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Legislative Update 3.9.12

This will be my last report from Richmond.  The 2012 Virginia General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn, sine die, on Saturday, March 10.  It is physically impossible now to vote on a budget by that time, even if an agreement were reached, because of the requirements of proof reading and printing this very large document.  The consensus seems to be that we will be back in a week or two in a Special Session (which is not so special anymore) and pass a two year approximately $85 billion spending plan for the Commonwealth.  In the final analysis, the two budgets in many areas are not that far apart. Of the 2867 bills filed in the 2012 Virginia General Assembly, approximately1600 have made it through the process.  At the end, several bills remain in conference where small committees of Senators and Delegates work to hammer out the differences between the versions of a bill passed by each Chamber.  Any bill which does not emerge from conference by adjournment is dead. I have been appointed to three Conference Committees on different legislation to attempt to work out differences between the two Legislative Chambers.

I introduced 15 Bills this session and Co-patroned several others.   Two of the Bills were designed to help our veterans obtain commercial driver’s licenses and receive college credit for military training.  I put in a couple of Bills at the request of our localities and worked to obtain passage in the House of the Memorial Resolution to Congress regarding the beach access and parking issue on Assateague.  Another of the Bills would protect resident’s rights in our State training centers.  This Bill came as a result of an unfortunate experience by one of our families in the District and is an example of how laws are often made in our Citizen Legislature.  I Co-patroned a Bill with Delegate Chris Stolle to examine the effects and make recommendations regarding the effect of flooding and sea level rise in the Tidewater area, specifically including the cities of Hampton Roads and also the Eastern Shore.  Among the other Bills I Co-patroned was a Bill designed to create a new financing mechanism for nonprofit organizations to use in developing renewable energy projects and also a Bill to facilitate natural gas infrastructure in rural areas. In addition, while in Richmond, I had meetings with State Government officials on issues important to economic development. 

The budget will hold important provisions for some local issues such as Spaceport funding, planning money for a new Eastern Shore Community College facility, Oyster Restoration, as well as the all important K-12 Public Education funding.  In addition, the hoped for solution to the underfunding of our Virginia Retirement System will be part of the ultimate budget resolution. 

In many ways this has been a challenging Session, highlighting the polarizing times in which we live.  In addition to returning for a day or two to wrap up the budget, we will return on April 18th to consider any vetoes by the Governor and to elect Judges.  I will be having my annual round of post-Session Town Halls after that date.  After March 10, I will be back in my office in Accomac.  Please feel free to contact me at delllewis@house.virginia.gov or at our toll free number, (866)787-1094.  

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