This is Delegate Rob Bloxom, reporting to you from Richmond, with this week’s Capitol report. Having only two weeks left in this session, Senate bills are being heard on the House side while our bills are doing the same in the other chamber. The pace is fast, actually too fast, to vet the bills correctly. Once the Senate bills are passed in the House, they will be off to the Governor for his approval, and then be signed into law. Many bills are being passed that will have real effects on business, voting, taxes, and our everyday life.
The size of government seems to have grown by 18%, no matter whether one is looking at the House budget or the Senate’s. Some expansion was needed in the area of pay for teachers, state police, and state employees. In the House of Delegates, sheriff deputies received a modest pay raise in the first and second year. The Senate did not give them raises in the first year. An area of governmental growth was in the enforcement of new business law. The Attorney General’s office received new positions to investigate discrimination in jobs, housing, voting, and environmental justice. The Department of Environmental Quality was granted fifty-five positions to be filled in the budget for the use of permitting and enforcement. The Department of Labor received positions to investigate wage theft, job misclassification, and contractors’ use of subcontractors. Last but not least, the Department of Taxation was granted auditors to enforce new taxes.
Another bill of interest that passed the House side was a bill to allow convicted drug felons to be eligible for TANF, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which is a cash benefit, as well as food stamps. We also allotted forty million dollars to the establishment of a Virginia web based insurance portal, similar to the federal exchange. A bill to allow an individual to change his or her sex on the individual’s birth certificate was also passed. There were a number of bills allowing casinos, sports betting, and online lottery sales. Many of these measures I found myself on the losing side of the vote. We were told last Thursday in a floor speech that the Democrats are in the driver’s seat and that we need to sit back and enjoy the ride. I fear that their exuberance of being in the majority and not being critical of their own bills will have very negative, long-lasting consequences on local budgets and new job growth in the coming years. In conclusion, I will take their advice, sit back, and enjoy the ride, hoping that we can survive this drastic shift in the social and economic winds which will be blowing throughout our state.
I value the feedback you provide on a continual basis, as it enables me to do a better job in representing you. You can email me at email@example.com or call the office in Richmond at 804-698-1100. You may also join the conversation on Facebook @electbloxomfordelegate.