Crossover Update from Richmond

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This week marks the halfway point of the 2017 General Assembly session, known as “Crossover.” Crossover is when both the House and Senate must finish work on legislation originating in that body. This has been a productive and successful session, and I wanted to report back on several key priorities.

This year, the House has been working to foster a pro-business climate in Virginia, make strategic investments in our education system and compensate our teachers, and chart a fiscally responsible course for the future. Listed below are key pieces of legislation that my House colleagues and I have been working on:

Budget

The House passed a conservative and fiscally responsible state budget that carefully spends your tax dollars while making strategic and targeted investments in the core functions of state government with no new taxes or fees. 

The House budget includes $13 million more for K-12 education than what was proposed by the Governor, does not include Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, funds a comprehensive package to combat domestic violence, and improves our healthcare safety net.

Higher Education

I have continued my fight for Virginia’s students. I believe that the first responsibility of our public colleges and universities is to our in-state residents. 

HB1401 would prohibit public institutions of higher learning from abridging the freedom of speech of individuals on campus, including enrolled students, faculty and other employees, and invited guests. This is in response to recent events across the country where invited guest speakers or students’ free speech has been shut down simply because certain groups had an opposing viewpoint. I co-patroned this legislation.

HB1402 would direct each chairman, vice-chairman, rector, and vice-rector of the governing board and its committees of a public institution of higher education be a resident of the Commonwealth.

My bill HB 1886 and Delegate Albo’s (R-Springfield) HB1410 will direct Virginia’s public colleges and universities to cap their enrollment of out-of-state students at 30%. This will ensure that more qualified Virginia high school students are not turned away from Virginia’s premier universities in favor of out-of-state students. Delegate Albo and I have been working on this issue for a decade, and are happy with the progress we have achieved in getting more in-state slots for Virginia’s students.

Opioid Epidemic

My colleagues and I in the House are working on several bills that would address the opioid epidemic in Virginia. Often, these medications are prescribed for longer than necessary, resulting in unused medication that is either sold illegally or abused by the patient or family members. In Virginia, the most common drug overdoses are from prescription opioids, and the General Assembly is working to help put an end to this epidemic.

My HB1885 amends 2016 legislation and directs prescribing physicians, when prescribing an opioid for longer than seven days, to request information from the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP). The PMP allows physicians to see what, if any, controlled substances the patient is currently being prescribed. This provides a physician with valuable insight when prescribing these specific medications. I would like to thank Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) for his leadership on this issue. Supervisor Herrity brought forward the ideas that helped craft this legislative proposal, as well as others, and is working hard on the local level to help end this epidemic in Fairfax County.

HB2161 would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Resources to develop a workgroup that will establish new guidelines for the prescribing of opioid medication.

HB2167 would direct the Boards of Dentistry and Medicine to adopt regulations and guidelines for prescribing opioids. This incorporates aspects of my HB1885, and the Board is currently moving forward with the implementation of the new regulations.

Transportation

HB2137 will require the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) to annually publish information on their website regarding its land use and transportation plans. It will also require NVTA to specify any obstacles to reducing congestion that their plans entail. This will improve transparency for transportation projects in Northern Virginia.

HB2136 would authorize Virginia to become part of the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission Interstate Compact, known simply as the Metro Safety Commission. This legislation will give the Commonwealth oversight authority for the sections of the Washington Metro Rail System located in Virginia. With the ongoing safety concerns with Metro, it is important that Virginia has input regarding any improvements to the Metro system.

First Responders

My HB1884 allows each locality to provide property tax exemption to the surviving spouse of a first responder killed in the line of duty. The constitutional amendment allowing for this tax exemption, which I also introduced and was passed by the General Assembly, was on the ballot in November and passed with nearly 80% of the vote. This legislation will solidify this authority of localities in the Code of Virginia.

In addition, the House budget provides for a much-deserved 3% pay increase for the Virginia State Police. 

Veterans’ Affairs

HB1721 would reduce the rate of tuition for any active duty member of the Armed Forces who attends a community college within the Commonwealth. This will provide financial assistance to active military members who are working to advance their careers.

HB2206 officially establishes the Virginia Veteran and Family Support Program (VFSP), previously known as the Virginia Wounded Warriors Program, as a part of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS).  The VFSP organizes behavioral health, rehabilitative, and supportive services to veterans and their families, with an emphasis on helping those affected by stress related conditions or traumatic brain injuries resulting from military service.