Column: "The Good, Bad, and the Ugly"

Column: "The Good, Bad, and the Ugly"

We are in our last week of session before “crossover” here in Richmond. Next week is when the bills must all crossover from the House to the Senate and similarly, from the Senate to the House. If they survive that journey, they will find themselves on the Governor’s desk where he can sign into law, veto or amend. Right now though there are only a small number of bills ready for crossover, including two of mine, and so I highlight for you some of those legislative initiatives, including the “good, the bad, and the ugly.” 

Some of these bills passed on party line votes, and some were bipartisan efforts. You will see that most of the party line bills were ones the Republicans introduced to reverse legislation the Democrats passed in the last two sessions when we were in the majority.

The Good

Some of the good bills that have made it out of the House to date include my bill, HB 314, which passed unanimously 99-0. It directs the Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services to develop by Jan. 1, 2023, a brochure for use by retail establishments that sell plants in the Commonwealth that explains the value of plant species native to the Commonwealth and the harm of noxious weeds and other invasive plants, and shall include information as to how to access more information about noxious weeds and invasive plant species on the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service's website. HB 314 is a wonderful step in the right direction of providing the general public with adequate and accurate information about the benefits of Virginia’s native plant species on our environment.

Another good bill, and which of course earned my vote, is HB 84, that permits out-of-state audiologists to volunteer to provide free health care to an underserved area of the Commonwealth under the auspices of a publicly supporting nonprofit organization that sponsors the provision of health care to populations of underserved people if they do so for a period not exceeding three consecutive days and if the nonprofit organization verifies that the practitioner has a valid, unrestricted license in another state.

Here are a few more good legislative ideas that passed the House with bipartisan support:

* HB 526 allows out of state victims of human trafficking to be eligible for in-state tuition to Virginia public institutions of higher education. The bill provides that a person who may be a victim of human trafficking regardless of whether any person has been charged with or convicted of any offense has eligibility for in-state tuition.

* HB 342 removes obsolete language relating to the teletype system formerly used by the Virginia State Police. Previously, the code required police to use an outdated teletype system to communicate in certain situations.

* HB 587, introduced by Del. Roem, and passed the house by a vote of 84-15, this bill expedites the processing of completed free and reduced meal applications in K-12 schools.

* HB 750 prohibits any agency of the Commonwealth or director or chief executive of any agency or department employing law-enforcement officers; any sheriff; any police force; or the Department of State Police from establishing a formal or informal quota that requires a law-enforcement officer to make a specific number of arrests or issue a specific number of summonses within a designated period of time.

The Bad Bills:

The bad includes this bill, HB 185. It repeals a provision that would permit any person who is qualified to register to vote to register to vote in person up to and including the day of the election, notwithstanding any deadline for the close of registration records. The repeal will limit the persons who are entitled to register to vote after the close of registration records to just any member of a uniformed service of the United States who is on active duty, any person residing temporarily outside of the United States, and the spouse or dependent residing with someone in the categories previously lifted. The law that allows registering to vote on election day hasn’t even gone into effect in Virginia yet, and there is no evidence that same day registration leads to voter fraud.

* The bad also includes this bill, HB 58 that prohibits local governing bodies from establishing provisions related to procurement of goods, professional services, or construction that would require a wage floor or any other employee benefit or compensation above what is otherwise required by state or federal law to be provided by a contractor to one or more of the contractor's employees as part of a contract with the locality.

The “Ugly” Bills:

* HB89 is one of the “ugly” bills, which aims to criminalize the behavior of students at school (disorderly conduct, which has broad definitions) and does not give an exemption to students in Special Education with an IEP or with other disabilities. Schools already have tools to handle student behavioral problems such as counseling, in and out of school suspensions, escalating to expulsion. Measures such as this disproportionately affect special needs students as well as students of color, and bringing law enforcement into schools to place kids in the criminal justice system is not the answer.

* Also, HB 296, an “ugly” bill in that it ends the incremental minimum wage increases at the current $11 and doesn’t allow next year’s increase to $12 an hour, a bill we passed two years ago. The bill also repeals provisions related to increasing the state minimum wage based on an annual adjusted minimum wage determined by the Department of Labor and Industry. This measure will hurt low income families.

If you have a bill that you are following or want more information about any bill and where it is on its journey to becoming law, please do not hesitate to contact my office here in Richmond at