Focusing on workforce development

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By Delegate Kathy Byron

    The second week of the General Assembly featured a lot of rain, a little snow, and some fast action on legislation.  It also marked the week when Governor McDonnell unveiled his job creation and workforce development agenda for the session.
    Throughout my tenure in the House of Delegates, I have made workforce development one of the main priorities of my service.  Over the last several years, I have been able to expand that commitment to my service on the Tobacco Commission, placing a priority on projects that improve our residents’ readiness for employment and increase their opportunities.
    Governor McDonnell has made workforce development one of his priorities, as well.  In announcing his economic growth agenda for this year, one of my bills was included (see the Governor’s press release at www.kathybyron.com).  House Bill 2154 would expand the Virginia Workforce Council’s scope to more broadly address the entire spectrum of workforce development.  This is essential if we are going to successfully coordinate our workforce programs and maximize available funding from state and federal sources.  The bill would also permit sharing between education and workforce programs, allowing us to target our resources to attract growing industries.
    While several legislative measures filed this year focus on job creation (the Governor’s package, for example, includes 14 bills and 10 budget amendments), you shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t hear a lot about them on the news or see them in the newspaper.  Although economic measures affect a lot of people, they simply don’t generate the same level of coverage as the recent debate on gun control or the multiple proposals on transportation.
    Two of my bills are already moving quickly through the committee process in the House.  The first, House Bill 2118, extends a disclosure requirement for insurance policies.  It requires insurance carriers to provide their policyholders a notice of their right to contact the Bureau of Insurance if they become dissatisfied with their carrier or agent.  It’s a consumer protection measure that passed out of committee unanimously.
    House Bill 2137 was approved unanimously by a subcommittee of the Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee, and is now headed to the full committee.  The bill is part of my continuing effort to reduce state mandates on local governments.  It would raise the threshold for localities having to file an environmental impact report on highway construction, reconstruction or highway improvement projects.  This would give local government a more simple and cost efficient way to consider and resolve issues in consultation without the need for a full environmental impact review.  It also corrects an unintended change that occurred when legislation passed to regulate the use of urea fertilizer.   This amendment would allow airports to continue to use urea for de-icing at airports.  This prohibition would have had a significant fiscal impact on local governments.  
    If you regularly track the progress of the General Assembly online, the Web site has been updated since last session.  The new Web portal is virginiageneralassembly.gov.  From that page, you can navigate your way to everything that’s happening this session.  Contacting your representative, following legislation, and watching daily sessions can all be accomplished through visiting this site.
    Several groups from home took the time to visit the General Assembly this week.  Our office, Room 811 in the General Assembly Building, had visitors from the YWCA of Central Virginia, Lynchburg Ready Mix, and even a local contingent of veterinarians. All five of Bedford County’s representatives, including myself, met with the Bedford County Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday. And, those are just the groups.  With a federal holiday on Monday, we expect to have even more visitors in the coming week, which traditionally is the busiest for groups coming to the Capitol.
    The deadline for filing bills passed on Friday, and I’ll have a full report for you next week on just how many pieces of legislation we’ll be considering in the remaining five weeks of session.
    The word is that the rain and snow of this week is about to give way to some very cold temperatures in the week to come.  Stay warm, and I’ll update you on the progress of session in this same space next week.