Local school leaders from across Virginia applaud House proposal to restore lottery fund distribution

Education leaders from across the Commonwealth are applauding the Virginia House of Delegate’s plan to restore lottery fund distributions to local school divisions.  The House budget sends 31 percent of lottery funds, or $272 million, back to local school divisions.  This mechanism gives local schools more flexibility by not requiring matching funds or mandating how the funds must be spent.  This is part of the House’s $897.1 million education package, which is larger than the budgets proposed by Governor McAuliffe and the Senate.  The House budget also funds the state’s share of a two percent teacher pay raise in the second year of the budget. “I am proud of the investments the House is proposing across the spectrum in K-12 education, but the restoration of lottery proceeds distribution this year is a game-changer for local school divisions,” said Appropriations Chairman S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk). “Our budget sends 31% of lottery proceeds, which is $272 million, back to localities with no local match.  This proposal gives local school leaders the flexibility to meet their own unique needs and reduces the tax burden on local governments by not requiring local matching funds.  Our goal is to fully restore the 40% distribution, which was the policy prior to 2010.”

“We believe that parents, teachers and local school leaders are in the best position to make educational decisions. Our budget proposal emphasizes flexibility,” said Appropriations Committee Vice-Chairman R. Steven Landes (R-Augusta). “By restoring the distribution of lottery funding, we are sending more money to our local schools with fewer strings attached.”

"The foundation of the House's budget proposal is a critical investment in school divisions across the Commonwealth," said Chesterfield School Board member Dianne Smith.  "The increased funding over the introduced budget in lottery funding recognizes that each school division has unique and diverse needs.  School leaders continue to seek increased flexibility in the funds we receive, and these principles are a cornerstone of this proposal."

“The House budget provides much needed programmatic flexibility for additional resources to invest in our top priorities,” said Virginia Beach School Board Chair Dan Edwards.  “The loss of lottery funds in 2010 hurt our ability to meet the unique needs of Virginia Beach’s Public schools.  Restoring this funding will give us badly needed new revenue.  By not requiring a local match, the House is removing a significant obstacle for local schools.  This proposal will give our schools real dollars that will yield positive results.”

“Every budget cycle, we face mandates on how to spend our education dollars. The flexibility that the House’s budget proposal includes allows us to direct the funds to the most needed areas without having to raise taxes or find matching funds. The House’s budget goes one step beyond the Governor’s proposal to support local public schools. I want to thank our leaders in the House for their support and leadership on this issue,” said Gene Bishop, Floyd County School Board Member.

The Hanover Regional Governor’s School for Career and Technical Advancement Announces Inaugural Session

Applications now being accepted for a three-week summer residential program for gifted Career and Technical Education students. ASHLAND, Va. – Hanover County Public Schools is pleased to announce that the Hanover Regional Governor’s School for Career and Technical Advancement (HRGS-CTA) will hold its inaugural session at the University of Richmond this summer from July 3-22, 2016. The HRGS-CTA is the first of its kind in the Commonwealth of Virginia and is intended to serve as a model that can be replicated throughout the state to meet the ever-growing demand for career-ready students.  Application materials are now available at www.hcps.us.

“It’s truly an honor for Hanover County Public Schools to develop this program in order to better serve the educational needs of students and the workforce needs of communities throughout Virginia. I’m very grateful for the efforts of Delegate Chris Peace who first introduced the legislation that resulted in a $100,000 planning grant from the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), as well the efforts of my predecessor, Dr. Jamelle S. Wilson, who played a key role in advancing these efforts in the region.  I’m equally grateful for the exceptional efforts of the workgroup who developed this proposal, led by Dr. Jonathan Lewis.  I look forward to watching their plan come to life this summer as students from the region embark on this unique learning experience, which will be graciously hosted by our partners at the University of Richmond,” said Dr. Michael Gill, Superintendent of Schools.

HRGS-CTA is a regional three-week summer residential program designed for gifted Career and Technical Education (CTE) students who have demonstrated accomplishment, aptitude, and interest in CTE curricula and careers. The program will focus on the development of workplace readiness and entrepreneurial skills. Skills will be cultivated and honed through group problem solving activities, guest speakers from the business and academic communities, visits to regional businesses leaders, and mentorship experiences designed to highlight workplace readiness. Participants will enjoy a fast-paced, exciting and relevant hands-on experience with students and staff who share their passion for career and technical education.

Applicants must be from Regions 1 and 3 school divisions and be rising juniors who are enrolled in at least one CTE course with a grade of “B” or better and expect to continue in the CTE program during their final two years of high school; or rising seniors who have completed at least one credit in a CTE course and/or are currently enrolled in a CTE course with a grade of “B” or better and expect to continue in the CTE program during their final year of high school.

Participating school divisions will send their top three candidates to the HRGS-CTA Selection Committee by March 23, 2016. Each school division will be guaranteed one student participant, with 40 total students selected. Applicants will be notified of selections by April 11, 2016.

Virginia Delegate Chris Peace Recognizes debra of America February 17 2016

State Lawmaker leads passage of a House Resolution commending debra of America for its service to the rare disease community

RICHMOND, VA (February 17, 2016) -- Today, Brett Kopelan, Executive Director of debra of America, issued the following statement upon unanimous passage of an Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) Awareness House Resolution (House Resolution No. 127) introduced by Delegate Chris Peace of the Virginia General Assembly.

"We thank Delegate Peace and the other co-patrons for leading this important effort of promoting EB awareness in the Commonwealth of Virginia. His work to draw attention to Virginians about EB's dire effects upon those living with and caring for all Virginians impacted by EB in the Commonwealth are to be commended. This Resolution is a positive step for raising needed awareness towards the development of a cure or treatment to overcome this devastating disease. debra of America is honored to receive the House of Delegate’s recognition as a leader in the fight to cure the worst disease you’ve never heard of."

Virginia House of Delegates, Christopher K. Peace issued the following statement:

“I am delighted to offer this resolution commending debra of America for their efforts to increase awareness of and support to individuals with Epidermolysis Bullosa, a rare, genetic connective tissue disorder characterized by extremely fragile skin. As the father of a son with EB, I applaud debra of America for providing much needed support of our children and their parents.”

House Resolution No. 127 calls attention to the history of debra of America’s work to support families impacted by EB through funding research and providing services. It also draws attention to burdens associated with this rare disease that impacts approximately 25,000 Americans and one in every 20,000 children born in the United States. A copy of House Resolution can be found here.

About debra of America: Founded in 1980, debra of America is a non-profit organization which provides comprehensive support to those with Epidermolysis Bullosa. It is the only national organization in the United States to offer free Programs and Services to affected individuals and their caregivers and fund research for an EB cure and treatment. EB is a rare, genetic connective tissue disorder characterized by extremely fragile skin and the development of recurrent, painful blisters, open sores, disfiguring scars, disabling musculoskeletal deformities, internal complications, and shortened life-span. Research indicates that one in every 20,000 children in the U.S. are born with the disease. There is currently no known EB cure or treatment. For more information, visit: debra.org

About the Virginia General Assembly: The Virginia General Assembly is the oldest, continuous law-making body in the New World. According to its website, it dates from the establishment of the House of Burgesses at Jamestown in 1619. It is a legislative body comprised of elected representatives who serve in a part-time capacity in the House of Delegates and State Senate. Delegate Christopher "Chris" Peace has served as a Delegate from the 97th House District since 2006 representing Kent County and parts of Hanover and King William's Counties in Virginia.

Social Media:  Facebook/Twitter: @debraofamerica, Hashtag: #EBawareness

FOR MEDIA COVERAGE: Casey Fitzpatrick, Events & Communications Director: 212-868-1573 x105, casey@debra.org



Delegate Peace Highlights District Focused Legislative Successes at Session’s “Half-time” 2016

Del. Christopher K. Peace (R-Hanover) reports on several legislative successes at what is officially termed, “Crossover.” At this mid-point of the legislative session, several items on Del. Peace’s legislative agenda passed the House and will now be heard by the Senate of Virginia. House Bill 1312, which passed unanimously on February 16th, creates a special license plate in memory and honor of the late Hanover educator Meg Menzies.  Peace’s bill will direct DMV to issue license plates for supporters of Meg’s Miles, raising awareness of safety of runners.  Menzies was tragically killed while running on Route 54 with her husband, an Ashland police officer.  “This legislation and subsequent plate will generate more awareness of drunk and distracted driving as well as honor Meg’s memory,” said Peace.

“Not just as an accomplished athlete, but as a devoted mother, sister, daughter and wife, in her short life of 34 years Meg was able to make a tremendous impact to people all over the Richmond region as a mentor for fellow athletes, and others for good will. This license plate is meant to provoke conversation and a sense of community whether it be runners, walkers, families, people of faith and anyone wanting to make a difference in the world around them,” expressed Ryan Hudson, who helped organize special plate initiative.

On behalf of Virginia’s state recognized tribes in King William County and others across the Commonwealth, Del. Peace introduced House Bill 814. HB 814 is a measure to authorize the Secretary of the Commonwealth, as liaison to these tribes, to establish a Virginia Indian advisory board to assist him in reviewing applications seeking recognition as a Virginia Indian tribe and to make recommendations to the Secretary, the Governor, and the General Assembly on such applications and other matters relating to recognition. The bill sets out the membership and powers and duties of any Virginia Indian advisory board established by the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

Speaking to passage of the bill, Stephen Adkins, Chief of the Chickahominy Tribe, “HB 814 provides a much needed, credible process for according state recognition to Indian groups seeking recognition as Virginia Indian Tribes. As described in HB 814, an advisory council, which includes scholars/experts in subject matter required to distinguish between Indian groups and Indian tribes, will vet documentation and provide objective feedback to inform the legislature’s decision regarding granting state recognition to Indian Groups.”

“As Chief of the Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe, I think House Bill 814 is the only proper way to deal with recognition issues with Tribes and Tribal Groups of Virginia. A Virginia Indian Advisory Board is the only logical way to review these requests and make educated recommendations to the General Assembly,” stated Frank Adams, Chief of the Upper Mattaponi Tribe.

Eli’s Law, introduced as House Bill 682 patroned by Peace, was incorporated into House Bill 177 and passed by a vote of 99-0. Eli’s Law will require those who commit malicious bodily injury or aggravated malicious bodily injury against a child under 13 years of age to be placed on the Virginia Sex Offenders & Crimes Against Minors registry.  Placement of offenders on the register alerts parents and businesses to take extra precautions to ensure that children are not placed in dangerous situations.

Speaking in committee, Peace commented, “I think that common sense tells you that if you’re going to take an infant child and bash its brain in then you’re going to be pretty likely to commit some other type of crime later. I think public notice is the minimum that we would expect in certain circumstances such as that.”

Talking about the passage of Eli’s Law, Mechanicsville constituent, who is the child’s mother, Courtney Maddox stated, “My son, nearly lost his life to abuse in 2010. I went to Delegate Peace after noticing there was no law that requires those who nearly kill children, to be placed on the Crimes Against Minors registry. [Peace] took this very seriously and he created legislation known as Eli's Law. I thank him for seeking to protect our most valuable resource, our children. I thank Chris, for all he is doing for our families, our community and most of all, our children.”

Another important Peace measure passed unanimously, House Bill 668 provides that a court shall consider the circumstances and factors that contributed to the dissolution of the marriage, specifically including any ground for divorce, in determining the nature, amount, and duration of a spousal support award. This legislative idea was brought to Peace by a constituent who was a victim of domestic violence.  She pressed charges on her assaulter who was subsequently convicted and incarcerated.  When she divorced her assaulter while he was incarcerated, the judge awarded him spousal support.  Peace felt that no victim should be compelled to pay their attacker and took steps to prevent this from happening in the future with this common sense legislation.  “To allow otherwise is truly insult to injury,” said Peace, an attorney.

Also passing at Crossover, by a vote of 97-2, House Bill 675 will allow Auxiliary Grant (AG) beneficiaries to live in supportive housing closer to communities in which they reside. This bill will allow individuals with disabilities and/or specialized housing needs a broader choice of housing options to meet their needs.  An AG is an income supplement for individuals who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and certain other aged, blind, or disabled individuals who reside in a licensed assisted living facility (ALF) or an approved adult foster care (AFC) home.

“Virginian’s deserve access to quality, affordable healthcare, and this measure will increase portability and choice in this vulnerable population primarily those with mental illness,” said Delegate Chris Peace (R-Hanover), yet far too often, local communities are denied increased access to basic services.”

“Decisions made by unelected bureaucrats lead to less choice and higher costs. Delegate Peace has been a champion for reforming our COPN laws so that local communities and private businesses partner in the selection of services needed in their backyard while allowing competition to drive costs down.”

At the beginning of the 2016 session, Delegate Peace joined several other senior Republican members of the Virginia House of Delegates to introduce legislation to reform Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN) laws. Policies spanned from full repeal to various other significant reforms to COPN, to create a more free-market healthcare system, improve access to quality and affordable care for patients while controlling costs. COPN measures passed and will now be heard by the Senate.  Peace is the chief co-patron of House Bills 193 and 350.

“As you can see from these bills, working to enact common sense policies to increase the quality of life of residents of the 97th District and across the Commonwealth is top priority for me.  I am proud to have taken repeated steps forward as we meet the half way point of the 2016 session.  I urge you to contact your Senator to encourage his support of these important measures,” said Peace.


House Passes Peace Career & Technical Education Bill on Behalf of King William County Public Schools

--Delegate Peace is committed to educational opportunities in Virginia’s Schools—- Bill requested by King William County Public Schools -

Central Virginia – Delegate Christopher K. Peace (R-Hanover) announces passage of House Bill 682 by a vote of 98-0. HB 682, creates a waiver program for teacher licensure requirements as it pertains to trade and industrial education programs.

The measure allows any division superintendent to apply to the Department of Education for an annual waiver of the teacher licensure requirements for any individual whom the local school board hires or seeks to hire to teach in a trade and industrial education program who has obtained or is working toward an industry credential relating to the program area and who has at least 4,000 hours of recent and relevant employment experience, as defined by the Board pursuant to regulation. The Department of Education shall establish a procedure for submitting, receiving, and acting upon such annual waiver applications.

Speaking to the bill, King William County Public School Interim Superintendent Stacy Johnson stated, “As we add CTE courses to our program of studies, it is imperative that we hire instructors who have a wealth of knowledge and experience in their field. These types of instructors do not always follow, or want to follow, the traditional path to obtaining a teaching license. This legislation allows us the flexibility to hire part-time instructors who have the necessary work experience and knowledge but also have the desire to train the future workforce.”

"The passage of this bill will enable King William County Public Schools and Bridging Communities Regional Career and Technical Center and Governor's STEM Academy more flexibility in securing instructors with industry credentials and experience. They will be more likely to accept a position without the previous constraints in licensing for K-12. We thank Delegate Peace for listening and creating legislation that is most helpful to us," asserted Kathy Morrison, Chair, King William School Board.

When speaking about the bill, Delegate Peace said, “Our commitment to a strong future requires an educated workforce. An educated workforce is also key to a competitive workforce, so to that end, one of my goals is to foster an environment where students can get the best education possible which fits their individual career goals. CTE students are not second-class students.”

He continued, “While some students will attend Virginia's universities or community colleges, there are other students who would benefit from a career readiness program that provides technical training for jobs in high paying manufacturing fields. This bill will ensure these students have access to these valuable classes.”

House Republican legislators pass legislation to reform Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need Laws

Chief Co-Patron Chris Peace commends his colleagues, Dels. O’Bannon and Byron on its Passage RICHMOND, VA – At the beginning of the 2016 session, Delegate Christopher K. Peace (R-Hanover) joined several other senior Republican members of the Virginia House of Delegates to introduce legislation to reform Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN) laws. Policies spanned from full repeal to various other significant reforms to COPN, to create a more free-market healthcare system, improve access to quality and affordable care for patients while controlling costs.

Virginia is one of 36 states with certificate of public need (COPN) laws. Currently, Virginia regulates far more than those states with almost 20 different services, including but not limited to general acute care services, diagnostic imaging, ambulatory surgical centers, capital expenditures, and facilities construction. Under current law, if a healthcare provider wants to build a new facility, add new CT or MRI services, or change the services it provides, it must go through a lengthy and costly application process with state regulators who determine if there is a “public need” for such a service.

The application process can take nine months or longer which on its face is a barrier to market. It nearly derailed a stand-alone emergency department being pursued in New Kent and initially rejected the moving of imaging equipment within Bon Secours from a location at Reynolds Crossing (Glenside/Broad) to Short Pump. “The COPN system is the epitome of central planning and lacks common sense,” according to Del. Peace.

“Virginian’s deserve access to quality, affordable healthcare,” said Delegate Chris Peace (R-Hanover). “Yet far too often, local communities are denied increased access to basic services such as outpatient emergency rooms, CT scanners or MRIs by healthcare regulators based on decisions made by unelected bureaucrats. Virginia should reform our COPN laws so that local communities and private business to partner in the selection of services they need in their backyard while allowing competition to drive costs down.”

Passed today, HB 193 creates a three phase process to sunset most of Virginia’s COPN laws over a three year period. Phase one includes eliminating COPN for imaging services. Phase two would eliminate COPN for ambulatory and outpatient surgery centers. The third phase would eliminate COPN for hospitals and all other categories. The legislation leaves an exemption for nursing homes, open-heart surgery facilities, and tissue transplant services. The final major piece of the bill includes strict charity care requirements for all providers. The bill requires charity care contributions to be tracked, monitored, and enforced by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Additionally, HB 350, changes numerous administrative processes to make the program more efficient and transparent. It adds an expedited 45 day review period for noncontroversial projects, and is based on the recommendations approved by a work group convened by Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dr. Bill Hazel in 2015. Speaking to the bill, Del. Kathy Byron stated, “Despite an onslaught of negative ads and paid phone calls, a majority of Delegates understood we have to act to lower healthcare costs.”

HB 193, chief co-patroned by Peace, passed the House by a vote of 52-46. HB 350, also chief co-patroned by Peace passed by a vote of 94-4. The measures will now head to the Senate for consideration.

“We are now one step closer to meaningful COPN reform in Virginia,” asserted Del. John O’Bannon.

House Republican legislators introduce legislation to reform Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need Laws

Three Republican members of the Virginia House of Delegates are introducing legislation in the 2016 General Assembly session to reform Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN) laws.  Delegates John O’Bannon (R-Henrico), Kathy Byron (R-Bedford) and Christopher Peace (R-Hanover) are proposing eight legislative ideas to repeal or reform COPN, create a more free-market healthcare system, improve access for patients, and control costs. “As a physician, I see firsthand the negative effects that burdensome COPN regulations are having on healthcare in Virginia,” said Delegate John O’Bannon (R-Henrico).  “COPN laws limit competition, which means fewer choices and higher costs for Virginia families.  Reforming COPN is the best way to improve access for patients, expand healthcare services and keep costs under control.  I look forward to working with my colleagues this coming session to enact meaningful reform.”

Specifically, Delegate O’Bannon’s proposal would create a three phase process to sunset most of Virginia’s COPN laws over a three year period.  Phase one includes eliminating COPN for imaging services.  Phase two would eliminate COPN for ambulatory and outpatient surgery centers.  The third phase would eliminate COPN for hospitals and all other categories.  The legislation leaves an exemption for nursing homes, open-heart surgery facilities, and tissue transplant services.  The final major piece of the bill includes strict charity care requirements for all providers.  The bill requires charity care contributions to be tracked, monitored, and enforced by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

“In my district, and in rural communities across Virginia, access and affordability are the biggest healthcare challenges facing patients,” said Delegate Kathy Byron (R-Bedford), Chairman of the Health Insurance Reform Commission.  “The Federal Trade Commission says COPN ‘laws undercut consumer choice, stifle innovation, and weaken markets’ ability to contain health care costs.’  Virginia needs comprehensive COPN reform to allow the free market to create competition, increase choices, and reduce costs.”

Delegate Byron will introduce several measures aimed at reforming COPN laws, including legislation related to repealing the COPN requirements for ambulatory surgery centers, medical equipment, and LASIK equipment.  Delegate Byron will also introduce a bill that would enact an immediate repeal of Virginia’s COPN laws but would protect rural hospitals and nursing homes by exempting them from the repeal.

“Virginian’s deserve access to quality, affordable healthcare,” said Delegate Chris Peace (R-Hanover).  “Yet far too often, local communities are denied increased access to basic services such as outpatient emergency rooms, CT scanners or MRIs by healthcare regulators based on decisions made by unelected bureaucrats.  Virginia should reform our COPN laws so that local communities can decide which services they need in their neighborhoods, and allow for competition to drive costs down.”

Delegate Peace will introduce legislation to repeal the COPN requirements for CT scanning, MRI, MSI, PET scanning and nuclear medicine imaging provided the medical provider meets the following criteria: has the appropriate accreditation, adheres to the American College of Radiology Appropriateness Criteria or other evidence-based national standards to discourage utilization, registers equipment with the Commissioner and regional health planning agency and meets certain equipment standards that will be left up to the regulatory process, and provides the same amount (at a minimum) of the average percentage of indigent care provided in the health planning region in the previous year in which the physician’s office resides. If the physician is unable to meet this requirement, the option to provide a monetary contribution instead remains. Peace has also introduced legislation that would enact an immediate and partial repeal of Virginia’s COPN laws.  This bill would exempt nursing homes, open-heart surgery centers, and tissue transplant services from the repeal, and would enact strong charity care requirements to ensure the most vulnerable have access to vital healthcare services.

Republican legislators participating in the press conference included Delegate John O’Bannon (R-Henrico), Delegate Kathy Byron (R-Bedford), and Delegate Chris Peace (R-Hanover).

Virginia Farm Bureau Federation AgPAC endorses Chris Peace for Re-Election

Delegate Christopher K. Peace received the endorsement of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation (VFBF) AgPAC, a political action committee of Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, in the race for the 97th House District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. Expressing appreciation of the endorsement, Peace said, "I'm honored to have received this endorsement; it is a strong vote of confidence from the farmers of the Commonwealth. Agribusiness is an important part of Virginia's economy. I am focused on working with my colleagues in the General Assembly and the agricultural community to get Virginia's economy moving again. By embracing a solution-oriented approach, I will work to enact the right policies at this critical time to assure a more prosperous future for farmers and every other sector of Virginia's economy. I support the right to farm and forest."

Peace is among 87 candidates that Virginia VFBF AgPAC has endorsed for House seats. Endorsements were made based on the recommendations of local committees of farmers.

“Each of these candidates has demonstrated a clear understanding of the needs and challenges farmers are facing and/or have proven their support through their favorable voting records while holding positions in the General Assembly.  We believe these candidates will help agriculture and forestry maintain its vitality as the number one industry in Virginia”   said Wayne F. Pryor, chairman of VFBF AgPAC and VFBF president. “We look forward to working with them in the 2016 Virginia General Assembly.”

The non-partisan VFBF AgPAC was created by Farm Bureau in 1999 and employs in-kind contributions to support candidates who can best support agriculture and Farm Bureau issues. A full list of candidates endorsed by the committee can be viewed online at www.VaFarmBureau.org


Pictured: Hanover farmer, Wayne Kirby, Del. Peace, and King William farmer, J.N. Mills


Congressman Dave Brat (7th District) recently endorsed Christopher K. Peace and his bid for re-election as Delegate to the Virginia General Assembly (97th District). In his endorsement, Congressman Brat applauds Peace for his conservative leadership in Richmond, his thoughtful approach to representative democracy and respect for the Constitution. “I am proud to endorse my friend, Chris Peace, for reelection. Chris has served his constituents with honor, integrity and compassion, and his voting record shows a consistent focus on opposing tax increases, protecting family values, defending the Constitution, and promoting job creation with a high quality of life in Hanover, King William and New Kent counties. I strongly support his reelection and look forward to continuing to work with him.”

Delegate Peace’s priorities promote an atmosphere which will encourage job creation in the private sector, a state government which will partner with localities to improve our schools, and ensure that college is more affordable, and ultimately to protect our most vulnerable citizens.

Speaking about the endorsement, Peace stated “I am honored to have Congressman Brat’s support. Dave and I have worked together for some time and I admire his willingness to challenge entrenched special interests in Washington. He and I will work every day to find common sense conservative solutions for hard working middle class families so that our community becomes a better place to live, work and raise a family. I believe that there are no problems that we cannot solve together.”

If you would like to contact the Peace campaign, please feel free to contact the Delegate personally at 804-730-3737, by email at info@chrispeace.com, on the web at www.chrispeace.com, or remit correspondence to his office at P.O. Box 819, Mechanicsville, VA 23111.

Letter from Speaker Howell to Governor McAuliffe regarding the status of the General Assembly

August 27, 2015

Dear Governor McAuliffe,

I am writing to inform you that the Virginia General Assembly remains in session pursuant to your July 16, 2015 call for a special session, House Joint Resolution 5001 and Article IV, Section 6 of the Constitution of Virginia.

As you know, the General Assembly reconvened on Monday, August 17 at your call to address the U.S. Eastern District Court’s ruling in Page v. Va. State Board of Elections et. al. The House of Delegates convened at 11:00 a.m. to begin the redistricting process, despite a strong belief that the defendants should have the opportunity to fully litigate their appeal. The Senate of Virginia convened at 12:00 p.m.

The House of Delegates recessed at 3:12 p.m. on August 17 to allow the House Committee on Privileges & Elections to hold a public hearing and solicit citizen input on potential redistricting plans. The House Majority Leader stated on the floor that the House intended to reconvene before September 1 to continue work on redistricting. The House stands in recess subject to my call pursuant to House Joint Resolution 5001, which passed both chambers unanimously.

Shortly thereafter, the Senate of Virginia attempted to adjourn sine die. Despite requests by Senate Majority Leader Norment for an explanation, Lt. Governor Northam offered none when he ruled incorrectly that the Senate could adjourn sine die without the concurrence of the House.

The Constitution of Virginia is clear, unambiguous, and emphatic: “Neither house shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn to another place, nor for more than three days.” The language in Virginia’s Constitution can be traced back more than 150 years and similar clauses are found in the constitutions of nearly every state.

Virginia’s 1776 Constitution specifically provided that either house could adjourn unilaterally. This provisionwas changed in 1830. The primary author of Virginia’s current constitution, Professor A.E. Dick Howard notes in his commentaries the provision has remained substantively unchanged since then and that the constitutions of nearly every other state, and the U.S. Constitution, contain similar provisions. Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure also contains a similar provision.

The attempt by Senators in your party to adjourn without the concurrence of the House of Delegates is a plain violation of the Constitution. The Senate simply cannot adjourn sine die without the concurrence of the House, which the House has not offered. Therefore, the General Assembly remains in session.

Several state supreme courts have concluded that neither house can adjourn sine die without the concurrence of the other. The Alabama Supreme Court has reached this conclusion repeatedly, In re Opinion of the Justices, 47 So.2d 642 (1950); In re Opinion of the Justices, 257 So.2d 336 (1972); Alabama Citizens Action Program v. Kennamer, 479 So.2d 1237 (1985). A majority of the justices of the Florida Supreme Court concluded that such an adjournment was improper in Joyner v. Florida House, 163 So.2d 503 (2015).

Moreover, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded in Frame v. Sutherland, 327 A.2d 623 (1974) that one chamber of the legislature could not adjourn without the concurrence of the other. In that case, the Governor attempted to make “interim” appointments which were challenged in court by members of the legislature. The Court found that such appointments would only be valid if the Senate had finally adjourned. However, the Court held that "the Senate's attempt to adjourn sine die failed because of the absence of consent by the House of Representatives. Our holding rests on a conclusion that the Constitution prohibits either house from adjourning sine die without the consent of the other." The Court ultimately invalidated all of the Governor’s attempted appointments that were challenged.

Several official opinions of state attorneys general reach the same conclusion. The Minnesota attorney general concluded in 1986 that “final adjournment 'of the legislature' like other actions of 'the legislature' requires the action of both houses to be complete.” The Michigan attorney general wrote in 1937 that an attempt by the State Senate to adjourn “was unconstitutional because the House did not concur[.]” Official opinions in Idaho and Iowa are the same.

Based on the joint procedural resolution agreed to by all members of both the Virginia House of Delegates and the Senate of Virginia, the plain language of the Constitution of Virginia and a review of relevant case law and legal opinions, it is without question that the General Assembly remains in session.

Sincerely, William J. Howell

Republicans escalate fight with McAuliffe over Supreme Court judge

Senate Democrats unconstitutionally attempted to adjourn the 2015 Special Session Monday at the direction of Governor McAuliffe, defying a federal court ruling and ending any opportunity of a legislative remedy on redistricting. However, as Speaker Howell and Senator Norment stated Tuesday, the General Assembly remains in session, leaving the Governor without the power to make interim judicial appointments and calling into question any legal rulings made subsequent to that appointment. From the Washington Post:

Republicans on Wednesday warned Gov. Terry McAuliffe that his plan to reappoint the Virginia Supreme Court justice at the center of a toxic political showdown could subject her rulings to legal challenge. ...But Republicans said McAuliffe’s actions could not only cloud Roush’s tenure but also give aggrieved litigants reason to challenge her authority on the bench. A University of Virginia law professor and the principal draftsman of the current version of the state constitution agrees with them. ... They argued that only the Senate adjourned and the House is still technically in session — so McAuliffe’s power to make appointments does not kick in.

The situation is unheard of in Virginia, making the legal questions murky, but some believe that chaos could ensue. A.E. Dick Howard, the U-Va. law professor, said if Republicans challenged McAuliffe’s authority to reappoint Roush, her judicial opinions could be in doubt.

“That would be sticky,” he said. “Presumably, the authority of that judge to preside over cases would be called into question.” L. Steven Emmert, a lawyer based in Virginia Beach and publisher of Virginia Appellate News & Analysis, called the predicament “a mess largely without precedent.”

If a court eventually rules that Roush’s appointment was improper, he said: “I would expect losing litigants to pounce on it.” That Roush’s current term on the bench expires in mid-September, in the middle of a week-long session of the Supreme Court, only adds to the questions, Emmert said.

“What happens to folks who have arguments [that day]? Who’s going to be sitting there, if anybody? Who will decide if there’s a legal challenge to who’s entitled to that seat?” he said.

Governor McAuliffe and Senate Democrats had no explanation Wednesday for their orchestrated walkout.

A spokeswoman for McAuliffe did not respond to requests for comment on the Republicans’ stance about Roush. ... Sen. A. Donald McEachin (Richmond), an attorney and the Democrat who made the motion that abruptly ended Virginia’s session, said Republicans are wrong — but he declined to explain because the case may end up in court.

House Republicans to introduce oversight legislation in response to latest EPA Regulations from Obama administration

Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates will announce oversight legislation in response to the latest EPA regulations at a pro-energy rally in Richmond Monday night. Delegate Israel O’Quinn (R-Washington) will introduce legislation ahead of the 2016 session to require General Assembly approval and oversight of the Commonwealth’s plan to comply with the E.P.A.’s “Clean Power Plan” regulations. The EPA released the final Clean Power Plan rule last week. “The 1,500-plus pages of regulations released by President Obama’s E.P.A. could drive up energy prices and damage Virginia’s already struggling economy,” said House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford). “The House of Delegates will fight to protect the working families, seniors and small businesses that will be hurt by these burdensome regulations. The Commonwealth should delay the implementation of any compliance plan while the regulations are litigated and the General Assembly should have final approval and oversight of the plan.”

“For Virginians, the impact of complying with President Obama’s regulations will be severe. Energy prices will go up, disproportionately hurting senior citizens and the poor, and the rules will deal yet another blow to small businesses who are already struggling.” said Delegate O’Quinn. “These people who will be affected by these regulations should have a say in how we comply with that plan through their elected representatives.”

“Our proposed legislation would require General Assembly approval and oversight before Virginia complies with the EPA’s new regulations,” O’Quinn continued. “Governor McAuliffe must send his plan to the legislature for review, and the House and Senate will then take a vote on behalf of the Virginians they represent. If the plan fails to pass, Governor McAuliffe tries again. He cannot implement the plan without approval of the General Assembly and, by extension, the citizens of Virginia. It is that simple.”

The legislation will be formally introduced Monday night at the Americans for Prosperity Power-Up Virginia Rally at the University of Richmond. House Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), Delegate Jimmie Massie (R-Henrico) and Delegate O’Quinn will all speak.

“Virginians are frustrated. The economy is flat lining, families are struggling paycheck to paycheck and businesses are just trying to get by,” said Leader Cox. “The Obama-Clinton-McAuliffe regulatory agenda is stifling growth. The higher energy prices from this plan will only make it worse. It is time for the people to have a say in these regulations and that is what our approval and oversight legislation would do.”

“Whether it is a main street retailer in Hampton Roads, small auto-repair shop in the Shenandoah Valley, major manufacturer here in Richmond or large data center in Northern Virginia, all businesses will be impacted by these costly and burdensome regulations,” said Delegate Massie. “The higher energy prices caused by these regulations either cut in to the bottom line or they’re passed on to customers. Either way, someone loses. Our approval and oversight legislation is a commonsense step to protect Virginia families and their jobs.”

For more information on the Power-Up Virginia Rally, click here.

Today is National 811 Day. Always Call 811 Before You Dig

Planning a home improvement job? Planting a tree? Installing a fence or deck? WAIT! Here's what you need to know first. Whether you are planning to do it yourself or hire a professional, smart digging means calling 811 before each job. Homeowners often make risky assumptions about whether or not they should get their utility lines marked, but every digging job requires a call – even small projects like planting trees and shrubs Call 811 at least  three business days prior to digging, tell the operator where you're planning to dig, what type of work you will be doing and affected local utilities companies will be notified about your intent to dig. They'll send a locator to mark the approximate location of public underground lines, pipes and cables, so you'll know what's below - and be able to dig safely.