Richmond Report – The Final Stretch
This week was a productive week in the Virginia House of Delegates, and we now have one week left in the 2016 General Assembly. We are finishing our committee work, reviewing amendments from the Senate, and continuing to work on the budget. As we wind down our General Assembly session, I want to also update you on my bills.
I am pleased to say that the following bills have passed both the House and the Senate, and they are now headed to the Governor for his signature.
The first is a bill I have worked on now for the last two sessions. House Bill 842 requires the Board of Education to adopt regulations governing teacher licensure ensuring that every teacher has training in how to identify the signs of dyslexia in school-aged children. In addition, the bill requires the Department of Education to collaborate with the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia to ensure that all teacher preparation programs offered at public institutions of higher education in the Commonwealth or otherwise available convey information on the identification of students at risk for dyslexia and related disorders.
Another bill I have worked on for the past two years is an income tax credit for area farmers who donate surplus food crops to food banks. House Bill 1093 establishes an individual and corporate income tax credit beginning in 2016 for food crops that are grown by a person engaged in the business of farming and donated by such person to a nonprofit food bank. The credit would equal 30 percent of the fair market value of the food crops donated by the person during the taxable year, not to exceed an aggregate of $5,000 for any taxable year. Food crops for purposes of this tax credit are defined as grains, fruits, nuts, or vegetables. I am hopeful that it will help our farmers and help in our efforts to ensure that fresh foods are offered at our local food banks.
In addition, my bill to strengthen our domestic violence laws has passed the General Assembly. House Bill 1334 states that before a defendant can participate in the “First Offender” program, he or she must complete any education or treatment program that the court determines is best suited to the needs of the person. This could include alcohol or drug counseling, anger management, or community service, among other things. Currently, the court may order that the person complete such education or treatment programs, but is not required to do so.
Although not all of my bills passed this year, I am pleased to say that the following have been continued to the 2017 session for further study:
- HB 843 – Individual Income Tax Reduction – Reduces the top marginal individual income tax rate, currently 5.75 percent, whenever an unneeded corporate tax credit expires.
- HB 1095 – Automatic Individual Income Tax Reduction – Reduces the top marginal individual income tax rate from 5.75 percent on income in excess of $17,000 to 5.0 percent.
- HB 1089 – Virginia Lottery Fund; Cap on Administrative Expenses – Reduces the cap on appropriations to the Virginia Lottery for the operation and administration of the lottery during any fiscal year, exclusive of agent compensation, from no more than 10 percent to no more than eight percent of the total annual estimated gross revenues to be generated from lottery sales.
Finally, at the beginning of session I introduced a bill that would allow localities and local school boards to elect to have their employees participate in the state employee health insurance plan. Although my bill failed to pass, a similar bill I co-sponsored looks set to pass and, if so, will be on its way to the Governor’s desk. That bill (SB 364) allows the Department of Human Resource Management to develop a plan under the local option health insurance plan with benefits similar to those in the state employee health insurance plan and that uses a single rating group. I am hopeful that this will benefit our local employees, including our teachers, as they make decisions regarding their health insurance.
As we finish out this year’s session, I want to let you know that I look forward to hearing and seeing folks from back home in the district. Feel free to come see me and visit my office if you will be in the Richmond area during session. 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.