It’s hard to believe, but we are finishing up the fourth week of the 2016 Session. As we approach crossover, our committee meetings and floor sessions are running longer as we work to finish up all bills introduced in the House by February 16. This week, a major focus in the House was an issue that I know is very important to families across the Commonwealth: jobs and economic growth.
The House is working to advance several pieces of legislation to foster private-sector job creation, encourage long-term economic growth, and protect small businesses. I know that these are continually voiced as the top priorities of the constituents of the 20th district, so it is good to see that it is also a priority of many members of this body.
Despite modest improvements over the last several years, Virginia’s economy continues to struggle. Due to the impact of sequestration on our economy, among other factors, the Commonwealth is recovering at a slower rate than the national economy. In fact, Virginia’s economy registered zero percent growth in 2014.
In order to help accelerate the improvements in the economy, House Republicans rolled out a comprehensive agenda to promote a pro-business climate, incentivize economic growth, and protect small business. My House colleagues and I have introduced specific proposals that will help improve our economy and give our families a better opportunity to succeed. This agenda is designed to foster job creation by maintaining Virginia’s pro-business climate, encourage and incentivize long-term economic growth, and enact reforms to protect small businesses from job killing mandates. For more information on this agenda, please click here.
I was pleased to be the patron of one piece of legislation that I believe is integral to growing our economy. This week the House passed a constitutional amendment to solidify Virginia’s right to work status. The amendment, which I discussed in the last newsletter, prohibits union membership as a condition of employment. While Virginia already has a right to work statute on the books, including it in the constitution would ensure that this pro-business policy would not be subject to the whims of the legislature or any other individual politicians. At a time when we are seeing a great deal of overreach from our executive branch in the Commonwealth, I believe making this statute a permanent part of our constitution is vital. This legislation will protect hard working Virginians from being forced to join a union.
The Senate also considered and approved the amendment this week, meaning it will be on the ballot for voters to consider this fall.
To see the floor discussion on the right to work amendment, please click here.
Jobs for our Veterans
The House also remains focused on helping our veterans find the jobs they need and are trained to do. Delegate Chris Stolle (R-Virginia Beach), introduced a bill this year that I am particularly interested in given my background as a Navy corpsman. HB 825 establishes a pilot program in which military medical personnel may practice medicine under the supervision of a licensed physician. Military medics and corpsmen receive extensive health care training while on active duty. Once they transition to civilian life, their military health care experiences do not easily translate into comparable certifications and licenses required for health care jobs. As a result, many veteran medics are unable to gain employment.
Virginia has already made progress on efforts to translate veterans’ military experience into academic credit. However, significant hurdles still exist with health care licenses. This legislation will create a pilot program to help military medics smoothly transition to a medical career in the private sector without having to go through training they have already received in the military.
The House passed the bill this week. I hope it will continue to gain support in the Senate.
Visitors this Week
We were grateful to see a number of friends from home this week. Crista Cabe stopped by for a visit with several young ladies from Mary Baldwin College. They were here to thank the General Assembly for their Tuition Assistance Grants. We were visited by representatives of the AARP, as well as representatives of the Children’s Advocacy Centers in Staunton.
I was visited by my friend Beth Beach, who was here to testify for a piece of legislation. We also saw David Johnson of Augusta Mutual Insurance and John Hutchinson who was here for Shenandoah Valley Battlefields and later in the week the Virginia Conservation Network. John Downey dropped by with some local business leaders. Last but not least we were pleased to see Dr. Jennifer Davis, Earl and Violet Cash who dropped by for United Methodist Day, and Marcia Elliott who was here with the VEA, the retired teachers association, and Delta Kappa Gamma.
We love seeing friendly faces from home during Session. If you are going to be in the Richmond area, consider dropping by for a visit. While appointments are not required, we do recommend that you call or email us ahead of time to schedule a time for a visit.
While we make every attempt to see all of our constituents, please understand that our committee schedules can be very hectic and our schedule can change very quickly. We appreciate your patience and understanding.
We will be operating out of our Richmond Office for the duration of the 2016 Session. While we still monitor the voicemail on our District Office phone line, the quickest way to reach us by phone will be by calling the Richmond office directly at 804-698-1020. We will still receive email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.
If you prefer to send us written correspondence, you can send mail to Post Office Box 406, Richmond, Virginia 23218.
I look forward to hearing from you on the issues that matter most to you.
As in previous Sessions, I will provide weekly updates throughout our time in Richmond. If you know someone who would like to receive these updates, they can sign up online at bellfordelegate.com or email Savanna at Savanna@BellforDelegate.com.
I look forward to seeing you in Richmond! Thank you for allowing me to serve as your delegate.