By Del. Terry Austin
The General Assembly has concluded its fourth week of the 2022 Session. House Republicans continue to offer common sense solutions to important issues, including the voting process, public safety, and education. Our priorities have become bills that continue to be passed out of the House of Delegates, and I am hopeful that they find their way out of the Senate and to the governor’s desk.
Crossover is February 15, which means the upcoming week will be one of large committee dockets and late nights. As chairman of Transportation, I am pleased to report that by the end of the week we will have considered all the bills referred to the committee by the Speaker. That being said, the focus continues to be addressing the priorities Republicans ran on in this past election.
Voting is the act of making our voices heard in the political process, and we should nurture and protect it. We have made progress on this front when it comes to strengthening election integrity for Virginians. On Thursday, the House of Delegates passed HB544, which allows voters who wish to protect their right to vote with photo ID to instruct registrars to only give their ballot to someone who presents photo ID. Making photo ID opt-in gives Virginians who want it an extra layer of security for their ballots. It’s a common sense measure that makes elections safer, strengthens voter confidence, and restores trust in the most important institution in our constitutional republic. While universal photo ID would be preferable, allowing Virginians to opt-in to photo ID will give concerned voters another reassurance that their ballot is secure, and that they, and only they, will be the ones who cast their vote.
When it comes to public safety, we have overhauled existing law to make students and schools safer. As it stands, school personnel are not required to report violent crimes, stalking, threats against personnel, or sexual crimes to law enforcement. HB4 changes that by restoring mandatory reporting for especially menacing crimes, while maintaining discretion for school officials when it comes to reporting relatively minor offenses. This is a positive step forward when it comes to protecting our most vulnerable citizens in an environment where safety should never be a concern.
Virginia’s students are some of the best in the United States. They’re our hope for the future, and they all deserve the opportunity to get an education that prepares them to achieve their highest potential. HB127 does this by creating opportunity for all Virginia students by strengthening middle school curricula and by restoring a merit-based admissions process to some of our strongest schools: our nationally renowned governor’s schools. This is about embracing equality and lifting every child up.
As for my legislation, HB482, which will streamline the real estate development process through data driven metrics, passed out of the House 98-0. HB462 extends an aviation tax credit that will keep business in Virginia and HB463 repeals the Department of Wildlife Resources boat ramp access fees. Both reported from committee and will be voted on this week on the House floor.
I look forward to updating you on the forthcoming weeks of Session. As always, if my office can be of assistance to you and your family, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at DelTAustin@House.Virginia.gov.