Opinion — Budget Sunday

Published 12:00 pm Sunday, February 27, 2022

The House Appropriations Committee voted Sunday to send House Bills 29 and 30 — the biennial budget bills — to the floor for approval. In addition to setting aside the most money for K-12 education in Virginia history, the budget contains $5.3 billion in tax relief for Virginia families and raises Virginia’s “Rainy Day” Fund to a historic level in anticipation of future economic downturns and emergencies.

The House Budget contains the largest ever investment in our K-12 system. The over $2 billion investment over the biennium will go toward teacher pay raises. The House Budget makes significant investments in higher education, providing funding to hold tuition increases to no more than 3% and substantial tuition assistance for in-state undergraduate students.

CROSSOVER STATISTICS

Crossover has come and gone, and it’s time to look at the numbers. Of the 1,593 House Bills introduced, 766 have been sent to the Senate. Of the 898 Senate Bills introduced, 578 have been sent to the House. Here are notable House Bills I supported.

K-12 EDUCATION

H.B. 4 rolls back a 2020 law that made reporting of some serious crimes, including sexual battery, in schools to law enforcement optional.

H.B. 127 restores race-blind admissions to our Governor’s Schools.

H.B. 787 bans the teaching that students are better or worse based on the color of their skin, or that they are somehow responsible for the actions of their ancestors.

H.B. 1009 gives parents notice and the right to opt out if their school will be teaching sexually explicit materials.

H.B. 873 ensures school resource officers are present in every public school.

H.B. 563 creates a school construction fund to help local governments rebuild crumbling schools

TAXPAYER RELIEF

H.B. 90 repeals the grocery tax, giving families an automatic 2.5% discount when they go shopping.

H.B. 1144 temporarily suspends part of the gas tax, giving drivers a break at the pump until prices can come down.

H.B. 472 doubles the Standard Deduction for Virginia income tax filers, letting Virginians keep more of their own hard-earned paychecks.

H.B. 118 repeals legislation that would cost Virginians $800 a year more on their electric bills.

H.B. 935 provides tax rebates of $300 to every filer, $600 to joint filers.

ELECTION INTEGRITY

H.B. 1090 restores Virginia’s voter photo ID law.

H.B. 34 ends the use of unattended drop-boxes for ballots that opened the door to ballot harvesting.

H.B. 39 tightens Virginia’s early voting period while expanding the hours during which voters can cast their ballots.

H.B. 927 will end late night ‘vote dumps’ by counting absentee ballots in the precinct where they would otherwise be cast.

PUBLIC SAFETY

H.B. 25 and H.B. 735 roll back radical changes in ‘good time’ credits for felons, restoring Virginia’s ‘truth in sentencing’ laws that have kept crime low.

H.B. 833 brings Project Ceasefire to Virginia, a proven solution for firearm violence that does not require gun control.

H.B. 79 Issuing citations; certain traffic offenses. Removes the provisions that provide that no law-enforcement officer may lawfully stop a motor vehicle for operating (i) without a light illuminating a license plate, (ii) with defective and unsafe equipment, (iii) without brake lights or a high mount stop light, (iv) without an exhaust system that prevents excessive or unusual levels of noise, (v) with certain sun-shading materials and tinting films and (vi) with certain objects suspended in the vehicle, and the accompanying the exclusionary provisions.

SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHTS

H.B. 11 decriminalizes first offense concealed-carry violations and reduces penalties for subsequent offenses.

H.B. 509 restores due process protections in Virginia by repealing the “red flag” scheme that allows the seizure of an individual’s firearms without due process.

H.B. 827 removes the authority for a locality by ordinance to prohibit the possession or carrying of firearms on that locality’s property and — thereby — protects the rights of gun-owners to legally carry throughout the Commonwealth without violating a patchwork of local ordinances.

RIGHT TO LIFE

Republicans in Virginia believe in the human right to life, they also believe in protecting the rights of women and mothers. That’s why House Republicans passed legislation during the 2022 legislative session that ensures born-alive infants receive life-saving medical care and that strengthens the right to informed consent for mothers. Protecting the unborn has always been an issue I’ve always fought for. As long as I am your Delegate, you can always count on me to fight for life. It is an honor to fight and speak for those who can’t speak and fight for themselves.

H.B. 212 enshrines in law an abortion patient’s right to informed consent.

H.B. 304 requires health care providers to take life-saving measures when an infant is born alive, despite an attempted abortion; requires hospitals to establish protocols to care for infants born alive after botched abortion attempts.

H.B. 744 criminalizes and makes punishable as a class 5 felony the intentional, heat-of-passion killing of a fetus and the unintentional killing of a fetus as the result of conduct that shows reckless disregard for human life.

NO TIME TO WASTE

In November, Virginians were unequivocal about what they want and expect from Richmond. That includes stronger schools, more opportunities for learning, and parental involvement in education, relief from record rates of inflation and soaring prices at the gas pump, the grocery store, and everywhere in between (thanks to poor federal policymaking), safer schools, streets, and communities; secure elections and stronger protections for some of our most fundamental rights; a return to the core values that the Commonwealth has always championed.

Republicans believe power belongs to the people, not to bureaucrats or power-hungry officials. The Republican-led House has passed legislation designed to put cash back in the pocket of the taxpayer and rein in out-of-control government that operates at the expense of Virginia families and communities. Meanwhile, Democrats have fought tooth and nail to maintain unnecessary COVID-19 measures that aren’t supported by current science, force parents out of education, prevent proven public safety measures from going into effect, and undermine the legitimacy of our most sacred institutions (elections) and our most fundamental rights (those protected by the First and second amendments to the Constitution).

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