The General Assembly completed the 2012 regular session on Saturday evening, March 10, shortly after 10 p.m. The last week was extremely busy as the House and Senate worked to negotiate joint compromises on many bills that will now be sent to the Governor. Many of these important initiatives never make the headlines but they do impact our everyday lives and these are the areas where I have worked to make a difference in improving our jobs and economy, our schools, our transportation network and our quality of life. We also just received the great news that Virginia's unemployment rate hit a three year low of 5.8% -- a testament to the fact that we continue to make jobs our #1 priority and Virginia remains #1 for jobs.
The following highlights some of the key measures that I promoted and passed during this session:
Economic Development and Reform:
HB 33, The Fair and Open Competition in Government Contracting Act: This bill I introduced provides for fair and open competition in contracting bids and allows our 96% non-union workforce to fairly compete with union workers. My bill was passed in the House and the Senate. This will increase the creation of Virginia jobs, increase competition, and provide our taxpayers with more miles of transportation and infrastructure solutions for every dollar we spend, while guaranteeing a level playing field for Virginia workers. This bill received strong support throughout the business community, including the Fairfax and Loudoun Chambers and the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.
HB 216, Retail Sales And Use Tax Exemption For Data Centers: This bill I championed provides tax incentives for the large and growing business of data centers. The industry is expected to grow by hundreds of millions of dollars in the coming years and we want to keep Virginia a top destination. We need to continue to diversify our economy by focusing on private sector commercial markets where we have a competitive advantage. This bill passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate. The bill was also supported by our state and local Chambers of Commerce, and was a top priority of the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC).
HB 1013, Extending The Capital Gains Tax Exemption: I introduced this legislation to extend the current capital gains exemption for new tech investments in the Commonwealth to free up our entrepreneurs to risk their capital and create jobs across the Commonwealth. Again, this measure passed overwhelmingly in the House and the Senate with the broad support of our NOVA business community and has already been signed by the Governor.
HB 551, Extending The Telework Tax Credit: This bill will extend the Telework Tax Credit, which I passed last year, through December 31, 2016. The Tax Credit is already being utilized by over 174 employers and we will continue to work with our business community and state and local officials to promote the tax credit to more businesses. The bill passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate. This bill was also supported by NVTC and our technology community as well, as state and local Chambers of Commerce.
HB 545, VDOT Incident Management: I introduced this bill to allow VDOT vehicles to drive on a portion of the highway other than a roadway at, en route to, or from the scene of a traffic accident. Congestion related delays can cost millions. This will help relieve traffic congestion at the site of a traffic accident, allowing VDOT to reach the scene sooner and clear blocked roads more quickly. This bill was passed unanimously in the both the House and Senate and has already been signed by the Governor.
HB 599, Northern Virginia Transportation District: I sponsored this bill to require the Commonwealth Transportation Board, in cooperation with VDOT and local governments, to objectively evaluate all Northern Virginia highway and transit projects and provide a quantitative rating as to the ability of each to cost effectively reduce traffic congestion. This will help ensure that tax dollars are being spent on highway and public transit projects that will do the most to relieve traffic congestion. The bill passed in the House this year and last year and this year we were able to rally support to get the Senate to support it this year despite the opposition of some Northern Virginia Senators last year.
HB 1063, Starting School Before Labor Day: I sponsored HB 1063, which would have eliminated the so-called King's Dominion law and allow local school boards to set the school calendar and determine the opening of the school year, and eliminate the post-Labor Day opening requirement. It would give all our students an equal opportunity to learn and perform better on standardized tests. The bill was endorsed by the Governor, the Speaker, the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, and the Virginia School Board Association. This bill was passed in the House with a strong bipartisan vote of 76-23 but was killed by the Senate and unfortunately opposed by a Fairfax Senator on a key committee.
HB 546, Cracking Down On Crime And HumanTrafficking: I introduced this bill to crack down on the heinous and growing practice of gang crimes expanding into human trafficking and prostitution. This legislation was requested by gang investigator with the Fairfax County Police Department after observing, over the past years, the growth of gangs such as MS-13 operating prostitution rings in Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria. These traffickers are forcing minor girls as young as 12 into these criminal enterprises. These unspeakable crimes against young girls and children must be attacked with the full force of the law. It passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate and will soon be signed by the Governor.
Health Care Bills:
HB 83, Information on Breast Density: I sponsored HB 83, which will require the Board of Health to establish guidelines requiring all mammogram reports to include information on breast density and inform women with dense breast tissue, as determined by the physician, that supplementary screening tests may be beneficial, depending on individual risk factors. This bill passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate and was already signed by the Governor.
HB 1106, Insurance Coverage for Autistic Children: Early this session we passed emergency legislation, which the Governor has signed, to license behavior analysts and assistant behavior analysts who treat children with autism. This bill clarifies legislation that we passed last year, HB 2467, which mandated health insurance coverage for autism and behavior analysis.
HB 548, Higher Education For Active Duty Military: I introduced this bill at the suggestion of a George Mason University employee to require higher educational institutions to implement policies that help provide accommodations for students called to active military duty to complete their college degrees. This bill was passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate and has already been signed by the Governor.
Water Quality Issues:
Restored Virginia Membership In The Interstate Commission On The Potomac River Basin. I am pleased that I was also able to work with my colleagues and the Governor’s office to reinstate Virginia into the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin, the entity that promotes watershed based initiatives with an intergovernmental focus and educates the public about water quality and resources issues.
To see the bills I have introduced this year and co-patroned and their outcome you can go to the General Assembly website: http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?121+mbr+H214 and to my website: www.delegatecomstock.com Next week, I will provide an update on the Budget situation which unfortunately has not been completed. While the House passed a budget, the Senate refused to vote on a budget at all and negotiations are still continuing.