Opinion — 2022 Session overtime

Published 12:00 pm Friday, April 1, 2022

As has been reported, the General Assembly did not finish our work in the constitutionally allotted time. The requirement is that all work must be completed within 60 days. To go beyond that a super majority of both the House and Senate must agree. This year, because of friction between the House and Senate in the last days, it was agreed that we would allow the Governor to call us back to Richmond. Governor Youngkin has now called for a new session starting next Monday to complete the budget and a group of bills; some of which are dependent on inclusion in the budget.

The two bodies deal with legislation that requires funding two separate ways. The House will pass legislation prior to deciding if they will fund it. Therefore, at one time bills were passed into law and but never funded. The Senate, rather than fill law books with needless laws, chose 20 plus years ago to pass bills with a clause requiring them to be funded or those bills would not go into law.

Here are the bills that fit into this category:

Hardwood Forestry (HB1319)

Teacher’s Tax Credit for Classroom Expenses (HB103)

Housing Tax Credits for Construction (SB47)

Campaign Finance Audits (HB86)

Foster Care Support for Those 18-21 (HB349)

Care for Severe Traumatic Brain Injury (HB680)

OTHER SIGNIFICANT BILLS

Education

Lab Schools (HB346 and SB598)

These bills deal with the issue of how we can improve our schools academically by having schools around the state pair with our colleges to develop improved teaching in the twenty-first century.

School Construction (HB563 and SB473)

These bills deal with the needs of many of our school districts that need to improve their school buildings but lack the ability to borrow the funds needed for those capital projects. The two bills differ on how much and under what circumstances.

Criminal Justice

Hazing (HB993 and SB440)

These bills came before the General Assembly because of a death at VCU University from hazing. They differ on what the punishment should be.

Facial Recognition (HB1339)

This bill would allow law enforcement to use certain facial recognition software for investigation purposes only.

Firearm Violence (HB833 and SB487)

These bills differ significantly. The House bill focuses on cracking down on gang activity as Boston has done. The Senate bill focuses on studying how to reduce the use of guns in crimes by creating a Center for Firearm Violence.

Elections

Appointment of Commissioner of Elections and Membership of the Board (HB305 and SB371)

These bills were introduced with the goal of reducing the partisan politics involved with the Department of Elections.

Voter Identification (HB177, SB652 and SB273)

These three bills deal with how to assure that every citizen is lawfully registered and their votes properly counted.

Healthcare

Nurse Practitioner Regulation (HB1245)

This bill continues the policy that begun last year that relaxed oversight regulation.

Football Stadium Construction (HB135 and SB727)

These bills deal with the Washington Commanders desire to move their team to Virginia. The proposals differ in how the taxes generated by the development would be used to finance the project.

Taxation

Military Benefits Subtraction (HB1128 and SB528)

Both would reduce income taxes on part of military retirement pay.

Sales Tax (HB90 and SB451)

These bills would reduce the sales tax on groceries.

Income taxes (HB935 and SB579)

These bills would reduce taxpayer’s liability by increasing the standard deduction.

How long will the session last?

This is the question that cannot be answered at this time. While it appears that we have much on the table, this is only a small percentage of the work that we have almost every day during a regular session. Except for the budget, if members return with a sense of purpose, these bills could be negotiated out relatively quickly.

The budget, however, could go on and on for a lengthy period. The two proposed budgets differ by almost three billion dollars. The big issue is how much tax relief are we going to give to you – the taxpayers of Virginia. One of the issues Governor Youngkin ran on, and was elected on, was to reduce taxes. Some seem to be more interested in blocking those efforts, despite the interests of the majority of voting Virginians. I don’t believe that their attitude will change in the short run. They don’t want him to succeed.

Frank Ruff Jr. represents Lunenburg in the state Senate. His email address is Sen.Ruff@verizon.net.