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House of Delegates honors Rev. Jerry Falwell

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By Delegate Kathy Byron

In last week’s column, I mentioned how many bills we have to process before the February 12 midpoint of the General Assembly session, commonly referred to as “crossover.” In just one day, Monday, February 11, the House will consider more than 200 bills.

To complete this task, we’ll begin session two hours earlier than normal. Still, as this is the last day any amendments can be offered in the House on legislation filed by delegates, we can expect a very long day. The final two days leading up to crossover are usually the two longest of the legislative year.

Of the nearly 1,600 bills filed by delegates, somewhere around 700 will be approved and forwarded to the Senate for consideration. Those that didn’t make it face different fates. Some will have been defeated after debates on the House floor. Others will have not garnered enough support in the committee or the subcommittee to which they were referred, never passing beyond that point. And a few bills aren’t ready for consideration yet, and they’ll be “carried over” for consideration in the next legislative session.

We not only deal with bills during session, but with resolutions as well. While bills directly change state law, or the Code, resolutions are the starting point for amendments to the constitution, the legislative vehicle to create studies, and the way the General Assembly pays tribute to people and groups that make important contributions to our Commonwealth.

This week, the House of Delegates paid tribute to the late Reverend Jerry Falwell, founder and pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church and founder and chancellor of Liberty University. House Joint Resolution 347, Celebrating the life of Jerry Laymon Falwell, was approved by the House and the Senate on February 7.

I was honored to serve as Chief Patron of this resolution. Fittingly, Reverend Falwell's son and successor as pastor, Jonathan, gave the prayer that began that day's House session. The resolution was read to the entire House as the Falwell family joined me and other local representatives on the floor of the House.

The resolution detailed some of the most significant accomplishments of Reverend Falwell's life. Indeed, listening to the details of his life provided an important reminder of how much he accomplished in his 73 years, and how many lives he touched. Still, as significant as his contribution was to our region, to Virginia, and to America, when standing with the family as they heard about the man they knew as a husband, father, and grandfather, you cannot help but be moved – as my fellow delegates and I were.

Few men can point to a life as accomplished as Reverend Falwell's. Still, I'd be willing to bet he would take the greatest pride in the prayer delivered by Jonathan that day to the House of Delegates, and to the family - and especially the grandchildren – who joined us for that fitting tribute.

Several of my bills have successfully passed the House and been sent onto the Senate for consideration. House Bill 926, which allows for disciplinary action against business entities for employment of illegal aliens, is on its way to the Senate. This bill is part of a comprehensive package of legislation dealing with the issue of illegal immigration.

House Bill 1514, which changes the way Virginia will tax multi-state corporate income, also was approved by the House. This bill will enable Virginia to be more competitive in attracting and retaining manufacturing companies, attract billions of dollars in capital investment, generate state and local revenue, and support thousands of jobs.

House Bill 1526, which passed unanimously, creates the Virginia Career Readiness Certification program to certify the workplace and college readiness skills of Virginians in order to better prepare them for continued education and workforce training, successful employment and career advancement. Workforce training and development has been a key focus of mine during my tenure in the House, and this bill marks another positive development in that effort.

Although the House has to act on the vast majority of the bills filed by delegates by Tuesday, February 12, two very important bills are exempt from that deadline. House Bills 29 and 30 will be debated and passed next week. What’s so special about those bills? House Bill 29 contains the amendments to the 2006-2008 Biennial Budget and House Bill 30 is the 2008-2010 Biennial Budget.

Though the details are not ready to be released yet, the budget bills will be unveiled next Sunday, February 17 and approved in the days immediately following. By the time of the next column, I should be able to give you a few of the highlights of Virginia’s two-year spending plan.

It’s not too late to visit Richmond and watch this year’s session. Make sure to stop by our office, located in Room 811 of the General Assembly Building. Have a great week, and look for more news from Richmond in this same place next week.