General Assembly Preview

The Virginia General Assembly convenes for its 400th session at noon today!  In addition to the Governor's proposed amendments to the biennial budget,  we will address a number of major policy issues.  

Here is a summary of what to expect.

 
ERA
Virginia has the opportunity to become the 38th State to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.  The Senate Privileges & Election Committee is scheduled to take up Senate resolutions on ratification this afternoon, 15 minutes after the Senate adjourns.  You can watch the hearing here.
 
Environment/Natural Resources

Last week, Governor Northam unveiled his legislative package to improve environmental quality and management of natural resources in Virginia. The package includes:
  • The Coastal Protection Act, which would allow the Commonwealth to use an estimated $50 million in revenue generated by the sale of carbon pollution credits to be used for coastal resilience projects, and dedicate significant funds to low income energy efficiency and economic transition for coal communities;
  • The Water Quality and Safety Act, which will end Virginia's moratorium on closing coal ash dumps in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and require all of the material to be removed from unlined pits and either recycled or transferred to a safe, lined landfill; 
  • The Stormwater Local Assistance Fund Amendments Act, which will make it easier for rural communities to access a portion of the matching funds made available to reduce polluted runoff from impervious surfaces like roads and parking lots; and 
  • Legislation designed to reduce conflicts between shellfish growers and other users of tidal waters.
You can read the Governor's press release here.
 
Gambling

Last May, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on sports wagering.  Since then, about a half-dozen states have enacted laws legalizing sports betting.  Two bills (HB 1638 and SB 1238) have been filed to legalize online professional sports betting in Virginia.  

City councils in Danville, Bristol and Portsmouth are seeking legislation to let local voters decide whether to back construction of casinos in the three localities. 
 
Finally, Governor Northam's budget includes $175,000 for an independent study of gambling options in the Commonwealth. 
 
Gun Violence Prevention

Earlier this week, Governor Northam announced a comprehensive package of legislation designed to prevent gun violence and improve public safety.  The package includes measures to 
  • Require universal background checks; 
  • Establish an Extreme Risk Protective Order; 
  • Reinstate Virginia's One Handgun a Month law; 
  • Prohibit individuals subject to final protective orders from possessing firearms; 
  • Ban assault firearms; 
  • Prevent children from accessing firearms; and 
  • Require individuals to report lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement, which I will carry in the Senate.  
You can read the Governor's press release here.
 
Housing

An analysis conducted by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition showed that in 2017, Virginia had enough affordable housing units for only 54 of every 100 low-income families.  Last year, I introduced two bills, (SB 290 and SB 909) to help address this problem.  Unfortunately, neither passed, but over the past year I convened housing stakeholders to identify barriers to increasing the availability of affordable housing in Virginia.  
 
At the same time, data released by the Eviction Lab over the summer revealed that Virginia has five of the top ten highest eviction rates among large U.S. cities (with Richmond at number 2 with an 11.44% eviction rate), and three of the top ten highest rates in mid-sized cities.  While these cities are all clustered around Hampton Roads and the Richmond-Petersburg area, other places scattered around the state also have very high rates of eviction.  In response, the Campaign to Reduce Evictions (CARE) convened stakeholders throughout to uncover the reasons for these high eviction rates and develop solutions that to help lower eviction rates across Virginia.
The Virginia Housing Commission also examined affordable housing and evictions over the past year.  Several pieces of legislation will be introduced as a result of these stakeholder groups. 

Redistricting

A Constitutional Amendment (SJ 274) has been introduced to create an independent commission to redraw legislative and Congressional districts after the 2020 census.  The 10-person bi-partisan commission would be comprised of three Republicans, three Democrats, and three independents.  

Additionally Marcia Price are sponsoring bills (SB 1327and HB 1996) on the Governor's behalf establishing criteria by which congressional and state legislative districts are to be drawn, including equal population, compactness and contiguity, racial and ethnic fairness, protection of racial and language minorities to participate and elect a preferred candidate, and respect for existing political boundaries and communities of interest. 


Taxes  
 
Virginia typically conforms to the federal definition of adjusted gross income ("AGI"), and each year the General Assembly passes legislation to conform as of a certain date.  Usually, this bill passes with very little debate.  The federal Tax Cut and Jobs Act ("TCJA") passed in December 2017 complicates matters.  SB 1320 conforms completely to the TCJA's provisions that affect taxable years 2018 and beyond.  Legislative services provides a good overview of the Virginia impacts of the TCJA here.  
 
The General Assembly will also address the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair, 

which overturned a rule that states could not require an out-of-state seller that lacked physical presence in-state to collect sales tax from the purchaser.  Virginia law currently requires buyers to report purchases from these sellers on their state income tax return and pay a use tax, but very few do.  While it is unclear whether affirmative action is necessary for the Department of Taxation to start collecting revenue, Secretary of Finance Aubrey Lane has stated publicly that the Department of Taxation will not initiate collection without the General Assembly's authorization.  Legislative Services provides a summary of this decision and its impacts on Virginia here

 
A debate is brewing on how to spend the increased revenue resulting from the TCJA and Wayfair decision, which the Richmond times dispatch summarizes here
 
Because working families that make up to $54,000 a year or less will not see a big benefit from the TCJA, Governor Northam has proposed making the Earned Income Tax Credit ("EITC") fully refundable, as 24 other states currently do.  The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis estimates this will benefit over 600,000 Virginia working families who currently receive the EITC, including 21,000 in the 9th Senate District.  Learn more about the EITC here.
Voting and Campaign Finance Reform

Earlier this week, Governor Northam announced legislative proposals to remove barriers to voting and reform campaign finance laws. The package includes proposals to 
  • Implement no-excuse absentee voting; 
  • Repeal the requirement to show a photo ID to vote; 
  • Limit large campaign contributions; 
  • Ban direct contributions from corporations or businesses; and 
  • Prohibit the personal use of campaign funds.  
You can read the press release here.
 
In my next newsletter I will provide a summary of my legislation.
 
Sen. McClellan on Municipal Mania
 
This Morning, on RVA Dirt's first episode of Municipal Mania, I give an preview of the 2019 General Assembly Session.  Listen in at 11 am on WRIR 97.3.  Or you can listen later on RVA Dirt's Soundcloud.
 
Starting today, RVA Dirt will be hosting original Richmond2Day coverage of the General Assemblyon its website and hosting brief audio updates on Municipal Mania. 

Team McClellan Grows

The Virginia General Assembly may be a part time legislature, but representing 240,000 constituents across four localities takes a lot of work!  That's especially true for a constituent services and community outreach-oriented office like mine.  

This week, Team McClellan gained a new member.  Nichole Hayes joins Chief of Staff Abbey Philips and Outreach Director Ngiste Abebe to round out my full time staff.  

Joining us for Session is Administrative Assistant Carolyn Archer and six student interns:  Claire Comey, Taylor Fisher, Elizabeth Foshe, Brenda Nwaokobia, Heather Peterson, and Alicen Potts. 

During Session, you can visit Team McClellan in room 512 of the Pochahontas Building or reach us at (804) 698-7509 or District09@senate.virginia
.gov.  

Watch the General Assembly Live

Want to watch all the action of the 2019 General Assembly Session live?  Senate and House floor sessions and committee hearings are now livestreamed and archived on the General Assembly website.  Click here for links.  Find session and meeting schedules here. You can tune in tonight for Governor Northam's State of the Commonwealth.

2019 Bil Tracking 

Starting today, the General Assembly will consider thousands of bills and resolutions and amendments to the state budget.  You can track progress of all  legislation at the Legislative Information System webpage.

Sen. McClellan Honored by Walking with Anthony

Recently, Senator McClellan was honored by the Walking With Anthony Foundation for her 2018 legislation providing for the collection of information about spinal cord injuries to allow the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) to develop and implement programs and services for persons suffering from such injuries.  SB 287 was requested by the United Spinal Association of Virginia, which was founded in 2015 to provide support and resources to those who receive a spinal cord injury.  SB 287 will allow them to reach the estimated 10,000 individuals across the state living with spinal cord injuries to provide support services.

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