Tomorrow General Assembly members will return to Richmond for the annual Reconvened Session to address Governor Northam’s actions on legislation passed earlier this year. At this session we will have the opportunity to revisit any bills vetoed or amended by the governor, including Virginia’s spending budget. As this will be the Assembly’s first formal opportunity to respond legislatively to the COVID-19 pandemic, I want to let you know what to expect.
My House Bills 1495, 1249, 1250, and 1251 were each signed by the governor this month and will become law on July 1st. HB1495 will help public schools be competitive in hiring retired law-enforcement personnel as school resource officers. HB1249, the Manufactured Home Lot Rental Act, will grant additional legal protections to residents of mobile home parks facing eviction, including the right to organize for community ownership. HB1250, the Community Policing Act, will deter biased policing by creating a comprehensive database of the basis and outcome of every officer traffic stop. HB1251 will end “balance billing,” guarantee an insured patient’s health care is covered regardless of final diagnosis, and ensure that health care providers are reimbursed for the care they provide. These financial protections for health care consumers and providers are more important now than ever and I am pleased to see them become law.
A major issue that the General Assembly will take up on Wednesday is the question of Virginia’s upcoming elections. The governor has called for May 5th municipal elections to be moved to November 3rd, when social distancing guidelines may be relaxed and in-person voting safer. If the General Assembly votes to approve this change, all absentee votes that have already been cast will be discarded and new candidates will be allowed to enter these municipal races. Within Prince William County, the postponement would impact the towns of Dumfries, Occoquan, Quantico, and Haymarket.
Significant temporary changes have been proposed to Virginia’s operating budgets for the remainder of our current fiscal year and the upcoming biennium. This is a necessary budgetary “time-out” until the public health crisis stabilizes and Virginia can fully understand how our economy has been impacted. On Wednesday we can expect the General Assembly to accept unavoidable funding freezes. At a later date, equipped with more information, we will come together again to fight for the key priorities and progressive victories the General Assembly approved in March. Fortunately, Virginia has put aside historically high revenue reserves for a rainy day just like this one. Know that our goal is to allocate funds as responsibly and efficiently as possible to keep Virginia running through this time.
In addition to the spending time-out, the governor’s proposed budget amendments include 26 changes that would increase regulatory flexibility in response to COVID-19. For example, some amendments would remove the requirement that those receiving unemployment benefits be actively looking for work; waive some Standards of Learning testing and graduation requirements that are no longer possible for this year’s senior class; and allow for greater adaptability in our health care system.
Please reach out with any feedback for Reconvened Session or if my office can be of support to you at this time.