House Republican leaders in the Virginia House of Delegates highlighted their legislative agenda at the midpoint of the 2014 session at a press conference Wednesday in Richmond. Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) was joined by members of the House Republican leadership team, House Appropriations Committee Chairman S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk), Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albemarle), Delegate Tag Greason (R-Loudoun) and others to highlight legislation on key issues like ethics, transparency and disclosure, mental health, the Standards of Learning, transportation and public safety. The group highlighted over three dozen specific pieces of legislation that passed the House of Delegates during the 2014 General Assembly session.
“We have had a remarkably strong start to this General Assembly session,” declared House Speaker Bill Howell. “On nearly every major issue, the House Republican caucus has been leading the effort to build a stronger Virginia for businesses and families.
“On kitchen table issues we continue to offer a positive, forward-thinking vision to strengthen Virginia’s economy, improve our schools and keep our neighborhoods safe. This year, we have enacted legislation to incentivize job creators, streamline how Virginia spends its transportation dollars, reform the Standards of Learning, and combat domestic and sexual violence.
“On the major policy challenges facing the Commonwealth we are offering substantive, detailed solutions. We passed a strong package of mental health reforms to ensure that access to care is available to anyone who needs it, we pushed a bipartisan, comprehensive ethics reform bill that passed the House 98 to 1, and we have charted a responsible, prudent approach to reforming Medicaid. We are committed to crafting a structurally balanced budget based on Virginia’s traditionally conservative approach while making targeted investments in key areas like higher education and health care.
“I am incredibly proud of the work we have accomplished so far this year, and I look forward to continuing that work during the second half of the General Assembly session.”
House Majority Leader Kirk Cox said the more than three dozen bills in areas like economic development, K-12 education, public safety and government reform stand as proof that the House of Delegates is leading in Richmond.
“Throughout the last ten years, the House of Delegates has made a concerted effort to put results before politics,” said Cox. “This year, we have continued that by focusing on the issues that Virginians care about most. The contrast between our substantive, detailed and lengthy agenda and others in Richmond could not be clearer. The work is not easy, but it must be done and the House of Delegates is proud to carry that banner.”
Deputy Majority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albemarle) and Delegate Tag Greason (R-Loudoun) highlighted the work of the House on ethics reform, mental health and education.
“Early last fall, we began to look at ways to enact meaningful reforms to Virginia’s ethics, transparency and disclosure laws,” said Delegate Gilbert. “I am very proud of the bipartisan, comprehensive ethics reform bill the House of Delegates passed yesterday. This legislation will strengthen accountability, promote greater transparency and help preserve trust in government.”
“Too often in the last several years, Virginians have witnessed the devastating effects that result from critical gaps in mental health care,” said Delegate Bell. “We took a number of steps after the 2007 tragedy at Virginia Tech. The tragedy that struck Senator Creigh Deeds and his family spurred us once again to take a close look at how we could improve our system. We passed a strong package of reforms that will give law enforcement greater flexibility to respond to mental health crises, make it easier for mental health professionals to find available beds in facilities and, if none are available, ensure that no individual who needs care is turned away untreated. I want to thank Delegate Ben Cline and the other members of the mental health subcommittee for their work. We look forward to working with members of the Senate to find common ground on this important issue.”
“Virginia has one of the best public education systems in the country, filled with great educators who want to help our children succeed,” said Delegate Greason. “Our job in Richmond is to empower those educators with the tools, resources and opportunities to do their job. This year, the House passed legislation that will reduce the number of SOL tests students take by 23 percent, giving teachers more opportunities to teach and freeing students from the pressure of over-testing. Our blended learning model of virtual classrooms will expand access to education for all students. This package builds on the innovative changes made last year and demonstrates our long term commitment to Virginia’s students, teachers and educators.”
Jobs & Economic Development
HB 321 – (Landes – Augusta) – Passed House
Creates the Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program, a pilot program administered by the Secretary of Commerce and Trade to improve outreach by state government to the private sector. The objectives of the program are to (i) strengthen coordination and interaction between state government and the private sector on issues relevant to entrepreneurs and small business concerns and (ii) make state government programs and operations simpler, easier to access, more efficient, and more responsive to the needs of small business concerns and entrepreneurs.
HB 375 – (O’Quinn – Washington) – Passed House
Protects innovators and entrepreneurs from bad-faith patent infringement assertions and the costs they create for Virginia businesses. Empowers the Attorney General or an attorney for the Commonwealth to accept assurances of voluntary compliance and seek injunctive relief. The Attorney General is also authorized to issue civil investigative demands.
HB 422 – (Davis – Virginia Beach) – Passed House
Prohibits local governing bodies from establishing provisions that would require a wage floor of any other employee benefit or compensation, above what is otherwise required by state or federal law, to be provided by a contractor to its employees as part of a local government contract.
HB 497 – (Head – Roanoke) – Passed House
Permits a taxpayer to appeal to the Tax Commissioner or request a written ruling from him with regard to the classification of the business for BPOL tax purposes, regardless of whether the locality has conducted an audit, issued an assessment, or taken any other action.
HB 873 – (Jones – Suffolk) – Passed House
Streamlines and expands Virginia’s ports-related tax credits by increasing the annual amount of international trade facility tax credits that may be issued from $250,000 to $1.25 million, decreasing the annual amount of barge and rail usage tax credits that may be issued from $1.5 million to $500,000, and allowing a taxpayer to be eligible for the port volume increase tax credit and the barge and rail usage tax credit if the taxpayer meets the criteria for both.
HB 949 – (Hugo – Fairfax) – Passed House
Incentivizes the development and use of natural gas pipelines and infrastructure by authorizing natural gas utilities to recover certain eligible costs related to infrastructure projects.
HB 1220 – (Comstock – Fairfax) – Passed House
Increases the allowed amount of credit under the research and development tax credit allowed from 15 percent of the first $167,000 to 15 percent of the first $234,000 of Virginia qualified research and development expenses, and from 20 percent of the first $175,000 to 20 percent of the first $234,000 of Virginia qualified research and development expenses conducted in conjunction with a Virginia institution of higher education. The bill increases the maximum annual amount of tax credits that may be issued each fiscal year from $5 million to $6 million.
HB 930 – (Greason – Loudoun) – Passed House
Reduces the number of SOL tests in grades 3 through 8 by 23 percent, requires the Department to evaluate the multiple-choice and rote memorization aspects of the current SOLs and move our assessment system toward problem-solving, critical thinking, and the application of knowledge. Creates the Standards of Learning Innovation Committee, made up of stakeholders who are tasked with evaluating our SOLs and assessments on an ongoing basis to ensure that our assessment system is always current.
HB 324 – (Dickie Bell – Staunton) – Passed House
Establishes the Virginia Virtual School to offer online educational programs and services to students across the Commonwealth. Creates a 13-member Board of the Virginia Virtual School as a policy agency in the executive branch of state government and requires that the Virginia Virtual School be open to any school-age person in the Commonwealth and provide an educational program meeting the Standards of Quality for grades kindergarten through 12.
HB 388 – (Davis – Virginia Beach) – Passed House
Requires each local school board to reimburse each public charter school in the school division in an amount equal to the difference between (i) the proportionate share of all state and federal resources allocated for students with disabilities and school personnel assigned to special education programs in the public charter school and (ii) the cost to the local school board to educate such students.
HB 1115 – (Greason – Loudoun) – Passed House
Expands access to virtual classrooms by creating the “Virtual Virginia” program within the Department of Education. Virtual Virginia will facilitate the distribution of online classes throughout school divisions in the Commonwealth.
HJ 1 – (Greason – Loudoun) – Passed House
Directs the Direct of Education to study and make recommendations on the concept of “teacher career ladders” in Virginia.
HB 2 – (Stolle – Virginia Beach) – Passed House
Requires the Commonwealth Transportation Board and VDOT to develop and utilize a prioritization model for evaluating most transportation projects. Stakeholders from various regions, including highway construction districts, metropolitan planning organizations and the CTB, will collaboratively set “weights” for key factors like congestion mitigation, economic development, accessibility, safety and environmental quality.
HJ 122 – (LeMunyon – Fairfax) – Passed House
Requires the Secretary of Transportation and VDOT to create and implement statewide transportation technology goals and a five-year plan of action. Such goals and plan are to be directed to enhancing the efficiency, safety, and convenience of all modes of transportation throughout the Commonwealth.
HB 1090 – (Villanueva – Virginia Beach) – Passed House
Requires Secretary of Transportation and Department of Transportation to revise and update the state’s Smart Travel Programs by evaluating and incorporating, where appropriate, new smart road technologies and other innovations in transportation.
HB 1095 (Peace – Hanover) – Passed House
Creates the Innovation and Technology Transportation Fund to fund pilot programs and fully developed initiatives pertaining to high-tech infrastructure improvements with five percent of the annual amount allocated by the Commonwealth Transportation Board.
HB 1098 (Anderson – Prince William) – Passed House
Requires the Secretary of Transportation and VDOT to establish a smart transportation pilot zone (modeled on the Smart Road managed by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute in Montgomery County) in either the Northern Virginia or the Hampton Roads highway construction district.
HB 1183 (Comstock – Fairfax) – Passed House
Creates the Virginia Transportation Solutions Working Group and authorizes it to study and advise the Commonwealth Transportation Board on matters pertaining to transportation policy, transportation innovation and technologies, and traffic congestion relief strategies.
HB 1 – (Comstock – Fairfax) – Passed House
Creates a joint House and Senate Finance Subcommittee to study, reform and streamline funding structures for Virginia’s sexual and domestic violence prevention, treatment and intervention programs.
HB 235 – (Rob Bell – Albemarle) – Passed House
Adds solicitation of prostitution from a minor to the list of offenses for which an individual is automatically required to register on the state “Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry.”
HB 326 – (Rob Bell – Albemarle) – Passed House
Prohibits the distribution of “revenge porn” and makes violations a Class 1 misdemeanor.
HB 334 – (Rob Bell – Albemarle) – Passed House
Requires every attorney for the Commonwealth to establish a multidisciplinary child sexual abuse response team to conduct regular reviews of cases involving child sexual abuse in the jurisdiction.
HB 403 – (Rob Bell – Albemarle) – Passed House
Provides that in a criminal case in which the defendant is accused of a felony sexual offense involving a child victim, evidence of the defendant’s conviction of another sexual offense or offenses is admissible and may be considered for its bearing on any matter to which it is relevant.
HB 485 – (Hugo – Fairfax) – Passed House
Expands the authority of Commonwealth’s Attorneys to seek records and other information from electronic communication service and remote computing service providers when investigating certain abduction and prostitution offenses.
HB 708 – (Gilbert – Shenandoah) – Passed House
Increases the penalty for certain repeat offenses involving family members, including unlawful wounding, strangulation and assault and battery from a Class 1 misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony.
HB 972 – (Cline – Rockbridge) – Passed House
Provides that a court may include in a protective order provisions granting to the petitioner the care, custody, and control of an animal jointly owned, possessed, or cared for by (i) the petitioner and the respondent or (ii) a child residing in the petitioner’s household and the respondent.
HB 994 – (Comstock – Fairfax) – Passed House
Directs the Virginia Code Commission to add the term “human trafficking” to the catchline of § 18.2-47 (“Abduction and kidnapping defined; punishment”) in order to emphasize that section’s applicability to offenses involving human trafficking.
Mental Health Reform
HB 293 – (Rob Bell – Albemarle)
Directs state facilities to accept individuals held under a temporary detention order (TDO) in the event that a private facility cannot be found. This is the “bed of last resort” bill that will ensure that no one ordered into treatment will be released without receiving care.
HB 323 – (O’Bannon – Henrico)
Provides that any law-enforcement agency that is willing and able to execute the order and provide transportation.
HB 478 – (Villanueva – Virginia Beach)
Provides for a second two-hour extension of the time during which a person may be held pursuant to an emergency custody order.
HB 1172 – (Rob Bell – Albemarle)
Establishes a procedure for transferring custody of a person who is the subject of a temporary detention order from one facility to another facility.
HB 1216 – (Rob Bell – Albemarle)
Directs the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to review requirements for qualifications, training, and oversight of clinicians.
HB 1232 – (Cline – Rockbridge)
Directs the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to establish an acute psychiatric bed registry.
HB 1211 – (Gilbert – Shenandoah) – Passed House
Omnibus ethics reform legislation that imposes a $250 gift cap, creates a statewide ethics council, updates and modernizes Virginia’s financial disclosure processes and mandates ethics training for elected officials.
HJ 40 – (Albo – Fairfax) – Passed House
Directs the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee to conduct a comprehensive operation and financial audit of Virginia’s Medicaid program.
HB 439 – (LeMunyon – Fairfax) – Passed House
Expands the protections of the Fraud and Abuse Whistle Blower Protection Act to Virginia citizens and makes Virginia citizens eligible for an award from the Fraud and Abuse Whistle Blower Reward Fund.
HB 1043 (Byron – Bedford) – Passed House
Requires ObamaCare navigators to register with the State Corporation Commission in addition to being certified by the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Also requires the SCC to conduct comprehensive background checks on navigators.
HB 1080 – (Garrett – Lynchburg) – Passed House
Reconstitutes the five-member task force appointed by the Governor to review state mandates as the nine-member Joint Task Force for Local Mandate Review.
HB1147 (Farrell – Henrico) – Passed House
Ensures that insurance companies will be allowed to continue offer health insurance plans in all product markets that were in effect at any time during 2012 and 2013. This is commonly called the “Keep Your Plan” Bill.
HB 1173 – (Hodges – Middlesex) – Passed House
Delays the implementation of Virginia’s Stormwater Management Program for certain localities. Allows the Department of Environmental Quality to operate the VSMP for certain localities. Alters the permitting appeals process and allows for an agreement in lieu of a stormwater management plan, and it directs the State Water Control Board to adopt regulations relating to the issuance of permits for parcels in subdivisions, the registration of single-family residences, and the reciprocity given by Virginia for proprietary Best Management Practices established elsewhere.
HB 1176 (Ware – Powhatan) – Passed House
Requires health insurance companies to provide written notice 75 days in advance of any increase in premium or deductible. Currently, 60 day notice is only required when the premium increase exceeds 35 percent.