To the constituents of the 19th House District:
The sixth week of 2023 Session has concluded. House Republicans have been working countless hours in subcommittees, committees, and on the House floor to consider hundreds of Senate bills within the abbreviated timeline of the short session. Last week, the House and the Senate each passed their own version of a budget and there are some key differences in funding priorities, including the amount of money that will be returned to taxpayers. As Vice Chairman of Appropriations, and a conferee on the budget, I will continue to stress the urgency of getting budget negotiations started.
Each day that we step foot in the Capitol, we seek to pass legislation that will make a positive and lasting impact for Virginia. This mindset has enabled us to pass significant tax relief, invest in our schools, and make our communities safer. In addition to these important initiatives, we have also made it a priority to restore trust and transparency in our elections and ensure our government functions efficiently for all Virginians. While the Democrat majority Senate has blocked several of these measures from becoming law, House Republicans remain committed to exercising good governance and preserving the most sacred tenets of our democratic process.
Democracy cannot thrive without a secure electoral process that people can trust. Just a few years ago, the Democrat-led General Assembly passed sweeping legislation that diminished that trust by diluting our election laws in several significant ways. Over the past few weeks, House Republicans advanced legislation to reverse these policies and replace them with pragmatic ones, including legislation restoring the requirement to show photo identification when voting. This simple measure, which is as commonplace as showing an ID to buy alcohol at the grocery store, is an effective deterrent to reduce voter fraud. We also sought to tighten rules on absentee voting by advancing legislation that would have repealed voter drop boxes to ensure unrestricted “vote dumps” cannot occur.
House Republicans also passed bills to bring the Commonwealth back toward the original idea of “Truth in Sentencing” while increasing transparency in daily governance. In addition to key pieces of legislation that would have ensured criminals who have committed particularly heinous crimes would stay off the streets for longer periods of time, we also advanced legislation that would shine a light on the actions of the Parole Board to implement real accountability and reinforce the safety of Virginians.
My Republican colleagues and I were proud to vote for the passage of these bills in the House. Yet, you will not see them become law because the Senate subsequently defeated each one of these proposals in various committees this week. Rest assured, the outcome of these bills in the Senate only strengthens our commitment to continue fighting to restore trust and transparency in our government.
As for my legislation, I am happy to report that my bills creating a license plate to support the Blue Ridge Parkway, updating industry standards for transportation network companies, and reorganizing the Commonwealth Mass Transit Fund have all passed out of the Senate and head to the governor’s desk for his signature. Unfortunately, my bill adding the Secretary of Finance as a standing member of the Public Private Partnership Advisory Council, which was a priority of Governor Youngkin, fell prey to partisan politics and did not report out of Senate Finance Committee. My bill establishing the VA250 Commission as a legislative branch commission reported out of Senate Rules unanimously and heads to the floor to be voted on this week.
If I can be of assistance to you or you would like to share your position on any of my legislation, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at DelTAustin@House.Virginia.gov and 804-698-1019.
Delegate Terry L. Austin
19th House District