Session Halftime Report

February 10, 2023

At crossover, 12 of 15 bills we’ve carried have passed the House and continue to move forward in the process. I’m most encouraged by our efforts to drive down energy costs and ensure a reliable electric grid well into the future. Our bill to untie ourselves from the California Emissions mandate is essential for Virginians moving forward and is also a top priority for House Republicans. I’ve listed each bill below, along with a brief description.

HB 1378 – Removes Virginia from the California Vehicle Emissions Standard Mandate. The current law ties Virginia to California’s standard and requires 35% of vehicle sales be EV starting in 2026 and that percentage rachets up every year, culminating in a 100% requirement by 2035 – effectively banning gas and diesel powered cars and light trucks at that point. We can’t let Sacramento dictate Virginia policy, instead we need to let the free market make the transition – which is already happening without the heavy hand of government. 

HB 1459 – Allows retiring members of state law enforcement agencies to keep their badge upon their retirement. This is already allowed for State Police and most local agencies, but this bill will extend to the other state agencies with a law enforcement division (conservation police officers, ABC agents, etc.).

HB 1660 – Removes the current sunset on the Dairy Margin Coverage Premium Assistance Program. As mentioned previously, $1 million has been secured in the budget to continue to fund the program.

HB 2124 – To address the significant shortage in staff available to support students struggling with mental health and other challenges, this bill allows school divisions to bring on clinical psychologists that can work their way to full licensure as a school psychologists. This was a recent JLARC recommendation.

HB 2125 – Allows organizations bringing in less than $40,000 a year from charitable gaming activity to utilize a short form registration process with VDACS that removes red tape and other requirements that they are currently subject to. This was a constituent request and should be helpful to many of our local fire and rescue departments and other local non-profits that may conduct limited charitable gaming activity, such as at lawn parties, for example.

HB 2126 – Creates a DEQ regulated process where our utilities can retain gravel access roads to their transmission lines. Current stormwater requirements dictate in most circumstances these roads have to be removed and then subsequently reinstalled when the utility needs to access transmission lines again for repairs or maintenance. This will save ratepayers and result in less land disturbance activity, which should bring a net environmental benefit.

HB 2128 will create the ability for a family to work with their community’s funeral service establishments to provide the last act of care for their loved one by accessing a small asset of the deceased to cover the cost of funeral expenses. 

HB 2130 – Grants the State Corporation Commission (SCC) more authority to determine when the plant shutdown requirements of the Clean Economy Act threaten grid reliability, and subsequently extend that timeline without the utilities (and therefore ratepayers) being subject to a penalty. The bill also allows the SCC to consider other net zero emission resources (ex. nuclear, landfill gas, biomass) to meet renewable energy requirements.

HB 2132 – This bill was the result of stakeholder consensus from utilities, the construction industry and others to make improvements to the digging and marking law in Virginia (811 – previously Miss Utility). It brings efficiencies to the 811 process and creates a means to stop someone that is threating life or property by digging over a utility line and refusing to stop. 

HB 2133 – Clarifies the State Fire Marshall has ultimate authority over state buildings. This addresses an issue where a limited number of higher education institutions have been refusing to allow the State Fire Marshall  access to certain facilities.

HB 2267 – Allows the SCC to have authority to determine whether it’s in the best interest of ratepayers to direct utilities to recover costs through base rates or a rate adjustment clause (rider). While the ratemaking policy and law is complex, this effectively should put downward pressure on rates.

HB 2428 – Prohibits the advertising of marijuana and other psychoactive products. This is primarily to prevent the targeting of ads to minors. In other states where these restrictions are not in place, advertising has been shown to drive up use by minors and children.