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By Delegate Kathy Byron
Finishing up week six, we have now passed the “halfway point” of the General Assembly session often referred to as Crossover. At this point, both houses have completed work on all legislation filed by its respective members. From this point forward, members of the House of Delegates will be reviewing bills filed by senators, while members of the Senate will be considering measures sponsored by delegates.
Eleven of the bills I patroned have passed the House and await committee action in the Senate, many of which I’ve discussed in this column. I am pleased to report that HB1033, “the infant baby bill” that would give our prosecutors the additional tools needed to prosecute a mother that would murder her newborn child passed the House unanimously. One bill that I have not mentioned is HB 1041, Workforce training. This bill would require the Workforce Council which advises the Governor on workforce training to prepare a report detailing reforms necessary to ensure that Council resources and services will aid in the achievement of measurable improvements in employment, employment retention, competency-based and industry-certified skills certification, Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) educational opportunities, and several other identified areas. It also directs the Council to create a Military Transition Assistance Committee on reforms necessary to connect more employers to transitioning military personnel and trailing spouses through Transition Assistance Programs and better integrate the Veterans Employment Representatives and Disabled Veterans Outreach Program into all Virginia Workforce Centers.
Governor McDonnell made news this week when he released information on his proposed ideas to bring Virginia’s budget into balance. Our new Governor’s input is important to the process of completing a budget. Discussions in Richmond are quite different to the budgetary proposals being considered in Washington. The budget being discussed in our nation’s capitol features increased spending, higher deficits, and even tax increases. Here in Richmond, we’re considering plans to complete a budget that includes spending reductions, no deficits (Virginia’s budget must be balanced), and no tax hikes. Over the last two years many one-time actions were taken to balance the budget. As we continue to experience job loss and declining revenues we can no longer rely on one-time fixes for the challenges we continue to face. While Virginia’s fiscal house is in better shape than what some other states are experiencing, it faces a $4.2 billion revenue shortfall. In recent days you may have read in the newspapers or heard from a neighbor of proposed cuts to education, health, and other government services. We must use this opportunity to enact sensible, long-term structural reforms in state spending focusing on funding the core services of government in a more balanced manner. We will then be more prepared to make the proper future economic investments to create opportunities for the future.
Just as families across Virginia have to make difficult decisions – often curtailing spending – during difficult economic times, Virginia’s government is doing the same. The goal is to emerge from the recession more quickly, generating more private-sector jobs by practicing government spending restraint. Next week I will give a summary of the highlights of the House budget which we will be voting on this coming week. Keep in mind, the Senate has prepared a budget too. From all reports, it appears the Senate budget took a different approach than the House so much work will need to be done to bring both budgets together in agreement before we adjourn in March.
Friendly faces from home continued to visit us here in Richmond this week. We were visited by constituents from Centra Health, Central Virginia Realtors, as well as a few students from Central Virginia Community College accompanied by the College’s President, Dr. Staat.
Thank you for your emails and phone calls regarding concerns and support for bills that are of importance to you. Please continue to let me know your opinions as we work through the Senate bills for the remainder of the session by sending an e-mail to Delkbyron@house.virginia.gov or you can call on the toll-free Constituent Viewpoint Hotline at 1.800.889.0229.
Thanks for reading this week’s column, and look for more news from the Capitol in the same place next week.