Crossover has come and gone, and all Senate bills are finally headed over to the House for its consideration. The first few weeks of session have flown by in a flurry of bills, resolutions and budget considerations. We now have three weeks left to discuss all the House bills that have made it to us in addition to budget amendments and resolutions.
In a throwback to the 1950s, the ironically named “Government Nondiscrimination Act,” HB773, passed the House 56-41. Its Senate counterpart, SB41, narrowly passed on a 20-19 vote. The reality of these two bills is that they are licenses to discriminate, as they would allow religiously affiliated businesses to deny services to same-sex couples, transgender individuals, and those who have sex outside of marriage. As Delegate Mark Sickles pointed out on the House floor Tuesday, there are hundreds of Virginia businesses and organizations that stand in support of equality, looking to keep Virginia an open and diversified state than can attract qualified workers and the businesses we need to grow the economy. Delegate Vivian Watts demonstrated the detrimental effect bills like these can have on the economy by citing Indianapolis, which lost $60 million in future convention business due to a bill of a similar nature becoming law. Nothing good can come out of either of these bills; they would only result in Virginians being treated like second-class citizens, and businesses may choose to stay away from Virginia.
As you know, I opposed the state displacing local authority when it comes to establishing charter schools. From the emails and phone calls I have received, you agree with me. After much debate, the charter school amendments and resolutions were all defeated on the Senate floor, including SB588, SJ6, and SJ93. These proposals would have taken away education flexibility from the local governments, and allowed the state to establish charter schools. Not only that, the legislation would have taken money away from K-12 public schools, whose funding is already stuck at pre-recession levels. Current lawauthorizes a locality to establish a charter school.
Proud to stand with my fellow legislators in supporting survivors of sexual assault at Rosemary Trible's Fear2Freedom event.
After long deliberation in committee and on the Senate floor, SB416 passed the chamber. Otherwise known as the Airbnb bill, the arguments against it came from hotels, saying that Airbnb is not subject to the same regulations or taxing issues that apply to the hotel industry, putting hotels at an operating disadvantage. The fact is there are more than 1,000 Airbnb rentals available in Virginia currently without a framework for collecting state sales tax and local occupancy taxes. On the plus side, SB416 calls for collection of these taxes by Airbnb on behalf of its listings. To be clear, even if we had not passed this bill, Airbnb (part of the new sharing economy) would continue to operate. This legislation enables the collection of tax revenue back into localities through a system (VA Department of Taxation) that is already in place.
The sheen that was discovered on the Potomac River last week has been traced back to Dominion’s Crystal City substation and a spill of approximately 13,500 gallons of mineral oil used to cool transformers. Dominion has accepted responsibility. As they should, the power company will be paying for cleanup as well as the costs of the investigation. If you see any impacted wildlife in the area, please dial the Coast Guard Office of Unified Communications at 311.
The final weeks of the General Assembly will be dominated by budget negotiations between the House and Senate. We are constitutionally bound to have a balanced budget for the Governor to sign. Once again, Medicaid expansion appears not to be embraced by the Majority. Many aspects of the budget have, instead, shifted towards education, and building a new Virginia economy by incentivizing businesses to come to Virginia and improving workforce development. The budget reports will be revealed on February 21. Look for more details to follow shortly.
As always, I welcome your comments and questions at email@example.com.