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It’s hard to believe we are already in the third week of session, but time flies here in the Capital city. And, even though we’re considering hundreds of bills and crafting a new two-year spending plan, the everyday concerns that come along with possibility of snowfall this weekend have taken over many discussions at Virginia’s Capitol. This is due to the fact that the delegates, aides and staff come from all corners of our Commonwealth and most return to their families on the weekends. With the inclement weather forecast upon us for the weekend, the General Assembly building is looking like a ghost town on this Friday afternoon.
We started this week off with a lot of excitement and anticipation. On Wednesday, a few minutes after President Obama gave his State of the Union address, the House of Delegates Chamber, where we meet for session every day, was featured on national television. In fact, it could be seen on all the major broadcast networks, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC, C-SPAN and BET. The reason? Newly elected Governor Bob McDonnell was chosen to deliver the Republican response from inside the Chamber. Both the President and Governor McDonnell centered their speeches on jobs and economic growth, which are also highly discussed subjects around the General Assembly this legislative session.
As for my bills, several passed out of committees and are heading to the house floor for a vote by all 100 members. HB 1039, which passed out of committee unanimously, would require that Virginians be notified if their medical or insurance information is the subject of a database breach. I sponsored a bill two years ago that required notification if your personal information was breached and could used for identity theft. HB 1039 sets a higher standard so you are notified under all circumstances should your medical information be breached.
HB 1042, would require that our informed consent law include an ultrasound to be performed prior to an abortion to determine an accurate gestation age and an option to view the ultrasound. When the Commonwealth decided years ago to pass this measure and ensure that women have all the information available to make an informed decision, technology did not exist that we have today to protect the life of the mother and child. I have carried this bill, which is supported by the Family Foundation for many years. It passes the House and ultimately dies in the Senate Education and Health Committee. Many other states have passed this legislation. I hope one day giving a mother a real choice for what may be the most important decision in her life will not be such a threat to the pro-choice advocacy.
Next week we will meet with the money committee to discuss preliminary work done on the state budget and options on what cuts must be made to balance the budget. Although we have been told for months that it is going to be deep cuts, when the details are laid out I believe the numbers will be alarming to everyone. The previous Governor had so many tax and fee increases in the budget without agreement from the members which create bigger holes in the budget than we started with. The special subcommittee on energy that I was appointed to will be viewing 18 bills to address the increase in energy costs, regulation and review process by the State Corporation Commission. The cold weather we are all experiencing makes it even more difficult to conserve and watch our household energy costs. In the next two weeks the bulk of the more controversial bills dealing with guns, health, and spending will need to be passed before we reach our half-way point of session. Both the House and Senate will also pass their own budgets. I feel certain that the budgets will reflect two very different approaches as to the role of government and the services it delivers. Budget negotiators will have a very difficult task at hand trying to find common ground.
As a reminder, you can e-mail me at DelKByron@house.virginia.gov or you can call the toll-free Constituent Viewpoint Hotline at 1-800-889-0229 to let me know where you stand on the issues or legislation you’re reading about in the news.