Bell Sounds from the 20th
The wintery weather here in Richmond wasn’t enough to stop us from doing the people’s business this week. Among committee meetings, presentation of bills to committees, longer floor sessions, and the number of groups that are visiting us, the days seem to be flying by very quickly now that we have gotten into the thick of the 2011 General Assembly Session.
In this week’s newsletter, I would like to highlight the House’s passage of the Repeal Amendment, the progress of my legislation, and some of the visitors who stopped by the General Assembly Building this week.
Spotlight on: The Repeal Amendment passes the House of Delegates
On Tuesday, the House of Delegates took a major step in our efforts to re-balance the role of the federal government when we passed the Repeal Amendment, HJ 542. The Repeal Amendment, co-patroned by a total of 51 delegates including myself, is legislation that enables two-thirds of the States to convene an amendment convention pursuant to Article V of the United States Constitution. The convention would then consider a constitutional amendment allowing the repeal of any federal law or regulation by a vote of two-thirds of the state legislatures acting in unison.
Simply put, the Repeal Amendment would give states the ability to overturn highly unpopular laws like Obamacare; however, as the Repeal Amendment would require two-thirds of all states to call for a convention and ratify proposed amendments, only particularly unpalatable laws and regulations would likely be acted upon.
I, for one, co-patroned this important legislation because I am concerned that the federal government has grown so large that it can no longer govern in an efficient and responsive fashion. Giving states a limited check on federal power will reign in the scope of the federal government, increase efficiency, and encourage an atmosphere in Washington more closely aligned with the intent of our founding fathers.
The House of Delegates passed the Repeal Amendment on a 59 to 34 vote, and now this legislation will go before the State Senate. Currently, a Senate version of the Repeal Amendment has been stalled in the Privileges and Elections Committee. I hope that our colleagues in the Senate will see the wisdom in passing this bill and give it the serious consideration it deserves.
There are many who are concerned about having a constitutional convention, and while I understand those concerns, I believe the Repeal Amendment is very important. The federal government is ignoring the 10th amendment right now, and we must act to protect state sovereignty.
We are just over a week from crossover, and have had long dockets and lengthy committee meetings. Crossover is February 8, and we have to get all of the legislation in the House taken care of before that date.
I’d like to take a couple of minutes to update you on a couple of my bills. This week House Bill 1885, a bill that would clean up the code by removing many unfunded education programs, passed the House unanimously. It will now be sent over to the Senate following crossover, where it will be referred to committee and the process will start over. I believe this is an important bill, as it will remove outdated language from the code and make the code significantly easier for local school divisions to understand.
I also had House Bill 1428 pass the House. This is a very important bill that would require Virginia’s abortion clinics to be licensed and regulated in the Commonwealth. This bill passed on the House floor with a vote of 66-33. I believe this bill is vital to protecting the health of women across Virginia, and I’m happy to see that it gained bipartisan support across the Commonwealth.
Another bill I am working on is House Bill 1989. This bill provides that any officers and employees of any political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia who are elected to serve in the General Assembly will be entitled to unpaid leaves of absence from their jobs without loss of seniority, accrued leave, or job performance rating on all days where the General Assembly is in Session or days in which they are conducting official General Assembly duties. I believe this bill is important to state employees who wish to serve their districts when elected to the General Assembly, and will prevent these employees from having to choose between their careers and their service. I was happy to see this bill reported out of the Rules committee with a vote of 11-4. It should be heard on the floor of the House early next week.
I told you a few weeks ago about a bill that I am especially proud of, House Bill 1435. This bill provides that if a local school board chooses to offer American Sign Language, it must count the course as a foreign language. It also requires that public colleges and universities must count them as a foreign language for admissions purposes. This is a very important bill to me. After hitting a few early bumps, it was able to be reported out of the Higher Education subcommittee with a vote of 6-1. Monday morning it will go before the full committee for a vote, and I am hopeful that it will be reported out.
We had several visitors stop by our office this week. There were several members of local government, including Rockingham County Clerk of the Court, Chaz Evans-Haywood. We were also happy to see the local Commissioners of the Revenue, including Jean Shrewsbury from Augusta County, Maggie Ragon from Staunton, and Darlene Crummet from Highland County.
We had several local issues groups stop by as well. We met with several members of the Virginia Education Association, and some members of the Augusta County Education Association including Darren Ralston. We had Alison Dugan of Shenandoah Caverns stop by on the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association’s lobby day. I also got to see many members of the Augusta County and Rockingham County Farm Bureau both at my office and at a reception they held later that evening.
Don Wilson and William Browning from the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library stopped by, as well as Tanya Farrell from the Augusta Free Clinic and Mindy Garber, principal of Hugh K. Cassell Elementary. Many Virginia Automobile Dealers were here, including Charlie Obaugh. We also saw Dr. Gunther, a Staunton pediatrician. We finished off the week with a visit from Christa Cabe of Mary Baldwin, who brought a group of students down to spend the day.
House Republican Caucus & Republican Party of Virginia
Host RPV Grassroots Day at the Capitol
Save the Date: Monday, February 21st!
Spend President’s Day in downtown Richmond at the Virginia Capitol and General Assembly building for RPV Grassroots Day! Come get the latest updates from Speaker Bill Howell and Republican delegates on the 2011 , network with other Virginia Republicans, and hear from RPV Chairman Pat Mullins and RPV Executive Director Dave Rexrode on the outlook for the 2011 election cycle.
More details to come soon, but expect the day to run from around 10 AM to 3 PM with a break for lunch on your own mid-day. If you would like to RSVP, please email Tina McArthur at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will provide more information as we receive it!
As always, my staff and I are here in Richmond to serve you. We want to hear what you think about the legislation pending before the House, or if there’s anything we can do to help you in dealing with a state government agency. My office can be reached at (804) 698-1020 or via the Internet at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov. I would also encourage you to take my legislative survey here. If you are planning to visit Richmond during Session, I encourage you to visit me in Room 517.
Thank you again for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.