Getting ready for the final budget proposal

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By Delegate Terry Austin
19th District

    With just over a week left in the General Assembly session, we are working hard to make sure that both the House and Senate have heard the hundreds of bills presented this session. My bill HB 1177, which was introduced on behalf of Bedford County, reported unanimously out of the Senate Committee on Education and Health and if it is passed by the Senate will go to the Governor for signature as my first passed bill. As the conferees meet to work out a compromise on the Budget, members of the House and Senate continue to debate what should be included.  I look forward to reviewing the final budget proposal when it is reported out of this conference to the House.

Mental Health
    This week, the House unanimously passed two key mental health bills, SB 260 and SB 261 (companion to HB 1216), which will create an acute psychiatric bed registry with real-time availability information, extend the time allowed for emergency custody orders from 4 to 24 hours, and reviews the requirements for qualifications of mental health evaluators. A number of additional mental health initiatives had differences between the House and Senate versions and will go into a conference to work out compromises.

Hybrid Tax Repeal (SB 127/HB 975)
    On Wednesday, February 26, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed legislation to repeal the $64 tax on Hybrid vehicles, which was put into place last year. I was proud to support both of these bills and vote for their passage in the House.

Religious Expression (SB236)
    With the passage of SB 236, we have vowed to protect the first amendment rights of all students in Virginia. This bill will allow students to pray or engage in religious activities or religious expression individually or with a group before, during, and after the school day in the same manner and to the same extent that students may engage in nonreligious activities or expression. I voted for this bill, which will give our students the right to express their opinions, and it will now go to the Governor for signature into law.

Animal Rights (SB 228)
    Many of you wrote to me in support of Bailey’s Law, SB 228 that protects both pets and consumers. This bill requires a dealer to provide an animal history certificate to ensure that consumers know where their pets are coming from and provides for the dealers to reimburse consumers for pets with undisclosed illnesses. The Human Society and a number of other animal rights groups advocated for this bill and I was proud to support its passage.

    I encourage you to get involved and share your thoughts or concerns about any issues before the General Assembly with me by email at deltaustin@house.virginia.gov , by calling (804)698-1019 or visit our website at www.austinfordelegate.com for additional information.