2022 General Assembly Legislative Update – Volume 6
February 21, 2022
We are now over halfway through the 2022 General Assembly Session! Here is where things stand as of Crossover on a few issues of interest.
Yesterday, the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee and the House Appropriations Committee reported their versions of the “Caboose Budget” for the remainder of the current fiscal year and the Biennial Budget starting July 1, 2022. These budget amendments will be available for review by noon on Tuesday and before the House and Senate floors for a vote on Thursday. You can track the budget bills here. You can read the House and Senate subcommittee reports here. I will provide a detailed summary of the House and Senate budgets next week.
The Education & Health Committee defeated charter school legislation (SB 125) backed by Governor Youngkin. Legislation expanding the authority for college partnership laboratory schools beyond just those institutions with teacher prep programs (SB 598) passed the Senate on the contingency that it receives funding in the budget.
The Senate passed the Virginia Literacy Act (SB 616) changing Virginia’s literacy curriculum to include more science-based reading research and add support for every person involved in the Virginia school system, including students, teachers and parents. I copatroned this bipartisan legislation, which you can learn more about in this op-ed I wrote with fellow bill patrons Sen. Louise Lucas, Del. Carrie Coyner, and Del. Glenn Davis.
The Senate passed five of the seven recommendations of the Commission on School Construction and Modernization to address long overlooked school infrastructure needs. You can find a summary of the bills here and learn more in this op-ed I wrote with fellow Commission member Sen. Bill Stanley.
The Senate passed SB 656 requiring school policies for ensuring parental notification of any instructional material that includes sexually explicit content, permitting parents to review instructional material that includes sexually explicit content, and to provide alternative, nonexplicit instructional material and related academic activities to any student whose parent so requests. I voted against this bill as unnecessary given current law related to family life education materials and existing policies across Virginia.
Governor Youngkin signed SB 739 requiring schools to allow parents to opt their children out of any school mask mandates after amending it to include an effective date of March 1st.
As previously reported, the Senate Privileges & Elections Committee defeated a number of bills intended to roll back the progress made to expand access to voting over the past two years.
The Senate passed SB 3 requiring the results of absentee ballots be reported in the precinct in which the voter is assigned rather than by a central absentee precinct. This provides much more transparency in election results.
The Senate passed SB 463 prohibiting political candidates from using campaign donations for personal spending, including such expenses as mortgages, country club memberships and vacations. The bill makes clear campaign funds can be used for certain expenses related to campaigning for or holding elective office, including the use of campaign funds to pay for the candidate’s dependent care expenses that are incurred as a direct result of campaign activity. I spoke on the floor about the importance of the dependent care exemption, and you can see my remarks here.
The Senate also passed SB 731 to create a more independent Board and Department of Elections by expanding the membership from five to eight members with equal representation among the parties. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia will designate a retired circuit court judge to serve as the tie breaker for the State Board. This bill also gives the Board the authority and duty to appoint the Commissioner of Elections and requires five of the eight members to approve the appointment or removal of the Commissioner.
Finally, the Senate passed SB 744 creating the Virginia Elections Commission as an advisory commission in the legislative branch to study and make recommendations on matters related to the administration and conduct of elections in the Commonwealth in order to ensure the accessibility, integrity, efficiency, and security of elections in the Commonwealth
The Judiciary Committee defeated several bills that sought to roll back criminal justice reforms and gun violence prevention measures we passed over the past two years.
The Senate passed SB 310 prohibiting the sale or possession of the parts used to build ghost guns. Ghost guns are untraceable, do-it-yourself homemade firearms made from easy-to-get building blocks that can be purchased online with no background check or serial number.
The Senate passed SB 391 regulating retail sales of marijuana beginning in September of this year, through existing medical dispensaries and some hemp processors regulated by the Board of Pharmacy until the Cannabis Control Authority can get up and running in January 2023. The bill also establishes a process for adjusting sentences of people incarcerated for marijuana-related convictions.
The Senate passed legislation to repeal the 1.5% state tax on groceries and the tax on menstrual products. The bill retains the 1% of the grocery tax that goes directly to local governments and backfills education funding to localities currently funded by the grocery tax.
Most other tax bills were referred to a joint committee evaluating tax policy for study over the next year.
Last week, six more of my bills passed the Senate, bringing the total passed and now pending in the House to 24!
SB 473 creates The School Construction Fund and Program to provide grants to school boards that leverage federal, state, and local programs and resources to finance the design and construction of new school buildings and facilities or the modernization and maintenance of existing school buildings and facilities. This is one of the recommendations from the Commission on School Construction and Modernization mentioned above.
SB 487 establishes the Center for Firearm Violence Intervention and Prevention at the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) to work across public safety and public health sectors to collect data and publish reports on violence caused by firearms. The information will be shared with state and local agencies, higher education institutions, research institutions, hospitals and other medical care facilities, and community-based organizations. The center will also establish model policies for law-enforcement personnel. Governor Northam included funding to establish the center in his introduced budget.
SB 490 as introduced would have implemented the Virginia Board of Education’s 2021 recommended Standards of Quality for K-12 schools across the Commonwealth. As amended, the bill increases from 3 to 4 per 1,000 students the required number of specialized student support positions (social workers, psychologists, nurses, health/ behavioral professionals in public schools, building on legislation I passed last year establishing the staffing ratio for these positions.
SB 493 protects Virginians from unsolicited lewd photographs sent digitally. The bill establishes a civil penalty for a person who knowingly sends an unsolicited image by electronic means, directed to another person, depicting any person engaging in a lewd act. The bill is modeled on similar legislation that has passed in Texas and California. This bill is the product of bipartisan collaboration with Senator Jill Vogel (R-Fauquier), Delegate Kelly Convirs-Fowler (D-Virginia Beach), and Carrie Coyner (R-Chesterfield). Learn more here.
SB 474 treats all indigent litigants the same by allowing judges to waive the appeal bond for eviction appeals. Under current Virginia law, indigent people must post an appeal bond when appealing an eviction judgment in circuit court. Often, they are effectively prevented from appealing their eviction due to insufficient funds. Currently, this is the only instance in which indigent people must post an appeal bond.
SJ 33 requires the Joint Legislative Review and Audit Commission review of Virginia’s election governance and funding to ensure accountability, uniformity and fairness. Under current Virginia election law, 133 general registrars and electoral boards in each of the Commonwealth’s independent cities and counties are independently responsible for operating and overseeing local elections. The State Board of Elections is responsible for supervising localities, but in reality has little ability to ensure fairness.
You can track all my legislation here.