Hanover’s lawmakers gearing up for 2014 General Assembly session
While the state budget will likely take up most of Hanover legislators’ time, lawmakers are still introducing a handful of bills during the 60-day session that kicked off this week.
“We’re trying to limit the number of bills we are introducing,” said Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-4th.
Del. Buddy Fowler speaks with South Anna Supervisor Wayne Hazzard at the Capitol Monday.
For District 12 Republican Sen. Walter Stosch this is normal. Just like previous years, Stosch said he wouldn’t be filing much legislation, because his main responsibility is proposing the senate’s budget, one of his duties as chairman of the finance committee.
“It’s traditional, because the budget has such a huge impact on everything,” Stosch said.
Stosch already introduced the senate’s version of the budget, but his top priorities are building the job force, education, health care and public safety.
Del. Chris Peace, R-97th, said the fate of the budget could depend on the party breakdown in the senate because 21 votes are needed to approve the budget. There are two special elections and their outcomes could decide the chamber’s ideological makeup.
“We typically work together across party lines,” Peace said.
He added that he tried to focus on issues that Virginians care about, but he hopes that social issues will stay out of this session.
“I think we need to be about business,” Peace said. “Solving the real problems people face.”
A big goal for this year is to make changes that will ensure all youth have access to free public education and can afford to attend college. Peace, who is on the appropriations committee, said a budget priority of his is supporting K-12 education and he would like to see a cap placed on tuition increases at public colleges and universities in the budget.
He emphasized the importance of parents and students being educated on majors that will benefit them in their careers and futures, specifically, the amount of money they will make in a job versus how much debt they’ll have after graduation.
Another big budget issue will be with health care expansion. Stosch said there will be a lot of debate and discussion on whether it will happen or not.
“Our response in Virginia is gonna be, ‘How do we deal with that?’” Stosch said.
McDougle said he will propose new legislation that would move budget season up so that each new governor will have one year under the previous leader’s financial plan and then create their own during the second year of their term.
He also plans to file an amendment dealing with compensation funds for victims of criminal injuries, which McDougle said was brought to him by Hanover Commonwealth’s Attorney Trip Chalkley.
“I think this will deal with helping those victims to be able to testify and so they will be compensated,” McDougle said.
Individuals involved in cold cases that are solved would also be able to receive compensation.
Peace has a couple of bills he’s throwing into the mix. The first, House Bill 1,which he is chief co-patroning with Democrat Del. Barbara Comstock, was pre-filed and focuses on creating a new subfund for domestic violence and sexual assault intervention and prevention. Peace added that streamlining all the money into one place will free up time for other staff members.
He is also working on what he currently calls a “working family relief act,” which would assist middle class families where both parents work, but one spouse ends up quitting their job to take care of the family rather than paying for child care.
“We need people in the workforce,” Peace said.
He added that although stay-at-home parents are great, many of those individuals are very intelligent and could help the workforce.
Another aspect of the bill will focus on early child education. Peace said there are many benefits of children reading at an early age such as keeping out of trouble.
“Kids will have a better start in life,” he said.
Sen. A. Donald McEachin, D-9th, is introducing a number of bills , which range from energy to gun safety and autistic children driving.
McEachin has proposed giving young autistic drivers an identifier on their license so that if they get pulled over, police officers are aware. He added that he has been working with the Hanover County Sheriff’s Department to develop the legislation. McEachin did not go into detail on the legislation he will create concerning gun safety.
Another bill would deal with solar and wind energy, which McEachin also did not elaborate on.
“[The bill will help us] to help become a more diverse state with the types of energy we consume,” he said.
Newcomer Del.-elect Hyland “Buddy” Fowler wants to add a few bills into the mix, but one of his priorities, ethics reform, has already been addressed.
He added that members of both parties are coming together to create a solution and he plans on being a co-patron of that bill.
“It’s important that we show we’re not all crooks,” Fowler said.
He will also co-patron House Bill 1 with Peace, Fowler said.
A few resolutions have already been in the works such as one recognizing and commending the girls’ Atlee High School volleyball team for winning the state championship, Fowler said.
“[Resolutions are] not sexy, but a good thing to do,” he added.
Last session, Stosch said a big concern for Hanover’s residents was the possibility of tolls on Interstate-95. This year, he said Hanoverians’ needs won’t be as specific.
“Hanoverians are self sufficient and have the same needs as everyone else,” Stosch said.
However, McEachin said a big thing for the county is making sure the state is favorable for business. He added that he will make sure to advance any legislation that promotes economic growth.
In order for the long General Assembly session to be successful, Peace said that it would be important for his fellow legislators to listen to each other and negotiate in order to get the job done. He added that he’s aware of the public’s low opinion of politicians, but Peace said he’d like to surprise them this year.