This week is crunch time for all legislators here in the General Assembly. Next Tuesday is Crossover, where all of the bills from the House of Delegates move over to the Senate, and all of the Senate Bills come over to the House of Delegates. We are all putting forth our greatest effort to be prompt and assure that all of the bills reported out of House committees are carried to the floor for a vote. Here are some of the highlights from this past week:
Getting more In-State Slots at VA Colleges and Universities and making them more affordable
We have excellent colleges and universities in Virginia. In fact, Virginia has 4 public universities in the top 30 for “Best College Values” in the United States according to Kiplinger. For too many Virginians though, high costs put higher education out of reach. That’s why we passed two important bills this week that give Virginia families more affordable options. House Bill 1692 gives students pursuing degrees in high-demand fields the option of a more affordable “flat-fee degree.” House Bill 2320 establishes a new cooperative bachelor’s degree program in Virginia that lets students earn a bachelor’s degree for just $4,000 per year, through a combination of online, community college, or college or university courses and we are entertaining to fund 1,700 new slots at UVA, VA Tech, JMU, and William & Mary.
K-12 Education Reforms
We have passed a number of important education reforms that build on our efforts in recent years to reward good teachers, increase accountability in our schools, and to give students more pathways to success. I’ve helped pass legislation that simplifies the process for students to retake the SOL test that protects our students’ privacy, establishes innovative virtual schools as an option for students, and standardizes the system for giving college credit for advanced high school courses. Additionally, we will be targeting more money to the classrooms with a teacher pay raise, to help ensure that Virginia can continue to attract and retain the best and brightest educators.
I supported two important transportation accountability bills that will help make sure that money devoted to transportation actually goes to projects that will make a difference and that will make funding decisions more transparent and responsive to local needs. House Bill 1470 builds on last year’s transportation accountability legislation by requiring transit projects to meet the same rigorous standards that we applied to road projects last year. Those standards require projects to be selected by how much they reduce congestion (e.g. science not politics). House Bill 1887, which also passed this week, simplifies Virginia’s complicated and outdated transportation funding formula into three simple funding streams that increase transparency and give localities a greater say in how their transportation dollars are spent. We also passed legislation this week that allows transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft to operate in Virginia.
I have been a strong defender of our constitutionally protected property rights. House Bill 1287, which I helped to pass this week, safeguards against abuse of civil asset forfeiture by requiring a criminal conviction before any property used in connection with a crime could be forfeited. This measure will guard against potential abuse of asset forfeiture laws and help protect innocent people from losing their property.
The best social welfare program is a good-paying job. I’ve been working on legislation that will let more people find or keep good-paying jobs in Virginia. Small businesses account for more than half of new job creation in Virginia, and this week the House passed HB 1360, which makes it easier for small and new businesses to raise money through “crowdfunding.” I’m also happy to report that the House will be eliminating more than $10 million in new fees on Virginia families and small businesses that were included in the Governor’s budget. Our House budget will find the money to fund the core functions of government without looking to taxpayers for more of their hard-earned money.
This week, the House passed “Right to Try” legislation that gives terminally ill patients better access to potentially life-saving treatments that haven’t yet been approved by the FDA. We also rolled out budget proposals that would strengthen Virginia’s existing health care safety net and increase our support for free clinics. This is a conservative plan that would help Virginians who are most in need without dumping thousands of Virginians into the Obamacare Medicaid expansion or creating a massive new entitlement program, as the Governor proposed.
Status of my Legislation
HB 1445 Possession or distribution of marijuana for medical purposes; epilepsy: The bill was unanimously reported from the Courts of Justice committee with substitute.
HB 1503 Driving after forfeiture of license; blood alcohol content: The Courts of Justice Criminal Law subcommittee unanimously recommends reporting the bill.
HB 1635 Defamation; statue of limitations: The House unanimously passed the bill.
HB 1499 Right to breast-feed in public places: The House unanimously passed the bill.
HJ 537 Drug trafficking; interstate cooperation: The bill is currently being heard in the Committee on Rules.
HB 1343 Campus police departments; sexual assault reporting: The bill has been tabled until next year.
On a lighter note, some of my constituents were kind enough to pay me a visit this week:
In case you have not completed my survey here is the link to it: http://survey.house.virginia.gov/Survey.aspx?s=0e2175fa7be345e38bbc050212f63693
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. If you are planning to visit Richmond during Session, I encourage you to visit me in General Assembly building room 529.