Expansion, taxes and ERA on agenda

Published 12:40 pm Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The 2019 General Assembly session has officially gaveled in. This year will be a short session (46 days) where we tackle important issues such as tax cuts, improving access to higher education and improving health care. Every week during session I look forward to recapping what happened in Richmond the previous week. We have a lot to tackle and just over six weeks to complete our work.

First some very exciting news for our district. Governor Ralph Northam announced in his State of the Commonwealth address that Microsoft Corporation, one of the largest and most influential companies in the world, will inject significant capital investment to expand its enterprise data center in Mecklenburg County. The project is Microsoft’s sixth expansion at the facility since 2010 and will allow the company to further enhance its ability to serve customers in the U.S. and across the globe. Our area successfully competed against multiple states for this significant investment, which will create more than 100 new jobs. I was honored that Governor Northam mentioned the hard work that I have done for our area as a contributing factor to making this expansion a reality. The announcement of Microsoft once again expanding in Mecklenburg County is welcome news not only to me but to the people I serve in the 61st district. Microsoft clearly appreciates that Mecklenburg offers a thriving workforce, a business-friendly environment, and the infrastructure to support a growing operation.

Governor Northam has proposed a policy that will lead to higher taxes being paid by more than 600,000 middle class families. To me that is completely unacceptable. Many middle-class families will no longer be able to deduct mortgage interest, property taxes, or health care expenses on their state taxes. House Republicans are offering a responsible plan to stop Governor Ralph Northam’s middle-class tax hike and provide targeted tax relief to middle and low-income Virginians without costing the state a penny. This plan will fully implement the federal tax cuts at the state level, protecting a middle-class family that itemizes from what could be roughly a $805 tax increase or providing an additional $115 in tax relief to a family that chooses the standard deduction. You work hard for your money and as your delegate I am committed to making sure you can keep more of your money.

I also wanted to mention another topic that is sure to be heavily debated this session, the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. There are many concerns expressed by advocacy groups, including the Family Foundation, against the ERA. Currently the Amendment is just one state shy of the 38 that was required for ratification in 1982. Virginia has become the primary battleground in a national effort to push the ERA over the edge. Congress set a deadline for the Amendment to garner the necessary states needed for adoption. Only 35 of the 38 states necessary for ratification approved the amendment by the original Congressional deadline of March 22, 1979 or the extended deadline of June 30, 1982. In 1982, the Supreme Court of the United States declared ERA dead, specifically referencing a memorandum from the Administrator of General Services that “the Amendment has failed of adoption.”

The General Assembly does not have the power to ratify an amendment to the Constitution of the United States not currently pending before the states. Having said that, my main reason for opposing the ERA is that it could also have drastic implications on religious liberties.

ERA could be used to overturn all restrictions on abortion (including the partial birth abortion ban, 3rd-trimester abortion ban, and parental notice of minors seeking an abortion). Additionally, ERA could be used to mandate taxpayer funding of elective Medicaid abortions. In reality, women and men already have full claim to equal rights through the Fifth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. I want to assure you I will also stand up for the unborn.

My Legislative Aid, Nancy, and I are just getting started in Richmond. I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting with so many of you who have stopped by my Capitol office over the past week. This week we welcomed Sheriff Arthur Townsend of Lunenburg, Mary Tisdale of La Crosse, Dushuma Scott of Jetersville, John Boswell of Crewe, and Terry Royal, Commonwealth Attorney of Nottoway County. If you happen to be in the Richmond area during this year’s General Assembly please stop in and say hello

Del. Tommy Wright can be reached via email at DelTWright@house.virginia.gov or (804) 698-1061.