We are now three weeks into session and “cross-over,” the term used to describe the date by which all bills must be passed by the originating chamber so they then can “cross-over” to the other chamber for consideration, is approaching. The hours are long and many of the debates are heated because we have to meet deadlines for bills to proceed. The highlights of this week include:
Gun Safety Compromise
The gun safety legislation compromise continues to be debated. Much of the criticism has come from gun safety groups who believe the Governor didn’t get enough in exchange for modifying the Attorney General’s stance on concealed weapons reciprocity agreements. Under the proposed compromise, our reciprocity agreements would remain in effect, thereby undoing Attorney General Herring’s recent position. For advocates of gun rights, a deal on reciprocity was very important, as many people who have a concealed weapons permit issued in Virginia want to retain the ability to carry concealed in adjacent states. Reversing the Attorney General’s position, then, was their number one legislative goal.
In exchange, gun safety advocates received two improvements in the law. First, a person subject to a protective order issued by a judge will no longer be able to possess, own, or transport a firearm in the Commonwealth; they will have to surrender those weapons immediately upon issuance of the order, and will face serious consequences for any failure to do so. Second, we will now have “voluntary” background checks available for private sellers at gun shows; they can ask the State Police to conduct a background check of anyone who seeks to purchase a firearm. Proponents of the measure believe that this will establish a “best practices” standard for background checks and potentially could be used to impose liability on a seller who does not adequately check the background of a person who then commits a serious crime and inflicts serious injuries on a citizen. Bills enacting the deal have not yet been completed, but will likely be considered next week. I appreciate the comments on this that I have received to date.
Redistricting Reform Blocked
House Republicans have again killed all redistricting reform. There were at least five different redistricting bills that would have improved our process, which is overly political and simply protects incumbents, but they were all killed with little debate in subcommittee. I will continue to advocate for redistricting reform because I believe it is critical for the long-term viability of our democracy.
“Right to Work” Statute
Both bodies have now passed a measure that will put the so called “right-to-work” statute on the fall ballot for possible inclusion in the Virginia Constitution. You can see the debate on this issue on YouTube. Those of us who voted against this argued that the “right-to-work” statute has been in Virginia law since 1947 and has never been seriously questioned. Since there is no pressing need, there is no reason to amend Virginia’s Constitution. Voters, of course, will have the final say on this issue in November, and I hope that citizens will vote against the constitutional amendment.
A wide variety of bills relating to how and when the Commonwealth can place tolls on certain roads was considered and passed by the Transportation Committee in the House. In our area, we do not usually think about this issue, but it has tremendous statewide implications. As many know, I-66 in Northern Virginia is among the most congested highways in the country, and its capacity could be dramatically improved with additional lanes. At present, the Commonwealth does not have sufficient monies to build these additional lanes, with the result that private capital would need to be used to build new lanes, and tolls would need to be imposed to recover the cost. If tolling was prohibited, the possibility existed that road and transit money that would otherwise flow to areas like Charlottesville and Albemarle could be diverted to Northern Virginia to pay for those transportation improvements. That would be a tragedy for our area and is one reason why I voted for the tolling bills. Under the bills, there could be no tolls imposed in places in and around Charlottesville without General Assembly approval.
My bill to prohibit discrimination against persons because of sexual orientation and gender identity (HB913) was tabled in a House subcommittee, as well as my bill to prohibit legislators from raising campaign money during special sessions of the General Assembly (HB914). My bill to permit the Jefferson Area Board for Aging (JABA) access to Neighborhood Assistance Tax Credits (HB742) has now passed the House and is moving to the Senate. I have several bills on education that are before committee early next week as well as my “vehicle-to-grid” bill (HB1137), a measure that would allow owners of electric vehicles to sell the energy stored in their batteries back to the grid when their vehicles are not operating.
For those of you interested in seeing recent floor speeches, you can view them all on my David Toscano YouTube channel. There are floor speeches on education, Virginia’s economy, and the successes of the Obama administration.
If you want to find out some more about our session, I recently taped a broadcast that will be presented on our local access cable later this month, or you can watch it on my YouTube channel here.