Nothing adequately can explain the pace of the General Assembly. Especially the short session. More goes on that we can — and would love to — report. It is no exaggeration to say that we could employ an entire news team to cover all that we see (and hear). Lobbying and blogging is a killer. But here’s a week in review of some significant legislation.
We had several legislative victories this week, including five resolutions to amend the Virginia Constitution this morning in the House Privileges and Elections Committee:
HJ 593, patroned by Delegate Bill Carrico (R-5, Galax), is a religious liberty amendment that protects public prayer. It passed by a 14-7 vote after some committee liberals raised several objections.
Also regarding religious liberty, HJ 614, patroned by Delegate Tag Greason (R-32, Loudon), which prohibits the state from blocking tuition loans and grants to students seeking theological education for the purposes of becoming a military chaplain. It passed with only three dissenting votes. This bill was debated thoroughly in sub-committee earlier in the week. The state already pays the salary of chaplains and Delegate Greason’s amendment would allow for tuition assistance as well.
Three limited government resolutions also passed. HJ 539 requires a super majority vote by the General Assembly and local governing bodies to increase state and local taxes; and HJ 540 limits increased spending by the General Assembly and local governing bodies to the previous year’s level plus the percentage increase in population and inflation. Both are patroned Delegate Mark Cole (R-88, Spottsylvania). HJ 539 survived a procedural vote to kill it, and then was reported by an 13-8 vote, while HJ 540 passed by a 11-9 vote.
Finally, this morning, after extensive debate, HJ 615, patroned by Delegate Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico), the House Majority Whip, passed by a 14-7 vote. This resolution precludes tax and fee increases in the state budget. Any revenue increase, including the termination of tax credits, would have to be introduced as a separate bill for an up or down vote. In recent years, governors and lawmakers have buried such increases within billions of dollars of spending in the budget. Even when promulgated, many lawmakers had no choice but to vote for such budgets or else precipitate a government shutdown.
The proposed constitutional amendments to protect property rights were carried over and will be heard a week from today. Yesterday, there was good news on taxes: The House passed by a 94-5 vote HB 1437, also patroned by Delegate Cole, which would allow localities the option of ending the BPOL tax. This tax, which was started 199 years ago to fund the War of 1812, is a job killer and well passed its own life expectancy. The same day, by a 97-2 vote, the House approved HB 1587, patroned by Delegate Sal Iaquinto (R-84, Virginia Beach), which would exempt start-up businesses from the BPOL tax for two years.
Earlier this week, the House of Delegates passed another Family Foundation priority piece of legislation: HJ 542, The Repeal Amendment. Patroned by Delegate Jim LeMunyon (R-67, Chantilly), it would repeal any federal law if two-thirds of the states agree. The bill was hotly debated in both committee and on the floor of the House of Delegates, with opponents making subtle and not so subtle accusations of racism toward supporters.
Next week is the final week before “Crossover,” and with many bills still left to be debated, almost anything imaginable will happen. Even some unimaginable.