The 2021 General Assembly session concluded its work on March 1st, and I wanted to update you on how the final week, and overall session, progressed.
Opening Schools This week we cast what was likely the most consequential vote of this entire session. Senate Bill 1303, known as the “Open the Schools” bill. This legislation gives parents a real choice in education for their children. If parents aren’t ready to send their kids back to the classroom, they can continue in virtual school. But if they are, schools MUST give parents an option to have their kids back in class 5 days per week.
This isn’t a partisan issue. My phone hasn’t stopped ringing this entire session, as desperate parents seek help getting their kids back into the classroom after nearly a year of navigating virtual and hybrid learning.
Republicans tried to get an emergency clause added to this bill, which would have made it effective immediately, but Democrats voted along party lines to defeat the measure. I am hopeful that Governor Northam will send the bill back with an emergency clause.
Budget Bill The biggest thing any General Assembly does is pass a budget or series of budget amendments each year, and this session was no different.
There were a handful of good measures in the budget, but there were far too many bad things that I could not support, so I was forced to vote against the budget bill.
It removes a significant pro-life safeguard that Republicans have included in past budgets, an amendment that blocks the use of our tax dollars for abortion. It also funds bills that I voted against, such as Senate Bill 1261, which packs the Court of Appeals with six new, Democratic-appointed judges, and it funds new gun control measures. I’m deeply concerned about the way this budget grows the government in Richmond at the cost of taxpayers.
The budget is one of the biggest reasons why it is so important that Republicans take back the House this year. If we get our majority back, we will control much of the appropriations process and can stop funding these bad policies.
Parole Board Corruption We also learned truly corrupt actions have occurred at the Virginia Parole Board. A report by CBS 6 in Richmond uncovered a document from the Office of Inspector General that alleges falsification of records, altering of state records, and other potential crimes committed.
The reason? Apparently, the former chair of the board wanted to release more convicted murderers back into communities, and she was willing to break the rules — and allegedly the law — to do so. A bipartisan effort in the Senate is underway right now to investigate these allegations. We in the House have a responsibility to learn the truth.
The former Parole Board Chair in question is now a sitting judge. If these allegations are substantiated, the House has an obligation to act to restore trust in the justice system.
They argued it would “blow a hole” in Virginia’s budget, but I did not believe this. A month after my bill was killed, the Commonwealth projected its largest revenue stream ever. Revenues are up 3% over last year despite the COVID-19 recession, and it left no reason to believe that allowing PPP Loan Forgiveness deductions would hurt the budget, much less “blow a hole” in it.
Given these facts, I successfully led an effort to reach a bipartisan agreement that includes a $100,000 deduction cap for PPP Loan-receiving businesses. While it is not perfect, this measure will provide full PPP Loan forgiveness for 81% of businesses in Virginia.
Looking Ahead I appreciate you bearing with me the last couple of months. This session certainly had its downsides, but I am optimistic as we look to get our kids back in school, beat the COVID-19 crisis, and get our economy back on track.
I am also excited to hit the campaign trail this year for myself and fellow Republicans running for the House of Delegates and statewide elected offices. Election Day will be bright red in Virginia this year, so stay tuned!
I will keep in touch throughout the year with developments surrounding the General Assembly and Virginia’s government. Thank you again for the honor of being your voice in the House of Delegates. If I or my staff can ever be of service to you, please do not hesitate to contact us. My office’s information is below.
Contact My Office District Mailing Address
P.O. Box 21094
Roanoke, VA 24018
Richmond Mailing Address
Pocahontas Building, 900 E. Main St.
Richmond, VA 23219