COLUMN: Otto’s Richmond Wrap-Up Week No. 4
Published 8:00 am Tuesday, February 7, 2023
As the General Assembly reaches the halfway point of the legislative session, we in the House of Delegates are working hard to consider hundreds of bills that will impact our region and all of Virginia. The House of Delegates must complete its work on House legislation by Tuesday, Feb. 7 — a deadline colloquially referred to as “Crossover” within the halls of the Capitol.
First, I want to take this time to address the recent news about the school funding error. Earlier this week, the Department of Education disclosed an error in their funding calculations to school divisions that resulted in a $200 million overestimation in the amount that schools expected to receive from the state. In light of this error, I want to be very clear: No school divisions will see any budgetary cuts. In fact, Virginia is in a financial situation that allows us to expand our investments in our schools while resolving the funding error through the budget process.
In the next fiscal year, schools will get an additional $77.5 million, and the Governor has proposed an additional $441.0 million in his amendments. If you are doing the math, it comes out to $240.3 million above the amount that was overestimated. In addition, since no payments were made as a result of the miscalculation, school systems do not need to return a single penny back to the state. My colleagues and I are committed to sending more money to our schools – not less – to ensure students and teachers have the resources they need to succeed.
As families and small businesses struggle to overcome record inflation levels over the past year, House Republicans came to Richmond with a plan to provide immediate tax relief and make everyday costs more affordable. I am happy to report that we are making significant progress to fulfill that commitment. We have already passed several key pieces of legislation to reduce your tax burden and ensure you keep more of your hard-earned money in your pockets. This past week, we advanced more legislation that will lower costs and provide additional financial relief.
Virginia is fortunate enough to be in a strong financial situation that enables us to take care of essential services while returning money back to where it belongs – the taxpayers. Last week, the House voted to do just that by passing legislation (HB 2138 & HB 2319) that provides over $1 billion in tax relief over the next two years in addition to raising the standard deduction. The reductions in individual income tax mean 86 percent of taxpaying Virginians will enjoy the benefits of a lower top tax rate and an additional 14,000 Virginians will pay no state income taxes.
There is more tax relief legislation making its way through the House of Delegates this week. On the heels of successfully cutting the state grocery tax last year, we are pushing even further to exempt groceries from sales taxes on the local level. We’re also working on legislation that will ensure local governments are transparent when rising property values create a stealth tax hike on homeowners in Virginia.
Rampant inflation has been a burden on households across the Commonwealth. While the General Assembly cannot control the rate of inflation, House Republicans are working to alleviate its effects by lowering costs on a variety of monthly expenses.
Virginians should have the freedom to purchase a car that fits their budget. We passed legislation (HB 1378) to make that a reality by disconnecting us from California emissions mandates that would have forced Virginians to purchase electric vehicles in the very near future. In many cases, electric vehicles are simply too expensive and impractical due to a lack of sufficient charging infrastructure, especially in our region. The passage of HB 1378 ensures Virginians – rather than California bureaucrats – can make their own financial decisions.
This past week, some of the legislation I introduced is making its way through the House of Delegates. Below are some of those bills.
HB 1848, a bill which regulates stormwater runoff helps our farmers by allowing them to enter an agreement with the state when building on less than 5% of a tract of land. This agreement would drastically reduce the amount of money it would cost to undergo the formal permitting process required by the EPA. Unfortunately, this measure is necessary as the EPA has placed the state agency on notice that without this agreement in place next year EPA will begin enforcement of the stricter standard. Many people did not realize that just because agricultural buildings may not need building permits, there is still a requirement for the stormwater runoff regulations.
HB 2228 clarifies that when renewing a concealed handgun permit, the applicant does not require documentation to demonstrate the training was conducted in person. This bill was brought to me from the Virginia Citizens Defense League who had members indicate in certain portions of the state they were required to present such documentation when having an existing permit is viewed as adequate document of competency. This bill should have received bipartisan support, but not a single Democrat voted for it as it passed the House 52-48.
HB 2234 simply takes the voter registration back to the three-week deadline except for certain exempted persons such as active-duty uniformed service, persons residing temporarily outside the country and their spouses. I presented this bill on behalf of numerous constituents who felt that voter registrations deserved adequate time for proper vetting and reports of workflow issues at the polls. The bill passed on the party line vote, 52-48.
So this is the report on our fourth week in Richmond. We are about halfway through, and we are at Crossover. Keep in mind the bills we are talking about are ones that have passed in the House of Delegates. Now the bills that passed the House by Tuesday will be voted on by the Senate and we in the House will start voting on the bills that passed the Senate. Only after the bills have passed both chambers do they go to the Governor. We will have more on that process once we get to that point.
I truly appreciate hearing from you as your viewpoints are important to me. I can be reached in Richmond at (804) 698-1075 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit my website at www.ottowachsmann.com or my Facebook page titled Otto Wachsmann for Delegate. If you would like to view a complete list of legislation introduced, feel free to visit lis.virginia.gov. Thank you for allowing me to represent you in the House of Delegates.
OTTO WACHSMANN is delegate for the 75th District of Virginia. He can be reached at 804-698-1075 or email@example.com.