Virginia General Assembly
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Governor of Virginia
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Virginia General Assembly 2020 Legislative Session
March 11, 2020 – This was a very successful year for VAND’s legislative agenda. Major priorities were approved by the General Assembly whether in legislation or the budget.
First of all, the Governor proposed a G3 plan (Get Skilled, Get a Job, & Give Back) which provides free community college to low/middle income students who are enrolled in a program at a Virginia community college that leads to an occupation in a high-demand field. The General Assembly provided $69 million in funding over two years to fund this initiative, and included a number of healthcare related degrees. The qualifying degrees are identified by their Classification of Instructional Program Codes, and 51.3101 Dietetics/Dietitian is included in the program.
VAND helped successfully pass HB 840 and SB 605. This legislation requires health insurers whose plan includes coverage for medicines to classify medically necessary formula and enteral nutrition products as medicine and to include coverage for medically necessary formula and enteral nutrition products for covered individuals requiring treatment for an inherited metabolic disorder. Such coverage is required to be provided on the same terms and subject to the same conditions imposed on other medicines covered under the policy, contract, or plan. The measure provides that the required coverage includes any medical equipment, supplies, and services that are required to administer the covered formula or enteral nutrition products. These requirements apply only to formula and enteral nutrition products that are furnished pursuant to the prescription or order of a physician or other health care professional qualified to make such prescription or order for the management of an inherited metabolic disorder and are used under medical supervision.
VAND also helped successfully pass SB 1073 and HB 1509 through the General Assembly. This legislation creates the Virginia Food Access Investment Program and Fund to provide funding for the construction, rehabilitation, equipment upgrades, or expansion of grocery stores, small food retailers, and innovative food retail projects, defined in the bill, in underserved communities. The budget agreement provides $1.25 million for the fund and provides a full time employee at VDACS to implement the fund and coordinate efforts and programs to increase access to food.
VAND supported SB 95 which passed both chambers. This legislation requires a health carrier offering or providing a health benefit plan, including (i) short-term and catastrophic health insurance policies, and policies that pay on a cost-incurred basis; (ii) association health plans; and (iii) plans provided by a multiple-employer welfare arrangement, to provide, as an essential health benefit, coverage that includes preventive care. Essential health benefits include items and services covered in accordance with regulations issued pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in effect as of January 1, 2019.
VAND supported HB 342. This bill exempts from meals tax, which may be imposed by any city or town, and food and beverage tax, which may be imposed by any county, sales by sellers at local farmers markets and roadside stands, when such sellers’ annual income from such sales does not exceed $2,500.
You can view all the legislation that the VAND tracked this session using the link below.
February 28, 2020 – With just one week remaining until the scheduled March 7th adjournment, most of the legislative work is coming to a close. Most committees have now completed their work but around 800 bills remain pending before the full House and Senate. The legislature has approved more than 1200 bills so far and the governor has approved 17 of them. Over the next week, House and Senate budget conferees will be working to negotiate differences in their respective biennial budget proposals.
On Friday, Governor Northam sent a letter to the budget conferees encouraging them to revisit some of the Governor’s priorities and adjourn on time. In the letter, Governor Northam urged conferees to be mindful of structural balance in the state’s finances, the need to invest in people and programs that have been underfunded in the past, and the positive effects of creating opportunity and supporting programs that maintain Virginia’s economic strength. The Governor specifically asked conferees to consider investments in education, from early childhood to higher education; support for previously underfunded African American historic and cultural sites; investments in clean water and affordable housing; and reconsideration of a reinsurance program to promote affordable health care.
We continue to advocate for fully funding the Food Access Investment Program in the budget. The House provided $5.8 million for the biennium, though the Senate provided significantly less.
Most of the bills that we are tracking have either been defeated or if they have passed, are working their way through the final legislative steps. You can click the link below to view the full list of bills that we have been monitoring this year and the current status.
February 21, 2020 – Thanks to all who came to Richmond for VAND’s annual Legislative Day event this past Wednesday, February 19th. We had 88 members meet with legislators and staff from throughout the Commonwealth and had a great, impactful day! This week marks the end of the seventh week of the 2020 Virginia General Assembly session. There are only two weeks left before the scheduled adjournment on March 7th. Roughly 1,400 bills are still active between the House and the Senate and will need to be acted upon over the next 15 days.
This week was largely dominated by the new 2020-2021 biennial budget. On Sunday, the House and Senate unveiled their respective budgets and on Thursday, both chambers formally adopted their versions. The House and Senate will send the budget into conference where a special group of legislators from each chamber will negotiate the differences and produce a final new budget on March 5.
Finally! Both versions of the budget include money for the Food Access Investment Fund, however there is a significant difference in the amount of funding. The Senate’s budget includes $700,000 in the biennium to establish the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund and Food Access Coordinator position at the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The House’s budget includes $5.8 million the first year for VDACS to establish and operate the Virginia Food Access Investment Program. Of the amount provided, $500,000 is provided for the agency to create a Food Access Coordinator position, to support improving healthy food access for communities with limited access to fresh locally grown products. The difference will be negotiated in conference and a final amount will be agreed upon.
Both budgets include money for the summer feeding program but at different amounts. The House included $12 million for the program to last two years of the budget. The Senate limited the program to only one year.
Both chambers included $3 million from TANF for VA Federation of Food Banks to provide child nutrition programs, $15 million to continue state funded incentive program to increase student participation in school breakfast program, $2 million for breakfast after the bell programs, and $10.6 million to reduce or eliminate the cost of breakfast/lunch for federally eligible reduced price meals.
We will continue to monitor budget negotiations as we move through the conference process. You can track all VAND legislation including other budget amendments adopted using the link below.
February 11, 2020 – Crossover – Today was the deadline for the House to act on all House bills and the Senate to act on all Senate bills. By now, all bills that are still alive have crossed over to the opposite chamber for consideration prior to the scheduled adjournment date of March 7th. In total, the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate approved roughly half of the 2829 introduced bills.
The House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees will release their proposed budgets on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 16th. The budgets will reflect the priorities of the new majorities in each chamber. We will update you following the release of the budget information.
The House and Senate passed identical versions of VAND priority legislation to require insurance companies to provide coverage for medically necessary formulas. Both bills passed the chamber unanimously. They go to the opposite chamber where the legislation will likely pass quickly with little debate since it has already been heard before. The legislation will then go to the Governor’s desk for his action. The law will take effect July 1st, and it will apply to health plans offered after January 1, 2021.
HB1509 patroned by Delegate Delores McQuinn which creates the Virginia Food Access Investment Program and Fund to provide funding for the construction, rehabilitation, equipment upgrades, or expansion of grocery stores, small food retailers, and innovative food retail projects in underserved communities passed the House 84-13. The Senate version, SB 1073 passed the Senate unanimously. This has been a VAND priority for several years and we are cautiously optimistic that we will be successful this year on both the legislation and funding for it.
Legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate to license naturopathic doctors. As defined in the bill, a naturopathic doctor is an individual, other than a doctor of medicine, osteopathy, chiropractic, or podiatry, who may diagnose, treat, and help prevent diseases using a system of practice that is based on the natural healing capacity of individuals, using physiological, psychological, or physical methods, and who may also use natural medicines, prescriptions, legend drugs, foods, herbs, or other natural remedies, including light and air. Both the House and Senate versions were defeated in committee. VAND worked with the advocates and patrons to ensure that it did not apply to dietitians.
Several bills were introduced to make sure that people eligible for TANF and/or food stamps are not excluded because of drug related felonies. SB124 passed the Senate 22-17 and HB566 passed the House 55-44.
For a full list of all the bills that VAND is tracking this session, click the link below.
February 7, 2020 – This week marks the end of the 5th week of the 2020 Virginia General Assembly legislative session. Much like last week, committees and subcommittees met every night this week late into the evening to ensure that legislation is acted upon before crossover on Tuesday, February 11th. Legislators are expected to meet over the weekend to act on any remaining bills still in committee.
A recent infographic from VPAP illustrates some of the popular issues this session as compared to the last. The number of bills introduced by Virginia legislators is up this year, and issues generating more interest – including guns, labor rights, and discrimination – reflect the priorities of the new majority.
Several VAND priorities advanced this week. Chief among them is legislation to create the Virginia Food Access Investment Program and Fund. It passed the Senate unanimously, and it is expected to fare well in the House. This has been a team effort with other organizations over the past few years. The legislation provides funding for the construction, rehabilitation, equipment upgrades, or expansion of grocery stores, small food retailers, and innovative food retail projects in underserved communities in order to increase access to fresh, healthy foods. A corresponding budget amendment also includes funding for increasing access to the fresh match program, which provides a $1 for $1 SNAP incentive for the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables.
This week saw major comprehensive pieces of legislation pass the legislature. One piece of legislation will protect LBGTQ citizens from discrimination in housing, employment, and public spaces. Virginia would become the first Southern state to adopt such protections if the measures become law as expected. Legislation to allow casino gambling in the Commonwealth was another major topic of discussion as both chambers advanced similar bills from committee and are expected to pass their respective chambers. The House also passed a major energy omnibus that will create a plan to get Virginia to zero carbon by 2050.
January 31, 2020 – Today marked the end of the fourth week of the 2020 Virginia General Assembly session. We are just 7 business days from crossover and 37 days from adjournment. There are still a significant number of bills left to be heard. As of today, 182 bills have passed the House, 229 have passed the Senate, and 298 have failed or either continued to the next session, and we started with roughly 3000 bills.
This week, the Senate and House both advanced legislation that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The Senate proposed raising the minimum wage to $9.75 per hour come January 1, 2021, then $10.75 next year, and $11.75 a year later. At that point, employers would be able to count health insurance benefits toward what they are paying employees. The amended bill also tasks lawmakers with reviewing what a different minimum wage for different regions of the state could look like.
Our own HB840 which requires insurance companies to provide coverage for medically necessary formula will be voted on for final passage in the full House of Delegates on Monday, February 3. The Senate version passed the full Senate unanimously on Friday, January 31. The two bills will go to the other side for consideration again before going to the Governor for his signature.
Delegate Danica Roem had several pieces of legislation relating to school nutrition pass committee this week. HB 697 prohibits school board employees from requiring a student who cannot pay for a meal at school or who owes a school meal debt to throw away or discard a meal after it has been served to him. HB 698 allows public schools to distribute excess food to low-income students. HB 703 allows schools to solicit and receive donations to eliminate or offset any school meal debt.
Legislation to create the Virginia Food Access Investment Program and Fund, which would provide funding for the construction, rehabilitation, equipment upgrades, or expansion of grocery stores, small food retailers, and innovative food retail projects in underserved communities, passed the Senate Finance Committee this week. The legislation will go before the full Senate next week for a vote. The House bill was approved in the Agriculture subcommittee this week and will be in full committee on Wednesday.
January 24, 2020 – The third week of the General Assembly session is now complete. We are a little over halfway to crossover, the halfway point of the session. This past week was full of long committee dockets that heard many controversial bills for many hours. Issues related to guns continue to dominate the conversation around capitol square. Both the House and Senate advanced several proposals backed by Governor Northam aimed at preventing gun violence in the Commonwealth.
House Appropriations and Senate Finance are hearing reports from the various secretariats and their agencies prior to their consideration of proposed budget amendments. The committees will continue to work through the proposed amendments as they prepare the committee’s version of a two-year spending plan, which will be released on Sunday, February 16th. The tracking document includes relevant budget amendments.
The House and Senate advanced legislation advocated by VAND to require health insurance companies to cover medically necessary formulas for patients diagnosed with inherited metabolic disorders. The Senate version, SB654 (Boysko) was incorporated into SB605 (McDougle), passed the full Commerce & Labor Committee on Monday and was referred to the Committee on Appropriations and Finance. The House version, HB840, passed the House Labor & Commerce health subcommittee unopposed and will be on the uncontested docket for the full committee hearing on Tuesday, January 28th.
There are still a lot of bills left to be heard. The full list of bills we are following is included below. Please let us know if you have any questions.
January 17, 2020 – The second week of session was full of legislative activity. Both chambers are now fully engrossed in legislative hearings and are moving through the enormous number of bills in a swift manner. is the last day to introduce legislation and the total so far is 1651 house bills and 1014 senate bills.
The full list of bills that we are following can be found at the link below. Most of these have not been taken up yet, but will be considered over the next two weeks before the February 11th crossover deadline. One thing that moved this week is legislation to define milk as the “lacteal secretion of a healthy hooved mammal and provides that a food product is unlawfully misbranded if its label states that it is milk and it fails to meet such definition, except for human breast milk.” An amendment clarifies that this change will take effect if a coalition of southeastern states all agree to the change collectively. Also Del. Rasoul’s legislation to create a grant program for the Local Food and Farming Infrastructure Fund experienced movement. Both bills reported out of subcommittee and will be heard in full committee next week.
Legislators also submitted their ideas for amending the state budget this week, and they can be found here. We will be reviewing and identifying key amendments this week. The House Appropriations committee and Senate Finance committee will review these proposals and put together their own versions of the amended state budget for approval on Sunday, February 16th. The full House and Senate are scheduled to adopt their versions of the budget on Thursday, February 20th, before budget negotiators will begin crafting a new two-year spending plan to send to the governor.
January 14, 2020 – Last week marked the completion of the first week of the 2020 Virginia legislative session, in which there were several historic firsts for the Commonwealth. Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn was sworn in as the first female Speaker of the House of Delegates, as well as the first person of Jewish faith to be speaker. Delegate Charniele Herring was selected as the first female and first African American to serve as Majority Leader of the House of Delegates. In the Senate, Senator L. Louise Lucas was elected the first female and first African American to serve as President Pro Tempore of the Senate.
Both chambers met last Wednesday to organize. The Senate welcomed 5 new members to the chamber. Senator Dick Saslaw of Fairfax was elected Majority Leader and Senator Mamie Locke of Hampton was elected Caucus Chair. Senator Tommy Norment of James City County was elected Minority Leader and Senator Ryan McDougle was elected Minority Caucus Chair. Senator Louise Lucas of Portsmouth will now chair the Senate Education and Health Committee and Delegate Mark Sickles of Alexandria will now chair the House Health, Welfare & Institutions.
The House of Delegates welcomed 18 new members to the chamber. The House adopted a new set of rules to govern the House for the biennium. Major changes include changing masculine pronouns to feminine and changing the names of three committees. The rules resolution preserved the practice of proportional committee representation, giving each Caucus seats on committees equivalent to the number of House seats they hold overall. Another major change for the House and Senate is that Capitol Square, including the General Assembly Building and the Capitol will now be a gun free zone. No one, including legislators, will be allowed to carry a firearm in any legislative government building.
As of January 10th, 1546 House bills had been introduced and another 926 Senate bills. That’s almost as many as were introduced in 2018, and members still have another week to introduce legislation, though they are limited to only a few bills each after the start of session. Members had until January 10th to submit amendments to the governor’s introduced budget, and those will be made available by the middle of this week.
The legislature will spend the next eight weeks acting on the legislation introduced in their own chamber, and after February 12th they can only consider legislation approved by the other legislative body. Each chamber will adopt its own version of a new biennial budget on February 13th and work to negotiate a final agreement by the scheduled date of adjournment, March 7th.
While more bills will be introduced over the next week, here’s a list of the bills we are following so far: