Last month, the House Republican majority made short work of a number of initiatives aimed at easing voter access to the polls – for example, allowing early in-person voting and expanding absentee voting. They were swiftly killed (along with several redistricting reform bills) in a predawn subcommittee meeting that fell on the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday.
Today, the House GOP killed Senate versions of the same legislation. Sen. Janet Howell’s SB810 would have allowed registered voters to vote absentee for any reason, Sen. Louise Lucas’ SB819 would have allowed early, in-person voting beginning two weeks before Election Day, and Sen. John Miller’s SB1010 would have allowed registered voters over the age of 65 to vote absentee.
Sen. George Barker’s SB1230 would have provided for a court-ordered extension of polling hours in emergency situations.
Finally, Sen. Creigh Deeds’ SB926 would have established a Bipartisan Redistricting Commission.
While most passed the Senate by sizable margins (Sen. Deeds’ redistricting bill passed unanimously), all were killed this morning on party-line votes, with Republicans John Cosgrove, Chris Jones, Steve Landes and Jeff Frederick voting against Democrats Rosalyn Dance and David Englin.
For Immediate Release
February 13, 2009
House Republican Record of Accomplishment
~House Republicans Prove They Can Do Something Well – Kill Commonsense Bills~
Richmond, VA - Today the House Democratic Caucus released a list of bills introduced by Democratic members that failed to pass the Republican-controlled House during the 2009 legislative session. Many of the listed bills were not passed out of committee and some received no hearing at all. It is the prerogative of Committee Chairmen to decide which bills the committee considers and which go unheard.
“The Republican majority in the House of Delegates reminds me of a black hole,” said Democratic Caucus Chair Ken Plum, “Good bills go in, but they don’t come out. This session Delegates from both parties have introduced a number of bills aimed at improving the lives of Virginians. Unfortunately, for the legislators with a ‘D’ next to their name, even the best bills seem to enter the “Party of No” black hole, never to be seen again.
“As we begin the second half of the 2009 session, Democrats are going to continue to work for results for Virginia. I look forward to working with members of both caucuses to solve the problems we face as a Commonwealth, and I urge my Republican colleagues to put politics aside and work across the aisle to keep Virginia moving forward.”
Below is a partial list of bills, grouped by category, proposed by members of the House Democratic Caucus that failed to pass the House:
CREATING JOBS AND INVESTING IN VIRGINIA
- HB2439 (Del. Poisson – Ashburn) would have offered tax incentives for businesses hiring honorably discharged veterans.
- HB2374 (Del. Englin – Alexandria) would have given an income tax credit to businesses that create jobs related to renewable alternative energies. Neither one was heard in committee.
- HJ742 (Del. Hall – Richmond) would have established a two-year study to develop a strategic plan that aims to reduce the poverty rates, especially in those jurisdictions with rates above the state average.
- HJ727 (Del. Bouchard – Virginia Beach) would have investigated ways to combat homelessness among Virginia’s veterans.
FIGHTING FOR MIDDLE CLASS FAMILIES
- HB2588 (Del. Englin – Alexandria) would have eliminated the food tax and cut taxes for low income Virginians and small businesses.
- HB2196 (Del. Watts – Fairfax) would have granted an income tax deduction for certified nursing assistants and home health aides who provide Medicare-authorized home health or long-term care services to individuals in their homes.
- HB2512 (Del. Marsden – Fairfax) would have ensured that Virginia Military Family Relief Fund benefits would not be taxed.
- HB2195 (Del. Watts – Fairfax) would have given tax credits to families who care for a mentally or physically impaired relative.
- HB2522 (Del. Nichols – Woodbridge) would have allowed employers with fewer than 50 employees to participate in the state health insurance plan.
- HB1903 (Del. Armstrong – Martinsville) would have prevented Virginia merchants from charging unconscionable prices for necessary goods during a shortage.
- HB1997, HB1959 and HB1960 (Del. Bulova – Fairfax and Del. Mathieson – Virginia Beach) would have expanded access to Virginia’s Line of Duty act and make sure that public safety employees and their families receive full benefits to cope with the sacrifices they’ve made for us.
- HB1093 (Del. Sickles – Fairfax) would have prohibited lenders from making a low-document, no-document, or stated-document mortgage loan unless they verified a borrower’s stated income.
- HB77 (Del. Toscano – Albemarle) would have expanded the recordation tax exemption for certain nonprofit providers of affordable housing.
STENGTHENING EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
- HB1608 (Del. Poisson – Ashburn) would have granted Virginia veterans who graduated at the top of their class automatic acceptance to in-state colleges, was defeated in committee with an unrecorded vote.
- HB2295 (Del. Caputo – Fairfax) would have increased two-year college transfer grants, was also left to languish in committee.
BROADENING ACCESS TO GOVERNMENT
- HB2496, HB2301, HB1620, HB1621, HB1894, HB2307; HB1988, HB2110, HB2113; HB1644 (Multiple Patrons) Yet again, the House Republican majority quickly disposed of legislation to expand access to absentee voting and create a nonpartisan redistricting process. Democrats proposed a variety of no-excuse absentee voting and early voting measures in order to help assure that working men and women won’t be disenfranchised and ease the workload of local registrars. All were defeated in subcommittee.
- HJ677, HJ623, HJ182, HJ628, HJ623 (Multiple Patrons) The GOP majority also squashed efforts to restore voting rights to former offenders who have paid their debt to society.
- HJ702, HB1793, HB1685 (Multiple Patrons) House Democrats patroned several measures to broaden input into the re-districting process through either bipartisan or nonpartisan means – ensuring that voters choose their representatives, not the other way around. Unfortunately, all were again defeated before so much as reaching the House floor.
- HJ668 (Del. Shannon – Vienna) would have directed the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) to study the legislature and state agences and recommend money saving improvements,.
- HJ676 (Del. Armstrong – Martinsvile) would have directred JLARC to review the effectiveness of the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission in its efforts in meeting its strategic plans and goals. Since its inception, the tobacco commission has never been audited.
MEETING OUR ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES
- HJ675, HJ704, HJ682, HB2387 (Multiple Patrons) The Republican majority defeated a variety of home energy and conservation measures this session, as well as further efforts to ensure new public buildings are as green as possible.
- HB2157 (Del. Toscano – Albemarle) would have required all biodiesel sold in Virginia to contain at least 2% biodiesel by 2011.
- HB2235 (Del. Valentine – Lynchburg) would have created a clean energy manufacturing grant program, in order to provide financial incentives to companies that manufacture or assemble equipment, systems, or products used to produce renewable energy, nuclear energy, or energy efficiency products.
- HJ682 (Del. Vanderhye – McLean) would have directed the Virginia Department of Taxation to recommend options for restructuring the residential electric consumption tax to promote energy efficiency while remaining revenue neutral.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2009
House Republicans Pass Budget with $133 Million Shortfall
Balanced Budget Required by Virginia Constitution
Richmond, VA -For the first time in its history, the House of Delegates voted yesterday for a budget requiring deficit spending, violating Virginia’s Constitution. The deficit results from an amendment proposed by the Republican controlled House Appropriations Committee, Item 3-1.01 #3h, which proposes a transfer to the general fund of $149 million dollars from a supposed cash balance in the Department of Environmental Quality’s Water Quality Improvement Fund.
According to the Commonwealth Accounting and Reporting System, the official system used to track all state expenditures, the Water Quality Improvement Fund balance as of Thursday, February 12th was $137,718,715.00. Bills for projects under this Fund continue to come in on a weekly basis. These projects are already under contract, under construction, and in many cases, nearing completion.
Between now and June 30th the Commonwealth will receive bills for an additional $121 million which it is contractually obligated to pay. The balance in the Water Quality Improvement Fund is expected to be a mere $16 million by June 30th.
“The budget passed by the House yesterday effectively has a $133 million dollar hole in it,” said House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong. “Including this amendment and passing this budget is highly irresponsible deficit spending. Virginia takes pride in its long tradition of passing balanced budgets as required by our State Constitution. We don’t need the practice of deficit spending coming across the Potomac into our Commonwealth.”
The budget amendment does authorize the use of bonds – however, every single dollar of bond money has been committed by the Commonwealth in contracts for other projects.
The amendment also stipulates that the transfer to the General Fund will not be made if the Commonwealth receives federal funds from a federal stimulus package. However, based on reports from Washington, it appears that Virginia will only get about $81 million in clean water funding from the federal stimulus package. Even if this money could be used to back fill the raid on the Water Quality Improvement Fund, the budget would still be $68 million dollars short. In addition, federal restrictions prohibit federal stimulus funds from being used for projects already funded and under construction. Therefore, federal stimulus funds could not be used to plug the budget deficit.
Today marks the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, the “Great Emancipator” and first Republican president of the United States. Oddly, Republican Party of Virginia chairman Jeff Frederick chose to commemorate the occasion by launching a random attack on Charles Darwin.
The motion to adjourn in President Lincoln’s honor was instead made by Democratic Delegate Jennifer McClellan, who noted that Lincoln gave his life so our nation “shall have a new birth of freedom.”
Incidentally, House Republicans made international news two years ago by defeating legislation to help with Lincoln bicentennial celebrations.
House Republicans in a General Laws subcommittee last night killed Del. Adam Ebbin’s HB2385, which would prohibit discrimination in public employment based on sexual orientation. A majority of the House Democratic Caucus co-patroned the bill, while GOP Del. Todd Gilbert argued that the measure “may not be in the best interest of our society.”
Video of the vote is below:
Republicans killed an identical bill from Del. Ebbin last year.
Del. Bob Brink speaks on House Joint Resolution 816, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of Virginia public schools after Massive Resistance.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 26, 2009
Charniele Herring Takes Seat in House of Delegates
Recount Confirms Results of January 13th Special Election
Charniele Herring was sworn in as a member of the House of Delegates this afternoon, nearly two weeks after winning a special election for the 46th House District.
“I am happy to finally put this process behind us and get to work for the people of Alexandria and Fairfax County,” Herring said today. “These are challenging times for Virginia, and I am humbled to have earned their support.”
“We are thrilled to have Charniele with us,” said House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong. “She will bring a unique perspective to our team, and I look forward to working with her.”
“Charniele will be a dymanic represenative for the 46th District, and I’m delighted she’ll be joining our caucus,” added Caucus Chairman Ken Plum.
Herring, an attorney, is the first African-American woman from Northern Virginia to be elected to the House of Delegates.