Virginia General Assembly
This is the official site of the Virginia General Assembly. It houses a wealth of information, including members of the House of Delegates and Senate, committee assignments, bill tracking service, laws and regulations, calendar, current events, state budget, and a virtual tour of the Virginia State Capitol.
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Governor of Virginia
This is the official site of the Governor of Virginia, including bios for Governor Terry McAuliffe and First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe. Subscribe to email updates, make citizen requests, and/or contact the Governor and his staff.
Virginia Food Access Network launched by First Lady of Virginia, Dorothy McAuliffe
During the final meeting of the Commonwealth Council on Bridging the Nutritional Divide, First Lady of Virginia Dorothy McAuliffe announced the Virginia Food Access Network (VFAN), an interactive tool to accelerate efforts, connect partners, and share resources to end childhood hunger in Virginia and strengthen the local food system. To learn more and join the network, go to www.vfan.org.
2017 Legislative Updates on Behalf of Andrew Lamar:
March 3, 2017
VAND followed a number of important pieces of legislation and budget items during the session. Of those items that we advocated, most but not all were successful. The following is a summary of the VAND-related proposals from the 2017 session.
The General Assembly and Governor McAuliffe both approved HB1751 and SB1050, expanding the mission of the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth. The mission is expanded beyond smoking cessation and youth obesity prevention to include youth substance use prevention. Initially, there was some discussion of removing childhood obesity from the VFHY work, but that important priority was maintained.
The legislature approved HB1675 and SB974 to require the Virginia Department of Health to make information available on its website related to palliative care. That will include information about the delivery of palliative care in the home and in primary, secondary, and tertiary environments; best practices for the delivery of palliative care; consumer education materials and referral information for palliative care; and continuing education opportunities for health care providers.
The House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources defeated by a vote of 6-15 HB2030, which would have exempted a producer of food, including milk, products made from milk, and poultry, from regulations of the Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services if the sale of such food by the producer is made directly to the end consumer; the sale is conducted at a farmers market or through a home or farm; the food product contains no uninspected meat other than poultry; and the producer informs the end consumer that the food product is not certified, regulated, or inspected. This type of legislation has been defeated for the last few years in subcommittee, but for the first time a narrower version was supported by a 4-3 vote in sub. VAND was part of a broader coalition of agriculture and health care professionals that has supported maintaining food safety programs for the last few years. The same committee also rejected HB2368, which would have exempted certain milk production from oversight.
The House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources also defeated HB2349, which would have, among other things, required certain products containing a genetically modified organism (GMO) to bear a label stating, “Congress prohibits states from requiring the on-package labeling of the GMO content of this product.”
Legislators successfully advanced legislation dealing with liability protections for those who are responsibly trying to assist others. First, SB944 and HB1746 provides liability protection for employees of a public or private institution of higher education who are authorized by a prescriber and trained in the administration of epinephrine, insulin, or glucagon to possess and administer such epinephrine, insulin, or glucagon.
Additionally, SB981 and HB1748 state that persons who administer, organize, arrange, or promote the rendering of services to patients of certain clinics shall not be liable to patients of such clinics for any civil damages for any act or omission resulting from the rendering of such services unless the act or omission was the result of such persons’ or the clinic’s gross negligence or willful misconduct.
The Joint Commission on Health Care has conducted a great deal of important work and research for health care policy in Virginia. This year, the legislature extended the life of the commission and its work through 2022 by approving SB1043 and HB1736. The commission was set to expire in 2018.
The House Finance Committee rejected SB1361, which would have extended the current food donation tax credit for farmers who donate crops to food banks to include restaurants who donate prepared meals. That legislation had passed the Senate unanimously.
Finally, the General Assembly approved legislation to authorize, but not require, local school board employees who are registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, or certified nurse aides and who have been trained in the administration of insulin and glucagon to assist a student who is diagnosed with diabetes and who carries an insulin pump with the insertion or reinsertion of the pump or any of its parts, provided that assistance has been authorized by the prescriber and consented to by the student’s parent.
There were also a few budget priorities that we advocated during the session, most of which were follow-ons to work done over the past few years. First of all, we successfully advocated to maintain the increased funding that had been included last year for “Breakfast After the Bell” programs. Second, the General Assembly included a more than $2 million increase in funding for breakfast programs generally. All of this was in the face of a $1.2 billion shortfall, so it was a great achievement for the General Assembly. Finally, we had advocated for a transfer of child nutrition programs to all be aligned under the Department of Education, which would have streamlined services and better aligned the programs in the agency that has the most direct contact with all children and families. The Senate included the transfer in their budget recommendations, but unfortunately the House was not willing to accept the change, so some child nutrition programs will remain under Education and others will remain at the Department of Health.
Please let us know if you have any questions about the final results of the 2017 session. We look forward to a productive year and gearing up for 2018!
February 20, 2017
The General Assembly has started its final week of work here in Richmond. The big news of the week is the announcement that House Speaker Bill Howell of Stafford will retire at the end of this term. Delegate Howell has served as Speaker since 2003 and was first elected to the House in 1987. He will retire as the second-longest serving speaker in Virginia history. Delegate Kirk Cox of Colonial Heights will likely be elected to succeed Howell as Speaker.
While most committees have completed work on legislation, there are a number of bills still being negotiated by the full House and Senate. That work will continue this week while we await a final conference report on revisions to the state’s biennial budget. We hope to see a budget agreement by Wednesday of this week.
The House and Senate budgets included funding for school breakfast programs and breakfast after the bell, but there is still a disagreement over whether child feeding programs should be aligned under the Department of Education or not. We continue to monitor and advocate for those reforms.
Please let us know if you have any questions. The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn this Saturday, February 25th, though they may be able to complete work by Friday.
February 13, 2017
Thank you to so many VAND members from across the Commonwealth who traveled to Richmond last week to advocate on behalf of the organization and the profession.
There are now just two weeks remaining until the scheduled February 25th adjournment of the legislative session. The House and Senate are continuing to work on legislation that crossed over from the opposite chamber, and the stage is set for negotiating the amendments to the biennial budget. On Super Bowl Sunday, the respective committees released their own proposed amendments to the state budget, and on Thursday the 9th the full House and Senate approved those proposals with only minor revisions. There is more information on those items below, but for the most part there are very few major differences in the two proposals to be negotiated over the next two weeks.
House budget amendment Item 91 #1h (language only) directs VDACS to assess requirements governing vendors at farmer’s markets across the Commonwealth to ensure that preference is not being given to out-of-state vendors over Virginia vendors.
Alignment of Food Programs to DOE
Whereas the original budget had transferred the administration of Federal food programs from VDACS to the Department of Education, House budget Item 294 #1h eliminated that transfer of authority and restored $57 million of funding for Federal food programs in FY2018 to VDACS. The Senate budget approved the transfer of these programs to DOE.
Both the House and Senate preserved funding for breakfast programs and breakfast after the bell, which VAND has advocated for over the past two years.
In light of the Commonwealth’s $1.2 billion budget shortfall, House budget Item 91 #3h eliminates funding that had been included in the budget to fund the hiring of a new organics specialist at VDACS. The position had not been filled, and given that this was a new initiative last year, it was one of the first sources of funding reductions used to balance the general fund budget.
Please let us know if you have any questions.
January 29, 2017
The General Assembly has now completed its second full week of work, and only one week remains until the “crossover” deadline. By Tuesday, February 7th, the House must complete its work on all House bills and the Senate must do the same with the Senate bills. While the legislature has been working non-stop on the 1900 introduced bills, there is still much work to be done.
On Wednesday, House and Senate leaders announced that the legislature would prioritize a 3% pay raise for all state employees. The legislature supports this approach, rather than the one-time bonus of 1.5% proposed by Governor McAuliffe. The pay raise was approved last year, contingent upon the Commonwealth taking in the revenues that were predicted in the budget. Unfortunately, the state did not collect as much in revenue as expected, so the automatic trigger cancelled the raises. The legislature says that this time the raises will not be contingent on any revenue forecasts.
So far, the House and Senate have approved roughly 20% of their own bills, and defeated at least as many. Here’s a look at some of the actions taken on bills of interest this week:
The House of Delegates and State Senate approved a Section 1 bill (directs a certain policy, but is not printed in the Code of Virginia) that requires the Department of Health to make information about and resources on palliative care available to the public, health care providers, and health care facilities on its website. Such information shall include information about the delivery of palliative care in the home and in primary, secondary, and tertiary environments; best practices for the delivery of palliative care; consumer education materials and referral information for palliative care; and continuing education opportunities for health care providers.
The Senate approved legislation on Friday to authorize and provide liability protection for employees of a public or private institution of higher education who are authorized by a prescriber and trained in the administration of epinephrine to possess and administer epinephrine.
A Senate committee approved legislation that would allow a local school board employee who is a registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, or certified nurse aide and who has been trained in the administration of insulin and glucagon to assist a student who is diagnosed with diabetes and who carries an insulin pump with the insertion or reinsertion of the pump or any of its parts.
Next week, the House Agriculture subcommittee will consider HB2368 and HB2030 to permit the direct sale of products such as milk and poultry without food safety inspections. VAND has expressed concerns about these proposals for the past few years, and the General Assembly has thus far resisted efforts to approve this type of deregulation.
The Senate Finance committee will also consider legislation to provide a tax credit for restaurants that donate prepared food or meals to a food bank.
We will continue to keep you updated on the progress of these and other items. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.
January 21, 2017
The General Assembly has now completed it’s first full week of the session, but there are only 11 working days remaining until “crossover” in this short session. By last Friday’s deadline, Delegates had introduced 1084 pieces of legislation and Senators introduced 806. All of the nearly 1900 bills have to be defeated, or approved and communicated to the opposite chamber no later than the February 7th “crossover” deadline. Additionally, the House and Senate money committees have begun their work to close a more than $1 billion budget shortfall. They must complete their recommended changes to balance the budget by Sunday, February 5th, before the full House and Senate approve their respective versions of the budget on Thursday the 9th.
Legislation to expand the mission of the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth was approved by the House of delegates on Friday. The bill adds to their mission the reduction and prevention of substance abuse by youth in the Commonwealth. A companion Senate bill is currently waiting to be considered in the Senate Finance committee. The bill preserves obesity prevention in the mission of VFHY, which was at one point being considered for elimination.
That legislation was endorsed by the Joint Commission on Health Care, which is set to be discontinued in 2018. However, Senator Rosalyn Dance has legislation to extend the work of that commission through 2022.
The Senate approved legislation this week to protect individuals providing charitable health care services by providing that persons who administer, organize, arrange, or promote the rendering of services to patients of certain clinics shall not be liable for any civil damages for any act or omission resulting from the rendering of such services unless the act or omission was the result of such persons’ or the clinic’s gross negligence or willful misconduct.
Other issues related to food safety, tax credits for food donations, and others are forthcoming. Please let us know if you have any questions, comments, or concerns.
January 11, 2017
The 2017 session of the Virginia General Assembly kicked off today at noon. The legislature has 45 days to consider hundreds of legislative proposals and make modifications to the biennial budget before (hopefully) adjourning on February 25th. The budget will be a major focus of this year’s session, as the legislature works to close a $1.2 billion hole resulting from slower than anticipated growth in revenues.
At this point, Delegates have introduced roughly 900 bills and the Senators have nearly 400 of their own. The House of Delegates limits members to 15 bills during this “short” session, and no more than 5 of them may be introduced after they convene. The Senate has no such overall limit, however they are limited to no more than 5 bills once the session has convened. Therefore, we anticipate a few hundred more bills to be introduced, but most of them have already been filed.
The Appropriations and Finance committees will begin work on the budget right away this year. Suggested budget amendments are due to the committees by Friday of this week, and they will be made public next week.
I have listed below a general update on the governor’s relevant suggested amendments.
We look forward to providing a weekly update on the progress during the session. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.
VAND Budget Items:
Due to the Commonwealth’s $1.2 billion budget shortfall for the 2017-2018 biennium, the Governor has reduced or restructured funding allocations for many state initiatives; however, the Commonwealth’s Breakfast After the Bell Initiative remained fully funded at $1,074,000/year. The Governor also set aside nearly $2 million in additional funds over the two-year biennium to continue a state funded incentive program to maximize federal school nutrition revenues and increase student participation in the school breakfast program. These funds are available to any school division as a reimbursement for breakfast meals served that are in excess of the baseline established by the Department of Education.
And, in other news, the Governor proposed that the Department of Education administer the Summer Food Service Program and the Child and Adult Care Food Program previously administered by the Department of Health. The Department of Education and the Department of Health will coordinate with the United States Department of Agriculture to ensure the successful transition of responsibility for the programs.