Between crossover and the floor vote on the House budget, this week at the General Assembly was especially busy. Crossover, which took place on Wednesday, is the day when all bills that have passed the House are sent to the Senate for their consideration and vice versa. The days leading up to crossover are typically long days on the floor as we debate and vote on an avalanche of bills ahead of the deadline.
Governor’s Transportation Plan Passes the House
On Tuesday, the House of Delegates passed an amended version of the Governor’s transportation plan. With a transportation plan failing to pass the State Senate this week, the House’s passage of the plan was even more important to reaching a solution to address this pressing issue. In fact, a report released on Tuesday confirmed what most already know- Washington DC and Northern Virginia is the most congested region in the US.
As I mentioned earlier, the bill that passed the House is similar to the Governor’s original plan; however, this is not the final version of the bill. We have passed our plan, but we need the Senate to offer their plan by passing out a bill of their own.
House Passes Fiscally Responsible, Structurally Balanced Budget
On Thursday, the House of Delegates voted to pass the House budget with bi-partisan support. This budget is a fiscally responsible, structurally balanced budget that includes targeted investments in the core functions of government. The House budget deposits nearly $100 million into the Rainy Day Fund- over a quarter of the estimated requirement of a $370 million deposit into the Rainy Day Fund.
To help promote private sector job growth, the House has included funding to create a cyber accelerator in Northern Virginia, a first in the nation program to attract cyber security companies. We have also increased the cap on the angel investor tax credit to $500,000. Raising this cap will help startup companies attract new investors and the capital needed to help them grow and thrive.
For our K-12 public schools, we have provided funding for the state’s share of a 2% pay raise for teachers and support staff and for a grant program that will help localities improve school safety.
In the area of higher education, our budget includes the funding for additional slots at our universities and to increase Tuition Assistance Grants from $2,800 to $3,100 per student.
As we begin to work with the State Senate on a final budget, we will remain committed to enacting a structurally balanced budget that includes targeted funding in the core areas of government.
Cracking Down on the Sale of Synthetic Drugs
One bill that passed early this week, but has not received much attention, was House Bill 1941 introduced by Delegate Scott Garrett. This bill criminalizes the sale of additional synthetic drugs, also known as “Spice”. Over the past few years, the House has passed several bills that criminalized the sale of these synthetic drugs; however, some have continued to try to find loopholes in the law. A 2012 University of Michigan study found that Spice is one of the most popular illegal drugs among high school students. These are dangerous drugs that can cause hallucinations and even heart attacks. On Tuesday, the House unanimously passed a bill to further restrict the sale of Spice in Virginia. This legislation will likely pass the State Senate as well and be signed into law by Governor McDonnell.
As always, my staff and I are here in Richmond to serve you. We want to hear what you think about the legislation pending before the House, or if there’s anything we can do to help you in dealing with a state government agency. My office can be reached at (804) 698-1042 or via email at DelDAlbo@house.virginia.gov. You can also fill out my legislative survey here. If you are planning to visit Richmond during Session, I encourage you to visit me in General Assembly building room 529.