The 2019 General Assembly Session ended on Feb. 28. In the last two columns I covered my personal legislative agenda and the state budget. In this column, I will highlight some other important bills that passed.
We enacted two significant economic development packages. While I am generally skeptical of using taxpayer dollars for economic development incentives such as movie production tax credits, I am supportive of projects that can generate long-term jobs.
The Amazon project is projected to create between 25,000 and 37,500 jobs with average wages of $150,000 or more. The Commonwealth has committed to fund $22,000 per job for the first 25,000 jobs and $15,564 per job for the second 12,500 jobs after they are created. Tax revenue will pay for each commitment within a few years of creation and will have a 6:1 lifetime return on investment for taxpayers over $1.2 billion of new tax revenue overall. The Commonwealth has also committed to $295 million of transportation investments into Metro, National Airport, and U.S. 1 which will make the community truly multimodal. Virginia Tech has also committed to build a $1 billion Innovation Campus next door.
This project will also generate significant returns to the 36th District. The Amazon campus is designed for transit users and many employees will choose to live south of Alexandria along the U.S. 1 Corridor or use the Virginia Railway Express and live in Woodbridge, Dumfries, Stafford and even Fredericksburg. I am hopeful this project will create pressure to create robust transit options including extensions of the Yellow and Blue Lines and funding to expand the Long Bridge over the Potomac.
The Commonwealth also committed to invest $50 million in the Micron microchip plant in Manassas in exchange for Micron’s pledge to invest $3 billion plant expansion. Microchips are actually Virginia’s second largest export and this project will likewise create jobs.
We passed long overdue legislation allowing for no-excuse early voting 10 days before each election starting in 2020.
The General Assembly enacted numerous measures to reduce Virginia’s eviction rates. The bills require a written lease, more time before an eviction is allowed and more time for a tenant to pay rent after commencement of an eviction. The bills passed unanimously.
We removed the age cap on health insurance for autistic adults. This long-sought change will help families continue to provide quality services for adult children.
Due to legislation I co-sponsored, cooperative preschools such as Tauxemont and Fort Hunt Cooperative Preschools got a legislative reprieve from administrative rules that would have required volunteer parents to obtain dozens of hours of training before volunteering to watch children during preschool classes.
Starting July 1, Virginians will be required to keep tethered dogs on ropes at least 10 feet long (or three times the length of the dog) and provide the animal adequate shelter in cold weather — instead of just leaving the animal outside.
We passed legislation prohibiting drivers from having a phone in-hand in a work zone. We increased penalties for drivers who fail to move over for vehicles with illuminated emergency lights parked on a shoulder.
We raised the purchase age for tobacco products to 21. The Kings Dominion Law — prohibiting a pre-Labor Day school start — was repealed, and we passed legislation setting up a process to begin the legalization of casinos in three jurisdictions Central, Southwest and Hampton Roads.
While the session had many positives, we also left doing absolutely nothing about firearm violence prevention. Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment was blocked in the House of Delegates once again leaving 160 million American Women without equal rights.
Virginia still has the lowest minimum wage in the nation. Criminal justice reform saw virtually no victories and if anything, some backsliding. Bills to prohibit discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered Virginians went nowhere. Our attempts to backfill $300 million of transportation funds monies lost to Metro last year were killed.
We are poised on the verge of some very important elections this November where control of both chambers will be determined. Republicans hold the majority in both chambers by one vote. A change in control will bring significant change to the Commonwealth.
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