As the first full week of session is now complete, we have started to make some progress in tackling over 1,300 house bills and resolutions that have been introduced in the House for this 46 day “short” Session.
While it sounds like a large number of bills, we have fewer bills introduced this year thanks to an important rules change put in place by House Republicans. During short sessions, a delegate can introduce a maximum of 15 bills. In years past, there were some delegates who would introduce upwards of 40 bills. I believe this practical rule change has made a positive impact on the way we conduct business in the House of Delegates. It also allows us to give more thoughtful consideration to the bills and resolutions that are before us during the short time we are here.
Most bills are still being debated in committees, but there are a few important measures that passed the House of Delegates that I would like to bring your attention to in this week’s newsletter.
Focus on: House Republicans Vote to Strengthen Our Right-to-Work Law
On Wednesday, the House voted to pass one of my resolutions, House Joint Resolution 500. This resolution would add our right-to-work law to the Virginia Constitution. For decades, Virginia has placed a premium on the freedom of workers to decide whether or not they want to join a union. Our laws ensure that employees can't be forced to join a union as a condition of employment. Virginia has the distinction of being the northernmost right-to-work state east of the Mississippi River, giving us a major competitive advantage when it comes to recruiting new companies from northeastern states to the Old Dominion. Additionally, our current right-to-work law is one reason Virginia consistently ranks as one of the best states for business.
Although our economy here in Virginia is stronger than most other states, it's not nearly as strong as it should be. Adding our right-to-work law to the Virginia Constitution would give us another advantage to help attract new businesses and jobs to the Commonwealth. It would also send a message to Virginia businesses that our right-to-work rules aren't going to change on a dime and encourage them to grow and expand here in Virginia.
Unfortunately, most of our Democratic colleagues don't agree. Nonetheless, the Republican caucus remained united and passed the resolution on to the Senate for their consideration.
In addition to the success of HJ 500, I celebrated a few other successes this week as well. One of my other bills, House Bill 1428, passed out of the Health Welfare and Institutions Committee this week. This bill would require abortion clinics to be licensed and regulated by the Board of Health. It narrowly passed in the Health Welfare and Institutions subcommittee with a vote of 4-3, but went on to pass through subcommittee with a vote of 15-6. This bill is an important bill to ensure the health and safety of women in the Commonwealth. It will advance to the floor of the House early next week, and I am hopeful that it will continue to gain support.
I had one additional bill pass in committee and pass the House on its second reading. House Bill 1885 was brought to me by the Governor’s office, and deletes references to educational programs that have not been funded and do not exist and updates some other language to ensure that the code conforms to current practice. This bill simply moves to help clean up the code and remove some obsolete language. This bill will continue on to third reading early next week, and then will be sent to the Senate for their approval.
Finally, just today my House Resolution 608 was adopted by the House. This bill commemorates Veterans Day 2011 (which falls on 11/11/11) with a moment of silence at 11:00 am. I believe that it is important to take time to remember the sacrifices that have been made by the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. It will now be sent to the State Senate for their approval.
This was another busy week in Richmond! I was happy to have many visitors this week. We started out the week by seeing a large group from the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party. Unfortunately I got stuck in committee and couldn’t meet with them in my office, but did see a number of them in the Capitol after session. That same day we had many members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League in Richmond as well advocating 2nd amendment rights.
We also had Jason Clarke, and some other employees at Dupont Community Credit Union and University of Virginia Credit Union stop by our office. I was able to speak to Bo Wilson and Bruce Thompson from Dr. Pepper in Staunton, and my aide met with Jim Feaganes of Coca Cola. The Virginia Society of CPAs had a lobby day this week and Tom Rosengarth of Bridgewater College stopped by my office.
Continuing through the week we had Michael May, Cathy Ballew, and several volunteers with the local Court Appointed Special Advocates program. They stopped by and shared with us what their group is doing and how they are serving as advocates for many children in our area. We also met with some members of the Valley Community Services Board.
Yesterday many veterinarians were in Richmond and I was able to see two local vets, Dr. Don Henry and Dr. John Wise. We also talked to some local podiatrists, and today we had some local dental hygienists as well as a local dentist, Dr. Katie Adams.
I am always happy to see local faces in Richmond. If you will be in Richmond, I would encourage you to stop by my office. If you would like to set up an appointment, please email my legislative aide at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 804-698-1020.
I would like to invite you to participate in my legislative survey. You can do so by clicking here. This survey is an important way to show me what is important to you as I represent your interests in Richmond.
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. If you are planning to visit Richmond during Session, I encourage you to visit me in Room 517. Don’t forget to take a few minutes to fill out my 2011 Legislative Survey!
Thank you again for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.