By Senator Bill Stanley
We are at the halfway point in the 2017 General Assembly session. This Tuesday will mark what is called “Crossover,” the day when each chamber must complete work on the bills filed by its members. The Senate must have either approved or rejected every bill filed by a senator and the House must have done the same with every bill filed by a delegate.
There is one notable exception, which is the bill that amends the state budget. The House and Senate versions of the budget are approved on a separate day, which this year falls on this coming Thursday.
Although the Senate and House will have completed work on the bills filed by their members, they now consider the bills that were approved by the other chamber. From crossover until the end of session, the House will only be considering bills approved by the Senate while the Senate only considers bills approved by the House of Delegates.
This is all part of the fast-paced process that allows the General Assembly to successfully consider the nearly 2,500 bills and resolutions filed by its members this year in the 45-day “short session.” That volume of legislation requires us to employ an efficient system to complete the work within the time allowed under the Constitution of Virginia.
This schedule, hectic but orderly, often looks like organized chaos to the casual observer. But, this system allows bill after bill to be given a full hearing, with comments by the public and other interested parties on each bill, and are presented by the legislators who submit them.
These are the busiest days of the legislative session, with lots of committee meetings and longer floor sessions to handle the volume of bills.
The Senate completed its action on several of my bills this week; as you can see from my legislative priorities that I have had over the past six years for our region—workforce, education and economic development, rural healthcare reform, rebuilding our infrastructure and the creation of new individual opportunities (rather than more government dependency) that will enable our citizens to break the cycle of poverty, continue as we provide the environment to give our neighbors and their families the best opportunity to allow their children to achieve the American Dream.
• SB 1427 Education improvement scholarships tax credit; pre-kindergarten eligibility: This bill will expand the educational improvement scholarships tax credit program by including as eligible scholarship recipients’ children enrolled in or attending nonpublic pre-kindergarten programs.
This bill will help families in the Commonwealth at or below the poverty line, or who are homeless, to be able to provide their child with a quality education regardless of their zip code. In addition, my SB 1428 Education improvement scholarships tax credit; eligibility of students with a disability, will allow families who have children with disabilities to obtain scholarships to send their child to a private school when the public school is not providing their child with the education that they need. Ultimately, our parents should have the ability to make decisions about their children’s education regardless of their economic status.
The scholarship tax credit, a bill that I drafted and had passed three years ago, has provided thousands of Virginia children with the opportunity to get the best education possible, and has empowered all parents with “school choice,” regardless of their ability to pay for private school. It is both right and proper that we likewise empower parents with children who have special needs to have the same opportunity to make decisions for their child’s education, that will give them the best chance to succeed.
There have been record number of visitors to visit this year’s session. Just about every group that comes to Richmond is introduced in the Senate Chamber. With so many different groups coming from across the state, the first hour of our daily legislative sessions primarily consist of introductions.
There are three weeks left until the 2017 General Assembly session ends. If you’ll be in Richmond between now and then and would like a tour of Jefferson’s Capitol or want to stop by and talk about any legislation, please come by our office in Room 313 of the General Assembly Building. Or as always you can send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by sending a letter to me at Senate of Virginia, P.O. Box 396, Richmond, Virginia 23219-0396. You can also call us at (804) 698-7520.
In next week’s column, I’ll have details of the Senate’s proposal to amend the 2016-2018 Biennial Budget, as well as an update on the continued progress of legislation. Until then, have a great week.