Bell Sounds from the 20th - Don't forget to vote TOMORROW, November 8.

Election Day is finally upon us! 

Polling places open at 6:00 am tomorrow (November 8) and will be open until 7:00 pm.   

This has been a long and particularly difficult campaign season, and the attacks launched at the top of the ticket have been deeply personal.  Even so, I believe these two candidates hold fundamentally different views on the best way to move our country forward.  While the Republican nominee is far from perfect, he is the only candidate that has committed to advocate for the values that many of us hold dear. I hope you will join me in supporting Donald Trump and Mike Pence, along with my good friends Bob Goodlatte in the 6th Congressional District and Tom Garrett in the 5th Congressional District.

In addition to a President and Congressman, Virginians will also be voting on two amendments to the Virginia Constitution.  The first is of particular importance to me, as I patroned the supporting legislation in the House of Delegates. Ballot Question 1 will enshrine Virginia’s right to work status in the constitution.  Virginia has been a right to work state for decades through statute. Ballot question one on will simply add another layer of protection to this law, and will ensure that our right to work laws cannot be repealed at the whims of the legislature or Governor.  I encourage you to vote “Yes” on BOTH proposed amendments to the Virginia Constitution. For more information on the constitutional amendments, please check out my previous newsletter.

In addition to the presidential and congressional races and constitutional amendments there are also local contests in several localities.  If you have questions about where you vote, or what will be on your ballot, visit https://vote.elections.virginia.gov/VoterInformation.  Here you can plug in your name and you will be given detailed information about your precinct, as well as a list of offices and referendums that will appear on your ballot. If you have additional questions, please contact your local registrar.

Voter ID Requirements 

It is important to note that effective July 1, 2014, a photo ID is now required for voting in Virginia.  Voters must present one of the following acceptable forms of identification: 

  • Valid Virginia Driver’s License                   
  • Other government-issued photo identification card
  • DMV-issued photo identification card                  
  • Valid United States Passport                     
  • Valid college or university student photo identification card (issuer must be an institution of higher education located in Virginia
  • Valid employee photo identification card 

If you do not have an acceptable form of identification please contact your local registration office for a free ID. 

For more information on the ID requirement in Virginia, please click here

Contact Your Local Registrar 

Augusta County     (540)245-5656

Highland County    (540)468-2013

Nelson County       (434)263-4068

Staunton City        (540)332-3840

Waynesboro City   (540)942-6620 

Election Night Party 

Tuesday night after the polls close I hope you will join the Staunton and Augusta Republican Committees for our Election Night Party at the Byers Street Bistro in Staunton.  They are asking for a donation of $2 per person to help cover the costs. I hope to see you there!

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. 

For campaign inquiries, please contact me at dickie@bellfordelegate.com. 

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

 

Add your reaction Share

Bell Sounds from the 20th - What's on the November Ballot? (Part 2)

We are just over one week until Election Day!  I talked a bit last week about what will be on the ballot November 8 and would like to continue that discussion today.  As a reminder, in addition to electing a new president, all members of the House of Representatives are up for re-election.  Virginia does NOT have a federal Senate election this year. Additionally, Virginians will also have the opportunity to vote on two amendments to the Virginia constitution.

Ballot Question 1 - Right to Work

Ballot question 1 is particularly important to me as I was the chief patron of this legislation in the General Assembly.

The wording of ballot question 1 is as follows:

  • Should Article I of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to prohibit any agreement or combination between an employer and a labor union or labor organization whereby (i) nonmembers of the union or organization are denied the right to work for the employer, (ii) membership to the union or organization is made a condition of employment or continuation of employment by such employer, or (iii) the union or organization acquires an employment monopoly in any such enterprise?

Virginia has been a right to work state for decades through statute.  This means that Virginians are not forced to join a labor union as a condition of employment or when seeking new employment. Ballot question one on November 8 will add another layer of protection to this law, and will ensure that our right to work laws cannot be repealed at the whims of the legislature.

I strongly encourage a “YES” vote on this amendment.

This amendment will protect the rights of workers and workplace freedom. Workers should be able to choose where they work based on their unique talents and abilities, rather than their willingness to join a union.  If they do join a union it should be their choice, not because they are coerced by union bosses and forced to join as a condition of employment.

Right to work laws are also good for Virginia’s economy.  Our right to work status is one the reasons that Virginia is so attractive to businesses.  Currently 26 states have right to work laws, and the evidence shows that right to work states are creating more jobs than forced-unionization states. Over the past decade, private sector employment in right to work states grew by 15.9% compared to 9.6% in forced-unionization states. In this same time period, income growth has been nearly 6% higher in right to work states. The medium unemployment rate in right to work states is 4.6%, compared to 5% in forced-unionization states. Businesses, large manufactures in particular, strongly prefer to operate in right to work states, with 40% of manufacturers will only operate in right to work states.

At a time when we are still struggling to recover from the recession, it is more important than ever that prioritize tools that will promote economic development and job growth.  We have the opportunity to send a clear message to those who may be looking to invest in Virginia that we are open for business.  By enshrining these laws in our constitution, we are protecting our right to work status for future generations.

I hope you will consider voting YES on ballot question 1 on November 8.    

Ballot Question 2 - Property tax exemptions for spouses of first responders

  • Shall the Constitution of Virginia be amended to allow the General Assembly to provide an option to the localities to exempt from taxation the real property of the surviving spouse of any law-enforcement officer, firefighter, search and rescue personnel, or emergency medical services personnel who was killed in the line of duty, where the surviving spouse occupies the real property as his or her principal place of residence and has not remarried?

Ballot Question 2 will amend the constitution to give localities the option to provide a property tax exemption to the surviving spouse of a law enforcement, firefighter, or emergency service member killed in the line of duty.

Everyday, men and women put on the uniform and risk their lives to serve our communities. Unfortunately, many have given the ultimate sacrifice to keep us safe. This amendment is a small recognition for the efforts of our first responders who put their lives on the line each and every day. Passing this amendment will show our public safety personnel that we stand with them and their families.

I hope you will consider voting YES on Ballot Question 2.

For more on these constitutional amendments, please click here.

Add your reaction Share

Bell Sounds from the 20th - What's on the November Ballot?

We are just under three weeks until Election Day!  With all of the talk of federal elections, you are undoubtedly well aware of what is going on at the top of the ticket.  In addition to electing a new president this year, all members of the House of Representatives are up for re-election.  Virginia does NOT have a federal Senate election this year.  Virginians will also have the opportunity to vote on two amendments to the Virginia constitution, which I will talk more about next week.

If you are a voter in Augusta County, you will face another important choice when you go to the polls on November 8.   You will be faced with the decision on whether or not to move the Augusta County Courthouse from downtown Staunton to Verona.  Moving the Courthouse also moves the County seat from Staunton to Verona.

The question on the ballot will read as follows:

  • Shall the Courthouse of Augusta County be removed to the Augusta County Government Center Complex in Verona, Virginia, and shall the Board of Supervisors be permitted to spend $45,000,000.00 therefore?

In full disclosure, I am a resident of Staunton City and as such, I will not have a vote on this issue in November. That being said, I do NOT support moving the courthouse to Verona.

The decision to move the Courthouse is a major decision, and should not be taken lightly.  Current estimates indicate that building a new courthouse would cost about $45 million, as indicated in the ballot question.  While this is no small sum, I fear that the cost could end up being much more than this.  I have enough experience in local government to know that first estimates are not always accurate.  As an example, we can look at Middle River Regional Jail project.  The initial estimate for the cost of the jail was $31.4 millon, the lowest bid received was $36.9 million, and the total final cost was $55.2 million.  Augusta County residents, however, only get one vote on this.  Should the cost rise above the self-imposed cap of $45 million, the county will still be forced to proceed with the new courthouse.

As a state legislature, I also have concerns about this move from a fiscal standpoint.  As you are likely aware, Virginia currently faces a $1.5 billion budget shortfall. It is still too early to know what impact this could have on local governments, but it is very likely that there will be some effect.  While the current plan for financing the Courthouse does NOT include a tax increase, decreased revenue from the state could tie their hands on the matter should citizens vote in favor of the referendum.

There is also a significant historical aspect to this that I believe needs to be considered. A county’s seat resides where its circuit court sits. Therefore, a vote to move the Augusta County courthouse is a vote to move the Augusta County seat, a county seat steeped in history. The current courthouse site has been the center of Augusta County government since 1738, well before the formation of Staunton in 1902 or even the United States in 1776.

This is a big decision for Augusta County residents, and I encourage you to take time to look at both sides of the issue before Election Day.  For more on my reasoning, please view the op-ed I wrote for the News Leader last Sunday.

For more information on this referendum, I encourage you to visit the Augusta County Government’s Website.  You can view their presentation on the Courthouse here.  If you would like information on the campaign to keep the courthouse in Staunton, you can visit keepthecourthouse.org.

Add your reaction Share

Bell Sounds from the 20th -September 14, 2016

With Labor Day comes the kickoff of campaign season! Though it is hard to believe, in just under 2 months, Americans will head to the polls to elect a new president. I’d like to provide you with an update on how you can get involved in the campaign, and also some upcoming events in the 20th District.

Barbecue and Bluegrass

It’s almost time for our annual BBQ and Bluegrass Fundraising Event! Please see the invitation below.  

Join Delegate Bell for his Annual BBQ and Bluegrass

with Ed Gillespie

and the local Valley Delegation

 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

6:00 -8:00 pm

 

Shenandoah Harley Davidson

213 Rolling Thunder Lane

Staunton, Virginia 24401

 

Please RSVP to 540-255-8778 or by email at mrsrbellcoach@comcast.net.
 

Yes, I will attend the annual Bell’s BBQ and Bluegrass at the following level:


         _____$1000 Platinum Level

 

_____$500 Gold Level        _____$250 Silver Level

 

_____$100 Bronze Level

 

_____$25 per person to attend (no Press passes)

 

Yes, I support Delegate Bell. However, I cannot attend the event but please accept my generous donation of $_______ to show my support!

 

Please make checks payable to “BELL FOR DELEGATE”

2620 Eston Drive Staunton, VA 24401

 

NAME(S) __________________________________________________

Company Name
_____________________________________________

   Address
_____________________________________________________

   Phone
___________________________Email_______________________

 

Occupation________________________Employer__________________ 

 

Political Contributions are not tax-deductible. Paid for by Bell for Delegate. Corporate Contributions are accepted. State law requires employer and occupation information for contributions over $100 in a calendar year.

Voter Registration

The first step in making your voice heard this November is voter registration.  If you are not registered or if you have moved since the last election, it is important that you register.  The deadline for registering or updating your current registration is Monday, October 17. For information on how to register or to check your current registration status visit https://vote.elections.virginia.gov/VoterInformation. 

 Absentee Voting

If you will be out of town or otherwise unable to make it to the polls in November, you can vote absentee, either in person or by mail.   

The deadline for requesting an absentee ballot by mail is November 1.  Your local registrar must have the application in hand by 5:00 pm on November 1. The last day to vote in person absentee is Saturday, November 5 at 5:00 pm.

For more information on absentee voting, visit http://elections.virginia.gov/casting-a-ballot/absentee-voting/index.html.

Right to Work Constitutional Amendment

This year in addition to presidential and congressional candidates, two amendments to the Virginia constitution will be on the ballot for your consideration.  I will continue to talk about this as the election draws nearer, but today I specifically want to highlight the Right to Work amendment.

Virginia currently has a right-to-work statute that bans employers from requiring union membership.  This year, Virginians will have the opportunity to add right-to-work regulations to the Virginia Constitution to prevent future lawmakers from undoing the state's current laws.

I was honored to carry this amendment in the General Assembly over the last two years and I am pleased that it will be going before the voters this November.  I would encourage you to support this amendment, and hope that you will share this information with your friends and family.

For a good analysis of the constitutional amendment, please click here 

For more information on BOTH constitutional amendments that will appear on the ballot this year, click here.

Local Republican Headquarters

We are fortunate in our area to have three Republican offices open this year where supporters can pick up their Trump/Pence and Goodlatte materials! 

The Augusta County Republican Committee has opened their headquarters at 207 Lee Hwy, Verona (next to Shipplett Cleaners, Rte. 11).  If you are interested in volunteering at the Augusta County Headquarters you can sign up online at http://doodle.com/poll/ffcf6vd5pd56n6r8 or contact Hannah Moxley at acrccommunications@gmail.com.

The Waynesboro Republican Committee is now open at Willow Oak Plaza in Waynesboro, and the Staunton Republican Committee has opened a headquarters at the Chestnut Hills (Big Lots) Shopping Center in Staunton.  If you are interested in volunteering in either Waynesboro or Staunton please let me know and I will get you in contact with the appropriate people.

I encourage those of you who are interested in signs or bumper stickers to stop by one of these three locations.

 Contact Us

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

If you prefer to send written correspondence, you may send it to Post Office Box 239, Staunton, VA 24402.

If you would like to make a contribution to me, you can donate securely online at www.bellfordelegate.com/donate

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

Add your reaction Share

Bell Sounds from the 20th - August 4, 2016

I can hardly believe it’s already August!  It’s been great to see so many of you out at the county fair this week, as well as lawn parties and carnivals throughout the summer!  As fall approaches, I wanted to let you know about a few upcoming events.

Augusta County Fair

The Augusta County Fair is going on right now.  The Augusta County Republican Committee has a booth once again this year.  This is a great opportunity to help the Republican cause! There are still time slots available for Friday and Saturday.  You can sign up online at here.

Valley Business Summit

The details are set for the fourth annual Valley Business Summit!  This event, hosted by Delegates Cline, Landes, Wilt, and me, is scheduled for August 17 at the Blue Ridge Community College Plecker Center. The featured speaker will be Elizabeth Milito, Senior Executive Counsel with the National Federation of Independent Business. She plans to discuss federal policy issues, such as the new overtime rule, and how these policy decisions may impact your business. The event is a great opportunity to network with local legislators and business leaders.

In addition to the featured speaker, you will also hear from a panel of local small business owners about their experiences. Numerous state and local agencies and business groups will be on hand to offer guidance on what services and resources they can offer to businesses. As always, it is a FREE event, but you are required to register.

You can register online here.

Sales Tax Holiday

This Friday through Sunday is the annual Tax-Free Weekend in Virginia. This weekend most school supplies and clothing items are exempt from sales tax. In addition, starting in 2015 Virginia's three tax holidays were combined into one weekend. This means that many emergency preparedness items and energy and water saving appliances will also be exempt from Virginia sales tax.

It is no secret to many of you that I have always been a bit skeptical about the effectiveness of a sales tax holiday.  While I am in support of lower taxes, my concern is that these holidays cost millions in tax revenue that could be used in other ways. Most notably, this year this money could have helped prevent deferring raises for state employees and teachers.  While I understand and appreciate the desire to help families save money on back to school supplies and clothing, I also see the sales tax holiday as a gimmick that can often benefit retailers more than consumers.  My preference would be to see more meaningful tax relief as an alternative to these tax holidays.   

All of that being said, I know that August can be an expensive month for many families, especially those with multiple children. I encourage you to take advantage of the savings this weekend. In addition to the tax exempt items, retailers have the option to waive the sales tax for other non-qualifying items as well.

For more information about this sales tax holiday, click here.

 Zika Prevention

Information about the Zika Virus has gotten a lot of media attention this summer, particularly as it relates to the Summer Olympics.  As you are likely aware, there are a number of cases of Zika virus infection that have been locally contracted in Florida.  While roughly 80 percent of individuals infected with the Zika virus will not become ill, infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, and other severe fetal brain defects which can have life-long impact.

Health experts believe that it is highly likely that the Zika Virus will be transmitted locally in Virginia before the end of mosquito season.  The good news is, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce the risk of contracting the virus. This primarily includes using mosquito repellent while outdoors and eliminating standing water in containers or other items that may be outside. While the Asian tiger mosquito does not breed in puddles or ditches, it breeds in container habitats with as little as a tablespoon of water. For more information about the virus, please visit www.ZikaVA.org.

 

Barbecue, Beans, and Bluegrass!

It’s almost time for our annual BBQ and Bluegrass Fundraising Event! Please see the invitation below.  

Join Delegate Bell for his Annual BBQ and Bluegrass

with Ed Gillespie

and the local Valley Delegation

 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

6:00 -8:00 pm

 

Shenandoah Harley Davidson

213 Rolling Thunder Lane

Staunton, Virginia 24401

Please RSVP to 540-255-8778 or by email at mrsrbellcoach@comcast.net.
 

Yes, I will attend the annual Bell’s BBQ and Bluegrass at the following level:


         _____$1000 Platinum Level

_____$500 Gold Level        _____$250 Silver Level

_____$100 Bronze Level

_____$25 per person to attend (no Press passes)

Yes, I support Delegate Bell. However, I cannot attend the event but please accept my generous donation of $_______ to show my support!

Please make checks payable to “BELL FOR DELEGATE”

2620 Eston Drive Staunton, VA 24401

NAME(S) __________________________________________________

Company Name
_____________________________________________

   Address
_____________________________________________________

   Phone
___________________________Email_______________________

Occupation________________________Employer__________________

 Political Contributions are not tax-deductible. Paid for by Bell for Delegate. Corporate Contributions are accepted. State law requires employer and occupation information for contributions over $100 in a calendar year.

 Contact Us

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

If you prefer to send written correspondence, you may send it to Post Office Box 239, Staunton, VA 24402.

If you would like to make a contribution to me, you can donate securely online at
www.bellfordelegate.com/donate.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your delegate.
Add your reaction Share

Bell Sounds from the 20th - 2016 Reconvened Session

The Virginia General Assembly returned to Richmond this week for the “reconvened” or “veto” session to consider Governor Terry McAuliffe’s amendments and vetoes.

Governor McAuliffe signed over 700 bills this year, vetoed 32 bills and amended 57 more.  In addition, he made 30 amendments to the budget bill passed by the General Assembly in March.  You can view a full list of his vetoes online here.

While the number of vetoes seems high, it’s not all that surprising given that the General Assembly is controlled by a different Party than the Governor.  What is disappointing is the nature of many of Governor McAuliffe’s vetoes.  Since the adjournment of the 2016 Session, Governor McAuliffe has seemed far more interested in dividing Virginians than highlighting our many bipartisan accomplishments this year.  He held campaign style rallies and press conferences for many of his vetoes, including one event at a Planned Parenthood clinic, but only held four public events for legislation that he approved.

Among his vetoes were measures designed to ensure the safety of our children in schools, empower parents when it comes to educational decisions, and protect small businesses from costly wage requirements.

In addition, he vetoed six bills that passed the House with veto-proof majorities thanks to the support of Democrats.  This included legislation to allow retired law enforcement to carry firearms when serving as school security officers, and legislation to require schools to notify parents of sexually explicit content in course materials. Unfortunately, however, Wednesday we saw many Democrats flip their votes to support Governor McAuliffe’s vetoes.

Most personal and notable to me, he vetoed my House Bill 8, which would have established a full-time virtual school program in Virginia.  He did this despite signing almost identical legislation last year.  With one stroke of his pen, he has denied educational choice to up to 5,000 students across Virginia, including 1,500 students already on the waitlist.  This sets us back another year and puts us further behind the thirty states that already have full-time virtual education options.  Click here to see my floor remarks on this veto.  

The House was able to override the Governor’s vetoes on two bills that gained the support of Democrats.  These included measures to protect historical war monuments and memorials from being altered or destroyed at a later date, and legislation extending the coal tax credit to help preserve coal jobs in Southwest Virginia. However, they did not gain enough votes to be overridden in the Senate.

Governor McAuliffe also made several major amendments to the General Assembly’s two-year budget. The House rejected the Governor’s effort to expand Medicaid and provide taxpayer funding for abortion through the budget. We accepted changes supported by local law enforcement to allow fine revenue to remain with the localities.

With the reconvened session complete, the General Assembly has completed its work for 2016. We will return to Richmond in January of 2017 for the next legislative session.

I am proud of what the legislature accomplished on behalf of Virginians this year. We passed a conservative and responsible state budget, a major, bipartisan agreement to secure the Second Amendment rights of law abiding citizen, and legislation to strengthen our economy, give more children the opportunity to succeed, and fought to advance conservative values. 

For the remainder of the year, we will be operating out of the district.  You can reach us by phone at 540-448-3999, or continue to reach us by email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.

If you prefer to send written correspondence, you may send it to Post Office Box 239, Staunton, VA 24402.

Additionally, now that the 2016 Session has adjourned we are once again able to accept campaign donations. You can donate securely online at www.bellfordelegate.com/donate.

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

Add your reaction Share

Bell Sounds from the 20th - 2016 Session Recap

The 2016 General Assembly adjourned sine die Friday, March 11.  This is the second year in a row that the General Assembly was able to complete their work ahead of schedule and adjourn early.  My understanding is that the early adjournment will save taxpayers over $25,000.

Overall I would consider the 2016 Session a very successful session.  The House of Delegates worked tirelessly to strengthen Virginia’s lagging economy, reform our education system, chart a responsible fiscal course, and improve healthcare without growing government.

Virginia’s economy remains a top priority. While we are seeing slight improvements , our recovery still lags behind the national recovery.  This is caused in large part by the impact of sequestration and changes in federal spending.  For this reason, we advanced legislation to foster economic growth, promote a pro-business environment, and protect small businesses through regulatory reform. This includes legislation to encourage workforce training in high demand fields, legislation protecting workers from forced unionization, and legislation to prohibit artificial wage floors.

Education is the key to increasing job and economic opportunities for the Commonwealth and is always a top priority for the House of Delegates.  We have one of the top education systems in the country.  There is still room for improvement, however,  and some students are still being left behind.  The House passed legislation to create Education Savings Accounts for parents and I was happy to lead efforts to finalize the establishment of the Virginia Virtual School.  This legislation, combined with our investments in public schools, will help make sure all children have the opportunity to succeed. 

In addition, we made a targeted effort to help Virginia families and students who are struggling with the rising cost of college.  Building on our work from last year, we increased funding for higher education.  Most notable is an appropriation of $48 million for undergraduate financial aid.

Prior to the Session, many of you reached out to me regarding the Attorney General’s announcement to rescind reciprocity agreements.  The General Assembly was able to reach a bipartisan agreement to restore and expand these reciprocity agreements. I am proud of our work to secure the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding concealed carry permit holders.

One of the most important tasks of the General Assembly is crafting the two year state budget.    I am happy to report that the House of Delegates passed a conservative, responsible, and structurally-balanced budget that invests in the core functions of government while protecting precious taxpayer resources. 

Here are the highlights of the 2016-2018 state budget:

  • Includes no new tax or fee increases
  • Deposits $605 million in the state’s Rainy Day Fund
  • Funds the annual contribution to the Virginia Retirement System at 100% of the Board certified rate (2 years ahead of schedule)
  • Accelerates the $189.5 million repayment to VRS for the contribution rate deferral in 2010 (6 years ahead of schedule)
  • Reduces bond package as compared to Governor’s introduce budget
  • Allocates excess revenues to reduce the amount of money borrowed for the bond package
    • Invests over $900 million in new funding for K-12, including the state portion of a 2% teacher pay raise
    • Makes strategic investments in economic development, while adding additional oversight to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.
  • Builds on our work to strengthen the healthcare safety net

I would prefer less spending than the adopted budget contained, however I believe we made some important investments in the future of the Commonwealth. I think we can always continue to look for ways to reduce our spending, but it is important to note that state general fund spending has declined 5% over the last 10 years when adjusted for population and inflation. I hope we can continue this trend in the coming years.

Update on House Bill 8

Throughout the 2016 Session I did my best to keep you updated on the progress of my House Bill 8, legislation that establishes a full-time virtual school program in Virginia. As of my last newsletter, the bill had passed both the House and Senate, and we had requested a committee of conference to help hammer out the differences.

The conference report for HB 8 made the following amendments to the bill:

  • Delays the start of the Virginia Virtual School by one year to the 2018-2019 school year and pushes back one year the Board composition creation and annual report date to be in line with this start date. This delayed date mirrors the funding and language included in the budget. 
  • Adds an additional Senator to the Board making the composition of the Board 14 members--4 of which are Delegates and 3 of which are Senators.
  • Codifies a statewide 5,000 student limitation on the School. This 5,000 student cap is included in the budget. 
  • Clarifies language to allow the Board to provide information to parents regarding the course offerings and capacities of the providers for the School
All other aspects of HB 8 remain the same as when passed by the House earlier this session. In its current form, HB 8 would establish the Virginia Virtual School to begin during the 2018-2019 school year. 

There has unfortunately been some misinformation spread about this legislation, so I feel compelled to set the record straight.  The Virginia Education Association is once again playing fast and loose with the facts.  They are waging an email campaign that asks recipients to tell Governor McAuliffe to veto two bills that they allege siphon funds away from public schools. One of those bills is HB 8.  To be clear, the Virginia Virtual School will be a public school.  This school will not take any money from local school divisions. The money will follow the child, just as it would if they transferred from city to city or county to county.  I find the VEA’s tactics to be deliberately misleading, intended to deprive thousands of students of an opportunity to learn in the manner best suited for them.     

If you agree with me that parents should have the option of enrolling their child in this full-time virtual school, I encourage you to contact Governor McAuliffe and ask him to please sign HB 8.  You can contact him online here

Contact Us

We have returned from Richmond and we are now operating out of the district.  You can reach us by phone at 540-448-3999 or continue to reach us by email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.

If you prefer to send written correspondence, you may send it to Post Office Box 239, Staunton, VA 24402.

Additionally, now that the 2016 Session has adjourned we are once again able to accept campaign donations. You can donate securely online at www.bellfordelegate.com/donate.

Thank you to everyone who called, emailed, or dropped by during the General Assembly Session.  I enjoy and appreciate hearing from you.  

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

Add your reaction Share

Bell Sounds from the 20th - 2016 Session - Week 8

The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn one week from tomorrow, on Saturday, March 12.  We are sprinting to the finish-line, having nearly finished most committee work and continuing work on Senate bills, Senate amendments to House bills, and conference reports. All signs seem to indicate that we will likely be able to adjourn on time.

Budget Update

Last week, I detailed the House’s conservative budget proposal.  I am pleased to report that our budget passed by a wide bipartisan margin in the House.  The Senate also passed their version of the two-year budget.  

House and Senate Conferees are working hard to hammer out the differences and finish up the budget.  The Speaker has named House Appropriations Committee Chairman S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk), Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman R. Steven Landes (R-Augusta), Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), Delegate John O’Bannon (R-Henrico), Delegate Tag Greason (R-Loudoun), and Delegate Luke Torian (D-Prince William) as the budget conferees.  

The Senate and House conferees met throughout the week to discuss a final budget proposal. While I would prefer less government spending than contained in any of the proposed budgets, I have faith that our conferees will remain committed to conservative principles and ensure the final budget does not contain any tax or fee increases, reduces the amount of bond borrowing, and increases the Commonwealth’s rainy day fund.

Virtual Schools

Many of you have been following my House Bill 8, which establishes a full-time virtual school program in the Commonwealth.  This week, House Bill 8 was heard by the Senate Finance committee. It had previously been heard by the Senate Committee on Education and Health, who reported it out and referred it to the Finance committee who needed to take a look at the financial aspect of the bill.  

After a lengthy discussion, the Senate Finance committee reported the bill out on a vote of 10-4. They did make some amendments, including an amendment that would cap the program at 5,000 students and an amendment that would delay the enactment of the bill to the 2017-2018 school year.

While I am not fully happy with these amendments, I am still pleased that the bill advanced out of committee and will be heard on the Senate Floor. Should the bill advance out of the Senate, we will be able to request a committee on conference to allow us to hammer out the differences between the Senate and House language.

The House of Delegates has included funding for the Virginia Virtual School in their version of the budget and I remain confident that this funding will stay in the final budget.

Passage of this legislation would be a huge win for school choice in Virginia.  While virtual school is likely not the solution for every child, there are thousands of students across the Commonwealth who will undoubtedly benefit from this program.

Technology is changing many aspects of our lives. Most colleges and universities already offer virtual learning and we are beginning to see the rise of telemedicine and telepsychiatry practice to under served areas of the Commonwealth. I believe that Virginia could be a leader in virtual programs in K-12, but the longer we wait, the more we risk falling further behind the curve.  I look forward to continuing these discussions and hope to be able to provide a positive update next week. The final vote in the Senate should be early next week.

Clean Power Plan Update

This past week, Governor McAuliffe announced his veto of Senate Bill 21, which is identical to a House bill that would require General Assembly approval before Virginia complies with President Obama’s Clean Power Plan regulations.  This legislation would protect the Commonwealth from expending taxpayer resources on a set of unconstitutional regulations that are now being reviewed in court.  In fact, the Supreme Court stayed the official implementation of the plan because it may be unconstitutional.

Because of the Governor’s veto, the House included a budget amendment that would prohibit any funds from being spent to comply with the Clean Power Plan.  This budget amendment will effectively stop the Governor from continuing to implement this plan without approval of the Commonwealth’s elected representatives.

My Legislation

Aside from House Bill 8, which will be heard next week, all of my legislation that passed in the House have already advanced through the Senate. The bills passed are:

  • House Bill 4 – Provides for a referendum on the Right to Work Constitutional amendment for the 2016 Election

  • House Bill 36 – Requires local school divisions to include the concepts contained in the U.S. Naturalization Test in their high school government classes

  • House Bill 369 – Adds representation to the membership of the State Executive Council for Children’s Services

  • House Bill 535 - Provides that a beekeeper shall not be liable for any personal injury or property damage that occurs in connection with his keeping and maintaining of bees

  • House Bill 600 - Imposes certain mandates related to the protection and encouragement of children, including a requirement that certain information and options be given to a child in connection with foster care plans, the imposition of certain age-appropriate restrictions, and requirements of both the courts and the Department of Social Services regarding foster care plans

  • House Bill 755 - Authorizes the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to grant an annual mixed beverage performing arts facility license to persons operating food concessions at any performing arts facility located in the City of Waynesboro (Carried at the request of the Wayne Theatre)

  • House Joint Resolution 2 – Right to Work Constitutional Amendment

Visitors this Week

With Session drawing to a close, we are not seeing quite as many visitors.  Still, we were happy to see a few folks from the Valley in Richmond this week. Roger Boles dropped by from Home Instead, as well as representatives from Columbia Gas.  We were also glad to see Crista Cabe, General Djuric, and representatives from the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership from Mary Baldwin College.

We only have one week left, but it’s not too late to visit.  If you’ll be in Richmond this coming week, feel free to drop by for a visit.  While appointments are not required, we do recommend that you call or email us ahead of time.  

Contact Me 

For the last remaining week of Session, we are still operating out of our Richmond Office. 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.

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.

Add your reaction Share

Bell Sounds from the 20th - 2016 Session - Week 7

It's hard to believe but there are just two weeks left of the 2016 General Assembly Session.  We're still working through legislation passed by the Senate and most committee work will be finished up by the end of next week.

This week the House and Senate both passed their budgets and conferees have begun work to hammer out the differences.  I’m extremely proud of the budget that the House produced this year.  It is conservative, responsible, and carefully manages taxpayer resources by favoring saving over borrowing.  It includes investments in K-12 as well as public colleges and universities and highlights our efforts in economic development and support of the healthcare safety net.

Now that the House budget has passed, our budget negotiators will work with the Senate to hammer out the differences.  

 The House Budget

The House of Delegates takes a conservative and cautious approach to budgeting your tax dollars. Our budget does not include any tax or fee increases and deposits $605 million in our rainy day fund.  By the end of the biennium our rainy day fund will be at $845 million. 

The House budget fully funds the state’s annual contribution to the Virginia Retirement System, two years ahead of schedule and accelerated the $189.5 million repayment to the VRS for the contribution rate deferral in 2010.  Additionally, the House budget reduced the amount of money that Virginia will borrow over the next few years by proposing a bond package that is nearly 40% smaller than that proposed by the Governor. 

Our commitment to educating our children for the future is unwavering. The House budget invests nearly $70 million more in our public schools than the Governor’s budget. In addition, the House sends over $270 million back to local schools through the lottery program, which gives school leaders significantly more flexibility than either the Senate or Governor’s budget. Our schools will be able to use these funds to meet their unique needs, rather than answer to one-size-fits-all mandates from Richmond.

We also make significant investments in higher education in order to help make college more affordable for Virginia families. Our budget includes $66 million more than Governor McAuliffe’s proposal, and we designated $237.1 million to hold tuition increases to three percent or less per year. 

Instead of Medicaid expansion, the House budget invests $28.9 million in new funding to build a stronger healthcare safety net, including funding for substance abuse treatment and the creation of two new Programs of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) teams that provide personalized care to patients with serious mental illnesses. We also provided for 100 new Developmental Disability waiver slots to address the critical waiting list backlog of people transitioning from institutionalize care to community based care.

The House budget also makes targeted investments in economic development, including $110 million in new money for this purpose.

For more detailed information on the House or Senate budgets visit budget.lis.virginia.gov.  It’s important to note that this process is far from over and details are subject to change as negotiations with the Senate continue.  I think we are at a good starting point, however, and look forward to sending the Governor a structurally sound and fiscally responsible budget on time.

 Visitors

Though things are starting to wind down, we were still glad to see a few folks from home this week.  We were visited by a group of local funeral directors early this week who were here to discuss legislation that may affect them.  We were pleased to see a wonderful group of students from Augusta County who were here for the annual 4H day at the General Assembly. We also visited with local representatives of the Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Brian Reinman from King’s Daughters.  

It’s not too late to schedule a visit!  If you are going to be in the Richmond area in the next two weeks, 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.

 Contact Me 

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.

You can also stay updated by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

I look forward to seeing you in Richmond! 

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your delegate.

Add your reaction Share

Bell Sounds from the 20th - 2016 Session - Week 6

The 2016 General Assembly session officially reached the halfway point this week, known as “Crossover.”  The Republican-led House of Delegates is making good progress on the issues that matter most to you.  This has so far been a productive and successful session, and I’m happy to report back on several key priorities.

Our work will continue through the second half of this session. We will consider legislation from the Senate and complete work on the state budget before we adjourn on March 13.

House Priorities

The House of Delegates is fighting to defend and advance a number of common sense conservative principles this year. Our top priorities include jobs and economic development, education reform, and protection of our First and Second Amendment rights.

This session the House of Delegates advanced several major pieces of legislation aimed at fostering private-sector economic growth, promoting a positive, pro-business climate and protecting small businesses through regulatory reform.  Virginia’s economy is unfortunately recovering more slowly than the national economy and still faces threats from sequestration and federal spending cuts. Creating good paying jobs and growing Virginia’s economy is our top priority.

We are also working to make sure all children have the opportunity to get the education they deserve by promoting choice and flexibility. The House passed a constitutional amendment on charter schools and legislation creating Education Savings Accounts.

In addition, I’m pleased to report that my virtual education bill passed in the House this week on a vote of 58-40-1.  I am glad to see that the Virginia House of Delegates has once again shown strong support for virtual education here in the Commonwealth. While virtual education may not be the answer for every student, we need to provide this as an option. We have a responsibility to our children to provide an education to them in the environment that best meets their needs. For some of our children, this is undoubtedly virtual education. Over 30 states have already established statewide full-time virtual schools, and I believe Virginia should be next.

As previously mentioned, one of our biggest accomplishments so far has been the passage of a bipartisan agreement to restore and expand concealed carry reciprocity. To read more about this agreement, click here.

The House of Delegates is committed to protecting our constitutionally guaranteed right to the free exercise of religion. The House passed a number of bills to protect religious liberty. Among these is HB 791, introduced by my colleague Les Adams, which re-affirms that Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom is the policy of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

This week we also passed HB773, introduced by Delegate Todd Gilbert.  This bill prohibits a government entity from taking any discriminatory action against a person that speaks or acts in accordance with their sincerely held religious belief in traditional marriage.People of faith should not be denied basic government services or access simply because they believe in traditional marriage or natural gender roles. The bill would prohibit the government from revoking or denying tax exempt status to churches, denying grants, contracts or scholarships, and denying licensure or certification just because of someone’s religious beliefs.

To read more about the status of our legislative priorities at crossover, click here.

Budget

This Sunday, the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees will release their respective budget proposals. I am confident that the House will introduce a conservative, fiscally sound and responsible budget that makes targeted investments in the core functions of our state government.

I understand that the House budget will place a high emphasis on the Virginia Retirement System to ensure the program is solvent for our state employees and teachers. It will also make investments in our public education system and seek to provide local education leaders with flexibility in how they spend educational dollars.

The Appropriations Committee previewed part of the state budget on Thursday. To learn more, click here. I will share more about the House budget proposal next week when I know more details.

Veterans

Republican members of the Military and Veteran’s Caucus met this week to highlight the legislative accomplishments of the 2016 session.  The Commonwealth is home to approximately 800,000 veterans and 150,000 active-duty military members and their families.  With this type of military presence in the Commonwealth, we must continue to strive to be the most veteran-friendly state in the nation.  We have continued these efforts this year with legislation designed to provide our veterans with the care they deserve, access to affordable education, and good job opportunities.  

Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) introduced HB477 which would establish two new veteran care centers, one in Hampton Roads and one in Northern Virginia, to help provide veterans with quality long-term healthcare.  The two new centers will hopefully free up more space for our local area veterans at the already existing care centers in Richmond and Roanoke. Delegate Scott Taylor (R-Virginia Beach) introduced HB90, which would allow members of the Virginia National Guard to conceal-carry while they are on duty. Delegate David Yancey (R-Newport News) introduced HB405, which will extend the temporary occupational license period for spouses of military service members to help them find meaningful employment.  

Delegate Taylor is also carrying HB450 that requires seven comprehensive community colleges with the highest veterans enrollment in the Commonwealth to employ at least one full-time veterans’ advisor to provide comprehensive and intensive enrollment and advising services to current and prospective students who are veterans.  It also requires the establishment of a veterans’ resource center on campus to provide access to federal and state veterans’ resources. This legislation will be a big help to new veterans and service members leaving the military.

Delegate Chris Stolle’s (R-Virginia Beach) HB825, which I mentioned in a previous newsletter, helps transitioning military personnel. It establishes a pilot program in which military medical personnel may practice and perform certain delegated acts that constitute the practice of medicine under the supervision of a licensed physician or podiatrist.

The aforementioned bills are among the 27 bills that have passed the House that support veterans, our military and their families.

My Legislation

 

In addition to my virtual schools legislation, HB 36 also passed in the House this week.  House Bill 36 is my bill that would require each local school division to include all information and concepts contained in the civics portion of the U.S. Naturalization Test into twelfth-grade government classes.  Civics education is unfortunately lagging in our country, which I believe is one of the reasons we have such low civic participation.  I hope that by incorporating this information into our government classes we can allow our students to develop a better understanding of how our government works.  This bill passed the House on a vote of 61-36.  It was reported out of a Senate Education and Health subcommittee yesterday on a vote of 3-2 and could be voted on in the Senate as early as next week.


I am pleased to have had 7 bills and 1 resolution pass out of the House and they are working their way through the Senate.  They are:



Visitors

 

The week of Crossover is always a slow week for visitors, but we were still delighted to see a few folks from home.  James Gibson dropped by representing the Virginia Governmental Employees Association.  Deidre Koch from Staunton-Augusta-Waynesboro Habitat for Humanity visited us, as did Frank Rogan from Goodwill Industries of the Valleys.  I saw Dr. John Downey and Dr. Frank Friedman as well as a number of Realtors representing the Greater Augusta Realtor’s Association.  Representatives from Americare Plus in Staunton dropped by, as did Kelsey Sheffer who was here to discuss Family and Consumer Sciences.  I had an opportunity to see Augusta County Republican Chairman Georgia Alvis-Long and her husband Ed Long.  Last but not least, I had an opportunity to speak with a group of kids from the Linkous-Bosserman Model General Assembly from Augusta County.


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.


Contact Me

 

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.


You can also stay updated by following us on Facebook and Twitter.


I look forward to seeing you in Richmond! Thank you for allowing me to serve as your delegate.
Add your reaction Share
← Previous  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9    13  14  Next →