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2012 Session Report

(Session Report for 2013 will be posted in March 2013.)

March 2012

Dear Friends,

The 2012 General Assembly Session is winding down, and I look forward to returning home to the 9th District in a few days. My primary focus this Session has centered on the 2012-2014 Budget, economic development and job creation. To promote job creation, we continued to enhance Virginia's business-friendly regulatory and tax environment so that it encourages growth and development. Final legislation and budget details will not be known until the Senate agrees on a budget and legislators receive and vote on the Governor's amendments to our final bills and the Budget on April 18.

I serve on the House Appropriations Committee, where I work with other legislators and the Governor's office to produce the Budget. I also serve on the Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources Committee, where we address issues concerning all of our natural resources and historical sites. In this committee, we took a bold step to address many complaints over land development regulatory processes and inspections by initiating a move to one-stop local permitting and inspections. I also serve on the Counties, Cities and Towns Committee, which has oversight over the relationship between state and local governments.

Our Virginia economy remains challenging, so caution has been the guideline in drafting the Budget. I am very concerned over potential federal Department of Defense reductions because Virginia's major revenue producing regions of Northern Virginia and Tidewater are very dependent on Department of Defense expenditures and military installations. Less state revenue from these regions means less state money for education, local government, transportation, and public safety for the Ninth District. We also need to keep tight control on debt and maintain fiscal liquidity to keep Virginia's AAA bond rating and stay in a posture to withstand the uncertain economic outlook. We included in the Budget several precautionary steps, such as replenishing the "Rainy Day Fund," shoring up the Virginia Retirement System (VRS), and setting aside a reserve fund to address likely federal reductions that will hurt Virginia. VRS stability is a problem due to the recession and some long-term contribution shortfalls, so we are making significant additional contributions to the VRS, as well as making some modifications to the program itself to assure current and future employees will have retirement checks.

Contrary to some claims of reductions to education, the proposed 2012-2014 Budget includes an additional $575 million for K-12 education and an additional $200 million for higher education. In addition, we are nearing completion of legislation to make some reforms to both, including providing for virtual schools, changes in principal and teacher contracts to address performance, additional funding for inflation costs, and dedicating funds to improve 3rd grade reading achievement. The higher education budget component includes taking steps to increase seats in high demand state universities, such as Virginia Tech, to bring tuition increases under control, and to graduate more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) majors for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

In crafting the Budget, I worked diligently to address concerns of local governments regarding prior reductions in state aid and concerns of school boards over required VRS contributions for their employees. In the first case, the House Budget over the biennium restores $456,158 to Franklin County, $405,287 to Henry County, and $148,158 to Patrick County. To help the school boards on VRS contributions, we propose to reduce the contribution rate from 11.66% to 10.23% and contribute $30 million to cover their 1.13% of the deferred contribution during the 2010-2012 biennium. We also are budgeting-dependent upon revenue estimates holding up-a 2% salary increase for our dedicated and hard working state and constitutional offices in 2014.

In the Health and Human Services area, I supported and the House budget increases hospital and nursing home provider rates, funds for free clinics, restores funding for the Health Safety Net, increases Day Support Slots, and adds significant funding for additional DD and ID waivers to address the backlog of needs in mental health and to meet the US DOJ demands that Virginia close its training centers and move these patients into their communities.

As with every budget, there are positives and negatives. I believe our current proposal fairly balances spending among core functions and I support the use of some General Fund dollars for transportation. On the other hand, funding for the Child Advocacy Centers and Reforestation is inadequate, so perhaps we can do more for these and other items when we address 2013-2014 next January or in conference with the current budget for 2012-2013. I just hope Democrats in the Senate stop placing committee assignments in front of the Budget so we can do our duty and pass the state Budget.

Beyond the Budget, the Republican Caucus and I worked diligently to hone Virginia's friendliness to the business environment to promote economic development and job creation. We continued to provide funding for the Governor's Opportunity Fund and Virginia Economic Development Authority to bring in new businesses and expand existing businesses that create jobs and revenue. Other jobs legislation includes neutralizing Project Labor Agreements (HB33, which I co-patroned) to assure open competition on large transportation projects, extending the major facilities jobs tax credit, and extending our capital gains tax credit for investments in startup businesses to increase capital for small business job creators. We also removed proposed fee increases and reduced the unfair Accelerated Sales Tax collections. There are still some proposals in the mill to address the burden of the Machinery and Tools tax on manufacturers and the BPOL tax on gross business income (not profit), but it is unclear how they will turn out due to impact on local government budgets. Certainly we need to continue to seek a solution to these job killing taxes. I carried the budget amendment to stop the employment tax surcharge and am happy to report employers will not be hit by that extra cost.

K-12 and Higher Education Reform is a top issue across Virginia and the USA with over 30 states passing significant changes in the systems of delivery of a graduate ready to go to work or move successfully to the next level of education. Dedicating more of the education spending to the classroom, tax credits for private schools, vouchers, virtual schools, laboratory schools, charter schools, teacher contracts, curriculum, NCLB waivers, retirement contributions, and other reforms are all areas states are considering for improving K-12. I am happy to report that under Governor McDonnell's leadership, Virginia is moving carefully and deliberately forward in some of these areas. We likely will pass legislation this year for tax credits for scholarships for non-public school children, virtual schools funding and processes, retirement changes, and principal and teacher contract changes. Surprisingly, despite broad public support the Senate killed the bill which would have allowed homeschooled children to play on public school sports teams. I co-patroned and the House passed that bill. For higher education, we are increasing student enrollment in high demand universities, increasing TAG grant amounts, increasing funding to universities and colleges, and encouraging the state universities to reduce tuition increases and focus more on STEM degrees. We also maintained funding for NCI and VMNH. I voted with the House majority to kill the proposal to eliminate History SOL testing in the third grade. The House budget also restored funds to law enforcement and provided additional staff to help veterans with their claims for federal benefits.

In the agriculture area, the honey bee's pollination is absolutely vital to our ecosystem yet is in big trouble due to mites and a sudden hive loss syndrome, the cause of which is not yet understood. Accordingly, I co-patroned a measure to expand bee hives in Virginia. I also sponsored a successful budget amendment to control the coyote depredation of domestic livestock. Agriculture and forestry is the #1 industry in the 9th District and Virginia. I co-patroned successful legislation that will dedicate a fund, with initial funding, to assist expansion of this economic pillar of our economy by encouraging the establishment of job-creating local businesses, such as processing centers for local crops. Additionally, I am pleased the eminent domain constitutional amendment bills passed and will be on the ballot for voters in November.

Gas and diesel prices continue rising to unacceptable levels, and electric rates remain artificially too high. One can make a lot of arguments about why and who is responsible. My argument is straightforward: The more product produced from the cheapest sources yields a cheaper product, provided government doesn't get in the way. The President says he wants an 'all-of-the-above' energy approach but what he and his agencies are doing is otherwise. ALL, by definition, includes oil, coal and gas. Furthermore, when the United States' oil, coal and gas reserves are added up, the United States' total exceeds that of any other nation. Developing these domestic resources will create jobs and ensure affordable, reliable power. Accordingly, I was disappointed the Senate carried over my HJR227, which would have requested on behalf of Virginia that the President and Congress actually do just that. I was also sorry my bill to reduce excess bonus payments for renewable energy projects to Dominion and Appalachian based on their entire investments failed to pass the House.

The Governor's State Government Reform proposals bill is currently in Conference, and I expect it to come to the Floor any day. The bill contains reductions in boards and commissions, some combining of agencies' responsibilities, and associated directives. His Transportation package is also in final stages of passage, including my bill in that package that sets up a fund for alternative-fueled state fleet vehicles. The contract on two more segments of the Rt. 58 Corridor Improvement project was recently awarded, but my bill to dedicate additional funding for Rt. 58 next year failed, so I am pursuing alternatives.

The recent media and activist claims and distortions charging that the House focused primarily on social and firearms issues are simply not true. As usual, the media focused attention on a few hot button issues, such as Sunday Hunting, HB 1, and HB462, whereas our real focus was on the budget and economy. Interestingly, I received 10 times the emails, calls and such from the Trap, Neuter and Release (TNR) cat bill than on the issues the media emphasized. Sunday Hunting did not pass. It died in subcommittee after two public hearings with full public participation. The chart below shows a breakdown of the amount of legislation that passed the House this year by subject.

At this point, it appears my bills regarding meth lab cleanup costs, Virginia State Police insurance fraud investigations, DMV service improvements, alternative fuel fund, and septic tank installation will pass all the way through, while my PLA (Project Labor Agreements) and revenue sharing bills were rolled into other bills. I remain disappointed my energy resolution, my bill to curtail bonus awards to utility companies, and my bill to dedicate additional funding to Rt. 58 for next year did not pass this year. I will continue to work on these.

I am honored to serve you. I have worked hard to improve our economic outlook while protecting our core state services and preserving our rural and small town values and principles. I was pleased to see and hear from many of you during the 2012 Session. Your participation in the process of government is vital to the health of our 9th District. I look forward to continuing to serve you when our District office in Glade Hill reopens on March 19. To arrange for me to speak to your group or participate in an event, please contact Alex at (540) 576-2600.

Charles D. Poindexter
Delegate, 9th District
Virginia House of Delegates


“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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