Bell Sounds from the 20th - 2019 Session - Week 6

The General Assembly is entering the final week of the 2019 Session.  There’s still a lot of work ahead of us in this final week of the session, so it is sure to be a busy one.

The end of this Session is bittersweet for me this year, as this will be my final session as your representative.  It has been an honor and privilege to serve as your delegate over the last 10 sessions and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to meet so many of you along the way! My term runs through December though, so I look forward to seeing you back home in the 20thDistrict.

House and Senate Overwhelmingly Approve $1 Billion Tax Relief Package!

Good News! The House and Senate have overwhelmingly passed the tax relief package I talked about in last week’s newsletter. This package not only protects Virginians from a tax increase, but also allows for a tax rebate that we will receive in October.  This rebate is in addition to any tax refund you might receive. 

I’m proud that the General Assembly was able to set aside their difference and compromise on this meaningful tax legislation.  In total, this legislation will guarantee at least $976 million in tax relief and ensure that all additional revenues from the permanent provisions of federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are placed in the state’s cash reserve fund.  The legislation also conforms Virginia tax law to the federal law, ensuring Virginians will be able to file their state taxes without complications.

The House and Senate were also able to add back in an emergency clause that allowed the bill to go into effect when the Governor signed it yesterday. 

For more information on how this tax plan will affect you click here.

The Budget

The most important piece of legislation that is still outstanding this year is the amendments to our biennial budget.  Each house has passed a budget that works in tandem with the tax relief plan, and those bills are now in a conference committee to hammer out the differences. 

Highlights of the House budget bill include investments in K-12 education, providing $155 million in increased funding. This includes funding for a five percent teacher pay raise and returns 45 percent of lottery money back to local schools with no strings attached. It also prioritizes school safety and includes $12 million in school safety initiatives for safety equipment, school resource officers, and other innovative school safety solutions.

The conference committee will negotiate the final terms of the budget over the next few days and I hope that they will put forth a final budget that is conservative, fiscally sound, and limits the size and scope of the government.

Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Appointments

On Thursday, the General Assembly elected Virginia Court of Appeals Judge Teresa M. Chafin to the Supreme Court of Virginia.  Justice Chafin was an outstanding and highly qualified candidate for this position and the Commonwealth will certainly benefit from her service.

Her appointment continues the General Assembly’s long track record of elevating women to judgeships across the Commonwealth.  Republicans have controlled at least one chamber of the General Assembly since 2001 and during that time over 100 women have been elected to judgeships across the Commonwealth, including four women who have been elected to full terms on the Supreme Court of Virginia.

The General Assembly elected Judge Clay Athey, a Shenandoah Valley native, to fill Justice Chafin's position on the Court of Appeals.  

Contact Us!

I love hearing from constituents on issues that matter most to you! We are operating out of our Richmond Office for the duration of the 2019 Session.  

The quickest way to reach us by phone is by calling the Richmond office directly at 804-698-1020.  We do not monitor the voicemail on our district office phone during the legislative session.  We will still receive email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.

If you’re in the Richmond area during Session and would like to stop by for a visit, please do so. Our committee schedule is very demanding, but I make every attempt to see constituents who come visit in Richmond.  We do not require appointments, but they are encouraged.

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

 

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - 2019 Session - Week 5

We have passed the official midpoint of the 2019 Session and we’re now on the downhill side! 

Before I provide an update on the happenings in the General Assembly Session, I feel that I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the events that have transpired over the last week in the Commonwealth.  The revelations against and admissions made by our state leaders are both surprising and disturbing.  It has been a tough week for Virginians on all political spectrums and has understandably shaken their faith in our Government.

Virginia has weathered storms before and we will weather this one as well.  In the meantime, the legislature is committed to continue our work on the hundreds of bills still before us with as little interruption as possible.  We were sent here to do a job and I want you to assure you that while our Commonwealth has been deeply shaken by these developments, our work continues without disruption.

I hope you will join me in praying for our Commonwealth and our leaders at this difficult time.

Tax Relief and Tax Conformity

Republicans in the House and Senate have agreed on the terms of a $1 billion tax relief package.  This is the most significant tax relief plan in at least 15 years and the second largest tax cut in Virginia history. This tax relief package is expected to be voted on by the House and Senate on Monday, then forwarded to Governor Northam, who has endorsed this legislation.

The compromise will provide $420 million in tax refunds to Virginia taxpayers in October of 2019, increase the standard deduction by fifty percent beginning in tax year 2019, maintain the current rules for state and local taxes (SALT), and include key business tax provisions for Virginia’s largest job creators.

Under this plan, married couples will receive a tax refund check of up to $220 in October and beginning next year, will receive $173 in tax relief on their state taxes, for a total of $400 back over the next two years.

The total package will guarantee at least $976 million in tax relief and ensure that all additional revenues from the permanent provisions of Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are placed in the state’s cash reserve fund. The legislation also conforms Virginia tax law to the federal law.

It is important to note that although this is compromise legislation between General Assembly Republicans and the administration, it does not yet include an emergency clause. An emergency clause requires 80 percent in each chamber and would take effect immediately upon signature by the Governor. Without the emergency clause these changes in the law would not take effect until July 1, too late for this tax season.  House and Senate Democrats have blocked emergency legislation in both chambers. The lack of an emergency clause, if not remedied, will cause significant delays in processing state tax returns and refunds.

College Savings Plan

Earlier this week the House passed legislation to make it easier for middle class students and families to afford college by lowering the price of Prepaid529 plans.

With Virginia students borrowing more than $1 billion per year to pay for college, lowering the cost of college has been a top priority of General Assembly members on both sides of the aisle.  This amount of student debt hurts our economy and makes it harder for our college graduates to get started after college. This legislation is another big step in helping middle class students and families afford a college education at one of Virginia’s fine colleges or universities.

Currently families pay a 10 percent “pricing reserve” on top of the semester contract prices.  The pricing reserve has been used to mitigate risk to the fund, but a recent JLARC study found that Virginia’s Prepaid529 program is 138% funded and actuarially sound.  This means the fund is more than capable of meeting all its benefit commitments.

Because of this study, Delegates Steve Landes and Tim Hugo introduced legislation that would cap the pricing reserve at 5% so long as the program remains more than 105 percent funded, as it is currently. Its high funded status is one of the reason’s that JLARC recommended to the General Assembly that it focus on measures to improve program affordability. They estimate that reducing the pricing reserve from 10% to 5% would lower the current cost of an 8-semester contract by more than $3,000.

This is commonsense measure is another step forward in helping lower the cost of a college education.

Contact Us!

I love hearing from constituents on issues that matter most to you! We are operating out of our Richmond Office for the duration of the 2019 Session.  

The quickest way to reach us by phone is by calling the Richmond office directly at 804-698-1020.  We do not monitor the voicemail on our district office phone during the legislative session.  We will still receive email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.

If you’re in the Richmond area during Session and would like to stop by for a visit, please do so. Our committee schedule is very demanding, but I make every attempt to see constituents who come visit in Richmond.  We do not require appointments, but they are encouraged.

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

 

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2019 Session - Bell Sounds from the 20th - Week 3

The 2019 Session is in full swing.  We are already just over a week away from Crossover. For those who are not familiar with Crossover, this is the day where all bills must be acted on in their House of origin.  After Crossover, the House will only consider Senate bills and the Senate will only consider House bills, apart from the budget bill.

A lot of legislation has worked its way through the process and we have already passed several major pieces of legislation.  There are still many bills working their way through the committee process, meaning committee meetings and floor

School Safety Legislation Passes in the House of Delegates

As I have mentioned in previous newsletters you may recall that last year the Speaker of the House formed this committee during the 2018 Session following the tragedy in Parkland, Florida.  The Select Committee met during the interim with the focus of strengthening emergency preparedness, hardening school security infrastructure, implementing security best practices, deploying additional security personnel, providing additional behavioral health resources for students, and developing prevention protocols at primary and secondary institutions across the Commonwealth.  They then made a series of recommendations to the General Assembly for the 2019 General Assembly Session. On Tuesday, the House of Delegates passed several bills that were direct results of the 24 priority recommendations from this committee.

I’m proud of my colleagues for taking the issue of school safety seriously and looking outside the box to make our kids safer.  The bills passed were:

  • HB1729 requires each public school counselor to spend at least 80 percent of their staff time during normal school hours in the direct counseling of individual students or groups of students. School counselors are currently overburdened with administrative tasks, such as coordinating testing, that limits the amount of time they can provide counseling to students.  This bill ensures that counseling services will be available to any student who needs it.
  • HB1733 requires the school board in each school division where the local law-enforcement agency employs school resource officers to enter into a memorandum of understanding with such local law-enforcement agency that sets forth the powers and duties of the school resource officers.  School Resource Officers are responsible for upholding the law, not school board policy; therefore, it is imperative that localities clearly articulate and agree upon the Resource Officer’s role.
  • HB1738 requires a licensed architect who is trained and experienced in crime prevention through environmental design to approve plans and specifications for new or remodeled public school building construction. These architects look at corridors, open spaces, and floor plans through the lens of school safety.
  • HB1725 requires each school board, in consultation with the local building official and local fire marshal, to develop a procurement plan to ensure that all security enhancements to public school buildings are in compliance with the Uniform Statewide Building Code and Statewide Fire Prevention Code.
  • HB1732 requires each public elementary and secondary school to conduct at least one general safety/emergency training or drill for students per year. Schools already conduct fire, tornado, and earthquake drills, and need more general emergency preparedness training to ensure students, teachers, and staff are prepared for any type of emergency.

I’m pleased that these bills were advanced, and I hope that they will be viewed favorably by our colleagues in the Senate.  There are several other school safety priority recommendations still making their way through the committee process in the House and I look forward to continuing these discussions on the House floor. 

I support Margaret Ransone.

On Tuesday my colleague, Republican Delegate Margaret Ransone, gave a heartfelt speech on the House floor following what she felt was a very disheartening situation earlier that morning in the subcommittee she chairs. Delegate Ransone chairs the Privileges and Elections subcommittee that heard the Equal Rights Amendment legislation.  She personally is opposed to the amendment and during the meeting tried to take a moment to speak words of encouragement directly to the young girls who were in attendance. Instead of allowing their daughters to hear the perspective of a woman who’s opinion differed from their own, the mother’s in the room were angry and covered their daughters’ ears while she was speaking.  This is not the message that I believe we should be delivering to our children as we teach them to engage in political discourse.

Margaret spoke about her experiences on the House floor and used that opportunity to empower young women everywhere.  If you haven’t seen her speech yet, I encourage you to take a few moments to watch it by clicking here.  Margaret is a strong woman and an excellent delegate, and I am honored to serve with her.

Contact Us!

I love hearing from constituents on issues that matter most to you! We are operating out of our Richmond Office for the duration of the 2019 Session.  

The quickest way to reach us by phone is by calling the Richmond office directly at 804-698-1020.  We do not monitor the voicemail on our district office phone during the legislative session.  We will still receive email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.

If you’re in the Richmond area during Session and would like to stop by for a visit, please do so. Our committee schedule is very demanding, but I make every attempt to see constituents who come visit in Richmond.  We do not require appointments, but they are encouraged.

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

 

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - 2019 Session - Week 2

The 2019 General Assembly session is in full swing and legislation is working its way through the process.   This is our short session, and short sessions tend to ramp up quickly. There are lots of things going on, and I would like to give you a brief update on some of the highlights.

Supporting Your Second Amendment Rights

I’ve already received calls and emails from many of you who have written and called my office asking me to oppose gun legislation introduced at the request of Governor Northam.  This package, which Governor Northam unveiled shortly before the Session kicked off, included legislation to reinstate the "one gun per month" law, legislation to make it illegal to carry certain guns in some public places, and legislation that bans “assault firearms” and changes the definition of assault firearm to include any firearm that is equipped with a magazine that holds more than 10 rounds.

I am pleased to inform you that yesterday Republicans voted to defeat these far-left gun-control bills.  These bills would have infringed upon the rights of law abiding citizens but would not have prevented gun violence.

I recognize that gun violence is a very serious problem, and I am committed to common sense laws that protect people.  This does not, however, have to come at the expense of our constitutional rights. Just two years ago, we brokered a bipartisan agreement to expand background checks at gun shows and make it harder for domestic abusers to gain access to firearms.  I continue to support these and other responsible steps.  I cannot support, however, overly-broad efforts to take away the constitutional rights of law-abiding individuals.  This is simply not the right approach.

Plan to Improve Interstate 81

Another hot topic throughout this year and into the legislative Session has been improvements to Interstate 81.  I have heard from many constituents over the last several years who have asked about a plan to improve Interstate 81 and make it safe.

Governor Ralph Northam last week announced a bipartisan proposal for dedicated funding to improve I-81. 

This plan is patroned by Delegates Steve Landes and Terry Austin in the House of Delegates and Senators Mark Obenshain and Bill Carrico in the State Senate.

The plan is the result of a year-long study completed by the Commonwealth Transportation Board at the direction of the General Assembly and will fund $2.2 billion in critical improvements along the corridor.  

We are still early in the Session and these plans are still being tweaked and details are being hammered out. I understand that there are many of you who are concerned about the idea of adding tolls to Interstate 81 and I certainly understand those concerns.  I believe what is currently important is that a serious dialogue about 81 is finally happening. I think we have an excellent opportunity here to address the longstanding issues with I-81 and I hope that we will be able to reach an agreement and finally have a bipartisan and commonsense solution to making 81 safe for travelers and commuters.

More information about the improvement plan can be found online at http://www.va81corridor.org/.

Republicans Help Elect Female Judge to the SCC

On Wednesday, Judge Patricia West was confirmed by the House and Senate as the newest judge on the State Corporation Commission.  Judge West is a highly qualified judge with the resume necessary to serve in this role.

The State Corporation Commission regulates and oversees some of Virginia’s largest industries, including electric utilities, financial institutions, and insurance companies. The SCC also manages all corporate filings - including the paperwork needed to start a business in Virginia.

The SCC is a constitutional entity whose judges are elected by the General Assembly. Like with all judges, we seek to elect people who will uphold the law as it is written.  Judge West has served as a judge in the Virginia Beach Circuit Court, chief deputy attorney general of Virginia, and Chair of the Virginia Ethics Council and is highly qualified for this job.  Her election also means women will now hold the majority on this important court.

I was proud to support this highly qualified candidate to serve in this important role.

Contact Us!

I love hearing from constituents on issues that matter most to you! We are operating out of our Richmond Office for the duration of the 2019 Session.  

The quickest and most direct way to reach us by phone is by calling our Richmond office at 804-698-1020. You can still reach us by email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.

If you’re in the Richmond area during Session and would like to stop by for a visit, please do so. Our committee schedule is very demanding, but I make every attempt to see constituents who come visit in Richmond.  We do not require appointments, but they are encouraged.

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

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - 2019 Session - Week 1

On Wednesday, January 9 Speaker Cox officially gaveled in the 2019 Session.  This opening session was historical, as it marked 400 years of uninterrupted lawmaking in Virginia.  The Virginia House of Delegates, formally the House of Burgesses, was established in 1619 and is the oldest continuously lawmaking body in the New World.

To mark the occasion Speaker Kirk Cox addressed the 100 members of the House of Delegates flanked by the Jamestown Settlement Honor Guard.  To see his address, click here.  I am honored and humbled to be here for this historic milestone.

This year will be a short (46 days) session and we plan to tackle important issues such as tax reform, access to higher education, and improving healthcare.  We have a lot to do and just over 6 weeks to complete our work.

Saying NO to Governor Northam’s Tax Hike

As most of you know, in late 2017 Congress passed and the President signed the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, the first major rewrite of the tax code since 1986.  As part of that plan, Americans saw their standard deduction double from $6,350 to $12,000 for single filers, and from $12,700 to $24,000 for married couples filing jointly.

This plan highlighted a technical quirk in Virginia law that will cost Virginians in taxes. In Virginia, individuals who take the standard deduction at the federal level must also take it at the state level.  Our standard deduction presently stands at $3,000 for individuals and $6,000 for married couples filing jointly.  This means that someone who may have $9,000 in deductions at the state level would be limited to filing at the much lower standard deduction. 

Without a fix, this would mean that an estimated 600,000 Virginians would see a higher state tax bill.  The Governor’s recent budget proposal would use this new revenue from state taxes to fund $2.2 billion in state funding. 

To me that is completely unacceptable.

For this reason, I filed House Bill 1618, which will allow individuals and families who use the standard deduction at the federal level to itemize at the state level.  My bill will be part of a bigger conversation that House Republicans are having on this issue.  In addition to allowing those who use the standard deduction to itemize at the state level, the House Republican plan also increases the standard deduction and maintains existing rules for state and local tax deductions that the federal law changed.  Finally, the proposal aims to make taxpayers who itemize whole for the current tax year.  It will likely be too late to change the tax law for the 2018 filing season, so this will allow those who itemize this year to claim a deduction on next year’s taxes to make up for lost itemization.

If passed, this plan will fully implement the federal tax cuts at the state level, protecting a middle class family that itemizes from what could be roughly a $805 tax increase or providing an additional $115 in tax relief to a family that chooses the standard deduction.

Keeping our Children Safe in School

Last year Speaker Cox formed a select committee to study school safety in Virginia. Virginia has constantly been recognized as a leader in school safety, however we must be ever vigilant in the changing world we live in. House Republicans are also prioritizing two-dozen recommendations from the House Select Committee on School Safety and we are leading the effort this year to find innovative ways to keep our children safe. We are confident we can find common ground with the governor on that. Stay tuned as I will continue to keep you updated with these pieces of legislation as they make their way through the legislative process.

Contact Us!

We are operating out of our Richmond Office for the duration of the 2019 Session.  I love hearing from constituents on issues that matter most to you!

The quickest way to reach us by phone will be by calling the Richmond office directly at 804-698-1020.  We do not monitor the voicemail on our district office phone during the legislative session.   We will still receive email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - To every thing there is a season...

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: Ecclesiastes 3:1 King James Version (KJV)

In 2009 I was elected to serve the citizens of the 20th House District as their Delegate to the General Assembly. It was a tremendous honor then, and it remains a tremendous honor now. Public service has always been a calling for me, and I am pleased and proud to say that I have answered that call.

This coming year, 2019, marks a decade of service for me in the House of Delegates, following thirteen and a half years of service as a member of Staunton City Council and fourteen more years of volunteer service on the City’s boards and commissions prior to that. It has not been without its challenges, but it has been a labor of love. Public service has given me the opportunity to meet and serve many, many wonderful people, making me aware everyday of why I chose to do this.

My family has been incredibly supportive of everything I have done and they have suffered the slings and arrows so common in politics just as I have. Their support has never wavered and they have made many sacrifices on my behalf without ever complaining. They have been my sounding board, my confidantes, my defenders, and my team. I will continue to spend the rest of my life repaying them for their love and support.

In a profession where staff people come and go all the time I have been blessed with a loyal staff that has been with me, supported me, shielded me, defended me and protected me from the very first day of this journey. I will be forever grateful for that blessing of loyalty.

Despite my years in local politics, when I went to Richmond I learned “things I never knew I never knew.” I often tell people that unlike most others who run for office we had no money, no organization behind us and no clue what we were in for. There were times when I would wish “I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then” but through it all I have always done my best to serve the citizens of the 20th District and represent their best interests.

That brings us to 2019, which is an election year for all 140 members of the General Assembly, and the reason for this announcement.  After much thought and much prayerful consideration my family and I have made a decision.

I will not run for re-election in 2019.

It has been an honor to serve and I am proud of my service. However, it is not my highest honor. That would be the honor and blessing of being a husband and father and a humble servant of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I have never apologized for my faith or my love for this country and my battle cry has always been “family first.” Those are the things of which I am proudest.

Let me assure you that I am fine. I am not ill or sick, in fact I’m very healthy, but the clock is still ticking and no day is promised. We are expecting our first grandchild in January and that most certainly is part of the decision. I am not sad that my public service is coming to an end, but rather I am very grateful that the opportunity ever came along in the first place. It has been a great, exciting ride! As Thomas Jefferson remarked upon his retreat from the public life, “I will leave with my hands as clean as they are empty.” It is a true blessing to be able to leave on your own terms, and that too is part of my decision.

I have tried to be a good representative and a good public servant. Being a good politician never really mattered to me because I don’t have a fondness for politics and I never have. It’s a game I just don’t play well. I care more about people than politics. Today’s political climate saddens me and the partisan divide we see at every level of government makes public service more difficult.

There is an old quotation from a gentleman named James Freeman Clarke that says “a politician cares about the next election, a statesman cares about the next generation.” It’s not original to me but I think it describes my service well, and I believe my legislative record supports that claim. It would be an honor to someday be remembered as a statesman.

I have never been concerned about winning or losing elections. I am a competitor and I love competition and I have always believed that working hard and doing things the right way produce successful outcomes. The decision to retire at this time has absolutely nothing to do with elections.

Anne and I treasure the friendships that have sprung out of my time in public office and we hold them dear. Whatever it takes to maintain those relationships we plan to do. The opportunity to have more time to spend with my family and repay them for their loyalty and sacrifice over the years, as well as time for a new granddaughter has a strong pull on me and has me very excited.

Thank you all for your support. It has been overwhelming and humbling. It has always been my honor and my humble pleasure to serve as your Delegate. May God richly bless each and every one of you, may God bless the Commonwealth of Virginia and may God bless the United States of America.

 

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - Be Prepared for Hurricane Florence

As you may already be aware, a state of emergency has been declared by the Governor due to the potential impacts our area could face by Hurricane Florence later this week.  A state of emergency allows the Commonwealth to mobilize resources, including the Virginia National Guard, and pre-position people and equipment to assist in storm response and recovery efforts.

While the exact track of Hurricane Florence is still uncertain, Florence continues to intensify, and it appears increasingly likely that she will hit the East Coast later this week as a major hurricane.  Current forecast models indicate that Florence could strike the Carolinas and enter Central Virginia, possibly stalling and dropping more than 20 inches of rain in some areas. Much of Virginia, including here locally, is likely to see significant impacts from this storm toward the end of this week. This could include widespread and dangerous flooding, inundation of roads and damaged infrastructure. Potential widespread power outages are also expected. 

With this storm the biggest risk comes not from the winds but from the water.  While much of the impact would be in coastal areas, there is a significant concern that many areas of Virginia will see significant rainfall which could lead to severe flooding inland.  The Virginia Department of Emergency Management is urging ALL Virginians to take this storm extremely seriously and prepare accordingly. 

Virginians should prepare for rising waters, flash flooding, and remember to never drive across flooded roadways. Most injuries and deaths occur when motorists try to cross flooded roads. Roads and bridges can be damaged or completely washed away beneath flood waters, and a few inches of water can sweep vehicles downstream.

The time to prepare is NOW.  Get your home, business and family ready for whatever impacts this storm may bring.  Hurricane season lasts through November 30, so more storms may target Virginia this year. 

Visit http://www.vaemergency.gov/hurricanes to learn how to prepare for these deadly storms.

I’ve also included some links below to help you prepare for Hurricane Florence:

For updates on Tropical Storm Florence, follow the National Hurricane Center on Twitter.

If you lose power, be sure to report the outage to your respective provider.

  • Dominion - 1-866-366-4357 or report online
  • Shenandoah Valley Electric Coop. - 1-800-234-7832
  • Central Virginia Electric Coop. - 800-367-2832
  • Appalachian Power – 1-800-956-4237  or online  

To check road conditions, you can call 511 or go to www.511virginia.org.

For general information about the storm and the response effort, visit www.vaemergency.gov or download the Ready Virginia App.

To get the latest local school closings, cancellations and weather conditions please visit one of our local media outlets. (www.whsv.com, www.nbc29.com, www.wsvaonline.com

Please make sure to use 9-1-1 only for true emergencies.

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Bell Sounds from the 20th : Virginia General Assembly Passes a Budget

This Wednesday, the General Assembly finally passed a two-year budget, which includes Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.  In doing so, we completely abandoned a long tradition of fiscal responsibility in governance and conservative principles in budgeting.

I stood with the vast majority of Republican legislators and voted against this budget every step of the way.  The Democratic Party is claiming this as a victory, but let me be clear; they could not have done this without the support of the four Republican Senators and nineteen Republican House members who joined them in support of expansion. 

To say that this process has been frustrating for those of us who have stood  against expansion would be an understatement.  That frustration does not even compare to the frustration that we will undoubtedly see in Virginians over the coming months and years as their premiums and healthcare costs continue to rise.

Proponents of this healthcare plan, especially those Republicans who supported expansion, have continually touted this as a conservative approach to expansion, complete with a work requirement.  Please understand, however, that there is no light version of expansion. We either accept the federal funds or we do not. The work requirement is more like a work suggestion, and these conservative reforms hinge on waivers from the federal government. 

Republican Senators attempted to offer an amendment yesterday that would ensure these modest reforms were approved before expansion, but those amendments were rejected. Self-proclaimed conservatives have touted these reforms as a way to promote accountability and self-sufficiency, but the reality is we are likely to end up with Medicaid expansion with no accountability.

The consequences of this short-sighted action extend well beyond healthcare.  The spending in this budget is unsustainable.  It contains $600 million in new taxes in the form of a “bed tax” on hospitals.  This tax will be passed on directly to Virginians in the form of hospital bills and increased insurance premiums. The revenue from this tax will not, however, sustain the spending levels that we passed on Wednesday. 

If enrollment exceeds our predictions as it has in many other states or if the federal government is unable to fulfill its promise on the federal money, the General Assembly will have to face some incredibly tough decisions to fill the holes this would leave in the budget.   This would likely mean a decision to either raise taxes or face dramatic cuts to core government services like education, public safety, and transportation.

I am not deaf to the healthcare needs of our community and our commonwealth. I simply do not believe that this is the correct approach.  Medicaid expansion does nothing to address the underlying healthcare problem: the cost.  It will not reduce insurance premiums, it will not lower the cost of medical treatment, and it will not reduce out of pocket expenses.  Instead it expands to able-bodied adults an already out of control government program that was originally intended as a safety net for the truly needy.

We need to bring down health care costs, increase competition between health insurers and providers, and reduce insurance premiums and deductibles so that more Virginians can afford health insurance. This year, we advanced several legislative initiatives that attempted to address healthcare costs. This included: measures to permit the offering of lower cost catastrophic care coverage, a bill to allow organizations like the Chamber of Commerce to offer group plans, and an initiative to incentivize consumers to seek out lower cost care and increase transparency from providers. Several of these bi-partisan bills made it to the Governor’s desk, but all met their fate with a partisan veto.

If there is a silver lining in this week’s action it is that we have passed a budget before the July 1 deadline. This will give our school divisions, localities, and state agencies the much-needed certainty they need to create their own budgets and will ensure that we avoid a government shut down in July.

This week’s actions are a good reminder to us all that elections have consequences. While I am disappointed in the actions of the House and Senate, I’m proud of the clear majority of both the House and Senate Republican caucuses that stood firm against this expansion of government.  I hope that we will be strengthened by this setback and be ready to resume the fight for fiscal responsibility and responsible government when we return to Richmond in January.

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - Join Delegate Bell at the Stuarts Draft Diamondbacks Game on May 26

Join me at the Stuarts Draft Diamondbacks Season Opener!

It’s baseball season!

I will be hosting a promo night at the Stuarts Draft Diamondbacks Season Opener on Saturday, May 26.  The game starts at 7:30 pm.  I will be throwing the first pitch and we will be doing a drawing for a free concession item during each inning.

Join Anne and I as we cheer on the Diamondbacks against the Elkton Blue Sox. 

I hope to see you there!

Print this email and bring it with you to the game for free admission!

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - 2018 Reconvened Session

It’s been just over six weeks since the General Assembly adjourned the 2018 Session Sine Die without passing a biennial budget.  As you may recall, the Senate and House disagreed on the issue of Medicaid Expansion and were unable to work out the differences prior to the scheduled adjournment of the regular session.   We returned to Richmond on April 11 to organize with the Senate to start the special session and continue our work on a new two-year state budget.  We met again on April 17 for the Special Session and on April 18 the General Assembly held its Reconvened Session to address Governor Ralph Northam's vetoes and recommendations. I’d like to provide you with an update on both the Reconvened Session and the Special Session. 

Reconvened Session

This year, Governor Northam vetoed 10 bills and recommended amendments to 60 bills passed by the 2018 Session of the General Assembly. This included 8 vetoes and 32 amendments for House bills. Last week we met to address those vetoes and recommendations. Most of the Governor’s amendments were largely technical in nature and as such the House accepted most of them, with the notable exceptions being amendments to redistricting legislation, the coal tax credit, and Metro tax increases. 

The Governor’s vetoes were also all sustained and the House failed to override his veto of Delegate Ben Cline's sanctuary cities bill.  This veto is especially disappointing to many of us considering Governor Northam’s promises during the campaign last fall that he would sign legislation prohibiting sanctuary cities in Virginia.

For a complete list of the Governor’s vetoes and amendments along with bill summaries, visit http://dls.virginia.gov/pubs/vetoes/Vetoes2018.pdf.

Special Session

On March 13th, Governor Northam called for a Special Session. The House convened to officially gavel in the Special Session on April 11th.  On April 13th, the House Appropriations Committee met and recommended amendments to House Bills 5001 and 5002 and on April 17th the House convened, adopted budget bills, and adjourned to the call of the Speaker.

The House Bills adopted last week are very similar to the budget bills passed by the House during the regular session.  The House budget does still contain Medicaid expansion, and as such, I continue to oppose this budget.  The budget will now head to the Senate, where they will likely make changes and send the bills to conference to hammer out the differences.

The Senate is set to reconvene on May 14 to refer the budgets to the Finance committee and hopefully we will be able to get the bills into conference soon after. The time frame is still up in the air, but the House of Delegates stands ready to reconvene as soon as it is possible to get the bills in conference so that the conferees can get to work negotiating the differences.

I hope that we can act quickly so that we can bring much needed certainty to state agencies, local governments, and school divisions who depend on the state budget to set their own budgets. I will certainly keep you updated as things continue to progress.

2018 General Assembly Session Update on My Legislation

I’m pleased that Governor Northam signed each of my bills that passed in the General Assembly Session this year.  They are: HB 2, HB 26, HB 84, HB 206, HB 1366, HB 1506, and HB 1534.  I’m thankful to the constituents who reached out to me with some of this legislation.  

Speaker Appointments and Reappointments

Last week Speaker Kirk Cox announced that he has appointed me to serve on the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules.

The Joint Commission on Administrative Rules (JCAR) is to review existing agency rules or regulations and agency rules or regulations during the final adoption process.  They advise the Governor and the General Assembly to suspend, modify, repeal, or adopt rules or regulations.  They also assess the impact of rules and regulation on the economy, environment, government operations, and members of the public. 

In addition to this new appointment, I was also reappointed to several boards and commissions. These include: the Autism Advisory Council, State Executive Council for Children’s Services Act, Advisory Council on PANS and PANDAS, Center for Rural Virginia Board of Trustees, and the Commission on Youth.

I am grateful to Speaker Cox for his confidence in my ability to serve on this diverse group of boards and commissions. I look forward to serving on the Joint Commission of Administrative Rules, and to continuing to serve on the additional boards and commissions to which I have been reappointed.  It is an honor to serve in these bodies and to represent my constituents in this way.

Contact Us 

I love hearing from constituents on the issues that matter the most to you.  If you have a state issue that you’re concerned about, or need help in dealing with a state agency, please do not hesitate to contact me. 

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

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

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

 

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