To the Constituents of the 37th House District:
Week five of the 2024 General Assembly has concluded, and the House of Delegates is working through hundreds of bills as Session approaches Crossover – the point where the House and Senate complete work on their respective legislation, and successful bills “crossover” to the other chamber. This was a difficult week, and not just because of the grueling schedule. Legislation that would allow some of the worst criminals in Virginia to be released before serving their full sentences moved forward, while bills to extricate Virginia from California’s unrealistic automobile standards failed to report out of committee.
Victims of violent crimes drove from all over Virginia to testify and ask House Democrats to withdraw HB834, which enables those convicted of the most serious offenses to have a “second look” at early release. Families pleaded for violent criminals to remain behind bars and prevent the need to repeatedly relive these traumatic experiences at “second look” hearings. Unfortunately, they were given a total of six minutes combined to tell the tragic stories of their loved ones. A mother whose son died in her arms sought just one minute to talk and was turned away. The bill continues to advance, and Republicans will continue to highlight the significant impact of everyone affected.
Legislation passed by the Democrat majority in 2021 linked Virginia to California’s emission standards and mandated that all new vehicles sold be electric by 2035. This aspirational piece of legislation has proven itself to be unrealistic and Republicans introduced two bills that would have eliminated, or at least delayed, its implementation. Unfortunately, they both died in committee.
Numerous examples of impracticality abound. Only 9 percent of new car sales in Virginia last year were EVs, and sales growth would need to increase at an exponential rate for Virginia to meet this target in 10 years. Consumers have made it clear that cost, limited driving range, and long charging times have not met expectations. Manufactures are adjusting to this reality. Ford recently announced major cuts in EV production, a pause in $12 billion of EV investment, and a halving of its electric F-150 production targets. General Motors declared a delay in plans to expand EV production in Michigan and is discontinuing its best-selling EV in 2023. Half of all Buick dealers across the country recently took a buyout rather than invest in the brand’s all electric plans.
Furthermore, the Commonwealth’s charging infrastructure is both inadequate for the EVs already on the road and biased toward higher income communities. Virginia has a little more than 1,400 charging stations, with the majority in Northern Virginia. Almost two-thirds of these stations are in census tracts above the median household income. The paucity of these stations elsewhere in the Commonwealth make predictable and timely road travel impracticable. Aspirational legislation is not practical, and it has become increasingly apparent that electric vehicles are not realistic option for consumers, manufacturers, or the current state of our infrastructure.
As for my bills, I am pleased to report that HB191 and HB1425 passed out of the House unanimously, while HB843 passed out of the House 89-11.
HB191 improves the predictability of the automobile dealer franchise sales by establishing objective measures for the process.
HB843 supports the equine industry by enabling the distribution of revenues generated by Historical Horse Racing machines. A portion of these revenues will be directed to support the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington and Virginia Tech’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
HB1425 exempts the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA) from the Statewide Uniform Building Code, and the Fire Prevention Code Act. These code standards are meant for occupied buildings, not bridges and tunnels, and VDOT has the same exemption for this reason. The purpose is to give VPRA the clarity it needs as it advances critical rail infrastructure projects, including extending rail west to Bristol.
Lasts week I had the pleasure of visiting with constituent Tammy Coffey on behalf of Donate Life Virginia, an organization that educates people on the benefit of being an organ donor. I also enjoyed speaking with local members of the Asphalt Association and the Virginia Beer Wholesalers Association.
It is an honor to serve you in the Virginia House of Delegates. If I can be of assistance to you, or you would like to share your position on legislation, please do not hesitate to contact me at DelTAustin@House.Virginia.gov or 804-698-1037.
Delegate Terry L. Austin
37th House District