Delegate Chris Head – Final 2015 General Assembly Update

3-5-2015

The 2015 General Assembly Session has been a successful and productive one for the people of the Commonwealth. We adjourned early for the first time in 15 years, adopted a balanced budget ahead of schedule and offered positive solutions on the issues that matter most to Virginians. Below are a list of accomplishments from the Session.

•The 2015 General Assembly adjourned ahead of schedule this year – the first time in 15 years – demonstrating the clear contrast between Richmond and Washington. While Washington is gridlocked with partisanship, Republicans in Richmond are leading and governing.

•We passed a conservative, responsible and most importantly balanced state budget that spends $1 billion less in general funds than last year’s originally-adopted budget, rejects Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and reprioritizes funding for pay raises for state employees, teachers and state troopers.

•The House of Delegates remains laser-focused on improving Virginia’s economy. We passed legislation to attract innovative new companies to Virginia, make it possible for entrepreneurs to get the funding they need, fought to protect Virginia’s status as a right-to-work state and defeated job-killing legislation that would hurt small businesses.

•Making college more affordable was a top priority this year and I supported several bills to do that, including legislation to cap unreasonable mandatory student fees, encourage colleges to offer affordable “flat-fee” degrees and make it easier for families to find the information they need about college costs. The House budget also includes additional funding for additional in-state tuition slots, financial aid and transfer-student grants.

•We continue to reform and improve our public schools. Our goal is to give every child a path to succeed in the classroom. We passed legislation to expedite SOL re-take tests and require schools to submit less paperwork to Richmond. The budget funds a 1.5% teacher pay raise.

•The House of Delegates continues to increase accountability in our transportation system, working to protect taxpayer dollars. This year we changed the formula used to decide how transportation dollars are spent, sending more money to local governments. We also passed legislation to require transit projects to be reviewed based on their metrics — just like every other transportation project.

•We also worked on several other important and challenging issues: ethics reform, legislation to aid victims and protect students from sexual assault on campus and changes to Virginia’s Alcoholic Beverage Control System.

•The House defeated liberal efforts to enact Michael Bloomberg’s radical gun-control agenda, fought to hold Attorney General Mark Herring accountable for his actions and defeated efforts to roll back Virginia’s pro-life informed consent statutes that protect mothers and innocent life.

Budget

•The General Assembly voted to pass a conservative, responsible and most importantly balanced state budget that does not raise taxes and spends $1 billion less from the general fund than last year’s originally-adopted budget.
•The budget also puts money into the rainy day fund, eliminates fees and debt proposed by Governor McAuliffe, and rejects Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.
•The budget sets aside $129.5 million for rainy-day fund deposit in 2017, which will bring the balance back to ~$429 million.◦Restaurant Inspection Fee
◦VDACS Inspection Fee
◦Weights & Measures Fee
◦Underground storage cleanup deductible
◦Saltwater License Fee
◦The budget includes an additional $42 million for higher education, restoring 94% of cuts adopted by the supplemental budget to address shortfall. This includes $19.8 million to incentivize enrollment, $10.1 million for financial aid and $5 million for faculty research.

•We have completed work on the budget ahead of schedule – a stark contrast from how things are done in Washington. While the federal government drowns in deficits and debt, Republicans in Virginia are governing the right way.
•The budget eliminates $33 million in debt proposed by Governor McAuliffe.
•The budget eliminates $11.7 million in fees proposed by Governor McAuliffeThe budget rejects Governor McAuliffe’s attempt to expand Medicaid under Obamacare and instead offers a targeted healthcare safety net package for the neediest Virginians.
•The budget also shores up the Virginia Retirement System and the Teacher RetirementFund, reducing unfunded liabilities and saving future taxpayer dollars.
•The budget funds the state’s share of a 1.5% teacher pay raise, the second teacher pay raise in three years, and funding for teacher professional development.
•Once again the General Assembly rejected Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. Instead of expanding a failed system like Medicaid, the House provided $132.9 million to strengthen the healthcare safety net. This funding will provide targeted services to ~22,000 seriously mentally-ill patients, including a prescription drug benefit, doubles operational funding for free clinics to over $6 million per year, funds behavioral health community services including three new PACT teams and six new drop-off centers, and increases funding for children’s psychiatry and crisis services.

Good Job Opportunities & Long Term Economic Growth
•The House of Delegates remains laser focused on creating good job opportunities for middle-class families and preparing Virginia for long-term economic growth.
•The House and Senate passed legislation to allow new ride-sharing companies like Uber & Lyft to operate in Virginia, a signal that Virginia welcomes innovative new companies like these.
•The House and Senate passed legislation to make it easier for start-up companies to participate in crowdfunding, which helps entrepreneurs get the funding they need to grow.
•The House and Senate passed a constitutional amendment to put Virginia’s right-to-work law in the Constitution and passed legislation to prohibit local governments from establishing job-killing wage floors. These bills will keep union bosses in check and protect Virginia’s status as one of the best states for business.

Making College More Accessible & Affordable
•The House of Delegates built on its past work to make college more affordable and accessible for Virginia families
•In the budget, the House included funding to open up 2,100 more in-state enrollment slots and transfer slots for Virginia families and $10.1 million more for student financial aid.
•The House and Senate passed legislation to limit unreasonable student athletic fees. The amount of revenue schools can collect from athletic fees will be capped as a percentage of overall revenue. Athletic fees are one of the largest drivers of higher education costs. This bill will hold those costs down for students and families.
•The General Assembly passed legislation to establish a more affordable, $4,000 per year online degree program for Virginia students and require schools to be more transparent about costs and graduation outcomes.

Strengthening our Schools – Classroom Success Agenda
•We believe that every child in Virginia, regardless of their zip code, deserves access to a high-quality education.
•For the first time ever, both the House and Senate passed a constitutional amendment to establish innovative charter schools as an option for families who want a better choice. In order to become law, the amendment must pass again next year and then be approved by the voters. This is a major first step.
•We passed reforms to improve Virginia’s SOL tests, give good schools more flexibility in the accreditation process and require colleges to develop a standardized system for granting credits to incoming students who have successfully completed AP courses.
•We passed legislation to block the executive branch from unilaterally imposing Common Core on Virginia.
•And we put more money into classrooms, funding a 1.5 percent pay raise for our teachers. This is the second pay raise for our teachers in three years.

Ethics Reform
•The House of Delegates led the effort to enact meaningful reforms to Virginia’s ethics, transparency and disclosure laws.
•Last year, the House wrote and passed legislation to significantly strengthen these laws. We created an independent commission to review and advise members and the public on ethics laws, required mandatory training for elected officials, required all disclosure forms to be posted online, increased the frequency of filing and required legislators to report gifts to family members.
•This year, we are building on that work by creating a $100 hard gift cap, requiring legislators to have travel pre-approved by an independent commission and prohibit the Governor from accepting campaign contributions from businesses that are seeking money from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund.
•These are meaningful steps that will improve transparency, hold elected officials more accountable and hopefully restore some of the public’s trust in government.
•The House has been very clear that it is important to take steps to restore the public’s trust. This bill is a meaningful step toward that goal.

Accountability in Transportation
•Republicans in the General Assembly continue to work to make sure we spend your taxpayers wisely and responsibly, especially when it comes to something as important as transportation.
•The House and Senate passed legislation this year to increase oversight over public-private partnership transportation agreements. These agreements allow us to leverage the private sector to make major upgrades to our transportation system, but we have to protect taxpayers.
•The General Assembly also passed legislation to reform how we divide up our transportation funding. Under House Bill 1887, more money will be sent to localities (check your specific district) rather than being spent by bureaucrats in Richmond.
•The House and Senate also passed legislation to require transit projects be evaluated under the same metrics as all other transportation spending. This levels the playing field to protect taxpayer dollars.

Other Issues
•We passed legislation to aid victims of sexual assault and protect students on college campuses. Our legislation requires colleges to work with third-party organizations to provide support to victims of sexual assault. It also requires colleges to have “review teams” to assess allegations of sexual assault. This review team will either send the allegation to law enforcement or the Commonwealth’s Attorney for review.
•The General Assembly passed a bill to improve and modernize Virginia’s child daycare regulations while still protecting small businesses.
•The House and Senate passed legislation to reform Virginia’s Alcoholic Beverage Control. House Bill 1776 reforms ABC to make it operate more like a business and less like a government agency.
•The House and Senate passed legislation to create a standalone statute on sex trafficking, making it easier for law enforcement to prosecute perpetrators of this heinous crime.

Freedom & Conservatism
•The House of Delegates fought for freedom and conservative principles, defeating Michael Bloomberg’s gun control agenda and passing legislation to hold Governor McAuliffe and Attorney General Mark Herring accountable.
•The House rejected Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion again this year.
•The House defeated Michael Bloomberg’s gun control agenda, including legislation to limit the number of of firearms that law-abiding citizens can purchase and legislation to place arbitrary limits on magazine sizes.
•The House defeated liberal efforts to roll back Virginia’s pro-life informed consent statutes that protect mothers and innocent life.
•The House passed legislation requiring the Attorney General to enforce and defend Virginia’s law and Constitution.

Contact Me

My staff and I are now back in the Roanoke Office. Whether we are in the Capitol City or in the Roanoke Valley 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 by phone here in Roanoke at (540)-283-2839 or by email at Delchead@house.virginia.gov.

Thank you again for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.

Chris