Crossover week

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By Delegate Kathy Byron

    Any optimism that winter might be winding down was dashed this week, as Richmond got socked with two days of snow.  The inclement weather was sufficient to keep many of the General Assembly Building’s usual inhabitants at home.  With very few exceptions though, legislators were in their seats for session every day.
    This week marked crossover, so both houses had to complete work on all legislation filed by their members.  For me, that meant action on two of my remaining bills that had been approved by committees but not by the full House.
    House Bill 1006, which deals with providing relief from the expense of upgrading dams, was approved by the House on crossover by a unanimous vote.  As I have noted in previous columns, the current standards in determining Probable Maximum Precip-tation (PMP) levels are woefully unreliable.  As a result, upgrades more extensive – and expensive – than necessary are being caused by inadequate PMP data.  This bill will protect taxpayers from bearing the expense of unnecessary upgrades by requiring accurate and consistent standards in determining PMP levels.
    My comprehensive workforce development bill, which Governor McAuliffe referenced in his most recent radio call-in show, won unanimous approval. House Bill 1009 had to be approved by two committees before it was considered by the entire House.  Along the way, support for the bill has grown.  If approved by the Senate, it will provide structural reforms to new Board of Workforce Development as part of a multi-year process to ensure Virginia’s Workforce Network (public, private and non-profit) is producing the right talent, at the right time, and as efficiently as possible with maximum transparency.
    House Bills 1006 and 1009, along with five more of my bills, are now being considered by the Senate.  That means they will first be screened by committees, just as they were in the House.  Then, if they are approved by the committees to which they are assigned, they’ll be voted on by the entire Senate.
    One of my bills, House Bill 1043, becomes more timely with each passing day.  The bill deals with the Affordable Care Act’s (ObamaCare) “navigators.”  The bill would bring some oversight to those who work as ObamaCare navigators.  The federal government provides what can best be described as minimal oversight for these individuals.  Despite this, they are authorized to obtain sensitive information from citizens enrolling in ObamaCare.  House Bill 1043 gives the State Corporation Commission the authority to ensure navigators are suitable for their positions, providing essential protections for the public.
    Why do I say this bill is timely?  Well, once again last week President Obama changed ObamaCare.  This latest change, another delay in the mandate for some businesses, marks the 24th time he has altered the legislation without a vote of Congress.  With the law being altered regularly, Virginia has a strong interest in mitigating its potentially negative effects.  One way to achieve that goal is to ensure those responsible for working directly with the public to gain their participation in ObamaCare are reputable.  That’s what House Bill 1043 is all about.
    While we had inclement weather this week, it wasn’t snowing every day.  So, we still had visitors stop by.  Campbell County 4-H came to Richmond.  As evidenced by the impressive group of young citizens that came by, 4-H continues to do great work.  Laura and Gene Goley with the Bedford County Farm Bureau stopped by, as did Chip Harvey with State Farm.  Billy and Betty Kingery along with other realtors from Franklin County and William Jacobsen from Carilion Hospital paid us a visit, too.  And, Dr. Douglas Schuch, Bedford County Public Schools Superintendent, visited Richmond, as well.
    The week ahead will be busy.  Both houses must approve their versions of Virginia’s biennial budget.  I’ll have some details of the House’s version of the 2014-2016 budget in next week’s column.  And of course, I’ll be appearing before Senate Committees to present my bills, so I’ll have more news on their progress, too.
    I hope you have a great – and snow free – week.