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By Delegate Kathy J. Byron
Richmond was cold and snowy this week, as it was in much of Virginia. As the hopes for those who dreamt of a mild winter faded, the General Assembly was busy and – in the Senate – pretty noisy. For me, though, the week featured two somewhat unusual “honors.”
The first “honor” came in the form of an undoubtedly unintended compliment. On Tuesday, Senate Democrats seized control of that body after the election of its 40th member was determined by an 11-vote margin in a recount. In an unprecedented move, Senate Democrats reorganized the chamber mid-term and rewrote the rules.
One of the new rules gives a single senator, the Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, the ability to unilaterally kill a Senate Bill that is “substantially” amended by the House. This rule not only changes the way the Senate operates, but also the long-established procedures for the House and Senate in considering legislation.
To justify this new rule, Senate Democrat Leader Saslaw specifically cited an amendment I successfully made to a bill back in 2011. I offered an amendment to legislation, which was an update to regulations for medical facilities, to include abortion clinics. In so doing, Virginia finally ensured that these clinics would adhere to accepted medical safety standards, protecting the health of women who use them.
The bill, as amended, was sent directly to the Senate floor effectively circumventing the stacked committee that generally defeats these issues and passed with bipartisan support. Under the new rule, the entire bill could be killed by a single senator. Being decidedly undemocratic, the new rule quickly became the most controversial of the changes instituted by Senate Democrats.
On Thursday, Governor McAuliffe paid me a more direct compliment. In his monthly “Ask the Governor” radio broadcast, he mentioned that his administration was working with me to pass House Bill 1009, an important bill on workforce development.
The legislation takes a comprehensive approach to addressing workforce development. The plan overhauls and streamlines the existing Virginia Workforce Council, elevates importance of workforce development in Virginia, and better integrates existing programs for veterans into Virginia’s strategy on workforce development.
House Bill 1009 is working its way through the legislative process and is currently before the House Commerce and Labor Committee, for which I serve as Vice Chairman. I am pleased that the Governor’s office is working with me on this important measure, an encouraging sign that the plan is poised to gain bipartisan support. And of course, a positive mention for the bill on Governor McAuliffe’s monthly radio show helps bring added attention to this important bill.
In the coming week, my legislation to ensure that ObamaCare’s “navigators” are properly vetted – before they are permitted to obtain sensitive personal information from Virginians – will be considered by the entire House this week. I’ll have more to report on the importance of that legislation in next week’s column.
Repeated snow storms and bitterly cold temperatures may derail plans for some visitors to Capitol Square, but some hearty souls show in spite of winter conditions. Such was the case for members of the Bedford Chamber of Commerce, who stopped by this week. We also had Dr. Prahinski and Dr. Gondi from the Central Virginia Orthopedic Center, as did Jocinda Hays with the Virginia Academy of Pediatrics. Students from the Smith Mountain Lake Christian Academy also stopped by to advocate for school choice.
Winter will end eventually, hopefully soon. So if weather conditions improve and you’re visiting the Capitol during this session, please be sure to stop by our office in Room 411 of the General Assembly Building.
The coming week is the last full week before crossover, the legislative halfway mark of every General Assembly session. That means the workdays will be a little longer and there’ll be even more news to report. I’ll have an update for you in this same space next week. Thanks for reading, and have a great week.