Saturday, March 10, 2018

2018 Session - Week 8

What a difference a day made
Twenty-four little hours
Brought the sun and the flowers
Where there used to be rain

~Dinah Washington, "What a Difference a Day Makes"

The Speaker just gavelled out the 2018 Session and I wanted to give you an update on what happened with some outstanding pieces of business.

Last year at the end of session, I referenced the movie La La Land, highlighting the stark contrast between the hyper-partisan legislative agenda that my Republican colleagues pursued versus the working families-focused legislative agenda that I and my Democratic colleagues championed.

What an incredible difference a year and another election makes.

During the 2018 Session, there was still some contentious legislation, but far less than in previous years. This had a lot to do with the new makeup of the House - we picked up 15 seats last November and several of these pickups replaced conservative members that were well known for their outrageous and headline-grabbing legislation. Having a Democratic Governor with veto power in addition to 49 Democrats in the House doesn't hurt either.

Legislative Update

So, 2018 has really been different. My personal bill stats:

  • 6 bills through the House of Delegates vs ZERO in 2017
  • 5 bills made it through the Senate
  • 3 bills had to go to Conference committees but all passed
Assuming the Governor signs them into law, beginning July 1, 2018 you will be able to get a license plate bearing the legend Stop Gun Violence (HB287); you will have a more predictable process for evicting or being evicted after a foreclosure (HB 311); students who fall behind in their tuition and fee payments will have more flexible options for getting caught up before having their account turned over to a collections agency (HB 339| a really good Washington Post article highlights this issue); very small cities and localities will have the option of hiring registrars from nearby localities or retaining registrars who move (HB 690); and consumers will have greater protection from being caught in recurring payment and automatic renewal offers that don’t have easy and obvious ways to cancel (HB 911).

Nothing earth shattering, but some little things that should make life a little better for some of you, I hope.

I also spoke against HB 715, which would have allowed EMS and firefighters to carry a concealed weapon while on duty. Not only did EMS personnel and firefighters not ask for this bill, but the Virginia Department of Criminal Justices Services, Virginia Association of Fire Chiefs, the Professional Firefighters, Office of Emergency Medical Services, and Virginia Association of Volunteer Rescue Squads opposed the bill. Fortunately, the majority of my colleagues agreed and it was defeated in the House on a vote of 35 to 62.

On a lighter side, my seat-mate, Delegate Bagby, and I hosted the 1st Annual Coffee Awards in which we awarded coffee mugs to winners in 6 specific categories. You can view the whole awards "ceremony" here.

For my own part, I was awarded The Pop Up Award from the other side of the aisle for regularly "popping up" to speak on legislation that wasn't my own.

The Budget

Unfortunately, the path to reconciling the House and Senate versions of the 2018-202 Biennial Budget remains a long one. Since the Senate version did not contain Medicaid expansion, the differences to be ironed out were large to begin with. It was confirmed yesterday that we wouldn't have a compromise budget to vote on today. Instead, we will return for a special session in a few weeks to vote. As I learn more information about what the compromise will look like, I will share it with you.

Governor's Vetoes and Reconvene Session
While Governor Northam has not vetoed any legislation yet, chances are good that there will be at least a couple of them for the House and Senate to review during the Reconvene Session on April 18th. At that time, we will also address any recommendations that the Governor has made to legislation as well as any amendments he has to the compromise budget.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

2018 Session - Week 7

All my days I prayed and prayed and now I see the finish line
Oh I'm gonna finish mine
All my days I prayed and prayed and now I see the finish line
Gonna finish mine

~Chance The Rapper, "Finish Line/Drown"

The 2018 Session is nearly at and end, but things have only slightly slowed down. We're wrapping up committee meetings to get through the last of the bills to go to the floor for votes. Conference committees are meeting to work out the kinks in bills. So, while this week's update is relatively short, I'll have a longer one next week once more things have been finalized.

On the House floor, I once again spoke against a bill that would prohibit localities from requiring a wage floor when entering contracts. A version of this bill has been vetoed for the past two years and I suspect it is headed for the same fate this year.

I also did a speech in honor of my mentor and predecessor, former Delegate Jim Scott. One of the nice things that we can do in the House is adjourn in the honor and memory of someone - I took this opportunity to honor Jim last week as he touched many lives over the years, including many of those still elected to the General Assembly.

Legislative Update

For the first time, I have three bills in conference:

HB 911 | Requires companies offering a recurring contract or automatic renewal to clearly state the terms and conditions of the contract. The bill is in conference so that we can add a line about those companies that try in good faith to comply.

HB 690 | Removes the residency requirement for registrars in localities with a population less than 15,000. There is a Senate version of this bill that has a higher population threshold, which will most likely be what the compromise version looks like.

HB 287 | Creates a Special License Plate for "Stop Gun Violence. Because the House and Senate versions of this bill are different, we need to find the happy medium between the two.

The Budget

Conferees are still hard at work to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the budget. Unfortunately, it may be a long path to consensus since the Senate version did not include Medicaid expansion. There are also rumors that a compromise won't be reached before the last day of Session and what we'll have to have to come back to vote on a final version some time later in March or even April.