The House jogged along at a speedy pace this week as we processed bills, which must be completed and sent to the Senate by February 16. Since I am a member of three committees, four subcommittees, and chairman of two of the subcommittees, I rushed from one to the other every day.
On Friday my HB587 to protect war memorials and monuments erected prior to 1998 passed unanimously in the full Counties, Cities and Town Committee. The bill will come to the House floor this coming week. I appreciate the hundreds of phone calls and emails received and the many historical preservation and veterans groups who came to Richmond to testify in support of this important bill.
Jobs and economic growth remained the emphasis in the House this week. Bills focusing on these issues are my and our Republican Caucus’s #1 priority. We are moving forward several pieces of legislation to foster private sector job creation intended to promote long-term economic growth, and protect small businesses.
Citizens often ask why government doesn’t do more to create jobs. There are two answers. First, the General Assembly doesn’t create jobs. Private entrepreneurs create jobs. What government can do is to create the best possible fiscal, regulatory, and legal environment to foster jobs and economic growth.
Second, Virginia has done much to address the recession both in spending and legislation. A briefing to the Appropriations Committee this week presented the numbers. For example, we have spent $679M on economic development incentives since 2010 to fight off the recession. That is 298% more than 2004-2006, prior to the recession.
In a nutshell then, yes, Virginia is working hard to foster jobs and economic growth in a seven-year-long hostile federal environment of regulations and other job-killing policies.
The major bills rolled out this week to address jobs and economic growth were HB834 and HB846, both of which I have co-patroned. These bills are part of a business initiative called GO VIRGINIA. It is crafted to create a new economic development model that will facilitate more collaboration among the business community, higher education, and local jurisdictions.
GO VIRGINIA contains incentive funding to be matched by private and local funds with an emphasis on projects that will be multi-jurisdictional and transformational from a long-term economic growth perspective. HB834 is the foundation bill establishing the GO VIRGINIA model, while HB846 lays out the funding mechanism.
In other areas, the week concluded with the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee passing the three bills to implement last week’s agreement between the General Assembly and the Governor on concealed carry reciprocity. The bills should come on the floor for full House votes next week.
A bill passed to help veterans who were military medical personnel (e.g., ‘medics’). The bill will help these veterans translate their excellent training and experience to certifications and licenses required for health care jobs in the civilian sector.
We also passed a bill to amend the Virginia Constitution to prohibit union membership as a condition of employment. Virginia already has this “right to work” codified in law but anchoring this basic right into our state’s Constitution is essential to prevent our hard-working populace from ever having to join a union in order to earn a living.
The “Tebow” bill, which allows homeschooled students to play sports in public schools under certain conditions, passed in both the House and Senate.
The most lively subcommittee and committee debates I’ve had so far this year occurred this week in the Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources Committee and in its Agriculture Subcommittee. Recall, in recent years many towns and cities have passed ordinances to allow chickens in backyards. Well, as I predicted, neighboring dogs are presented the opportunity to do what comes naturally to dogs: chase and kill chickens.
Now a bill has been proposed to fix the problem foisted upon the neighboring dogs by the presence and behavioral characteristics of urban chickens. The proposed bill had several variations but they all came down to preventing the “guilty” dogs from the fates of chasing and killing fowl and livestock rather than addressing the cause of the problem: ‘urban’ chickens.
We went back and forth on this bill all week long with no resolution. I suppose we might have to find a way to distinguish urban from rural chickens! We were delighted to receive a visit from Mary Dellenback Hill, Ronnie Haynes and Shirley Keene representing the J.E.B. Stuart Preservation Trust.
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