A Legislative Update from Lieutenant Governor Bolling
Saturday our Lieutenant Governor, Bill Bolling, issued a crossover report. In reading the briefing it yet again is painstakingly obvious that there is a vast philosophical chasm between the Republican led House and the Republican led Senate- I highlighted some of these manifestations below. Let's hope and pray that those in the House have the intestinal fortitude to stand up for Virginia's families this year.
The full Bolling Report is below the fold.
THE BOLLING REPORT
February 18, 2006
GENERAL ASSEMBLY SESSION REACHES HALF WAY POINT
This was crossover week at the General Assembly. Crossover, - the ceremonial half way point of the annual legislative session - is the time by which the Senate and House of Delegates must complete work on bills introduced by their members.
With the legislative session at its ceremonial mid-point, I will dedicate this issue of The Bolling Report to discussing the status of some of the legislation considered by the General Assembly this year.
The House of Delegates has approved legislation that would require physicians to report abortion complications to the State Health Department. Proponents of the bill argue that such reporting is necessary to determine if abortion is really a safe procedure. Opponents argue that such reporting is unnecessary and would be costly for health care providers and the state.
The House of Delegates has approved legislation that would require abortion clinics to be regulated as ambulatory surgical centers. Abortion clinics are currently treated as doctors offices, which are not subject to routine state inspections. Proponents of the legislation argue that it is necessary to enhance patient safety at abortion clinics. Opponents argue that the legislation is not necessary and would make it difficult for many abortion clinics to remain open.
Both of these bills will now be communicated to the Senateâ€™s Committee on Education and Health. This committee is usually not receptive to legislation that imposes additional restrictions on abortion.
Eminent domain has been a big issue in the General Assembly this year. Historically, the power of eminent domain could only be used by state or local governments for a strictly defined â€œpublic purposeâ€, such as building roads or schools. However, last year the United States Supreme Court broadened the scope of eminent domain to include other â€œpublic purposesâ€, such as economic development or enhance of the tax base.
The Senate and House of Delegates have approved legislation to more clearly define how the power of eminent domain can be used in Virginia. Unfortunately, the legislation is very different in content. The legislation approved by the House of Delegates is very strict, limiting the power of eminent domain to those areas where it has historically been used. However, the legislation approved by the Senate is broader and could still allow an expanded use for the power of eminent domain.
The differences between these two bills must be reconciled before the General Assembly adjourns in March. This is a very important issue that must be addressed. I am a strong supporter of private property rights, and I encourage the General Assembly to pass a strong bill that restricts the use of the power of eminent domain to a clearly defined set of legitimate public uses.
The Senate and House of Delegates have approved legislation that would expand the ability of parents to home school their children. Currently, parents can only home school their children if they have a college degree. However, the Senate and House of Delegates have approved legislation that would allow parents with a high school diploma to home school their children. Similar legislation passed the General Assembly in 2004 but was vetoed by Governor Mark Warner. If this legislation passes the General Assembly this year, Governor Tim Kaine has indicated that he will sign it.
The Senate and House of Delegates have approved legislation that would prevent illegal immigrants from paying in-state tuition at Virginiaâ€™s colleges and universities. However, there are significant difference in the approaches taken by the Senate and the House.
The House of Delegates has passed legislation that would prohibit, without exception, Virginiaâ€™s colleges and universities from granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. This is similar to legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2004. That legislation was vetoed by Governor Mark Warner.
However, the legislation approved by the Senate would allow the children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition if they had lived in Virginia for at least three years, their parents had pad state taxes for at least three years, they graduated from a Virginia high school, and they signed an affidavit stating that they had filed an application to become a permanent resident of the United States.
Obviously, the differences in these bills must also be reconciled before the General Assembly adjourns.
STATEWIDE SMOKING BAN
The Senate has approved legislation that would prohibit smoking in most public, indoor locations, including restaurants. The bill, which was sponsored by Senator Brandon Bell (R-Roanoke County), passed on a vote of 21-18 after extensive debate that cut across party lines.
Supporters of the legislation argued that it was necessary to protect the public from the harmful health effects of second hand smoke. Opponents argued that the legislation was inappropriate and that private businesses should remain free to determine whether or not they permitted smoking.
This legislation will now be communicated to the House of Delegates for their consideration. Preliminary indications are that the legislation will face an uphill battle in the House of Delegates.
While much of the attention on taxes this year has centered around the tax increase proposals for transportation that have been submitted by the Governor and the Senate, there are two tax bills working their way through the General Assembly that could actually save taxpayers money.
The Senate and House of Delegates have approved legislation to enact a sales tax holiday in Virginia. This sales tax holiday would occur on the first Friday, Saturday and Sunday in August, and would apply to the purchase of back to school clothing, supplies and computers. This sales tax holiday would save money for Virginiaâ€™s families, and it would also enable Virginia retailers to compete with retailers in other border states that have already enacted a sales tax holiday.
The Senate and House of Delegates have approved legislation to repeal the death tax in Virginia. However, there are significant differences in these bills. The legislation approved by the House of Delegates represents a total repeal of the death tax, while the legislation approved by the Senate would only apply to estates less than $10M. The differences between these bills must also be reconciled before the end of the General Assembly session.
In past editions of The Bolling Report, I have talked about the tax increase proposals for transportation that have been submitted by the Governor and the Senate. However, there are some other interesting transportation related bills that are also working their way through the General Assembly. For example, this week the Senate approved legislation that would:
* Impose an additional state sales tax of .25% in certain localities in Northern Virginia to help pay for the cost of improvements in the DC metro system. This tax increase would be contingent on the appropriation of $1.5B in federal matching funds, and a similar commitment from the District of Columbia and Maryland.
* Authorize the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel Commission to impose a series of tolls in bridges and tunnels in Hampton Roads and use the proceeds from these tolls for the operation, maintenance of improvement of these roadways or the construction of new bridges and tunnels.
* Allow Virginia to enter into a compact with the State of North Carolina to impose tolls at the border of Interstate 95 and Interstate 85, the north-south arteries between the two states. It is projected that a toll of $5 per car, with a higher toll for trucks, would generate about $100M per year, with the proceeds going to expand or renovate these two interstate highways.
Also on the transportation front, the Senate gave final approval to its transportation plan this week. By a vote of 34-6, the Senate advanced a plan to the House of Delegates that would raise approximately $1B a year in new funds for transportation purposes by raising numerous taxes and fees. Since the details of this plan were discussed in the last edition of The Bolling Report, they will not be repeated here.
Let me close by reminding you that several weeks ago I announced a series of bills that comprised my 2006 Legislative Agenda. I am pleased with the progress this legislation has made to date. For a complete listing of the status of the bills in my 2006 Legislative Agenda, please click here .
Thanks to the efforts of legislators in the Senate and House of Delegates, we have taken significant steps toward addressing the problem of illegal immigration, fighting gangs and drugs in our communities, increasing the availability and affordability of health care, cracking down on violent sex offenders, reducing taxes on families and small businesses, creating a comprehensive state energy plan and protecting the sanctity of marriage.
However, as we enter the last half of the legislative session there is still much to be done. We must agree on a plan for building a transportation system for the 21st century, and we must resolve differences between the Senate and House of Delegates on other important issues like illegal immigration, tax relief and private property rights. I will continue to work with the Governor and legislative leaders to accomplish these goals.
If you would like to provide your input on these or other issues pending before the General Assembly this year, you can contact my office by clicking here. I appreciate your interest and input very much.
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