This has been one of the most trying Sessions I have ever experienced as a state legislator.

 For most of us here, the world we thought we knew has been turned upside down. Over the past few weeks, we have collectively gone through periods of pain, disbelief, anger and disappointment. Today, I am proud to say that we are now gaining a sense of calmness and purpose.  In spite of the controversy surrounding us, we are sobered as we remember that the people of this Commonwealth elected us to join the oldest continuous legislative body so that we would advocate, legislate and pass laws that would improve the quality of life for all Virginians.  You’ve empowered us to lead and govern on your behalf, and we will continue to do just that.

Unfortunately, the events that unfolded over previous weeks have overshadowed our hard work. Forces outside of Virginia who aren’t familiar with us have tried to decide what path we should take.  I strongly believe that the 140 members of the Virginia General Assembly know how to best address the issues we are facing and when the dust settles our community will be stronger than ever. Our work here has never stopped and neither will we!

So let the Budget Dance begin!

At the start of the week, the House and Senate voted on and passed their separate budget amendments to the Governor’s proposed budget.  As expected, the House and Senate have several similar budget amendments and some that are poles apart. Both chambers have agreed upon 5% raises for teachers, funds to help schools decrease the ratios of school counselors to students, funds for building schools, and an increase in housing trust funds and legal aid services to reduce housing evictions. While we have taken the first of many steps in the budget process, there is still much to be agreed upon by the expected adjournment date of February 23rd. At this point, we have successfully defended the majority of the bills introduced in the Senate, and we will spend the remainder of our time defending the passage of the combined budget in each chamber. After our work is done, we will await the Governors final review and signed approval of our integrated budget.

Throughout the remainder of the week, several of my bills made their way to the opposite chamber. Here’s a quick look at what Crossover has meant for us.

The passage of the coal ash bill SB 1355 was our greatest victory this week. This bill is a bipartisan compromise that ensures long-term clean closure of coal ash ponds by employing a combination of recycling and on site/off site landfilling in secure lined facilities. It minimizes costs to the ratepayer wherever possible, and caps the amount that Dominion can put back into the base rate. It also ensures minimal impact on localities and their respective traffic patterns. This bill, which I chief co-patroned, is a monumental win for Virginia consumers and our environment. This bill is currently in the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources.

SB 1406 passed through the Senate on Tuesday. This bill reduces the staff-to-student ratio each year until there is 1 counselor per 250 students at every grade level. This bill was referred to the House Committee on Appropriations and will be heard on the House floor within the next few weeks. On Wednesday, SB 1667 passed unanimously out of the House Courts and Justice Committee. This bill would make payment plans for child support more affordable by reducing down payment requirements, and would no longer allow a driver’s license to be revoked for non-payment. If passed through committee, it will move on to the House floor!

I would like to thank the Welfare Policies and Services class that traveled all the way from Virginia State University to come meet with me this week. I am always overjoyed to hear from our future leaders.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact our office if you have questions or concerns related to the 2019 General Assembly session. We can be reached by phone at 804-698-7516 or by email at district16@senate.virginia.gov. You may also contact us about scheduling a visit to the Capitol during the General Assembly session.

Sincerely,

Rosalyn R. Dance
Senator, Sixteenth Senate District
Virginia State Senate

[The 16th Senate District includes Chesterfield County (Part), Prince George County (Part), Richmond City (Part), Petersburg City (All), Dinwiddie County (Part), Hopewell City (All)]