Virginia will be much different come July 1
Thank you for again allowing me to be your voice in Richmond.
This has been a very different session than any other that anyone can remember.
In the past, legislators fought for their regions, but, for the most part, most members were either conservative or moderate. Leadership could find common ground between those perspectives. Most legislators understood that, for all to succeed, we needed a good climate that was successful for business that hired Virginians to provide for their families.
A big difference is that more than half the members of the General Assembly were born outside of Virginia, therefore, not understanding many Virginia traditions. Additionally, in the House 40% of the members have two or less years’ experience. Some of them are now chairing committees. For this reason there has been far more confusion than anyone would like. In addition, many of these new members believe this was the year for great changes. The question that arises is what do they want changed and why?
In 2019, Virginia was named the best state in which to do business. For this reason national and international companies have come to Virginia while many more have been considering locating in the state. This and a strong national economy have given us extremely low unemployment. The changes that have been proposed, and will become law if Governor Northam does not amend or reject these proposals, will make Virginia much less attractive to future prospects. Not only do these new laws reject the notion that the employer should be the one who decides what wages an employee earns but, additionally, what benefits must be offered. I appreciate their compassion for employees, but if the business cannot afford these lucrative packages, it will force some employers to eliminate some employees or close completely. For those who lose their jobs, this shows little compassion.
New laws proposed will let felons out of prison earlier while at the same time decriminalize some activities that will harm businesses. One example is changing stealing from businesses a misdemeanor rather than felony if the theft is under $1,000 rather than the current $500. They fully do not understand small business.
While the General Assembly did not increase income taxes, if you consider all of the legislation that passed this year that will drive up your household expenses you will be shocked.
Your electric bill will rise, your gasoline expenses will rise, hikes in minimum wages will drive greater inflation, and on and on.
There have been headlines after headlines about your Second Amendment rights. A few of the bills that would have made many good citizens criminals were put off until next year, but understand they are still going to come after you for no other reason than you are trying to protect your family. None of the legislation that passed deals with the real problem of guns in the hands of criminals and those with mental problems. It only affects those who have no intention of doing anything evil.
Legislation passed that will allow late term abortions for no other reason than because they had the numbers to do so. Likewise, legislation passed 40 years too late that would protect the rights of women; seemingly unaware of the multitude of legislation at both the state and federal levels that give protections from unfair treatment.
On the issue of gambling in Virginia, I have mixed emotions. I do not believe that we should fund state government on the weakness of some. However, we allowed the lottery and horse racing before I came to Richmond.
After the federal government’s decision to recognize the Pamunkey Indian tribe, and after years of saying they would not seek to open a casino, they did an about face and are now planning to open two casinos – one in Richmond and another in Norfolk. I do not like monopolies. For that reason, I agreed to give Danville, Bristol, and Portsmouth voters the right to decide if they want to open casinos also.
This year I voted against more proposed legislation than I have in the last decade. Many bills offered took the decision making away from citizens and businesses and bestowed those decisions instead on bureaucrats who have limited knowledge of our needs or those of our communities. The Virginia that we all know and love will be far different after July 1 when these bills become law.
The 2020 session was scheduled to end Saturday, March 7, but much is left to be accomplished. We will be back March 12. At this time, I can only guess what the end result of some very important issues will be.
I will try to continue to keep you updated in the coming weeks as these initiatives are either signed into law or amended by the Governor.
I have asked him to please consider the cumulative effect of the mountain of legislation that has passed the General Assembly.
Frank Ruff Jr. represents Lunenburg in the state Senate. His email address is Sen.Ruff@verizon.net.