effort by passing legislation that gives a student the appropriate amount of partial credit for a multi-part assessment if the entire question isn’t answered completely correct.

Virginia is fortunate to have one of the best education systems in the world – thanks in large part to our great teachers and local leaders who have made it their life’s work to educate our children. The House of Delegates has sought to provide these educators with the tools, resources and flexibility they need to provide our children with a world-class education. That includes reducing burdensome licensure and continuing education requirements. As such, the House passed legislation to waive certain licensure requirements for a teacher with an endorsement in career and technical education.

We are also taking action to control college costs. The only make college more affordable is not just with more money, but with specific actions to keep costs down. The House has passed legislation to set standard acceptance of dual enrollment credits taken in high school.


Budget Highlights

In December of last year, Governor McAuliffe announced his introduced budget. The driving force behind adjustments to the 2016-2018 biennial budget is the over $1 billion shortfall that was announced last fall. Since the Governor’s presentation, the House Appropriations Committee conducted 5 public hearings across the state to receive input from our citizens on the priorities they would like to see addressed.

This Thursday, the House voted on our version of the budget. Our budget reflects the tough choices and priority setting necessary to present a balanced budget. We reviewed all discretionary spending and held fast to conservative budgeting while investing in the core functions of government.

State Employees & State Troopers

Our budget invests resources to make a compensation package for state employees and law enforcement a reality. All told, the cost the 3% raise for state employees and college faculty, and restoring the 2% pay raise for state supported employees was $88.7 million. Funding is also included to provide our Deputy Sheriffs with their compression pay adjustments. Finally, an additional $15 million is included to address the starting salaries and compression of our State Troopers and Capitol Police Officers.

K-12 Education

Last year the House re-established the policy of sending back a portion of the Lottery proceeds to our school divisions on a per-pupil basis without a required local match. This year the House budget sends 40%, or $218.7 million, in Lottery Profits directly back to our school divisions. The schools get much needed flexibility in allocating these dollars where they think it is best served, be it a pay raise for their teachers or funding their share of getting to 100% of the required VRS contribution rate.

Higher Education

Access and affordability in higher education has been a top priority of the House for years. Last session we made a significant additional investment in higher education. However, because of the shortfall cuts of nearly $80 million were announced by the Governor. The House budget restores $21.0 million to Higher Education to reduce cuts so that no school had a reduction greater than 1.4% of their budget.

Health & Human Resources

The House, working collaboratively with the Senate and the Governor, have made significant investments in the area of mental health. The House will provide a $28.5 million increase in mental health services, to include expanding the GAP program to cover individuals up to 100% of the federal poverty level. We will also provide funding for supportive housing and same day access. Our budget recommendations will add an additional 144 DD waiver slots to meet the needs of Virginia’s most vulnerable citizens.

In closing, the House budget recommendations adhere to our commitment to strategically focus our resources, by keeping our promises to our state employees, and to fund the core services of government.


Visits to the Capitol

southside-realtors
Del. Cox with Southside Virginia Association of REALTORS

I enjoyed speaking with a large group from the Southside Virginia Association of REALTORS this morning. Their association is a professional organization that promotes excellence in the real estate business.

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Del. Cox with JMU President & Leadership

It was great to welcome President Alger of James Madison University, my alma mater, to the State Capitol this week in recognition of their national championship! You can watch their recognition in the House chamber by clicking here. Go Dukes!


During session, you can contact me at my Richmond office by phone at 698-1066; by email at delkcox@house.virginia.gov; 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.

Please forward this update to your friends and neighbors.