Bell Sounds from the 20th - Session Wrap-up

One week ago the 2015 General Assembly Session adjourned Sine Die.  The 2015 Session was one of the most productive and successful sessions in recent memory.  Under Republican leadership in both chambers we were able to adjourn ahead of schedule for the first time in 15 years.  We were also able to pass a budget ahead of schedule while still giving the public, the press, and the legislature 48 hours to view the budget prior to the final vote.  This is the type of leadership that Virginians want and deserve, and stands in stark contrast to the partisan gridlock in Washington.  

I took some time last week to go over the final details of the budget, but would also like to give you a final wrap up of some of our other accomplishments this session. 

As Virginia’s economy continues to improve, we made job creation and economic improvement a top priority.  We passed legislation to attract innovative new companies (including Uber and Lyft) to Virginia and legislation to make it possible for entrepreneurs to participate in crowdfunding to help get the funding they need.  I was personally pleased to lead the effort to protect Virginia’s right to work laws and take us a step closer to making right to work a part of Virginia’s constitution.  We also passed legislation to prevent localities from setting job killing wage floors.  Over the last several years Virginia has consistently remained among the top states for business and the passage of these and other bills will help keep it there.

Every child in Virginia deserves the best education possible, and we have worked to give parents the flexibility to make the right choices for their families. I was pleased to patron legislation that established the Virginia Virtual School, which allows access to a public full time virtual program for K-12 students.  For the first time this year we also passed a constitutional amendment that grants the Board of Education the authority to establish charter schools within the school divisions of the Commonwealth. In order to make it to the ballot it will have to pass in the same form next year, but we are one step closer to making this a reality.  We also passed reforms that will improve our SOL tests, streamline the retake process, give schools more flexibility in the accreditation process, and require colleges to develop a standardized system for granting credits to incoming students who have successfully completed AP courses.  We also passed legislation to block the executive branch from unilaterally adopting Common Core.

Increasing the access and affordability of college remained a top priority this year.  We passed legislation that would cap unreasonable mandatory student fees, encourage colleges to offer “flat-fee” degrees, and establish a more affordable, $4,000 per year online degree program for Virginia students.  We also passed legislation to ensure that information about college costs are more accessible to students and their families and legislation to require colleges and universities to be more transparent about costs and graduation outcomes. To increase the accessibility of our state schools to in-state students, we funded 2,100 more in-state enrollment and transfer slots and allocated additional funding for student financial aid. 

The General Assembly also tackled several other pressing issues this year, including ethics reform, sexual assault on college campuses, and human trafficking.  In an effort to reform our ethics laws we enacted a $100 gift cap, imposed requirements to have travel be pre-approved by an independent ethics council, and required all disclosure reports to be filed online.  We also provided funding in the budget for a nine-member ethics advisory council to guide and advise public officials on ethics rules. 

We passed legislation that would aid victims of sexual assault and protect students on college campuses by requiring colleges to work with third-party organizations to provide support to victims of sexual assault.  It also requires colleges to have “review teams” to assess allegations of sexual assault.  This review team will either send the allegation to law enforcement or the Commonwealth’s Attorney for further review. In an effort to combat human trafficking, we passed legislation to create a standalone statute on sex trafficking.  This will make it significantly easier for law enforcement to prosecute perpetrators of this heinous crime.

Once again this year the House of Delegates fought for some of our most basic liberties and freedoms to protect them from infringement by the government. We defeated legislation that would have imposed further restrictions on our second amendment freedoms, including legislation that would limit the number of firearms that law abiding citizens can purchase and legislation to place arbitrary limits on magazine sizes.  

While this is in no way a comprehensive list of our accomplishments this Session, I hope it gives you a good look at what we were able to do this year.

 My Legislation
 

This year I had 4 bills and 1 Joint Resolution pass both houses of the General Assembly.  They are: House Bill 324, House Bill 1443, House Bill 1679, House Bill 2114, and House Joint Resolution 490.  House Bill 2020, a bill that I chief co-patroned, also passed in both houses. These bills have now been referred to the Governor for final approval.  You can see a summary or final status of this or any other legislation online at lis.virginia.gov.

Legislative Survey Results

Thanks again to everyone who took my legislative survey.  The results are very helpful to me in knowing how to best represent you in Richmond. In case you missed it last week, you can find the survey results online here.

 Donate

As you know, during the Regular General Assembly Session General Assembly members are prohibited by state law from soliciting or receiving any campaign contributions.  I completely support this law, as I believe that it ensures that our focus remains on the people’s business during our time in Richmond. 

Now that Session is over, however, it is time to kick off my re-election campaign. A donation in any amount would be most helpful to us in getting a jumpstart on fundraising for the 2015 election.

You can make a secure donation online at bellfordelegate.com or you can mail your donation to Post Office Box 239, Staunton, Virginia 24402.

Thank you for your continued support.      

Contact Us

Thanks again to all of you who called, emailed, and visited during the Session. Now that Session is over we are back home in the 20th District.

You can contact us by phone at 540-448-3999, or you can continue to reach us by email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov

If you prefer to send us written correspondence, you can do so at Post Office Box 239, Staunton, Virginia 24402.

Please also note that I am happy to speak at special events and meetings for clubs, civic organizations, church groups, etc. as scheduling allows.  Please feel free to contact Savanna at savanna@bellfordelegate.com to schedule.

As always, I thank you for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.

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