The primary work in the House this week was to consider Senate bills and Senate amendments proposed to House bills. This processing will continue until all bills are finalized by the end of Session, scheduled for March 12.
Subcommittees and committees finished their work this week. Bills upon which there are disagreements are placed in a Conference Committee composed of three House and three Senate members appointed to iron out the differences.
Most of the time, these mini-conferences result in changes agreeable to both bodies, and the conference reports are then adopted by each body. In some cases, agreement is not achieved and those bills “die” (go away) at the end of Session.
Concurrently, the House and Senate conferees on the budget met when we were not on the floor, mostly during the evenings or on the weekend. The expectation is the conferees will complete their work and have the final budget into legislators’ hands this coming Tuesday. An up or down vote should be taken on the floor next Thursday, March 10.
Proceedings came to a head during week #8 on several controversial bills. The Governor vetoed the Clean Power Plan (CPP) bill, which says the General Assembly must approve any CPP plan submitted by DEQ to EPA to meet their new regulations on power generation plants.
Since this administration is onboard with President Obama’s anti-fossil fuel policies, it is expected any plan submitted by Virginia without vetting by the General Assembly will result in higher electricity prices for all citizens and businesses.
The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled against the CPP, so I believe we need to see how that plays out before we jump aboard this runaway train to higher electric rates and unreliable power.
The Governor also vetoed the “Tebow” bill (homeschoolers eligible to compete for and play public school sports). He also vetoed the bill that would require General Assembly approval prior to Virginia’s Department of Education, an executive agency branch of government, adopting the federal Common Core K-12 education curriculum, testing, and federal control of our children’s education. One can only surmise why some members of the Governor’s party would vote on the floor for conservative bills, such as these, yet switch their votes to back the Governor’s override of the same bills.
The House bills calling for reform of the Certificate of Public Need (COPN) laws to build or expand medical facilities or capabilities continue to receive much attention in the Senate. I expect a single bill, combined in some fashion from the three sent over by the House, will come back to the House next week for our consideration.
The bill to allow parents to opt their children out of reading assignments deemed sexually explicit by the Department of Education passed out of both the House and Senate and went to the Governor. The bill would require an approved alternate reading assignment be offered.
The Airbnb bill received much discussion but finally passed both the House and Senate with an enactment clause that specifies it must pass again in 2017 to go into effect, if it comes up again and is passed again. This bill is about short-term rentals, such as renting a room, basement, whole house, etc., to anyone through the internet via Airbnb companies.
The bill also provides a regulating framework supposedly designed to collect the transient taxes and methodology for Airbnb companies to collect and submit the tax money to the local governments.
I voted against the bill because a) it removes existing county authority to control and enforce short-term rentals, and b) having such rentals in, say, subdivisions by strangers or groups is not something I think is appropriate or wanted by the majority of residents, and c) I have serious concerns over enforcement, plus collection of transient taxes by either the Airbnb companies or individuals who may rent spaces on their own.
My HB587 protecting war monuments and memorials from all wars back to 1622 was heard and passed the Senate after a lively debate. The bill was passed and sent to the Governor. Opposition came from some senators who apparently desire to allow localities to remove historical items they don’t like or which they find offensive in some way.
History is what it is—the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly, the regretful. If we remove the bad, ugly, and regretful, we lose the gift of learning from mistakes and making better choices and decisions in the future.
Visitation has mostly come to a halt since we legislators are on the floor or in meetings during these days. This pattern will continue as we work up to the final budget vote. As we hurry back and forth between our offices and the Capitol building, we can’t help but notice welcome signs of spring. I can’t wait to see the daffodils blooming in Richmond and at home.
For one more week, you can contact me by calling my Richmond office at (804) 698-1009 or DelCPoindexter@house.va.gov. My Glade Hill District office will reopen on March 16.