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State Capitol Report   February 27 - March 4, 2011

The Poindexter Report
By Delegate Charles Poindexter

The General Assembly completed its 2011 Session on Sunday night, February 27, with the House and Senate approving the FY12 Budget Amendments negotiated between the Senate and House conferees. As late as 8:00p.m. Saturday night, negotiations were locked up. It is interesting how things can change 180-degrees in five hours.

Two things seem to have broken the log-jam. First, we already had a two-year budget passed the previous Session, so our task for this year was to make changes the House and Senate would deem appropriate. If no changes were to be agreed upon, the biennium budget approved last year for FY12 would remain the budget for FY12. Clouding the situation were the current economic times, uncertain job prospects, and other uncertainties regarding federal spending, debt, and energy policies, as well as the impact of international events. Second, the Governor intervened with his leadership.

From policy, legislative, and budget viewpoints, the Session resulted in a) passing important Economic Development initiatives to compete for new businesses and increase jobs; b) a Higher Education package to improve curriculum, affordability, and access for Virginia students; and, c) a Transportation package to invest in transportation improvements across the Commonwealth.

The budget is, of course, a compromise between the House and the Senate. It includes no new fees or higher taxes. The accelerated sales tax payments were eliminated for 80% of our retailers, and $114 million placed in the depleted Rainy Day Fund to prevent us from starting $228M in the hole for that account next year.

Earmarks for non-state Agencies were eliminated in line with the Attorney General’s opinion that such funding is not permitted by the Virginia Constitution. The Senate’s proposal for a ‘Taj Mahal’ to replace the General Assembly Building was not included.

Core government services items included establishment of a new Behavior Health Trust Fund at $30M to help intellectually and developmentally disabled Virginians be transferred into community-based services,  a new Transportation Infrastructure Bank, additional funding for higher education, and over $40M for job creating economic development efforts. Heath care, law enforcement, and K-12 education also received funding with $104M for a supplement of $130 per pupil to help local school divisions.

The Budget funds 21 vacant judgeships, to be determined by case loads, restores reimbursement reductions to healthcare providers, and makes additional payments to the VRS fund.  State employees will be required to pay 5% towards their retirement contribution with an offset of a 5% salary increase.

The differences in the House and Senate budgets really boiled down to how much would the structural imbalance be facing the state going into next Session when the 2012-2014 budget is prepared. Structural imbalance  is the difference in projected resources (money) and ongoing/recurring expenses that we will face. The latter, ongoing expenses, also has to be increased to cover K-12 rebenchmarking, Medicaid utilization rates, inflation, and population growth. The shortage between projected money available and ongoing expenses—plus the additional expenses—was about $1369.5 million in the Senate. That’s $1.3695 billion! While many stakeholders, such as school divisions, health advocates, and others, lobbied for the Senate budget, even the difference in the House Budget was about $595 million. What this all means is that short of vastly increased revenue coming in from a vastly improved economy, ongoing/recurring spending for core services in the next biennium (FY12-FY14) will have to be contained.

Last week, I described the eight bills of mine that have passed and gone to the Governor for his signature. Another, my restaurant fees bill was included in the final adopted budget and restores those type of fees back to 2008. I also co-patroned a number of bills that passed. These include, a) the “Honey” bill that allows private home-based beekeepers to distribute up to 250 gallons per year without inspections; b) the Hospital Emergency Room bill to address assault and battery against our ER staffs; c) outlawing synthetic marijuana; d) providing a tax credit to develop new Virginia Vineyards and Wineries; d) restrict illegal gambling; e) enshrine eminent domain protections in the Virginia Constitution; f) provide additional support to Virginia Veterans; and, g) require the use of E-Verify for job applicants. The Senate would not approve this for all employers, so the baseline is businesses with 50 or more employees and contracting to a state agency.

I co-patroned a number of other good bills that the Senate failed to pass. Some of these include: a) requiring school divisions to report the number of children enrolled in ESL classes; b) provide immunity for a citizen who has to injure or fatally dispatch a criminal who has broken into a home and threatened the resident and/or family; c) provide for scholarships for challenged students to attend alternative schools when theirs is underperforming; d) prevent Virginia insurance policies under Obamacare from paying for abortion; e) changing the VRS to be on a par with private sector retirement plans; and, f) a number of illegal immigration bills. The failure of these and other bills killed in the Senate was disappointing and demonstrates the importance of this year’s November 8 elections.

Some other legislation of interest which I supported that passed includes: a) placing abortion clinics under safety regulations appropriate for that type of facility; b) requiring state agencies to identify the need for their mandates on local governments, including the fiscal impact; c) separating  agricultural animals into a category appropriate for their well-being yet distinct from companion animals; d) making VRS benefits ineligible for employees convicted of job-related felonies; e) increasing ID requirements to purchase Schedule II drugs; f) autism insurance assistance; g) prohibiting sexual offenders from driving school buses and obtaining a CDL to do so; and, h) making passing a stopped school bus a reckless driving offense.

Two other bills that will impact most of us were passed in order to meet the EPA demands for water quality improvements in all of our Virginia streams and the Chesapeake Bay. One will prevent phosphorous in lawn fertilizers, except when initially establishing the lawn or upon demonstrated need. The second will require farmers to have a Resource Management Plan prepared for their operations. The farmer is then deemed to be in full compliance with state and federal water quality requirements. The Farm Bureau supported this approach to prevent even more draconian EPA demands, and the General Assembly agreed. Assistance to develop the plans will be provided to farmers by the local SWCB.

General Assembly members will return to Richmond the first week of April to address the Governor’s amendments to the legislation and budget we passed. We will also take up redistricting of the Congressional, Senate and House District lines to be drawn for the next decade. I expect this process to consume much of April, possibly even extending into May. After that, the US Justice Department has to approve the plan, so Primary elections in Virginia will be held in late August.

With the conclusion of Session, my office on Route 40  in Glade Hill is open Monday through Thursday, 9:00a.m. to 4:00p.m.. My Legislative Assistant, Lindsay Bowman, and I hope you will stop by from time to time. If you would like me to speak to your group or club, please call Lindsay at my District Office at 540-576-2600. You can email me at or send mail to P.O. Box 117, Glade Hill, VA 24092.


“Entrepreneurs and their small business enterprises are responsible for almost all the economic growth in the United States".
Ronald Reagan
Courtesy Ronald Reagan Library
“Whatever else history says about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty’s lamp guiding your steps and opportunity’s arm steadying your way".
Ronald Reagan
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