By Del. Terry Austin
To the Constituents of the 19th House District:
The General Assembly has concluded its sixth week of the 2022 Session. We are officially past Crossover, and the House will now only consider budget items and bills that have passed out of the Senate. The result of a split majority General Assembly is illustrated in the number of bills that passed out of each chamber. Thirty bills were a priority for Gov. Youngkin, and 28 passed out of the Republican-majority House, while only 14 passed out of the Democrat-majority Senate. In total, 1,593 bills were introduced in the House, and 766 passed. Of the 898 bills introduced in the Senate, 578 passed.
Though this means our bicameral legislature is working as intended, I am hopeful that Republican priorities to improve our schools, implement tax relief, secure our election process, and strengthen public safety will find their way onto the governor’s desk. On Thursday, Feb. 17 Gov. Youngkin signed SB739, which empowers parents to make the decision when it comes to masking in school. Because Gov. Youngkin added both a recommendation and an emergency clause, this law will come into effect on March 1, rather than July 1.
Other education-related bills that passed out of the House focus on offering higher quality education in a safe environment. HB356 gives students more choice by opening up participation in lab schools. HB4 supports a safe learning environment by providing adequate resources, including school resource officers, and restoring reporting requirements for certain violent or sexual crimes. Finally, HB563 establishes a school construction fund
to help local governments rebuild schools in need of repair.
Part of a fiscally conservative approach is understanding that taxpayers are who fund government services. Due to several factors, including federal policy decisions and supply chain disruptions, inflation rates have reached a 40-year high. As a result, we are facing price increases on everything from gasoline, groceries, housing, and other essentials. This has led to the largest surplus in recent memory, and it is a priority of Gov. Youngkin and House Republicans to return these monies back to Virginians.
This is being accomplished through bills that have passed the House including HB90, which repeals the grocery tax, giving families an automatic 2.5 percent discount when they go shopping. HB1144 temporarily suspends part of the gas tax, giving drivers a break at the pump until prices can come down. HB 472 doubles the Standard Deduction for Virginia income tax filers, letting Virginians keep more of their own hard-earned paychecks. HB118 repeals legislation that would cost Virginians $800 a year more on their electric bills. And HB935 provides tax rebates of $300 to every filer, and $600 to joint filers.
Another top priority is ensuring our election process is safe, secure and efficient. Common sense measures have advanced out of the House to address these concerns. HB1090 restores Virginia’s voter ID law, bringing back photo ID along with providing safeguards for those who may have difficulty obtaining one. HB34 ends the use of unattended drop-boxes for ballots that are prone to ballot harvesting. HB927 will provide clarity on Election Night by ending late night “vote dumps” by counting absentee ballots in the precinct where they would otherwise be cast. HB1140 provides more notice in more places if their registration is about to be canceled for some reason. These measures reaffirm voting access, integrity and accuracy.
During the last two years, legislation has passed that undermines law enforcement and public safety officers. What has become clear is that this approach has not served families, communities, or the Commonwealth well. During this legislative session, Republicans have passed legislation to restore public safety measures that protect Virginians, including bills that reinstitute the presumption against bond for violent felons, restore truth in sentencing, and give our probation officers the tools they need to maintain public safety.
HB1303 makes the votes of Parole Board members subject to the Freedom of Information Act. HB25 and HB735 roll back changes in “good time” credits for felons, restoring Virginia’s “truth in sentencing” laws that have kept crime low. HB750 prohibits quotas for the issuing of tickets or summons by police. HB 812 restores previous law, repealed in 2020, which creates a rebuttable presumption that people held on trial for certain serious, dangerous crimes such as murder are not eligible for bail. HB 833 implements Project Ceasefire, a proven solution for firearm violence that does not require gun control. These bills focus on protecting our communities and the rights of victims. It is also about acknowledging and appreciating what our law enforcement and first responders do for us daily.
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.