House & Senate budget conferees announce conference report agreement, expect final vote on Thursday

~Includes a $129.5 million rainy-day fund pre-payment, eliminates $11.7 million in fees, funds comprehensive compensation package~ RICHMOND, VA – House and Senate budget negotiators reached an agreement on a budget conference report over the weekend and expect final votes to be held in both chambers as early as Thursday, General Assembly leaders announced today. The final budget conference report will be placed on members’ desks and posted online Tuesday morning, allowing for the 48-hour review period that House and Senate leaders established as a goal earlier this session.

The conference report includes a $129.5 million pre-payment to the state’s rainy-day fund, eliminates $11.7 million in fees proposed by Governor Terry McAuliffe and provides $153.5 million in funding for a comprehensive compensation package for state employees, state police officers, state-supported local employees, teachers and college faculty.

Speaking about the budget agreement, House Appropriations Committee Chairman S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk) and Senate Finance Co-Chairman Walter A. Stosch (R-Henrico) said, “Since the end of last summer’s budget stalemate, we have sought to develop a new sense of collaboration and candor in the budget process. We worked together to adopt a supplemental budget last fall, taking unprecedented action to protect our state’s AAA bond rating during a period of deep uncertainty. We began our discussions very early in the process this year, meeting frequently with leaders in our chambers and seeking to reach agreement and consensus wherever possible. The results of these efforts could not be more positive. The budgets released by each chamber were as closely aligned as either of us can ever remember and our conferees have produced a conference report ahead of schedule. The conference report will be placed on legislators’ desks and posted online by Tuesday morning and we expect final votes to be taken as early as Thursday. It is our hope that this agreement can gain broad, bipartisan support in both chambers.”

“I applaud Chairman Jones, Chairman Stosch, Leader Cox, Leader Norment and all of the House and Senate budget conferees for their diligent efforts to complete a conference report ahead of schedule,” said House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford). “I especially want to thank Chairman Jones and Chairman Stosch for the leadership they have demonstrated throughout this process. They have produced a conservative, responsible spending blueprint that wisely includes a rainy-day fund pre-payment, eliminates unnecessary debt obligations and onerous fees proposed by the Governor and invests in our state police officers and teachers. The House will take up the conference report on Thursday, after the 48-hour review period I ordered earlier this session.”

Senate Majority Leader and budget conferee Thomas K. Norment (R-James City) declared, “This budget agreement demonstrates that Virginia’s Republican majority is a governing majority. Since last summer, the House and Senate under Republican leadership have ended a six-month long budget stalemate, taken decisive action to eliminate a budget shortfall and now delivered the final amendments to the current spending plan ahead of schedule. We are working efficiently and effectively, and the results speak for themselves. This is a sound spending plan that includes no new taxes on hard-working families, invests in higher education and provides well-deserved pay raises to state employees, state police officers and our teachers.”

The conference report includes a $153.5 million comprehensive compensation package, funding the state share of a 1.5% teacher pay raise, a 2% college faculty pay raise, and a 2% across-the-board pay raise and compensation adjustments for years of service and to address salary compression for state police and state employees.

“Virginia is fortunate to have thousands of committed state employees whose day-to-day work is integral to the efficient and effective operation of government,” said Senator John Watkins (R-Chesterfield). “This conference report provides them with a well-deserved pay raise and includes funding to address compression for senior employees. It is my hope that this budget shows we are just as committed to them as they are to Virginia.”

“Our state employees work tirelessly to serve their fellow citizens and too often go without the recognition or reward they deserve,” said Delegate John M. O’Bannon (R-Henrico). “Virginia is consistently recognized as one of the nation’s best managed states, no doubt due in large part to the effectiveness of our state employees. The comprehensive compensation package included in this conference report is an effort to recognize and reward them for their hard work.”

The conference report agreement funds the state share of a 1.5% teacher pay raise and deposits $193 million to the teacher retirement fund. This is the second teacher pay raise funded by the General Assembly in the last three years. The conference report also includes $42 million in additional funding for higher education, including $19.8 million to incentivize enrollment and $10.1 million for higher education.

“Supporting our teachers, strengthening our schools and making college more affordable have been central objectives of the General Assembly this year. These goals are clearly reflected in the conference report,” said House Majority Leader and budget conferee Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights). “The final budget makes significant investments in higher education, providing an additional $42 million for our colleges and universities, including $10.1 million in new financial aid funding. These efforts demonstrate our clear commitment to strengthening our education system at all levels.”

“As we have worked to reform and strengthen our public school system over the last three years, our emphasis has been ensuring student success in the classroom,” said Delegate Tag Greason (R-Loudoun). “The General Assembly recognizes that the success of our students in the classroom starts with our teachers. The 1.5% teacher pay raise included in our budget, combined with additional funding for professional development and teacher training, is part of a concerted effort to give back to the professionals who give so much to our students.”

The conference report also restores $30 million in funding to local governments cut by the supplemental budget, includes a 2% pay raise for state-supported local employees and deposits $193 million into the teacher retirement fund.

“The House and Senate worked hard to mitigate the cuts to local governments during the budget shortfall,” said House Appropriations Committee Vice-Chairman Steve Landes (R-Augusta) and Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta). “We are pleased to announce today that the conference report fully restores $30 million in funding to local governments, provides state-supported local employees with a pay raise and makes a significant investment in the teacher retirement fund, which is very important to local governments. This is a responsible budget that works for local governments.”

Budget Conference Report Highlights • Spends ~$1 billion less in general funds than originally adopted two-year budget • Does not raise taxes • Pre-pays $129.5 million for 2017 rainy-day fund deposit, restoring balance to ~$429 million • Eliminates $11.7 million in fees proposed by Governor McAuliffe o Restaurant Inspection Fee o VDACS Inspection Fee o Weights & Measures Fee o Underground storage cleanup deductible o Saltwater License Fee • Eliminates $33 million in debt proposed by Governor McAuliffe • Provides $43 million in funding in order to accelerate funding at 90% of VRS certified rates for the state employee retirement plans. • Pays cash for all college capital projects K-12 Education • State funding for 1.5% teacher pay raise, including support staff • Overall increase of $60 million for K-12 education compared to Governor McAuliffe’s budget proposal • Deposits an additional $43 million into teacher retirement fund compared to Governor McAuliffe’s budget proposal, bringing the total deposit to $193 million Compensation • Provides 2% across-the-board raise for state police and state employees, including compression for senior classified employees • $4 million to rollback cuts to state police overtime • 2% pay raise for state-supported local employees • 1.5% teacher pay raise, including support staff • 2% college faculty pay raise • Total compensation package is $153.5 million Local Government • Restores $30 million in funding cuts adopted by the supplemental budget to address shortfall • 2% pay raise for state-supported local employees • Deposits $193 million into teacher retirement fund, saving localities over $30 million in required teacher retirement costs Higher Education • Includes an additional $42 million for higher education, restoring 94% of cuts adopted by the supplemental budget to address shortfall o $19.8 million to incentivize enrollment o $10.1 million for financial aid o $5 million for research • 2% faculty pay raise • $1,000 per student incentive to encourage colleges and universities with low graduation rates to accept transfer students • $132 million for capital construction projects at James Madison, Virginia Tech, Longwood, Radford, Virginia Commonwealth University and Danville Community College. Healthcare Safety Net • ¬¬¬¬$132.9 million for healthcare safety net • Funding to provide targeted services to ~22,000 seriously mentally-ill patients, including a prescription drug benefit • Nearly doubles operational funding for free clinics – total of $6 million in funding • Funds behavioral health community services including three new PACT teams and six new drop-off centers • Increases funding for children’s psychiatry and crisis services Other Items • $27 million in funding for the Governor’s Opportunity Fund; earmarks $4 million for Jefferson Lab Ion Collider efforts • Authorizes bonds to construct two new Veterans Care Centers, one in Northern Virginia and one in Hampton Roads • $9 million for housing & homelessness o $8 million deposit into the Housing Trust Fund o $1 million for rapid rehousing efforts, including $500,000 specifically for veterans

Statement of Del. Chris Peace on Merits of Monitoring Industrial Waste

Over the last year, one of the issues most concerning to my constituents in Hanover, King William, and New Kent counties has been the recently approved permit to authorize the land application of industrial residual waste, which is comprised of natural animal wastes and pulp or paper by-product. As I have taken a close look at this issue, I crafted a solution that responds to those concerns, addresses negative environmental impacts, and keeps the burden away from local taxpayers. Among the legislation I filed this session was a measure prohibiting the use of this material in our district notwithstanding the approved state permit (HB1363). In addition, I filed legislation to empower localities whose leaders were likewise rightly concerned with the ability to employ a monitoring program- paid for by the producer of the waste, not taxpayers- similar to existing programs that monitor and test bio-solid waste (HB1364). I encourage a careful reading of the legislation This judiciously crafted legislation was strongly embraced by local county attorneys, local elected leaders and ultimately leading statewide environmental organizations such as the League of Conservation Voters and the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club. With funding provided and a mechanism to stop the application of industrial waste, the unanimous appeal of this legislation was clear. Localities and individuals across the Commonwealth will benefit greatly from this legislation that finally enables a push back against the land application of such materials. Unfortunately false and misleading information has recently been published by a citizens group suggesting that the very legislation which they once stood and supported now has untoward consequences. What is most amazing is that none of those who are now concerned have had the courtesy to speak with me in person or testify in committee about the same. Instead some have sought to surreptitiously work back channels to attain opinions of the Attorney General (OAG) in hopes that he would issue an opinion in their favor. Unfortunately for their extreme and erroneous anxiety, the OAG stated that the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) had all the authority it needed to lawfully approve the land application of waste back in December. So one can conclude objectively that these recent arguments have no foundation in truth, logic and fall victim to the time honored admonition to legislators that they should have “read the bill."

You may ask why I am choosing to dignify this effort of bloggers and other activists with a response. The truth is that I am compelled to because I believe in my personal honor and the truth. Just like I denounced slanderous yellow signs falsely alleging my position on Medicaid expansion I similarly write in response to an less-than honest article based on crack reporting of an anonymous memorandum written by a so-called “Environmental Law Group.” This frivolous memo asserts that the Commonwealth’s DEQ has no authority under existing law to permit the land application of industrial sludge as fertilizer. The memo further suggests that legislation sponsored by Senator Rosalyn Dance in the Senate and by me in the House to authorize local governments to test and monitor the land application of industrial sludge would, somehow, grant authority to DEQ to permit the land application. Unfortunately, however, this memorandum ignores existing Virginia statutes, case law and reality. You cannot grant a power to an entity that it already enjoys.

Virginia Code Section 62.1-44.15, originally enacted in 1970, authorizes the State Water Control Board and DEQ to regulate and require permits for industrial wastes.  Pursuant to this authority, the Board and DEQ have been regulating and issuing permits for the land application as fertilizer of industrial residuals from several food and paper producers in the state.  DEQ has applied essentially the same testing and monitoring requirements for this industrial sludge as it has used for the land application of “biosolids” which are the residuals from sewage treatment plants

The Virginia Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that local governments cannot enact general ordinances or zoning ordinances which would prohibit or render impracticable the use of biosolids as fertilizers when it is permitted by the state. Blanton v. Amelia County, 261 Va. 55 (2001).  There are two federal district court decisions from the same time period that are in accord. Synagro-Wwt, Inc v. Louisa County, 2001 U.S. Dist.., Lexis 10987 and O’Brien v. Appomattox County, 293 F.Supp. 2d 660 (2003).  There is no basis for arguing, thinking or hoping that the result would be different for the land application of industrial sludge as fertilizer.

In spite of this minority viewpoint of our legislative efforts, I remain committed to constituent concerns that not enough is known about the long term environmental impacts of the land application of industrial waste. To that end, I am also a co-patron of HJ 506 which requires a detailed and specific scientific study, by agencies other than DEQ, of the long term impacts of the land application of both biosolids and industrial sludge.  The bill to prohibit land application of industrial waste in the three counties I represent unfortunately failed in committee.  The other two bills passed both Houses of the General Assembly and will go to the Governor for signature. In light of the previously approved permit, this result is the best possible. For anyone to suggest that we should not monitor something already state approved to be applied to land is uninformed at best and insincere at worst. This issue is important for all Virginians, and it deserves to be reported responsibly. Rolling Stone proves that you should always consider the source.

 

Delegate Peace Highlights Legislative & District Focused Successes at Session’s “Half-time” 2015

Central Virginia -- Returning to the Capitol Friday from cutting the ribbon on a new DMV-Select service which the Delegate brought to New Kent County for its residents, Del. Christopher K. Peace (R-97th House District) reports on several legislative and district related successes that have occurred this Session. Officially termed, “Crossover,” which reflects the mid-point of the legislative session, several items on Del. Peace’s legislative agenda passed the House and will now be heard in the Senate. After over a year of concern arising from the direct application of industrial sludge to lands in his legislative district, Peace successfully navigated House Bill (HB) 1364 through the House unanimously to allow local governments authority for testing and monitoring applied industrial sludge. Nothing in this legislation adds to or removes the existing authority of the Department of Environmental Quality to issue permits regarding the waters and adjacent lands of the Commonwealth. The program is built upon the existing monitoring practice for biosolid application. “Residents of our District deserve the assurance that this practice is managed in a safe manner and further monitored for potential negative environmental impact,” stated Peace.

It is no secret that New Kent County has suffered financial loss from the failure of the Virginia Racing Commission, Colonial Downs and the leading horsemen’s groups to contract and hold live thoroughbred racing at Colonial Downs in 2014. For the better part of a year, Peace has been working hard on behalf New Kent residents to return horse racing in the Commonwealth. In addition to petitioning the Attorney General, pleading with the Commission, and convening numerous stakeholder meetings over recent months, Peace is pleased to report that House Bill 1826, which he co-sponsored, revises the Virginia horse racing statutes and financial distributions after Colonial Downs' surrender of its unlimited license to own and operate the racetrack in New Kent County and the nine satellite facilities (OTBs) in Virginia. “Colonial Downs was a major revenue source for New Kent County. Working toward resolution of this matter will have a positive impact upon the county and residents,” said Peace. Peace successfully amended the legislation to provide a hold harmless provision for the County which will work to restore the framework for revenues to return to county coffers. The Tidewater Review, a local newspaper, published an article describing the lengths to which Delegate Peace went to secure New Kent’s interests: “Peace pushed the New Kent perspective into the legislative process. He collaborated with Scott on Scott’s original bill, which was used as a vehicle in the House for the compromise. Peace and Scott amended the original bill to protect New Kent’s financial interest in the track. Peace said ‘New Kent needs to be more than an afterthought.’”

Public safety and local law enforcement remains a top priority for Delegate Peace who successfully patroned a budget amendment on behalf of Hanover County to provide a small amount of funding for the Pamunkey Regional Jail Authority, which serves Caroline and Hanover counties. The funds will be used for capital cost reimbursement for the conversion of a recreation area to dormitory beds needed to relieve overcrowding. Additionally, Peace also successfully passed House Bill 2092, which is the by-product of a year-long crime commission study to improve standards for Virginia's sexual assault & domestic violence victim support, intervention and prevention services. This report and subsequent legislative initiative began with his legislation last year (House Bill 885, 2014) to increase compensation for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence well before the Ray Rice / NFL scandal.

Another follow-up to legislation of previous years came this week as well. Superintendent Jamelle Wilson alerted Delegate Peace that Hanover County received a $100,000 planning grant for enhancing its current career and technical educational (CTE) offerings through a Governor’s School summer program. Delegate Peace passed budget language last year as a companion to his 2014 bill (House Bill 887) to establish a new CTE Governor’s School. It is anticipated that this effort will produce an excellent and enhanced offering for talented students in the Richmond region.

In an effort to further protect the youth of our communities, House Bill 2082 is a measure to grant civil immunity by extending current Good Samaritan laws to individuals who forcibly enter a motor vehicle to remove an unattended minor at risk of serious bodily injury or death, provided the person has attempted to contact emergency personnel prior to such entry. The bill passed with unanimous support. Speaking its passage, Delegate Peace asserted, “There have been too many preventable tragedies in our area due to small children being left in hot cars. I am enthusiastic about the early success of this measure to make our community a safer place for children. I will continue to work to make the 97th District and the Commonwealth the best place to live, work and raise a family.”

Delegate Chris Peace is frequently rated one of Virginia’s most business-friendly conservatives. Peace’s voting record shows a consistent focus on opposing tax increases, protecting family values defending the Constitution, and promoting job creation and a high quality of life in Hanover, King William and New Kent counties.

 

Peace Statement on Support of Veteran and Law Enforcement 2015 Legislative Agendas

Delegate Chris Peace is proud to highlight his strong voting record supporting veteran and law enforcement priorities. Delegate Peace voted in support of 100% of the 2015 legislation championed by the Virginia Fraternal Order of Police, Joint Leadership Council of Veterans Services Organizations (JLC), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), and the Board of Veterans Services (BVS). Delegate Peace co-sponsored legislation to provide for two new Veterans Care Centers where there are higher volumes of veterans in need of care in Hampton Roads (HB 1275) and Northern Virginia (HB 1276). He also co-sponsored HB 1641, a measure to require that all agencies in the executive branch of state government and all public institutions of higher education shall be certified in accordance with the Department of Veterans Services as part of its Virginia Values Veterans Program. Del. Peace, having been named Rookie of the Year by the Virginia State Police, has always supported law enforcement.

Priorities of the Virginia Fraternal Order of Police (VFOP) included HB 1606, a bill which defines "private police department" as any police department that employs private police officers operated by an entity authorized by statute or an act of assembly to establish a private police department.

The 2010 Appropriations Act established the Line of Duty Act (LODA) Fund with the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) as the investment manager. The LODA Fund provides a funding source for Line of Duty Act benefits that cover certain hazardous duty personnel who are paid or who volunteer. Peace voted in support of HB 2204, a measure to amend LODA to protect all public safety personal with benefits. The measure passed the House by a vote of 100-0.

“Delegate Chris Peace has a strong legislative voting record of supporting VFOP initiatives. I am glad to call him a friend of public safety and law enforcement in the Commonwealth,” asserted former VFOP State President, Marty Williams.

Delegate Peace has been recognized for his support of military and veterans issues by Veterans of Foreign Wars of America and has previously been named Legislative Rookie of the Year by the Virginia Sheriff’s Association also in recognition of his strong legislative voting record in support of law enforcement officers across the Commonwealth.

Delegate Chris Peace is frequently rated one of Virginia’s most business-friendly conservatives. Peace’s voting record shows a consistent focus on opposing tax increases, protecting family values defending the Constitution, and promoting job creation and a high quality of life in Hanover, King William and New Kent counties.

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House of Delegates Passes Legislation to Aid Victims of Assault and Protect Students on College Campuses

The House of Delegates today passed legislation to aid victims of assault and to protect students on college campuses. House Bill 1785, introduced by Del. Jimmie Massie (R-Henrico), requires campus police to notify the local Commonwealth’s Attorney of a victim-initiated investigation within 48 hours. House Bill 1928, introduced by Del. Rob Bell (R-Albemarle), adds certain additional violent misdemeanors to the state DNA database. House Bill 1930, also introduced by Del. Rob Bell, requires colleges to provide independent counseling services to victims and to inform them of all their legal options, requires mandatory reporting of sexual assaults where necessary to protect the health or safety of the public, and requires that all cases be confidentially reviewed by a team that includes law enforcement. Speaking about the campus safety legislation, Del. Jimmie Massie said, “The legislation passed by the House today takes important steps to keep young men and women safe on our college campuses. House Bill 1785 will better coordinate campus investigations with local law enforcement. We listened to the concerns of victims’ advocates that mandatory reporting to the police could discourage students from reporting assaults. I believe this legislation strikes the right balance to improve the campus and law enforcement response without discouraging victims from coming forward.”

Del. Rob Bell said, “House Bill 1928 adds certain violent and sexual crimes that have a high propensity of recidivism to be included in the state DNA database to make it easier for law enforcement to identify and quickly apprehend suspects. House Bill 1930 improves the safety of our college campuses while also ensuring that victims are provided with counseling services and informed of all legal options.”

Del. Roxann Robinson (R-Chesterfield) said, “This legislation will better support victims of assault on Virginia college campuses and make them safer. It will give law enforcement additional tools to bring offenders to justice and improve the response from our college and universities to sexual assaults and other acts of violence.”

House Passes Del. David LaRock’s Legislation Creating Education Savings Accounts for Special-Needs Students

The House of Delegates today passed legislation introduced by Delegate David LaRock (R-Loudoun) to give special-needs students in Virginia the option to start Education Savings Accounts. Speaking about the legislation, House Bill 2238, Delegate LaRock said, “While we have excellent public schools in Virginia, they are not always the best option for children with special learning needs or unique challenges. Cost is the biggest factor preventing families from choosing a better option for their child. Education savings accounts give families facing that cost barrier other choices so that they can best meet the educational needs of their children.”

The Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts (PCESAs) would be an option for students with special needs. Parents would apply to their local school board for that option.

The savings account would give families access to 90 percent of what the state would spend on the child in a public school setting, accessed through a debit card – local school district funding is left untouched. The debit card spending could be applied towards a range of educational expenses. Money left over in a savings account after a student completes 12th grade could be applied towards college. Funds that are not used within four years of secondary school graduation for educational purposes are returned to the state.

Programs similar to Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts (PCESAs) have been successful in Arizona and Florida.

House of Delegates Set to Pass Bill To Prohibit Common Core Standards in Virginia

House Bill 1752's co-sponsor, Delegate Christopher K. Peace (R-Hanover), reports that the measure is set to pass the House on Monday, February 9th. HB 1752 is a measure to prohibit the Board of Education from replacing the educational objectives known as the Standards of Learning with Common Core State Standards without the prior approval of the General Assembly. HB 1752 would proceed to the Senate of Virginia where a similar bill is under consideration. “I am a sponsor of this legislation to ensure Virginia continues to set high educational standards in K-12, not cede a classroom to national progressives, and maintain a Virginia-based system of accountability and curricula," said Del. Peace.

The standards originally developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Reviewing various states’ standards compared them with the Common Core, the new benchmarks don't measure up to Virginia's well established standards already in place.

Link to the bill language: http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?151+ful+HB1752H1

Delegate Chris Peace is frequently rated one of Virginia’s most business-friendly conservatives. Peace’s voting record shows a consistent focus on opposing tax increases, protecting family values defending the Constitution, and promoting job creation and a high quality of life in Hanover, King William and New Kent counties.

House budget includes funds to increase access and affordability for higher education in Virginia

The House budget proposal unveiled Sunday will include $19.8 million targeted to additional enrollment slots at Virginia schools and to increasing graduation rates. The budget proposal continues to build on the 2011 “Top Jobs of the 21st Century” legislation, which mapped out a plan to increase access to higher education in Virginia and to hold down costs for families. The House Appropriations Committee will present the House budget on Sunday, February 8 at 1 p.m. Speaking about the proposal, House Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) said, “The House budget will target investments in higher education to increasing graduation rates and opening up additional enrollment slots at our top schools for Virginia families. Students who transfer after completing two years of community college have an 85 percent graduation rate. Our budget provides a $1,000 per student incentive for Virginia schools with graduation rates under 60 percent to accept these highly successful students. The budget also builds on our past work under the Top Jobs of the 21st Century plan to include funding for additional enrollment slots at our top schools.”

Video of Majority Leader Kirk Cox’s full remarks on the House floor will be available this afternoon on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/user/vahousegop

The House has already passed several pieces of legislation to make college more affordable for Virginia students. House Bill 1692, sponsored by Del. Nick Rush (R-Montgomery) gives students pursuing degrees in high-demand fields the option of a more affordable “flat-fee degree.” Delegate Ben Cline (R-Rockbridge) sponsored legislation that establishes a new cooperative bachelor's degree program in Virginia that lets students earn a bachelor’s degree for a total of $16,000 through the use of online, community college, or public or private college or university courses. House Bill 1897 (Cox) puts a cap on the athletic fees that Virginia colleges and universities can charge students.

Earlier this week, Delegate T. Scott Garrett announced on the House floor that the House budget will eliminate $10.2 million in fees proposed by Governor Terry McAuliffe, including the restaurant inspection fee, weights and measures fee and the underground storage deductible increase. Chairman Chris Jones announced last week that the House budget will include pay raises for state police, state employees, state-supported local employees and teachers.

Yesterday, Delegate John O’Bannon announced that the House budget will include $124.2 in funding for mental health care coverage and targeted safety net services for needy Virginians. The funding will provide targeted treatment services to the seriously mentally ill, nearly double funding for Virginia’s free clinics and build on past investments in community health services. The House budget will reject Governor McAuliffe’s effort to implement Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and will not fund Governor McAuliffe’s “Healthy Virginia” entitlement program.

Delegate Chris Peace Supports Successful Bills to make College More Affordable

Del. Peace served as a co-patron of Del. Nick Rush’s “Flat-Fee Degree” for High-Demand Fields

The Virginia House of Delegates on Thursday passed legislation to make college more affordable for Virginia students. House Bill 1692, sponsored by Del. Nick Rush (R-Montgomery) gives students pursuing degrees in high-demand fields the option of a more affordable “flat-fee degree.” Delegate Ben Cline (R-Rockbridge) sponsored legislation that establishes a new cooperative bachelor's degree program in Virginia that lets students earn a bachelor’s degree for a total of $16,000 through the use of online, community college, or public or private college or university courses.

Speaking about the flat-fee degree bill that passed the House today, Del. Nick Rush said, “The cost of higher education for years has risen faster than students’ ability to pay for it. The flat-fee degree gives students the option to pay less when they pursue a degree in a high-demand field. This will mean more Virginians trained in skills they can immediately put to use in the workforce. With the Governor’s signature on this legislation, students and families in Virginia will have a new path to an affordable college education.”

“My legislation would establish a new $4,000 per year bachelor’s degree program in Virginia that could be completed through online, community college, college or university courses,” said Del. Ben Cline. “This new offering would help Virginia families access a college education who may have otherwise found it unaffordable. We’re proud of Virginia’s universities that regularly rank among the best in the nation, and this legislation will help more Virginians access that world-class education.”

Jimmie Massie (R-Henrico) said, “The House bills passed today give Virginians more affordable options for higher education, make our colleges and universities more responsive to the labor market, and make Virginia a better place to grow or start a business.”

Background on HB 1692 (Rush):

The legislation, introduced by Del. Nick Rush (R-Montgomery), gives public, four year, higher education institutions in Virginia an incentive to offer a “Flat-Fee Degree,” or discounted tuition and reduced fees for students seeking degrees that prepare them for employment in high-demand fields.

To receive discounted tuition and reduced fees, students will be required to commit to a degree program early in their academic endeavors and to finish within four years. These students will get the benefit of a degree that prepares them for a high-demand field. The bill would include the flexibility to recognize that high-demand employment sectors today may not be the same as those 10 or 20 years in the future. Today, for example, it could include training in growth employment sectors such as nursing and business administration or difficult-to-staff fields, such as teaching and public administration. The criteria for “in-demand” degrees would be established by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

The legislation gives Colleges and Universities an incentive to offer the optional flat fee degree. Each student pursuing a flat fee degree will count one and a half times for the purpose of enrollment growth, funding guidelines, degree completion and other criteria as set out in the bill.

Background on HB 2320 (Cline):

HB 2320 establishes a degree program whereby an undergraduate student in Virginia may complete, through the use of online, community college, or public or private college or university courses, the course credit requirements to receive a bachelor's degree at a tuition cost not to exceed $4,000 per academic year, or a total of $16,000.

House budget proposal will include $124.2 million in healthcare safety net funding

The House budget proposal unveiled Sunday will include $124.2 in funding for mental health care coverage and targeted safety net services for needy Virginians, House leaders announced Thursday. The funding will provide targeted treatment services to the seriously mentally ill, nearly double funding for Virginia’s free clinics and build on past investments in community health services. The House budget will reject Governor McAuliffe’s effort to implement Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and will not fund Governor McAuliffe’s “Healthy Virginia” entitlement program. The House Appropriations Committee will present the House budget on Sunday, February 8 at 1 p.m. Del. John O'Bannon (R-Henrico) said, "The House Republican proposal will strengthen the safety net for the neediest people in Virginia. It increases access to services without creating a new government program."

“Last year, the General Assembly made significant investments in mental health care. We are building on those investments and strengthening the healthcare safety net for needy Virginians,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk). “The House budget proposal unveiled Sunday will be consistent with our past approach of making targeted investments in behavioral health care services and our free clinic system.”

Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Steve Landes (R-Augusta) said, “The House of Delegates overwhelmingly rejected Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion three times in 2014. Expanding Medicaid is the wrong approach. It relies on the false promise of free federal money and creates a new welfare entitlement system for able-bodied working adults. Our approach increases access to existing services for the neediest Virginians. We are providing access to mental health care treatment, increasing access to primary care services through free clinics and building on our work to provide comprehensive community behavioral health treatment.”

Yesterday, Delegate T. Scott Garrett announced on the House floor that the House budget will eliminate $10.2 million in fees proposed by Governor Terry McAuliffe, including the restaurant inspection fee, weights and measures fee and the underground storage deductible increase. Chairman Chris Jones announced last week that the House budget will include pay raises for state police, state employees, state-supported local employees and teachers.

House budget proposal will eliminate $10.2 million in fee increases proposed by Governor Terry McAuliffe

The House budget proposal will eliminate $10.2 million in fee increases proposed by Governor Terry McAuliffe, House leaders announced Wednesday. The House Appropriations Committee will unveil the House proposal on Sunday, February 8 at 2 p.m. The House budget will eliminate the restaurant inspection fee, the Department of Agriculture’s tiered-fee structure, the weights and measures fee and the tobacco stamps fee. The House proposal will also eliminate the Governor’s proposed increase in the underground waste storage cleanup deductible. Delegate T. Scott Garrett (R-Lynchburg) announced the news in a speech on the floor of the House of Delegates.

"Eliminating these fees will protect our taxpayers and that's what we're sent here to do," said Delegate T. Scott Garrett (R-Lynchburg). "Make no mistake, these fees hurt Virginians."

“The House Appropriations Committee always seeks to produce a conservative, responsible budget proposal that invests in the core functions of government, guards against wasteful spending and protects the wallets of taxpayers,” said Chairman S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk). “Our budget recommendations will eliminate the onerous fees that negatively impact our small businesses, especially those in the tourism industry.”

Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell said, “Chairman Jones, Vice-Chairman Landes and the House Appropriations Committee are taking the right step to eliminate these onerous fees proposed by Governor McAuliffe. The Governor’s proposed fee increases directly impact our citizens, taking money out of their pockets during tough economic times. The House of Delegates is once again demonstrating that the right way to govern is to set priorities and make tough decisions.”

The House budget will eliminate the restaurant inspection fee increase ($6.8 million), the weights and measures fee increase ($0.5 million), the Department of Agriculture’s tiered fee schedule ($0.4 million), the Tax Department’s tobacco stamps fee ($0.2 million) and the increase in the underground waste storage cleanup deductible ($2.3 million).

Measure to Save Children from Dangers of Overheated Cars Passes House of Delegates

Central Virginia- Delegate Christopher K. Peace (R-Hanover) announces the passage of House Bill (HB) 2082, a measure to grant civil immunity, and extend current Good Samaritan laws to individuals who forcibly enter a motor vehicle to remove an unattended minor at risk of serious bodily injury or death, provided the person has attempted to contact emergency personnel prior to such entry. This measure passed the House of Delegates unanimously by a vote of 98-0 on February 3, 2015. HB 2082 will be heard before the Senate. Speaking to the passage of this bill, Delegate Peace asserted, “There have been too many preventable tragedies in our area due to small children being left in hot cars. I am enthusiastic about the early success of this measure to make our community a safer place for children. I will continue to work to make the 97th District and the Commonwealth the best place to live, work and raise a family.”

Delegate Chris Peace is frequently rated one of Virginia’s most business-friendly conservatives. Peace’s voting record shows a consistent focus on opposing tax increases, protecting family values defending the Constitution, and promoting job creation and a high quality of life in Hanover, King William and New Kent counties.

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Charles Parker, Chickahominy Middle School Student, Shadows Delegate Chris Peace today

Central Virginia- Delegate Christopher K. Peace (R-Hanover) was delighted to host Chickahominy Middle School student Charles Parker at the General Assembly today. Charles spent the day immersed in the legislative process, including hearing committee meetings, sitting in the gallery during floor session, and attending constituent meetings with Delegate Peace. Charles usually spends his free time participating in youth group activities with Shady Grove Methodist Church. On spending his day at the General Assembly, Charles said, “I am excited to spend time with Delegate Peace learning about state government and see what I’m learning in Civics class first hand.”

Delegate Chris Peace is frequently rated one of Virginia’s most business-friendly conservatives. Peace’s voting record shows a consistent focus on opposing tax increases, protecting family values defending the Constitution, and promoting job creation and a high quality of life in Hanover, King William, and New Kent counties.

Chase Parker, Del. Peace, and Patrick Henry, Hanovarian and first Governor of Virginia

House Rules Committee passes resolution calling for Article V convention of the states

The Virginia House of Delegates Committee on Rules passed a resolution Tuesday calling for a convention of the states pursuant to Article V of the U.S. Constitution. The resolution, HJ 497, now proceeds to the full House for a final vote. “The size and scope of the federal government has gone unchecked for too long,” said House Speaker William J. Howell. “The federal debt has exploded to over $18 trillion, our long-term unfunded liabilities exceed $93 trillion and the federal government continues to overreach and exceed constitutionally-established limitations. A convention of the states will allow the people and the states to amend the Constitution to place real limits on federal power. I am pleased to see this measure pass the House Rules committee and look forward to its final passage on the floor later this week.”

HJ 497 was introduced by Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William). This resolution represents Virginia’s formal application to Congress for a convention of the states to consider amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Under this resolution, the convention would consider amendments that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.

“More than two-thirds of Americans think our country is headed in the wrong direction,” said Delegate Lingamfelter. “From spending to federal power to judicial overreach, Americans are concerned about the erosion of checks and balances and other constitutional limitations. They’re worried about skyrocketing debt and the long-term fiscal challenges faced by our nation. A convention of the states will allow the states and the people to check federal spending, limit congressional authority and stop executive overreach.”

Article V of the U.S. Constitution requires Congress to call a convention of the states to consider amendments to the Constitution upon receiving applications from thirty-four state legislatures. If passed, Virginia will become the fourth state behind Alaska, Florida and Georgia to pass a resolution calling for a convention on these topics. Eleven other states have filed identical measures this year and 20 more are expected to do the same. The resolution does not require the Governor’s signature.

The committee also passed HJ 499, introduced by Delegate Jim LeMunyon, which calls for a convention of the states specifically limited to a balanced budget amendment.

 

Peace Leads Coalition to Protect Community Health against Potential Negative Effects of Industrial Sludge

-- HB 1364, Monitoring Bill Passes Unanimously in the House of Delegates ---- Measure provides for local control and resources for testing and monitoring of these industrial waste residuals, also known as “industrial sludge”--

Delegate Christopher K. Peace (R -97th House District) reports the unanimous passage of House Bill (HB) 1364 by the House of Delegates today. HB 1364 will allow local governments to provide for greater testing and monitoring of the land application of industrial residual waste, receive funds for this enforcement, and remit the fee to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). This program is built upon the existing monitoring practice for biosolids.

“We must guarantee the citizens of my District and the Commonwealth that land application of industrial sludge is safe and monitored for potential on-going environmental impacts. The 97th District is a rural area with sensitive natural resources and an aquifer that must be protected. We are also a community with a strong farming heritage. Many residents depend on wells for water so it is vital that we take measures to protect our water resources including surface water and wells from contaminates that are applied to the surface,” asserted Peace.

Unfortunately, Peace’s HB 1363 legislation to place a moratorium on industrial residuals application failed to be reported from the House Agriculture subcommittee to which it was assigned despite having a motion to advance the bill. Peace said “While I am disappointed that my legislation to place a moratorium on the application of industrial residuals failed, I am confident that local governments can successfully establish the process to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of residents and our community.”

HJ 516, patroned by Del. Buddy Fowler, which would have directed the Department of Environmental Quality to study the long-term effects of the storage and land application of industrial wastes and sewage sludge on public health, residential wells, and surface and ground water, also failed to report from committee.

Del. Ware’s bill, HJ 506, to direct the Department of Environmental Quality to study the long-term effects of the storage and land application of industrial wastes and sewage sludge on public health, residential wells, and surface and ground water reported from subcommittee by a vote of 4-0 and will be heard by the full committee.

Delegate Chris Peace is frequently rated one of Virginia’s most business-friendly conservatives. Peace’s voting record shows a consistent focus on opposing tax increases, protecting family values defending the Constitution and promoting job creating and a high quality of life in Hanover, King William, and New Kent counties.

House of Delegates Passes Bills to Make College More Affordable

The House of Delegates passed two bills today aimed at making college more affordable in Virginia. House Bill 1897 (Cox) puts a cap on the athletic fees that Virginia colleges and universities can charge students. House Bill 1895 (Cox) gives small and medium-sized Virginia schools additional flexibility to cut wasteful spending and reduces burdensome reporting requirements. Speaking about the legislation, Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) said, “Virginia students now borrow more than a billion dollars every year to pay for education. This legislation will help ensure that those academic costs are paying for academics and that we aren’t pricing students out of college with unaffordable athletic fees. As a former basketball and baseball coach, I understand the value of athletic programs, but I also see the skyrocketing amount of student debt taken on by today’s college students. This legislation will cap athletic fees, generating meaningful cost savings for students and their families.”

Delegate Jimmie Massie (R-Henrico) said, “Giving small and medium-sized schools additional flexibility to improve operating efficiencies makes sense for the schools and makes sense for students. This is flexibility we already have given our larger schools and they have proven its value in holding down costs. House Bill 1895 would allow some of the same flexibility we now give to Level III schools to Level II schools - George Mason University, James Madison University, Old Dominion University, Radford University, Virginia Military Institute and all community colleges. Letting Virginia universities cut wasteful spending so they can hold down tuition costs is another step to best prepare our university graduates for the 21st century job market and expand economic growth in our Commonwealth for years to come.”

Background on School Levels from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia:

Institutions are classified into one of three levels of financial and administrative operational authority. All institutions enter Level I authority as a result of the Boards of Visitors resolution in 2005. Level I institutions receive minimum operational authority.

Level II criteria were established by the 2008 General Assembly. Level II institutions receive additional authority in two of three areas – capital outlay, information technology, and procurement. Institutions enter Level II through a “memorandum of understanding” with the Governor and, respective cabinet Secretaries. Memoranda of understanding were signed with George Mason University, James Madison University, Old Dominion University, Radford University, and Virginia Military Institute in 2008. Unlike Level III institutions, the Memoranda of understanding does not grant Level II institutions authority to issue debt or withdrawal from any risk management or insurance programs.

The highest level of financial and administrative operational authority is granted to a select group of institutions through a “management agreement” between the institution’s Board of Visitors, the Governor, and the General Assembly. Level III institutions have operational authority in the areas of capital outlay, information technology, procurement, human resources, and finance. The College of William and Mary, the University of Virginia, and Virginia Tech signed management agreements in 2005 which were approved by the 2006 General Assembly. Virginia Commonwealth University’s management agreement was approved by the 2008 General Assembly.

Bills to Fund Veterans Care Centers in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads Advance from House Appropriations Committee

Legislation to provide $66.7 million in state funding for new Veterans Care Centers in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads advanced from the House Appropriations Committee Wednesday. The bills, HB1275 and HB1276, fund Virginia’s share of construction for the centers, which provide affordable, long-term nursing care for veterans. Care centers are built with 65 percent federal funding and 35 percent state funding. Speaking about the legislation, House Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox (R-Colonial Heights) said, “Virginia currently has only two veterans care centers with a combined 400 beds to serve the 781,000 veterans who reside in the Commonwealth. Legislation funding new veterans centers will meet a critical need for the men and women who have honorably served our country. Not only will the new centers give veterans with family members in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads a chance to be near loved ones, but it will also allow our existing care centers in Richmond and Salem to better meet the regional needs of their veteran population. The bipartisan support for this important legislation in the House puts us one step closer to giving veterans in Virginia the quality care that they deserve.”

Virginia currently has Veterans Care Centers in Salem and Richmond. Veterans Care Centers are state-of-the-art facilities that provide high quality, long-term care to veterans. Virginia is home to nearly 800,000 veterans but ranks near the bottom in the ratio of veterans to available care centers. Virginia first authorized funding for the Hampton Roads care center in 2006, and the Northern Virginia care center in 2008.

“Maine has a bed in a veterans care center for every 200 veterans in the state. Virginia has a bed for every 2,000 veterans,” said Chris Stolle (R-Virginia Beach). “Working with our local partners in Virginia Beach last year, we identified land for the new veterans center to serve Hampton Roads. These two new regional veterans care centers in the population centers of Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads will make it easier for those who have served to get the care they need.”

The Virginia Beach City Council voted last year to reserve 15 to 25 acres of city land as the site of a proposed Veterans Care Center in Hampton Roads. House Bill 1275, introduced by House Majority Leader Kirk Cox and Delegate Chris Stolle, dedicates funding for a proposed 230-bed long-term care facility to be located in the Hampton Roads area.

Through the efforts of Del. Rich Anderson (R-Prince William) two sites have been identified for a 230-bed Northern Virginia Care Center, one in Innovation Park, Prince William County and another site on George Mason University’s Prince William County Campus.

Delegate Rich Anderson said, “There are about 200,000 veterans living in Northern Virginia alone, yet a Manassas resident faces a two hour drive to visit a family member or loved one in the nearest Virginia Veterans Care Center. Moving this legislation forward puts us that much closer to breaking ground and living up to our promise to be the most veteran-friendly state in the country.”