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Democrats defeat 3% raise for sheriff’s dept. employees

With just over two weeks left in the 2020 legislative session, I’d like to take a moment to update you on the latest news from Richmond.

This week the House of Delegates has been working to set Virginia’s budget for the next two years. The budget-setting process is a rather long one and begins when the governor introduces his own budget plan in December to both the House and Senate. After that, either chamber can amend the budget as they see fit, then both bodies negotiate a final budget in a “conference committee.”

We have just finished debating amendments to the governor’s budget and passed the House’s version that will go to a conference committee. However, this was not without disagreement over spending, taxes and other policies.

Democrats introduced a number of amendments that will lead to significant tax increases, excessive regulatory powers for state agencies, and a spending rate that simply is not sustainable if our current economic boom begins to slow.

Republicans introduced several floor amendments that would lead to greater fiscal responsibility, all of which Democrats killed on the floor without allowing any debate, including an objection I had to an amendment that will take away $500,000 each year for GRASP funding.

During the 2018-2019 school year, GRASP provided more than 8,000 students from 34 Virginia school divisions with free financial aid advising so they can access education after high school, regardless of their financial or social circumstances. This lack of funding will have an adverse effect on students in the district.

One budget development last week that was extremely upsetting was a proposal by a Republican senator that would have provided a 3% raise for the men and women of Virginia sheriffs’ departments. The proposal was defeated with every Democrat senator voting against it. After the vote, the Democrat majority leader commented that the reason the raise was denied was because of the sheriffs support of counties, cities and towns that have elected to be “Second Amendment Sanctuaries.” I was shocked that the Democrats have chosen to punish the sheriff’s departments because of their choice to protect and defend our citizens’ Second Amendment rights.

While the Democrats have pushed to provide a “living wage” to all citizens by raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, they don’t want to pay those that protect its citizens a “living wage.”

I would like to commend the House for working together to continue several initiatives begun by Republicans in previous years. In particular, the budget includes the Republican initiative to freeze tuition at Virginia’s public colleges and universities to help keep education affordable and accessible.

In addition to the budget, we continue to discuss an amendment that would amend Virginia’s Constitution to create a nonpartisan redistricting commission. The General Assembly passed the amendment in 2019 with significant support on both sides of the aisle. This means that if the amendment were to pass again this session, you would get to vote to ratify it in November.

House Democrats, however, have abandoned their commitment to passing the amendment, despite promising to support nonpartisan redistricting reform in their election campaigns. By withholding the legislation so that it would expire before we could vote on it the Democratic leadership has given us only one vehicle left to approve this amendment, the Senate resolution, which was sent to committee late last week.

I want to assure you, however, that I remain committed to keeping our election process fair and impartial. I hope that we will be able to move forward with this amendment in the future to end partisan gerrymandering in Virginia.

We were proud to have two of our district sheriffs visit last week. Arthur Townsend, Lunenburg County sheriff, and Rick Walker, Amelia County sheriff, both came by to discuss issues important to their departments. Also visiting were Jakos Amos, Brad-Edward Davis and Roman Davis from Lunenburg, Janie and David Pennington, Allen Getz Jr. and Nana Ataa Ofosu-Benefo from Mecklenburg, and Daphne Cole and Charles Vaughan from Nottoway.

We appreciate all of you that are willing to take time out of your busy schedules to visit me in my Richmond office. If you happen to be in the Richmond area during this year’s General Assembly session, please stop in and say hello.

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