General Assembly end of session wrap-up
Published 10:26 am Wednesday, March 14, 2018
by Emily Brewer
The 2018 General Assembly Session has reached the end of its 60-day legislative session. The House of Delegates was productive and successful this year, advancing several major priorities as part of the practical solutions to everyday issues agenda. Including legislation to address our teacher shortage, lower the cost of medical prescriptions, create avenues to get students into good paying jobs, and honor our veterans who gave so much to our country. With nearly $400 million in differences between the House and Senate budgets, we were not able to reach an agreement before the end of the 60-day session. We will now wait for the Governor to call a special session, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Worth Mentioning: Adjournment
The House and Senate adjourned sine die as scheduled on Saturday, but without an agreement on a new two-year state budget. When we return in a special session, which we expect the Governor to call shortly, we will start with a fresh discussion on a new budget. The General Assembly will reconvene at the call of the Speaker and the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules.
Working out a final budget agreement is a process that sometimes takes more time than we have in a 60-day session. We will take a little time to let everyone go home, recharge, and then begin talking about our next steps. We have until the end of June to adopt a budget, but it’s important to get it done as soon as possible to give school boards, local governments and state agencies certainty as they write their own spending plans. We have some time, but need to work diligently. The sooner we get a plan, the better it is for Virginia’s Triple-A bond rating.
Even without the budget completed, the 2018 session was still productive and successful. We advanced our Practical Solutions to Everyday Issues agenda, reached bipartisan agreements with the governor on criminal justice and regulatory reform, and defeated $770 million in new tax increase proposals.
Select Committee on School Safety
Protecting students must be one of our top priorities in the Virginia House of Delegates. Like yours, my heart was broken following the heinous acts of violence we saw in Florida. Our students should be able to go to school and feel safe. While Virginia has led by example in recent years in the area of school safety, the House of Delegates recently took a major step in giving parents and students the peace of mind they deserve.
Speaker Kirk Cox on Thursday announced the formation of the Select Committee on School Safety, the first select committee formed in the House in over 150 years. Select committees are reserved for matters of considerable significance that fall beyond the jurisdiction of conventional and established standing committees. Following the tragic events that took place in Parkland, Florida, we are reminded just how important it is to keep our children safe.
The Committee’s work will be limited to strengthening emergency preparedness, hardening school security infrastructure, implementing security best practices, deploying additional security personnel, providing additional behavioral health resources for students, and developing prevention protocols at primary and secondary institutions across the Commonwealth.
While many are pushing for stricter gun control laws, I believe we should focus on school safety. Speaker Cox has made it clear, guns will not be a part of the discussion involved in this Select Committee. Virginia currently has strong laws against gun violence and responsible gun safety laws that keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals while protecting the rights of law abiding citizens.
The House of Delegates also worked with Governor Northam to advance ideas important to both parties, announcing significant, bipartisan compromises on regulatory and criminal justice reform. The regulatory reform compromise will streamline occupational licensing regulations by 25 percent over the next three years. On criminal justice reform, the House agreed to raise the felony larceny threshold to $500 in exchange for Governor Northam’s support for stronger restitution enforcement laws. Other accomplishments include adoption reform to help children find loving families sooner, legislation to help workers get the training they need to find a good-paying job, bills to fight the opioid crisis, and reforms to address transportation congestion.
I had five pieces of legislation make it to the Governor’s desk and look forward to having him sign them into law. During my campaign I said I would work on reforming Virginia’s adoption and foster care system. This year I introduced two pieces of legislation dealing with adoption and foster care. HB241 on close relative adoption passed both the House and Senate unanimously and were signed into law by the Governor, however, the Kinship Guardianship Assistance program will be included among the many topics of discussion during the budget talks. You can view all of my legislation from the 2018 Session here.
1. House Bill 241: A bill that reduces from three years to two, the amount of time a child must continuously reside in the home of a close relative before adoption proceedings can begin. HB241 is one of roughly a dozen bills that has already passed both the House of Delegates and the State Senate and it passed both chambers with unanimous support and has been signed into law by the Governor.
2. House Bill 1333: This is another piece of adoption and foster care legislation that is part of the reforms I am working towards. HB1333 would establish the Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program that takes funds already made available to foster care homes and re-directs it to prospective parents who are willing to take a closely related child out of a foster care home and take them in instead. Placing a child with their kin instead of into a foster care home with a stranger provides children with comfort, stability, and better options for permanency. HB1333 passed both the House and the Senate, but because it requires a minimal appropriation of state money it will have to be included in the budget discussion before becoming law.
While campaigning, I also promised to stand up to protect taxpayers from significant tax hikes. There were several proposals introduced for tax increases that disproportionately affected younger generations and also would have negatively impacted middle class families and the elderly. One tax proposal that was introduced this year would have made family movie night more expensive for those that use online streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. A separate proposal would’ve taxed ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. Just the other day I rode in an Uber where the driver said he has a regular passenger with epilepsy who uses Uber everyday to get from Point A to Point B because he can’t drive with the seizures. I voted against the Netflix tax and after I spoke out against the Uber tax on the floor of the House of Delegates, that idea was dumped as well.
In the Finance Committee this year, we heard testimony on HB310 which would have re-established the so-called “Death Tax.” This is a tax on the estate of those who have passed away to be paid by the living when their relatives pass away. I voted against HB310 and it was subsequently defeated in the Finance Committee. Losing a loved one is hard enough and reinstating the death tax would be one more unnecessary difficulty for grieving families.
It has been an honor to serve you and the citizens of the 64th District in Richmond during the 2018 General Assembly Session. I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting with so many of you who have stopped by my Capitol office over the past several months. I look forward to meeting with many constituent groups back in the district now that the session has ended. You can reach me at my district office by calling 239-1213 or emailing DelEBrewer@House.Virginia.Gov. I look forward to taking your questions and reporting back about the successes of this year’s General Assembly Session.