Bell Sounds from the 20th - 2018 Session - Week 5

Next Tuesday marks the official half way mark of the 2018 Session.  After Tuesday the House will only be able to consider Senate Bills, and the Senate will only consider House Bills, except for the biennial budget. Most committees have completed their dockets and some are working to finish them up today.   After Crossover we will begin work on the legislation passed by the Senate.

 Bipartisan Compromise Reached on Grand Larceny Threshold and Legislation to Protect Crime Victims

One topic many of you have reached out to me about this year is raising the larceny threshold.  Yesterday, Governor Ralph Northam and Speaker Kirk Cox announced a bipartisan compromise to raise the felony larceny threshold to $500 and adopt into law legislation to ensure that crime victims are paid the restitution duly owed to them.

The General Assembly will pass and the Governor will support and sign a package of legislation introduced by Delegate Les Adams and Senator David Suetterlein that will raise the felony larceny threshold to $500, as well as legislation introduced by Delegate Rob Bell and Senator Mark Obenshain to ensure that restitution ordered by the courts is collected from defendants, and legislation to ensure that restitution collected will be delivered to the victims.

The restitution legislation may seem like a no brainer, but it is significant. A Crime Commission study recently found that there was over $230 million in unpaid and overdue restitution owed to victims across the Commonwealth. This comprises all money defendants owe to victims for things like medical expenses. Even more recently WRIC8 reporter Kerri O’Brien found that there is approximately $8 million in restitution that was collected from defendants but never delivered to the crime victims.

The House has previously been reluctant to pass an increase in the grand larceny threshold, but the commitment to reforming the process by which victims receive restitution provided members with the confidence needed to increase the threshold, which at $200 currently is the lowest in the nation.

This compromise package incorporates two critical policy goals and is a huge step forward in commonsense criminal justice reform. We are maintaining our tough position on criminal theft, while modernizing the law to fit current times.

Last year, the House and Senate passed a bill introduced by Delegate Rob Bell to address the unpaid restitution but Governor McAuliffe vetoed it. The commitment from Governor Northam to sign this piece of legislation is a significant step for crime victims. I’m grateful that Governor Northam and Speaker Cox could work together to find common ground and produce a commonsense and bipartisan solution to a real problem.

Regulatory Reform Legislation

One of my biggest priorities has always been ensuring there is less government intrusion on the everyday life of Virginia citizens. On Monday, Governor Northam and Speaker Cox announced a bipartisan agreement to establish a regulatory reform pilot program with a goal to reduce or streamline regulatory requirements by 25% over the next three years.

This bipartisan legislation will help unleash Virginia’s economy by removing bureaucratic red tape that hinders the creation of good paying jobs.

We’ve seen positive effects of regulatory reform on our national economy during the last year, and Virginia has the potential to reap the same positive benefits through this pilot program. Not only will this program remove burdensome regulations, but it will help grow our economy and increase government efficiency. 

I am very excited about this program and I look forward to it removing many of the barriers that holds back development and job creation.

Practical Solutions to Everyday Issues

 The House of Delegates has now passed the three major pieces of the “Practical Solutions to Everyday Issues” agenda. House Bills 1, 2, and 3 were top priorities of the House and the passage of these bills strengthens our commitment to advancing practical solutions to everyday issues.

Last week I shared with you that my House Bill 2, which will allow a spouse of any member of the armed forces who has a valid out-of-state teaching license to enjoy licensure reciprocity in Virginia, passed in the House of Delegates.  This legislation was a top priority of the House of Delegates and will show our commitment to not only fixing the teacher shortage but also to remaining one of the most military friendly states in the United States.

House Bill 1 will protect sensitive data, such as the email address and telephone number, of students enrolled in Virginia public colleges and universities from being released to the public without their consent.  This solves a problem that was brought to light last fall when media outlets across the Commonwealth reported that some political campaigns were targeting students by accessing their personal information without their knowledge.  With the passage of HB 1, students must provide consent before their personal information can be shared with any outside individual or organization.

House Bill 3 ensures that students who attempt to cut down on the cost of college by completing dual enrollment courses in High School will receive the credit they are due. This legislation directs the State Council of Higher Education to establish quality standards for dual enrollment courses, including standards for instructors, materials, and content. Courses that meet or exceed these standards will be certified as “Universal Transfer Courses” and satisfy course credit at any public institution of higher education.   This will save students time and money by ensuring that dual enrollment programs work as intended and allow students to earn credits while in high school.

All three of these bills have passed in the House and are now headed to the Senate for final consideration.

My Legislation

This week the House unanimously passed my House Bill 84, which requires any school division that does not offer any elective courses in American Sign Language to allow students to take ASL courses through a community college or online provider and count successful completion toward the fulfillment of their foreign language requirements for graduation.

This expands upon previous legislation that I have sponsored regarding American Sign Language. In 2011, I sponsored legislation that required institutions of higher education to accept American Sign Language as a foreign language for their entrance requirements. In 2017, House Bill 1512 expanded this to allow ASL to fulfill the foreign language course credit requirements at their public college or university.

I am thrilled that House Bill 84 has passed out of the House unanimously. I have spent much of my time in the House of Delegates working to expand access to American Sign Language classes for high school and college students. I believe that expanded access to ASL classes will encourage more students to take an interest in American Sign Language and will open a host of educational opportunities for both hearing and deaf students. I look forward to continuing the discussion on this legislation when it crosses over to the Senate.


This week we had several visitors drop by from home. Dr. Frank Friedman was here with a group of students from Piedmont Valley Community College. Highland County Supervisor David Blanchard visited with his daughter Mary Winters, who served as a House Page last year.  We were visited by representatives from Virginia 2021, who came to Richmond to advocate for redistricting reform. We met with Tom Woodworth from Parker Bows in Staunton. Last but not least, the Augusta County Board of Supervisors visited with County Administrator Tim Fitzgerald. 

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 I make every attempt to see my constituents, please understand that my committee schedule can be very hectic and change very quickly.  I appreciate your patience and understanding.

Contact Information

We are operating out of our Richmond Office for the duration of the 2018 Session. To reach us by phone call the Richmond office directly at 804-698-1020.  We will still receive email at

If you prefer to send us written correspondence, you can send mail to Post Office Box 406, Richmond, Virginia 23218.

You can also stay updated by following us on Twitter.

I look forward to hearing from you on the issues that matter most to you.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your delegate!





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