To the constituents of the 19th House District:
The third week of the 2023 Session has concluded, and House Republicans continue to work diligently to pass legislation that lowers costs, improves our schools, and makes our communities safer. This week we advanced several key pieces of our public safety agenda with legislation that returns necessary resources to law enforcement and more effectively deters criminal activity.
A critical piece of our public safety agenda reverses policies that passed three years ago. This includes a law, enacted in 2020, that removed law enforcement’s ability to conduct traffic stops which could subsequently reveal more serious offenses. Eliminating the ability to use discretion made it easier for criminals to utilize our roads to transport human trafficking victims, stolen weapons, and drugs. Returning authority back to law enforcement is a common sense measure that will have an immediate effect on deterrence.
Making it more difficult to transport illicit narcotics is one way to begin reducing the fatal drug overdoses. Harsher penalties are another. This is why House Republicans want to ensure dealers responsible for fatal drug overdoses can be charged with felony homicide. Despite bipartisan support two years ago, Gov. Ralph Northam vetoed the original bill. Since that time, fatal drug overdoses have skyrocketed and currently outnumber driver-related deaths and gun-related deaths combined. Local leaders across Virginia are asking for help, and we are committed to passing this legislation to get fentanyl and other illicit drugs off our streets to save lives.
The recent controversies with the prior administration’s Parole Board illustrate the need to hold accountable criminals who commit serious crimes. House Republicans are focused on passing legislation that ensures criminals who commit heinous offenses with a firearm remain off the streets. Furthermore, legislation has been introduced that ensures individuals accused of serious crimes abide by stricter conditions before bail is considered. We also defeated a variety of unconstitutional restrictions on guns that would have made a large portion of current legal gun owners felons. Responsible citizens should not be punished for the criminal acts of others.
As we approach the midpoint of session, bills that have passed through various committees and have a fiscal impact will be considered by the House Appropriations Committee. As vice chair of the Appropriations Committee and chair of the Transportation & Public Safety Subcommittee, my focus will be on enabling the aforementioned policies in a financially responsible manner.
Republicans continue to focus on bringing relief to Virginians as inflation continues to affect our economy. Earlier in the week, the House passed a tax relief package that will sensibly decrease tax rates and position Virginia to compete for jobs and spur economic growth. The short-term effect would be substantial, but the true emphasis is long term. As the economy continues to adjust from recent global shocks, Virginia must position itself accordingly. Establishing a business-friendly environment will generate economic development, attract more talent, spur innovation, and encourage more people to raise a family in Virginia.
As for my bills, HB1495 which updates insurance requirements for ride sharing firms passed out of the House 98-1. HB1496 restructures the Commonwealth Mass Transit Fund by implementing performance requirements for the Metro system in Northern Virginia and creating funding for commuter rail. It reported out of committee unanimously and will be voted on the House floor this week.
HB2391 has been referred to Rules Committee, which meets at the call of the Speaker. This bill adds the Secretary of Finance as a permanent member to Public Private Partnership Advisory Committee. Currently, the Commission is only required to include three unspecified Secretaries appointed by the governor, and eight legislative members. There are several approval paths for Public Private Partnerships (PPP) in the Commonwealth, and often the Secretary’s Office is not a part of the discussion until the later stages of negotiations. As a permanent member, the Secretary of Finance will have increased oversight of the approval process at its earliest stages, ensuring that PPPs are beneficial for the Commonwealth.
This year “Crossover” falls on February 7. After this date, the House of Delegates can only consider bills that have passed out of the Senate. As we move toward this point, House Republicans continue to deliberately consider and pass legislation that benefits Virginians.
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