Solid Mix From the 26th, Newsletter 1-17-15

January 17, 2015

The 2015 General Assembly Session opened on Wednesday, January 14 and got off to a brisk start. Delegates old and new are working hard to get a lot done in a short, 46 day session. I look forward to a productive session working for you in Richmond this year.

Speaker Bill Howell opened up the first day of session by welcoming our five new members and going over some of the top priorities for this session, including continuing with reforms of our K-12 education system, making higher education more affordable, holding the assembly to the highest ethical standards, and adopting a responsible budget that funds the core functions of government without raising taxes. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance these priorities.

On Wednesday evening, Governor Terry McAuliffe delivered the annual State of the Commonwealth address to the Joint Assembly of the House of Delegates and Senate. I do believe there are areas where we can work with the Governor, such as economic development and ethics reform. However, it was disappointing to see him spend a significant amount of time Wednesday discussing issues that he has to know will not find favor in the legislature. I am hopeful that we can move past the bitter tone of last session, and work to find common ground on the issues that matter most to Virginians.

Legislation
This session I will personally be moving forward with about ten bills. I still have a few that I am finalizing that will be submitted and assigned numbers this week. In the coming days and weeks, I will also be signing on to legislation that I believe will work to make our higher education system more affordable, improve K-12 education, and foster an environment that promotes economic development and job creation. I have highlighted a few of my bills below this week, and will discuss others in the weeks ahead. To view my legislation and other legislation being considered during the 2015 General Assembly Session, please visit lis.virginia.gov.

School Survey (HB 1698)
During the course of a child’s school career, there may likely be a handful of times that they are asked to participate in a student survey that asks questions touching on some sensitive information (sexual activity, drug use, mental illness). While the groups that administer these surveys have the noble goal of trying to collect accurate data to assess and understand the largest problems that impact young people in a particular community, I strongly believe it is the right and responsibility of every parent and guardian to at least be aware their child is being asked information that many would consider to be sensitive in nature. We do have a law in Virginia that requires some form of parental notice, and gives parents the ability to opt their child out of the survey. However, HB 1698 will better define how this notice should be given and what information should be conveyed to parents.

The bill requires notification to parents via mailed notice, as well as through some form of electronic notice (email, text alert). In addition, it requires that the organization administering the survey provide a bit more information than is currently required about the nature of the survey and how the information will be used. Finally, it gives parents the ability to review the survey questions via a method that is convenient for them.

NAP Credit Choice (HB 1701)
Virginia has a tax credit program whereby businesses and individuals can donate to certain non-profits and receive a 65% tax credit for this donation.While a benefit to the donor because it can help reduce their tax liability, it is very helpful to non-profits that provide assistance and services to lower income individuals in the community. It acts as a way to boost their contributions, which allows them to serve more folks in need.

However, there are two concerns with the current program that this bill seeks to resolve. First, there is significant debate among the non-profit sector as to whether it is most effective to offer a 65% credit, or if it would be preferable to offer a lower percentage in order to receive contributions from more donors. It’s my understanding that it is split fairly evenly among non-profit groups as to the number of groups that support 65% credits and those that would prefer to lower the credit percentage. There have been unsuccessful legislative attempts in the past to lower the percentage (there are a few bills this year as well). My bill gives the non-profit the choice to offer whatever credit percentage (at or below 65%) that they feel will best suit their needs and leverage the most private dollars. To be clear, the bill does not in any way call for more taxpayer funding for this program, it simply allows for some flexibility that will hopefully help maximize its effectiveness.

Secondly, the bill gives non-profits the ability to fully utilize their allocation of tax credits. This aspect of the bill is a bit more technical in nature. Currently, if the donations a non-profit receives for the year do not match the total amount of tax credits they are permitted to allocate, then they must return the left over balance to Social Services for reallocation to another non-profit. The bill will permit a business or individual to donate to a non-profit and knowingly accept a percentage below the maximum of 65% in order for the group to fully utilize the tax credit amount permitted for the year.

The idea for this legislation actually came from a constituent. If I believe they are feasible solutions, I am always happy to pursue measures that derive from members of our community that will have a positive impact in some way.

Legislative Survey
If you have not had an opportunity to complete my online legislative survey, there is still time to do so. You can access the online survey by clicking here. I value your input, and this survey is one of the tools I use to try to gauge where my constituents stand on a number of issues.

Visitors
Even though session just got started this week, I still had a few visitors from home. Colleen Whiteford and several students made the trip to Richmond on behalf of the Virginia Physical Therapy Association. Thursday was Bankers’ Day at the Capitol, and I enjoyed visiting with Greg Godsey of Union First Market Bank and Josh Hale and Jonah Pence of Farmers and Merchants Bank to discuss issues that could have an impact on the banking industry. Also on Thursday, I attended the annual Republican Women’s Luncheon. Several of the ladies from the Harrisonburg/Rockingham group made the trip. I appreciate the kind words of support and encouragement from the ladies, as well as all their efforts on behalf of the Republican Party and our candidates. Finally, Chad had the opportunity on Friday to meet with Dr. Caitlin Batchelor to briefly discuss issues of importance to the Virginia Dental Association. Dr. Batchelor started her own practice in Harrisonburg in 2013.

Contact Me
I welcome you to reach out to my office if you would like to share your thoughts on any matter before the General Assembly.
Now that we are in Richmond we can be reached by phone at (804) 698-1026. If you are visiting Richmond, my office is located in room 526 of the General Assembly Building. You can continue to email [email protected]

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to represent you in Richmond!

Tony