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I am honored to have the privilege of representing you in the Senate of Virginia. Serving constituents in the 35th District is a responsibility that I take very seriously. I hope you will find this website useful to communicate with me about legislative matters of concern and issues facing our community. Together we can keep Virginia moving forward in a positive fashion.

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Senator Saslaw's Blog

The 2015 session of the General Assembly has come to a close and was capped off by passing a bipartisan budget—one day early. It is never an easy task to balance the budget of Virginia.   Due to new found revenues, and some prudent corrections in 2014, the process went smoothly with some good news in areas that have been neglected in previous years.  I voted for the bipartisan budget because it is fair, balanced, and it will help Virginia’s families who are trying to weather through this recovering economy.  

 

The Budget Conferees working with Governor McAuliffe’s proposed amendments, produced a solid roadmap to growing our economy and expanding opportunities for all Virginians.  Senate Democrats scored some important victories in the budget process. Most notably, we were able to keep public education whole while giving a pay increase to teachers, deputy sheriffs qualifying for food stamps, and state employees who have not had a meaningful increase since 2007.  


Link to budget legislation.

 

Here are some highlights of the adjustments made to the 2014 - 2016 biennial budget.

 

Rainy Day Fund: We have set aside a $129.5 million repayment to  the Rainy Day fund.

 

Protecting Public Education: Once again, we were able to preserve funding for public education.  The House and Senate also agreed to set aside $537,297 for the “Breakfast After The Bell” pilot program. This initiative of First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe, will fund school breakfasts in elementary schools where reduced lunch eligibility exceeds 45%. One million dollars was added for kindergarten readiness assessment.

 

Higher Education: Operating at below 2009 funding levels, we will see more than $41 million in funding, including $20.5 million to help our universities address enrollment growth, $14.4 million for a 2% faculty salary increase, and an additional $5.4 million for need-based undergraduate financial aid. (Need-based financial aid will total $8.9M). The budget calls for a one-time payment of $141.4 million for capital outlay projects and $52.9 million in funding for school construction loans.

 

Pay Raise For State Employees and Teachers: As previously noted, the House and Senate were able to agree on a 2% pay raise for state employees and to include $52.9 million for the state’s share of a 3% pay raise for teachers, splitting the cost evenly with the localities. An additional $1.2 million has been added to the General Fund to increase the base pay for Virginia’s deputy sheriffs.

 

Governor’s Access Plan: The budget passed by the General Assembly will fund the Governor’s Access Plan, which Governor McAuliffe established last year. The Governor’s Access Plan will provide medical and behavioral health services to 22,000 individuals with serious mental illness.

 

Health and Human Services: The final product will fund the key components of the Healthy Virginia Program, including  dental coverage for pregnant women and health coverage for the children of low-income state employees. The budget allows for $3.1 million for free clinics that will expand services to 7,500 uninsured Virginians, and $1 million for community health centers. Additionally, a total of $750,000 was set aside to increase services for individuals with brain injuries.

 

Behavioral Health Services: Virginia will allocate an additional $9.2 million in funding for behavioral health services. The budget provides $2.1 million for supportive housing for 150 individuals with mental illness and $2 million to improve access to child psychiatry services. The budget includes $250,000 to help patients transition out of the Northern Virginia Training Center, which is very important to many families in our region.

 

Economic Development: The Governor’s Development Opportunity Fund, which is used to attract businesses to the Commonwealth, will receive $28.0 million and the fund will be able to retain any unspent balances. There will also be $500,000 in incentives set aside to encourage companies to hire veterans. We tried our best to make funds available to build a new Virginia economy and attract new jobs to our Commonwealth.

 

I want to thank everyone who contacted me during this session and stopped by my Richmond office. I will continue to keep you updated on the latest news from the General Assembly and look forward to seeing you in the community. The General Assembly will reconvene in the middle of April to take up amended legislation from the Governor.


 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

We are coming up to the closing gavel of 2015 session of the General Assembly. Many important bills have made their way through the Senate and the House of Delegates. They will now head to Governor McAuliffe’s desk for his consideration. The final version of the budget is still being worked out and I will share more details of the conference report with you next week. Here are some highlights from this week.

 

Governor’s Energy Fund: This year, I introduced legislation (SB 1449) to establish the the Governor’s Energy Fund. This will allow the Governor to incentivize economic development by offering reduced electricity rates to qualifying entities. It is another tool to attract businesses to Virginia and is the type of thing we need to be doing in order to build a new Virginia economy capable of adding good-paying jobs. This bill has bipartisan support; it passed in the Senate last week and is now under consideration by the House of Delegates.

 

Brass Knuckles: Last week, in a shocking display, Senate Republicans on a party line vote passed legislation to legalize the sale of switchblades, brass knuckles, and throwing stars in Virginia. This week, cooler heads prevailed and the measure was reconsidered in the House of Delegates and soundly defeated. This was a welcome about-face and a victory for public safety— there is no need to bring these dangerous weapons to the streets of Virginia.

 

Update On Uber and Lyft Legislation: This week Governor McAuliffe signed a bill into law to put in place new rules for the ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft. A compromise was reached with all of the stakeholders that will protect consumers and allow Virginians to take advantage of this new technology.

 

Safe Reporting: The General Assembly passed legislation (HB 1500) to protect individuals acting in good faith to help someone at the scene of an overdose.  All too often in these situations people are afraid to alert the police or first responders for fear of retribution. This measure will shield good samaritans from prosecution for possession of a controlled substance, public intoxication, and underage drinking. It is a commonsense effort to save lives and encourage individuals to do the right thing.

 

New Happy Hour Rules: This week the Senate passed HB 1439 to allow Virginia establishments to advertise happy hour drink specials. I supported this common sense move to help local Virginia bars and restaurants.

 

Protecting Virginia Kids: One of the highlights of this week was the defeat of misguided legislation (HB 1309) to allow local school districts to allow school security guards to carry batons, tasers, and pepper spray. To me this proposal is over the top and is not something we need in our public schools. We don’t need people playing cops in our schools.

 

State Song: The Senate passed legislation to designate two songs as the official song of the Commonwealth: “Sweet Virginia Breeze” and “Our Great Virginia.”

 

You can listen to both of them here:

 

Sweet Virginia Breeze

 

Our Great virginia

 

Sincerely,

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