The 2016 General Assembly Session concluded Friday night with the passage of the biennium budget and the election of judges.
I was delighted to welcome Janet, who was in Richmond representing Virginia’s Old Carolina Road Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution at the state conference, who attended the legislative session to witness my casting my final yea votes of this regular session.
The 2016 session’s goals of the Republican-led General Assembly were to craft a conservative and responsible budget to address the core services of state government; to elect judges in accordance with the Virginia Constitution; and, to provide positive solutions to the real issues facing Virginians.
For the latter, our House legislation focused on economic development and job creation, improving education, and increasing access to and lowering the cost of health care.
We accomplished these goals and arrived at sine die a day early, thus saving the taxpayers over $25,000. We will return to Richmond on April 20 to address final amendments and vetoes proposed by Governor McAuliffe.
The final budget is conservative and balanced. There are no tax or fee increases. The Rainy Day fund was replenished to 90% of its previous balance. Our contribution to the VRS is funded at 100% of the recommended rates and the 2010 deferred payment is fully paid off six years ahead of schedule.
The budget contains a significant compensation package for state and state supported employees. It also increases funding for public education beyond that proposed by the governor and makes additional investments in mental health, higher education, and our natural resources.
The budget borrows less than proposed by the governor for one-time capital spending for colleges and universities and other state infrastructure projects. Virginia does not borrow for day to day spending like Congress does. This is approximately 2.5% of Virginia’s annual state gross domestic product, while the runaway federal government’s debt to GDP ratio is close to 100%.
Previously, during the August Special Session, the Virginia Senate adjourned in conflict with the Constitution at the very time the House was holding interviews for a vacant Supreme Court Justice seat. The Senate’s action caused a controversy. So, this week we resolved the issue by electing an outstanding Appeals Court Judge, Stephen R. McCullough, to fill the seat. We then elected Judge Mary Malveaux from Henrico County to fill the incurred vacancy on the Appeals Court.
We also elected judges to fill seats being vacated by the retirement of several judges across the Commonwealth, including in the 21st Judicial Circuit (Patrick and Henry Counties and Martinsville City). We elected Patrick County’s Marcus Brinks, the current assistant commonwealth’s attorney, to fill the General District Court opening in the 21st. Judge-elect Brinks brings an excellent judicial temperament and extensive legal experience to the job. I am confident he will serve with distinction, dedication and fairness and will adhere firmly to our laws.
I was disappointed when late Thursday afternoon the Governor vetoed my HB587. The purpose of the bill is to protect all war monuments and memorials dating back to the Algonquin War of 1622. That period includes 10 wars plus Gulf wars’ monuments and memorials erected prior to the 1998 law that a Danville judge last year interpreted and determined only applied to wars conducted and war monuments and memorials erected from 1998 forward.
The Governor attempted in his veto language to portray this as a local control versus a state control issue. I strongly disagree that localities should be able to remove, replace, disassemble, destroy or take any other such negative action regarding monuments and memorials which were erected to honor our wars and war heroes who in their time sacrificed and earned recognition or honors. Rather, I believe all of these monuments and memorials are Virginia—and America’s—historical resources and should be protected from personal or political winds of today or in the future.
Virginia is often called the Mother of States. Much of our history is also the history of America. Virginians visit and pay their respects and homage at these historical resources. So do millions of other people from elsewhere in America and around the world. To selectively erase or revise our history does nothing but prevent us and future generations from honoring those veterans and from learning from the gift of past experiences, whether they be good or not so good.
Especially sad is that the governor’s veto is an affront to our veterans and patriotic groups and organizations. HB587 will be addressed again at the reconvened session on April 20.
I was happy to see members of Leadership Patrick County sitting in the House Gallery this week. Our local Chambers of Commerce do a great job training our emerging community leaders. I appreciate the many visitors who traveled to Richmond during this session and I am grateful for the many calls, letters and emails received.
I will transition back to my local Ninth District office in Glade Hill this coming week. We will re-open our district office on Wednesday, March 16. I am currently updating my constituent email list. If you would like to continue to receive my Poindexter Report or if you need help with state or district issues, please contract my legislative assistant, William Pace, at (540) 576-2600 or DelCPoindexter @house.virginia.gov.