Richmond Report – Approaching the Halfway Point

This week of session has been a very busy one for the General Assembly.  In addition to the many visitors we have had here this week, committees and subcommittees have been working hard to meet the halfway point deadline, also known as Crossover.  One of the most important issues being addressed now is making amendments to the State Budget.

Budget Shortfall 

As you may know, last August, Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that the state’s revenues fell short of expected growth by over $1 billion.  Unlike Washington, Virginia’s constitution requires a balanced budget, and so the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees have been working to make adjustments to account for this reduced level of growth.  Specifically, budget leaders have been trying to find ways to keep their promise to state employees regarding pay raises.  On Tuesday of this week, it was announced that a new proposal includes a 3% pay raise for state employees, funds to raise the starting salary of Virginia State Police, and funds to address salary compression issues for sheriff’s deputies. The committees responsible for the budget bills will unveil their complete proposals on February 5, 2017. 

My Legislation 

Although most of my legislation is still working its way through the process, two of my bills are set for passage in the House next week: 

  • HB 2233 – Health benefit plans offered by out-of-state health insurers – Authorizes any out-of-state health insurer to sell individual or group health benefit plans in the Commonwealth if it is approved to sell such plans in the foreign health insurer's domiciliary state.  The measure establishes requirements applicable to such sales, including registration, disclosures, compliance with marketing standards, and financial condition.  In addition, the measure has a delayed effective date of July 1, 2018.
  • HB 2230 – Stock corporations; shareholders’ meetings – Authorizes the board of directors of a stock corporation to determine that any meeting of shareholders not be held at any place and instead be held by means of remote communication, if the articles of incorporation or bylaws do not require the meeting to be held at a place.  The measure also limits the provision that currently authorizes the holders of at least 20 percent of the votes entitled to be cast on an issue to call a special meeting of shareholders of a corporation that has 35 or fewer shareholders by requiring that the corporation not be a public corporation. 

In addition, several of the bills I introduced or serve as Chief Co-Patron of have been given preliminary approval in their respective subcommittees: 

  • HB 2237 – Office of the State Inspector General; extension of jurisdiction to Department of Social Services – Extends the jurisdiction of the Office of the State Inspector General by way of amending the definition of "state agency" to include any local offices of the Department of Social Services. (General Laws Subcommittee recommends reporting unanimously.)
  • HB 2395 – Public schools; dyslexia advisor – Requires one reading specialist employed by each local school board to have training in the identification of and the appropriate interventions, accommodations, and teaching techniques for students with dyslexia or a related disorder and to serve as an advisor on dyslexia and related disorder. (Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee recommends reporting by a vote of 7 to 1.)
  • HB 2223 Virginia Freedom of Information Act; right to speak at open meetings – Requires that every public body afford an opportunity for public comment during any open meeting and requires that the public comment periods be noticed on the public body's agenda. The bill permits the public body to have discretion in where it places the public comment period on its agenda and permits the public body to adopt reasonable rules governing the public comment portion of the meeting, including imposing reasonable restrictions on time, place, and manner. The bill requires that for meetings of all public bodies, not just those state public bodies on which there is at least one member appointed by the Governor as in current law, the notice provided for any such meeting include a statement as to approximately at what point during the meeting public comment will be received. (General Laws Subcommittee recommends reporting by a vote of 5 to 2.) 

I look forward to continuing to present my legislation as we wrap-up the first part of Session.  If you would like to follow my legislation, or that of any other member of the Virginia General Assembly, you may do so at lis.virginia.gov.  In addition, you can click here to watch the live session of the House of Delegates, which typically begins at Noon each day. 

As always, I look forward to hearing and seeing folks from back home.  Feel free to come see me and visit my office if you will be in the Richmond area during session.  While I am frequently in session or committee meetings, you can call or email to set an appointment to ensure that I will be available.  If you would like to reach me or need assistance, please contact me at my Richmond office at 804-698-1024 or by email at DelBCline@house.virginia.gov.  Additionally, written correspondence may be sent to P.O. Box 406, Richmond, Virginia 23218. 

Ben Cline