Part Two: Virginia General Assembly 2020

In Part One of my General Assembly coverage, I wrote about what we learned in Senate Finance and Appropriations this week.

Our education continued when Senator Bryce Reeves presented SB 458 which was received with interest by the committee. The Senator was invited to return to the committee with more monetary information. I’m hoping this one is a go and will make its way to the Governor for a signature. SB 458 is sensible legislation with a more than reasonable price tag that will help generate business development revenue on the back end.

The bill reads as follows:

Microloans for Veterans Program and Fund; creation and administration. Creates the Microloans for Veterans Program and Fund to be administered by the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority. The bill directs the Authority to work with the Department of Veterans Services, the Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity, and the Virginia Community College System to develop a curriculum of education and mentor ship related to finance and business planning. The Authority is authorized to issue loans of up to $10,000 to veterans who agree to participate in such curriculum and meet other requirements (tier 1 loans). The Authority is authorized to issue loans of up to $50,000 to veterans who have completed the requirements associated with a tier 1 loan and agree to meet advanced education and mentorship requirements (tier 2 loans).

Senator Reeves, who represents the 17th District, is a tireless advocate for veterans and also has a bill seeking to create a question for referendum this year in the 2020 November election as to whether Virginia will forgo personal property taxes for vehicles for 100 percent disabled veterans. At present, this is yet another unfunded mandate to localities unless the state considers a rebate in the future to make up for the revenue loss.

On the other hand, it’s a significant way to recognize the service of our disabled veterans and their tremendous sacrifice. I like the bill because it’s a real gift while our men and women are still with us and not an acknowledgment after the fact. Voters can decide if the House and Senate agree to add the question to ballot. Senator Reeves also has a bill in for tax credits for teaches who purchase supplies without reimbursement and a number of other truly constructive pieces of legislation worth a second look.

Check here for this year’s bills.

On a break we caught up with Senator Jill Vogel, representing Virginia’s 27th District, who was also the 2017 Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.  Vogel was the only Republican on the ticket to carry Caroline. Jeff discussed the upcoming possible unfunded mandate in the form of a bill raising the minimum wage and his concerns with the amount it would cost the county to include our school system.  Estimates are $1.2 million. The Senator asked that Jeff compile information and return when the bill is being considered.

A familiar presence on the committee was senior Senator Emmett Hanger. He presented two incentive bills for economic development which would bring millions of dollars in major business investment and hundreds of jobs to his district. Hanger is known for his long reach across the aisle which some in his party take issue with; however, his advocacy for business and jobs and legislation to benefit the everyday lives of the citizens of his district is a fact. Hanger, who lives in Augusta County, represents the 24th District which is agricultural in nature, and so it takes some considerable knowledge and creativity to bring jobs to that region.

Jeff also spoke with Senator Hanger about the cost of a $15 minimum wage requirement to localities. This would affect not only the basic pay to county and school staff, but withholding amounts on paychecks paid by the employer. Further, it creates the necessity to then raise those in the higher pay grades. For example, employees who were at $15 an hour already would have to be raised as appropriate. This would cost localities in the millions. The cost to the Commonwealth itself as an entity is $200 million.

Last but not least we got to catch up with our friend Senior Senator Louise Lucas, who continues to age backwards. Senator Lucas is a powerful and vibrant presence in the Virginia General Assembly and her daughter Lisa was Jeff’s lab partner at Norfolk State in the 1980s when they both sought and successfully completed their degrees in engineering. The Senator has represented the 18th District, some of which includes parts of Surrey County, Chesapeake City, Franklin City, Isle of Wight County, Portsmouth City, Southampton County, Suffolk City, and all of Emporia City, Greensville County, and Sussex County, since 1992.

Senator Lucas, who is also a member of the Finance Committee, presented a bill which would support funding for school infrastructure that is used also for emergency shelters. Local government will appreciate her work on the bill, which was unanimously passed. It will now go to the Senate for a vote, and then travel to the House for their approval process.

The bill reads as follows:

Emergency Shelters Upgrade Assistance Grant Fund. Establishes the Emergency Shelters Upgrade Assistance Grant Fund administered by the Department of Emergency Management to provide matching funds to localities to install, maintain, or repair infrastructure for backup energy generation for emergency shelters, including solar energy generators, and improve the hazard-specific structural integrity of shelter facilities owned by the locality.

We further spoke with the Senator about a visit to Caroline to speak to our mentoring organization for young people, Caroline’s Promise. Louise Lucas is also a graduate of Norfolk State and holds a B.S. in Vocational-Industrial Education, and an M.A. in Urban Affairs with a concentration in Human Resources Planning and Administration (magna cum laude). She graciously agreed and promised to bring her daughter Lisa who is now the Vice Mayor of Portsmouth City Council.

Stay tuned for more on the 2020 Session of the Virginia General Assembly.

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