Virginia General Assembly
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Virginia General Assembly 2019 Legislative Session
February 23, 2019 – Sine Die Legislative Update
The 2019 session of the Virginia General Assembly adjourned a day late on Sunday, February 24th. Senators and Delegates introduced more than 2700 bills and resolutions to be considered during the 46-day session, and in the end 882 bills passed both chambers. Additionally, the legislature adopted revisions to the biennial budget, which was originally approved during the 2018 session. All of this was taken up with a fall election cycle on everyone’s mind – all 140 seats in the legislature will be on the ballot in November and Republicans hold just a 1-seat majority in each chamber. Additionally, highly publicized controversies surrounding statewide elected officials rocked the capitol around the midway point of the session.
Some of the more high-profile pieces of legislation that passed this year include raising the purchase age for tobacco and e-vapor products from 18 to 21, a ban on holding cell phones while driving, allowing no-excuse early voting, approval of incentives for Amazon HQ2 in Arlington, and passage of roughly $1 billion of individual income tax relief. Other high-profile issues were less successful this session including efforts to allow for casinos and sports wagering (though that will be studied by JLARC during the interim), a resolution to make Virginia the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution, and proposals to end the practice of surprise balance billing to patients who receive emergency health care out-of-network (this issue will be studied during the interim by DHRM and the SCC).
The final budget agreement, which was approved on the last day of the session, included a number of key provisions such as a 5% pay raise for teachers, increased pay for state employees and faculty, and more than $50 million in additional funding for colleges and universities that agree to freeze tuition. It also includes direction for a legislative study and recommendations for possible legalization and regulation of casinos and other gaming here in Virginia.
The 2019 session presented a number of interesting bills for VAND, including some that we have seen several times in recent years. As is an annual tradition, VAND successfully joined efforts with other health professionals and agricultural organizations to defeat legislation that would have removed requirements for food safety inspections on certain products, including yogurt. Additionally, we were successful in advocating for $3 million in funding for food banks from the TANF block grant. Other bills that we have pushed for did not advance, including the Virginia Grocery Investment Fund. We have worked with the American Heart Association on this program, and unless there is a change in the House majority, it will likely not be back in 2020. We saw legislation as well to require essential health benefits for short term and association health plans, but that proposal failed in the Commerce & Labor committee. We also saw legislation to require health plans to cover as medicine certain formula and enteral nutrition products. That bill was referred to the Health Insurance Reform Commission where it will be considered during the interim. Thank you to the roughly 100 students and other VAND members who traveled to Richmond to participate in our annual legislative day. Your presence always makes a positive impact on your representatives, which continues to benefit your profession. Click here to view the full list of bills that we followed and to see their final status.
The governor will now have the next 30 days to act on the more than 800 bills that were sent to him, and then the legislature will reconvene on April 3rd to vote on his actions. The governor can sign, veto, or recommend amendments to any legislation. If the governor signs a bill, it will become law on July 1, 2019 unless otherwise stated in the legislation. If the governor vetoes a bill, the legislature can pass the bill notwithstanding the veto with the support of 2/3 of both the House and Senate. If the governor would like to recommend an amendment to a bill that was passed by the General Assembly, he may return it to them with the amendment for their consideration at the reconvened session. In order for the amendment to be adopted, a majority of each chamber must support the amendment. If his amendments are adopted, the bill will become law as amended. If any of the governor’s proposed amendments are rejected, the bill returns to him for a final action – he again has the option of signing or vetoing the legislation.
We will communicate with the governor on the remaining priorities and work with the administration and the legislature to finish the work of this year’s legislative session. Please let us know if you have any questions and we will continue to keep you informed.
February 15, 2019 – The sixth week of the 2019 Virginia General Assembly session is over. Only eight days remain before the scheduled adjournment on February 23rd. There were many committee hearings and floor sessions that ran late into the evening as members worked their way through hundreds of bills. Monday, February 18, is the last day for any committee action on legislation by midnight.
Wednesday was the last day for each house to complete work on the Budget Bill and revenue bills of the other house and appoint conferees by midnight. The legislature is now in conference to negotiate a compromise on the budget. Governor Northam sent a letter to budget conferees outlining his priorities for the budget.
The General Assembly adopted emergency legislation on Monday to bring tax relief to 2.5 million Virginians this year. The legislation will provide refunds of up to $110 for individual taxpayers and $220 for married couples, depending on their tax liability. The tax legislation also will give future tax relief to nearly 2 million Virginia taxpayers by boosting the standard deduction by 50 percent — from $3,000 to $4,500 for individuals and from $6,000 to $9,000 for married couples — the first increase since 2005 for people who choose not to itemize deductions on their state returns.
The controversial proposal to expand gaming in the Commonwealth will be put on hold as the issue is studied by the legislature. The House passed a bill to set up a stand-alone Gaming Study Commission that would have a more neutral starting point. The Senate passed a bill to allow the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) to study the issue and focus on certain localities for locations of casinos. The differences will be worked out in a conference committee.
On Thursday, the Virginia General Assembly elected Court of Appeals Judge Teresa Chafin to an opening on the Supreme Court of Virginia. Justice Chafin will replace Justice Elizabeth McClanahan, who announced in January that she is retiring Sept. 1. She is a former Circuit Court judge who was installed on the Court of Appeals in 2012, a year before her brother, Senator Ben Chafin, was elected to the House of Delegates. He shifted to the Senate in 2014. Judge Clifford L. “Clay” Athey was elected to replace Chafin on the Court of Appeals. Athey was a Republican member of the House of Delegates from 2002-2011, serving a swath of the Shenandoah Valley, before then Governor, Bob McDonnell, appointed him a judge in 2012.
On Wednesday, roughly 100 VAND members traveled to the Capitol to meet with their legislators, discuss important budget and legislative issues, and advocate for the dietetics profession. Additionally, we had the opportunity to hear from three members of Governor Ralph Northam’s cabinet, including Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dr. Dan Carey, Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring, and Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. While visiting the House chamber, VAND members were introduced by Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn (watch here), and in the Senate members were introduced by Senator Rosalyn Dance (watch here).
We will continue to monitor progress on legislation and the budget during the final week of the 2019 session and report back upon its conclusion. Please let us know if you have any questions.
February 9, 2019 – This was a very hectic week at the State Capitol, but with crossover and budget deadlines approaching, the legislature pressed forward with work as usual. The 2019 Session is far from over and the legislature must complete its work by the scheduled adjournment date of February 23rd.
On Tuesday, February 5th we celebrated crossover, the halfway point of the session. Both chambers had very long days on Monday and Tuesday. From here on out, senators will be reviewing bills passed by the House while delegates consider bills passed by the Senate. Both chambers passed out a lot of bills this year, especially for a short session. The House passed a total of 603 bills, and the Senate passed a total of 480. Much of the focus going forward will be on amendments to the state budget.
On Thursday, the House and Senate passed their respective budgets. The full list of House and Senate approved amendments can be found here. There are now a number of key differences in the two competing versions of the budget, and these differences will be negotiated by budget conferees between now and the February 23rd adjournment deadline. Budget negotiators include Delegate Chris Jones, Delegate Steve Landes, Delegate Chris Peace, Delegate Scott Garrett, Delegate Barry Knight, Senator Tommy Norment, Senator Emmett Hanger, Senator Frank Wagner, Senator Steve Newman, Senator Frank Ruff, Senator Dick Saslaw, and Senator Janet Howell.
This week, the House and Senate also announced a compromise with Governor Northam on taxes. The bicameral compromise will provide $420 million in tax refunds to Virginia taxpayers in October of 2019, increase the standard deduction by fifty percent beginning in tax year 2019, maintain the current rules for state and local taxes (SALT), and include key business tax provisions for Virginia’s largest job creators. The total package will guarantee at least $976 million in tax relief and ensure that all additional revenues from the permanent provisions of Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are placed in the state’s cash reserve fund. The legislation also conforms Virginia tax law to the federal law but does not yet include an emergency clause.
We are looking forward to having roughly 100 attendees at next week’s “VAND 2019 Legislative Day” event on February 13th. VAND will have the opportunity to hear from three members of the governor’s cabinet including Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dan Carey, Secretary of Education Atif Qarni, and Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. Additionally, members will have time to meet with legislators from their area and advocate for the profession.
We will continue to monitor progress in Richmond and keep you informed. Please let us know if you have any questions.
February 1, 2019 – This was a very busy week around the General Assembly as legislators prepare to have their work completed before Crossover next Tuesday. All legislation must be out of committee by the end of Friday, February 1, in order to meet the procedural requirements to pass by Tuesday. As of today, 325 bills (out of 1204) passed the House and 321 bills (out of 793) passed the Senate.
This week, the Senate majority caucus unveiled their plan for tax conformity which would send $420 million in refunds next fall to taxpayers. House Republicans advanced their version in committee on Monday which conforms the state tax code to federal version and sequesters the money until the General Assembly meets in a special session later in the year to decide how to refund new revenues. In order for the legislation to take effect as soon as the governor signs the bill (for purposes of tax filing), the legislation requires 80% support in each body. Democrats have stated their opposition to these proposals, which means the proposals will not be able to garner the 80% support unless negotiations lead to compromise between the parties.
An overwhelming number of educators marched to the Capitol on Monday to rally support for teachers. During the rally, House Republicans announced a plan to give teachers a 5% salary raise. The House of Delegates advanced a plan this week to create an independent redistricting committee to come up with new maps following the 2020 census.
Legislation to advance gaming in the Commonwealth was stalled this week as lawmakers decided to study the issue during 2019 and come back in 2020 to vote on legislation. If approved, sports wagering would be legalized and voters in the certain affected localities could anticipate a vote in 2020 to approve casinos.
On Sunday, February 3, the House and the Senate will unveil their respective budget plans to amend the biennial budget. This past week, the Appropriations and Senate Finance Committee heard member amendments to the budget. We will update you after the plans are announced with any relevant budget items.
Legislation of interest to VAND moved forward this week. Here are a few highlights:
Delegate Rasoul’s HB1967 that would have removed the ability of facilities to require physicians to be certified by particular boards was defeated in subcommittee this week.
Delegate Kilgore and Senator Chafin each have legislation to expand the availability of certain telemedicine services, and those proposals moved forward this week in each chamber. They are expected to pass the General Assembly.
Delegate Murphy brought HB2177 to require coverage for formula and enteral nutrition products, but that legislation was defeated in subcommittee with a unanimous vote. The bill was referred to the Health Insurance Reform Commission for a full hearing and study.
Similarly, Senator Favola brought SB1344 to require short term and association health plans and others to cover all essential health benefits under the ACA. The bill was defeated on a party line vote.
Please let us know if you have any questions and we will keep you informed as things move forward this weekend and for Tuesday’s crossover deadline.
January 26, 2019 – Week three of the legislative session has been completed, and committees are moving very quickly to finish work by the end of next week. With the “crossover” deadline on February 5th, the House and Senate must approve legislation and communicate it to the opposite body one week from this Tuesday, or the legislation is dead. This means committee work must be completed by this coming Thursday or Friday for the full chamber to act.
Of the 1995 bills that were introduced, just 315 have passed either chamber. That number will likely more than double by the February 5th deadline, but still leave a manageable number of bills for the second half of the session, where much of the focus will turn to budget negotiations.
Some of the big news-makers this week included the advancement of legislation to increase the legal age to purchase tobacco products (including e-vapor) from 18 to 21 (House/Senate bills passed committees on a bipartisan vote), an agreement between the governor and legislators to require the removal of coal ash in several areas of the state that sit next to waterways, the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment which had already passed the Senate.
Legislation that VAND is following moved forward this week, including HB1998 which requires an expedited hearing with a judge for a health care provider who is exposed to bodily fluids and needs a specimen to be taken to confirm whether or not the exposure involved HIV or hepatitis. Legislation to advance telemedicine (SB1221 and HB1970) also moved out of committees with strong support.
Next week, SB1344 requiring short term and association health plans to provide essential health benefits will be heard in the Senate, HB1847 creating the Commission on Wellness and Opportunity will be taken up in House Rules, and HB2177 to require coverage for formula and other enteral nutrition products will be taken up in subcommittee on Tuesday.
Please let us know if you have any questions! We are looking forward to VAND Legislative Day in just over 2 weeks.
January 19, 2019 – 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. Yesterday was the last day to introduce legislation and in total there were 1196 house bills and 792 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 5th crossover deadline. Please let us know if you have any questions or comments regarding these bills, some of which we will be actively engaged in.
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 3rd. The full House and Senate are scheduled to adopt their versions of the budget on Thursday, February 7th before budget negotiators will begin crafting an amended two-year spending plan to send to the governor.
Legislation that we are following got off to a quick start in the first full week. Here are a few highlights:
Delegate Fariss’s HB1847 would have removed inspection requirements for certain yogurt products, pickles, etc. This is a version of legislation that we have seen for the last several years. The agriculture and health care industries have consistently opposed these efforts for public health reasons, and on Wednesday the bill was defeated 17-5 in House Agriculture. The bill did surprisingly make it out of subcommittee before being defeated in full.
Additionally, Senator Dance and Stanley advanced legislation to establish and fund the Virginia Grocery Investment Program. The Senate approved the legislation unanimously. Unfortunately, the House subcommittee defeated the proposal, with the understanding that if funds become available in the budget process they may reconsider. As has been the case over the last few years, this matter will be an issue for budget negotiators to address in the budget conference report.
HB1998 was reported unanimously from committee this week. It requires a general district court to hold a hearing within 48 hours of a petition being filed seeking to compel collection of a blood specimen for testing for human immunodeficiency virus or the hepatitis B or C viruses when exposure to bodily fluids occurs between a person and any health care provider, person employed by or under the direction and control of a health care provider, law-enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency medical services personnel, person employed by a public safety agency, or school board employee and the person whose blood specimen is sought refuses to consent to providing such specimen.
Next week, HB2400 is likely to be considered in the House. It requires health insurers, health care subscription plans, and health maintenance organizations whose policy, contract, or 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 on the same terms and subject to the same conditions imposed on other medicines covered under the policy, contract, or plan.
January 12, 2019 – On Wednesday, January 9, the Virginia General Assembly officially gaveled in the 2019 Session. This year’s opening session in the House was historic, as it marked 400 years of uninterrupted lawmaking in Virginia. The Virginia House of Delegates, formally the House of Burgesses, was established in 1619 and is the oldest continuously lawmaking body in the Western Hemisphere. To mark the occasion, Speaker Kirk Cox addressed the 100 members of the House of Delegates flanked by the Jamestown Settlement Honor Guard.
That evening, Governor Ralph Northam gave his first state of the commonwealth address (watch it here). The Governor’s address signified his desire to work together across party lines on issues on which legislators can agree. Following the Governor’s address, Delegate Bob Thomas (R-Stafford) and Senator Steve Newman (R-Bedford) delivered the official Republican response (watch it here).
This year will be a short (46 day) session as legislators plan to tackle important issues with just over 6 weeks to complete their work. As of today (Saturday 1/12), 1058 House bills had been introduced and another 689 Senate bills. That’s consistent with the number of bills introduced in 2017. Legislator’s have one week left to file any remaining bills. Members submitted their proposed amendments to the governor’s introduced budget and those will be made available by the middle of next week.
The legislature will spend the next three weeks acting on the legislation introduced in their own chamber, and after February 5th (“crossover”) they can only consider legislation approved by the other legislative body. Each chamber will adopt its own version of an amended budget on February 7th and work to negotiate a final agreement by the scheduled date of adjournment, February 23rd.
As was instituted for the House and Senate last year, all daily floor sessions and committee hearings will now be live-streamed. Links to the floor sessions and committee hearings can be found HERE on the homepage of the General Assembly website.
While more bills will be introduced over the next week, here’s a list of the bills we are following so far:
January 7, 2019 – We are just a few days from the start of the 2019 Virginia General Assembly session. Based on comments by legislators and bills filed, it is shaping up to be an interesting session. This year is a short session, which means legislators only have 45 calendar days to conduct business and adjourn for the year. Per House rules, Delegates are allowed to introduce no more than 15 bills, 10 of which must be pre-filed before the first day of session. The Senate instituted a limit for the first time, allowing members to introduce no more than 25 bills. Currently there are more than 200 house bills, 150 senate bills, and a few dozen resolutions.
There are a number of key issues that legislators will face this year, including the approval of the Commonwealth’s agreement with Amazon to open a second company headquarters in Northern Virginia. Amazon will create 25,000 high-paying jobs and invest up to $2.5 billion in Arlington County over the next two decades, in exchange for an economic development incentive deal preliminarily approved by state officials and key legislators. Tax reform/conformity will be a major issue. The question is whether Virginia will conform to the new federal tax code and what Virginia will do with any excess revenues collected as a result of conforming. Similarly, legislation will move forward related to the collection of sales tax from online retailers as a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Wayfair. Gaming will be another issue that many are interested in. Legislation has already been filed to allow casinos to operate in the Commonwealth under certain circumstances, and for professional sports betting. Legislators will also need to make adjustments and amendments to the 2018-2019 budget. Governor Ralph Northam proposed revisions to the biennial budget in late December, as the Times-Dispatch reported here. His proposed budget includes a bonus for state employees, raises for teachers and school counselors, and funding for an unexpected $462.5 million deficit in the Medicaid program. Delegate McQuinn and Senator Stanley have reintroduced the Grocery Investment Fund.
There will be two new members seated in the House of Delegates. Delegate Joe McNamara (R-Salem) was elected last fall to replace former Delegate Greg Habeeb who retired. Ronnie Campbell was elected in December to replace former Delegate Ben Cline who won an election to represent the 6th District in Congress. Delegate Jennifer Boysko is running to replace former Senator Jennifer Wexton who was elected to represent the 10th District in Congress. There will need to be a special election later to replace Delegate Boysko if she is successful in her senatorial bid. Two legislators have already announced their retirements. Delegate Dickie Bell (R-Staunton) and Senator Dick Black (R-Loudoun) will not seek re-election. Delegate John Bell (D-Loudoun) announced his intention to run for the Senate seat currently held by Sen. Black.