Senator Dance's 2019 General Assembly Legislative Overview: 
 

After a long and arduous final day of regular session, we adjourned Sine & Die on February 24th. We passed a biennium budget that is very strong on education and economic development, but misses the mark on several significant opportunities for improving the lives of all Virginians. Despite some very disappointing sociopolitical battles that almost overshadowed our work and even the character of the General Assembly, we passed a number of significant bills that will move us towards a more progressive Commonwealth. Here is the status of my bills from the 2019 session:

Education

SB 1406 - K-12 School Counselor Staffing Ratio

This legislation, included in Governor Northam’s budget amendment proposals, will modify the current school counselors ratio to set out a phased-in plan to increase the minimum staffing ratio for school counselors from 1:500 to 1:250 by 2022.  Budget amendment: $12 million. 

Budget Amendment

Budget Item 136: $25 million for at risk add on funding as directed to underserved school districts. Passed. 

SB 1195 - School Based Health Centers

Seeks to establish and formalize a statewide affiliate organization that will serve as a support to localities interested in implementing new or improving existing school-based health centers in their communities. It will help align and organize various efforts and interested parties working on improving behavioral and medical health access in schools across the Commonwealth. Passed.

Healthcare

SB 1405 -Pharmacy Counseling Medicine Disposal

Allows a pharmacist to include information regarding the proper disposal of medicine when giving counsel to a person who presents a new prescription for filling. Passed.

SB 1197 - Pharmacies Freedom of Choice

Requires carriers that provide exclusive provider policies and contracts to allow consumers freedom of choice for pharmacy benefits. This requirement currently applies to health insurers, health services plans, and health maintenance organizations in Virginia. Passed.

Jobs & Economic Development: 

SB 1200 - Minimum Wage

Increases the minimum wage from its current federally mandated level of $7.25 per hour to $10 per hour effective July 1, 2019, to $13 per hour effective July 1, 2020, and to $15 per hour effective July 1, 2021, unless a higher minimum wage is required by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Passed overwhelmingly in the Senate but failed to pass in the House of Delegates.  

SB 1189 - Grocery Investment Fund

Creates the Virginia Grocery Investment Program and Fund to provide funding for the construction, rehabilitation, equipment upgrades, or expansion of grocery stores, small food retailers, and innovative food retail projects in underserved communities. Failed to pass.

SB 1667 - Non-Payment of Child Support

Makes child support payment plans more affordable by reducing down payment. Current law holds that individuals in these payment plans will have their licenses suspended; my bill moves to eliminate the license suspension requirement.  Passed.

SB 1199 -Ban the Box

Prohibits state agencies from including on any employment application a question inquiring whether the applicant has ever been arrested or charged with any crime. The bill prohibits state agencies from asking an applicant if he has ever been convicted of any crime unless the inquiry takes place after the applicant has received a conditional offer of employment, which offer may be withdrawn if the applicant has a conviction record that directly relates to the duties and responsibilities of the position. The prohibition does not apply to applications for employment with law-enforcement agencies, certain positions designated as sensitive, or in instances where a state agency is expressly permitted to inquire into an individual's criminal history for employment purposes pursuant to any provision of federal or state law.  Failed to pass.

Affordable Housing: 

SB 1196 - Property Tax Exemption

Provides that, for purposes of the real property tax exemption for the elderly and disabled, certain improvements to exempt land and the land such improvements are situated on shall be included as part of the dwelling and exempt from tax. Passed. 

SB 1191 - Affordable Housing - City of Richmond

Adds the City of Richmond to the list of localities with authority to provide for an affordable housing dwelling unit program. Tabled until the 2020 General Assembly.

Voting Rights 

SB 1198 - Elections; absentee voting; no-excuse, in-person

Allows qualified voters to vote absentee in person without providing an excuse for not being able to vote in person on election day. The bill retains the statutory list of specific reasons allowing a voter to cast an absentee ballot by mail. Passed.

Co-Patron Legislation

SB 1355 - Coal Ash

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 cost to the ratepayer wherever possible, and caps the amount that Dominon can put back into the base rate. It also ensures minimal impact on localities and their respective traffic patterns. Passed.

SB 1469 - Timber Theft

Provides that a person who buys and removes timber from a landowner's property is guilty of timber theft if he fails to pay the landowner by the date specified in their agreement or, if there is no written agreement, within 60 days of removing the timber. Passed.

SJ 284- Equal Rights Amendment

Ratifies the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution of the United States that was proposed by Congress in 1972. Passed overwhelmingly in the Senate but failed to pass in the House of Delegates.

I am proud of the accomplishments that my Democratic colleagues and I made fighting for these incredibly important issues, and I look forward to continuing that work in the 2020 Session! Thank you for all of your support!

As always, I welcome you to visit us in either office, by phone at 804-862-2922 or by email at district16@senate.virginia.gov. Our office has received hundreds of correspondence this session via telephone and email from constituents across the district that desire to share their opinion on pending legislation. I am grateful for those who have chosen to voice their concerns. Thank you for the opportunity to continue serving you in the Senate of Virginia!

As always, please do not hesitate to contact our office if you have questions or concerns related to the 2019 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)]