From across the Commonwealth, Virginians come to the General Assembly Building during session—children, college students, civic groups and organizations, professionals from auto dealers to optometrists, Chambers of Commerce representatives, doctors, groups that come representing constituencies as divergent as motorcycle riders and would-be hemp farmers, and members of religious groups and churches all visit.
Representatives from most groups are officially welcomed to the General Assembly at the beginning of each day’s session. The groups go to the Senate Gallery, a balcony located above the floor of the Senate, and are introduced by their Senator. The Lt. Governor then asks the members of the group to stand and be recognized by the Senate. Those standing then receive a hearty round of applause from the senators.
Visitors spend most of their time in Capitol Square in two buildings, the Capitol and the General Assembly Building. The Capitol is one of the most historic buildings in America. Having been completely restored in time for the Jamestown 400th anniversary commemoration in 2007, it is an historic building upgraded and expanded to function effectively today.
The General Assembly Building, however, is neither historic nor especially notable. It is actually several buildings fused together in order to hold offices for legislators and their staff, as well as large meeting rooms for committee hearings. But, it is the General Assembly Building where most of the personal interactions between Virginians and their elected representatives take place.
I was honored this week to receive the Humane State Legislator of the Year Award. When I was a young man, my father told me that God put cats and dogs on this Earth as a reminder of the traits we should all aspire to have as human beings: perfect love, loyalty and perfect forgiveness. It is our obligation to care for them, love them, and above all else, do our level best to protect them.
I am truly honored to receive this recognition for the work I have done to protect our companion animals. I will continue to push for legislation that protects those companion animals that, without our help, cannot protect themselves.
With crossover looming, a lot of my legislation advanced this week. The Senate has to complete work on all bills filed by senators by Tuesday, February 10, which meant a lot of bills were considered this week.
I am pleased to tell you that much of my proposed legislation has made it out of committee and has been passed overwhelmingly by the state Senate. Most all of the legislation that I submit directly helps our area, and I am grateful that the other legislators recognize that our pro-business and economic development, workforce training and rural healthcare reform bills will help us to revive our economy here in our region. I will update you next week regarding the bills that I have proposed that will now be considered by the House of Delegates.
One bill that will be heard in committee this week concerns joining our important agricultural industry with a new growth industry: craft beer. Years ago, I sponsored legislation that would allow craft brewery industries to start in Virginia and thrive. Now, I want Virginia to be the “Napa Valley of craft beer,” by encouraging local farmers to grow the natural ingredients that are used in the craft beer brewing industry.
In turn, for the farmers’ dedication to growing these important crops, such efforts should be rewarded by having such a growth of these products (wheat, barley, malt and hops) not be subject to income tax when they sell these products from their fields to the Virginia Craft Beer industry. The bill that I have drafted is more fully described below:
SB 157 Virginia adjusted gross income; sale of certain crops by farmers to craft breweries: Virginia adjusted gross income; sale of certain crops to craft breweries. Provides an income tax subtraction, for purposes of computing Virginia adjusted gross income, for farmers who sell certain crops to Virginia craft breweries. The bill will also include malt, wheat, hops and barley processing centers in the Commonwealth that will create an enterprise zone between the Virginia farmer and beer producer and encourage the growth and harvesting of those ingredients.
We had a continuous stream of friendly faces from home this week, including members of the J.E.B. Stuart Preservation Trust, Inc. in Patrick County: Joseph Quesenberry, Shirley Keene, Ronnie Hayes, and Mary Dellenback Hill.
If you are visiting Virginia’s historic Capitol between now and March 12, please remember to stop by our offices in Room 313 of the General Assembly Building. If you’d like me to know your thoughts on issues under consideration by this year’s General Assembly, send an e-mail to District20@senate.virginia.gov or a letter to Senate of Virginia, P.O. Box 396, Richmond VA 23218-0396. You can also call us at (804) 698-7520.
If the groundhog is to be relied upon, winter is going to be with us for a little while longer. Please stay safe and warm, and have a great week.