During this first full week of the 2021 Session we honored Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and celebrated the inauguration of a new President and Vice President of the United States. It is a hopeful time in Virginia and across the country as your General Assembly gets to work building a better Commonwealth. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”

Legislative Progress

House Bill 2174 passed out of subcommittee and committee this week. HB2174 would establish VirginiaSaves, an optional, portable, state-facilitated auto-IRA housed in Virginia529 to promote retirement savings for Virginia workers whose employers do not already offer qualified retirement plans. This is an opportunity for all Virginians to build long-term savings not tethered to a single employer.

Approximately 45% of Virginia’s workforce does not have access to a retirement savings plan at work. VirginiaSaves would help workers in industries such as retail and hospitality (which have among the lowest rates of employer-sponsored retirement benefits) and those who change jobs frequently to build wealth and works towards financial security in retirement. Read coverage of my proposal in the Richmond Times Dispatch.

HB2174 was reported out of the Appropriations subcommittee on Compensation and General Government by a vote of 5-3 on Tuesday and passed the full House Appropriations Committee with a 13-6 vote on Wednesday. It will be heard on the floor of the House next week.

Would the VirginiaSaves program help you save? Let us know: info@delegatetorian.com

House Bill 2176 was reported out of the Education subcommittee on Pre-K–12 by a 5-3 vote on Friday. HB2176 would help to promote a healthy work environment for our teachers and all school board employees by defining the terms: “abusive conduct,” “abusive work environment,” “physical harm,” and “psychological harm.” The need for this clarifying language was brought to us by a constituent and former educator.

HB2178 and HB2179 also both passed out of subcommittee and committee this week.

HB2178, the Virginia Higher Educational Institutions Bond Act of 2021, authorizes the issuance of bonds up to $34 million for revenue-producing capital projects at Virginia Tech. Specifically, the Act would authorize bonds for a new residence hall and an academic building parking supplement at the VT Innovation Campus. This bill passed the Appropriations subcommittee on Capital Outlay unanimously on Monday and the full House Appropriations Committee unanimously on Wednesday.

HB2179 amends prior legislation that provided the authority to refund some bonds issued on behalf of institutions of higher education. Institutions of higher education are facing financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To address these financial impacts, HB2179 will allow for debt service relief for institutions of higher education with outstanding 9(c) bond debt. This legislation passed the Appropriations subcommittee on Capital Outlay unanimously on Monday and the full House Appropriations Committee unanimously on Wednesday.

Hearing Members’ Budget Amendments

The House Appropriations Committee met on Monday to hear presentations from members of the House on their proposed amendments to the introduced biennial budget. Watch those presentations here.

This session, members of the House of Delegates submitted over 500 amendments to House Bill 1800, which contains Governor Northam’s proposals for changes to Virginia’s 2020-2022 budget. HB1800 itself includes a net increase of nearly $1.5 billion over the biennial budget we passed during Special Session. Member-proposed amendments represent a total of over $236 million in increased spending in Fiscal Year 2021 and over $2.4 billion in Fiscal Year 2022.

Now the House Appropriations Committee will deliberate on these proposed amendments before reporting an updated biennial budget in the coming weeks. Follow our progress through this newsletter and by following me on Facebook and Twitter.