We are done! The General Assembly wrapped up its work for the 2021 session yesterday, passing a set of progressive new policies that will further reform Virginia’s criminal justice system, expand voting rights, strengthen our economy, support public education, and create a healthier, more inclusive Commonwealth. After this historic session, Virginia will be the first state in the South to abolish the death penalty, legalize adult-use cannabis, and create a state-level Voting Rights Act.
We will adjourn sine die on Monday and reconvene later this spring for “veto session” to address Governor Northam’s recommendations on passed legislation.
The amended biennial budget passed the House of Delegates and Senate on Saturday. The package of amendments reported by the conference committee includes funding policies that will continue the work of the last special session to fund Virginia’s pandemic response and build a better Commonwealth.
The updated budget will:
Protect Virginia families –
- Maintain affordable access to our public colleges and universities and provide $148 million more than the introduced budget to support public pre-K-12 education.
- Exceed every prior proposal with a 5% pay raises for our teachers, state employees, adjunct faculty, and state-supported local employees.
- Make a record total investment of $125.7 million in the Housing Trust Fund.
- Reinvest savings from abolishing the death penalty into indigent and public defense programs.
Keep Virginia healthy –
- Maintain $37.2 million this year and $71.6 million in the next fiscal year in federal funds to support mass vaccination efforts and COVID-19 communications.
- Raise rates for home care workers to keep up with an increasing minimum wage and fund 40 hours of paid sick leave for home care workers.
- Increase nursing home payments by $15 per patient, per day.
- Expand access to prenatal care through Medicaid/FAMIS regardless of the pregnant person’s citizenship status.
Rebuild a stronger economy –
- Invest $100 million in broadband infrastructure.
- Fund a new round of small business grants through Rebuild Virginia.
- Fund overpayment forgiveness for Unemployment Insurance at the Virginia Employment Commission without raising employer UI taxes.
- Appropriate $34.5 million to implement the G3 community college initiative.
One goal of mine was to keep our reserve fund strong. With this budget, we will reach nearly $2.2 billion in savings so that we are prepared to meet Virginia’s ongoing and future needs. This is a fiscally sound, forward-looking budget that will pave the way for us to continue building a safer, healthier, and more equitable Commonwealth.
House Bill 2174: Passed. HB2174 will establish VirginiaSaves, an optional, portable, state-facilitated auto-IRA housed in Virginia529 to promote retirement savings for workers whose employers do not offer qualified retirement plans. Approximately 45% of Virginia’s workforce does not currently have access to a retirement savings plan at work. This will be an opportunity for more Virginians to build long-term savings not tethered to a single employer. VirginiaSaves will be a crucial wealth-building mechanism so that a single unexpected expense does not force Virginians to borrow or cut essentials from a fixed budget.
House Bill 2175: Passed. The Preserving the American Dream Act builds on my 2020 Manufactured Home Lot Rental Act and lays the groundwork for a housing bill of rights in Virginia. It will promote housing equity by slowing the foreclosure process, offering more assistance to homeowners facing foreclosure, and protecting the least-cost entry into homeownership.
House Bill 2176: Passed. HB2176 defines the terms: “abusive conduct,” “abusive work environment,” “physical harm,” and “psychological harm.” The need for this clarifying legislation was brought to our office by a constituent. This bill clarifies language utilized in my previously-enacted legislation requiring school boards to establish policies that promote healthy work environments.
House Bill 2177: Passed. HB2177 updates Virginia’s six-year capital outlay plan, including several capital projects at Virginia’s colleges and universities.
House Bill 2178: Passed. HB2178 authorizes the issuance of bonds for revenue-producing capital projects at Virginia Tech.
House Bill 2179: Passed. HB2179 amends prior legislation that provided the authority to refund 9(c) bonds issued primarily on behalf of institutions of higher education for dormitory and dining facility projects.
House Bill 5001: Passed. HB5001 establishes the Shipping and Logistics Headquarters Grant Program to provide grants to a shipping and logistics company locating its North American headquarters in Norfolk. This is an economic development project recommended by the Major Employment and Investment Project Approval Commission, of which I am Chair.
We need 125 signatures from constituents like you to qualify for the ballot in June. Can you support my re-election campaign by signing my electronic petition?If you would prefer to use a paper petition, we will be holding some in-person signature collection events this spring.