Author Archive

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.

Wilt Pursuing Agenda to Lower Costs for Virginians

January 11, 2023

RICHMOND- During the 2023 Virginia General Assembly Session Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Rockingham) is pursuing legislation to ease the financial burden for Virginia families. With the Session officially getting underway Wednesday, Wilt has submitted bills to lower transportation and energy costs as part of his legislative package.

“Inflation remains a major burden for low and middle income Virginians,” Wilt said. “While reckless federal spending is a major culprit, there is still work that can be done at the state level to address the issue and head off future cost increases. It’s time to untie ourselves from the California Clean Cars mandate before Virginians are forced to buy more costly vehicles they may not even want. Not to mention that the auto industry may not even be able to supply vehicles to meet the aggressive timeline of this standard, nor is there the necessary charging infrastructure in place. Electricity costs are also rising and this session I’m working with the Governor to make some reforms to the Clean Economy Act that will grant authority to the SCC to provide a relief valve when it’s determined costs will be excessive or we are risking grid reliability and security to maintain the requirements of the Act.”

The Delegate filed legislation in November to decouple Virginia from the California Advanced Clean Cars emissions standard. In 2021 while under Democrat control, Virginia adopted legislation to follow the California standard which culminates in a prohibition on the sale of new internal combustion engine vehicles by 2035. However, in the meantime the mandate begins to kick in for model year 2026 with a requirement that 35% of new vehicles sold be zero emissions vehicles.

On the energy front, the bills the Delegate has filed focus on restoring regulatory authority to the State Corporation Commission to ensure more affordable electricity costs for consumers. HB 2130 allows the Commission to defer clean energy utilization requirements if it is found costs to customers from those requirements will be excessive. It also requires the utilities to petition the Commission for relief from the requirements of the Clean Economy Act related to power plant closures when they believe the required closure poses a threat to grid reliability or security. HB 2267 grants authority to the Commission to determine the best mechanism for utilities to recover costs of generation projects or other grid improvements. This is also intended to have the practical effect of lowering energy bills.

Delegate Wilt has filed additional bills this session to support dairy farmers, the industrial hemp industry, and a bill to ensure sex offenders that committed serious crimes against minors are not able to work in or access schools, among other legislation.

Following Report Demonstrating Positive Results, Obenshain and Wilt File Legislation to Continue Program Supporting Dairy Farmers

January 11, 2023

HARRISONBURG- On Monday Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) and Delegate Tony Wilt (R-
Rockingham) filed a pair of bills to continue the Virginia Dairy Margin Coverage Premium Assistance Program. This follows an encouraging report from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and
Consumers Services (VDACS) that offers convincing evidence that the program met both the goals of
offering tangible help to the struggling dairy industry, while also incentivizing farmers to implement
environmental stewardship practices.

“I am very pleased to see that the program has been helpful to farmers and also that it has successfully
promoted voluntary implementation of agricultural best management practices,” Obenshain said. “The
dairy industry has struggled over the past few years, but this approach has proven to be a real win-win for
the industry and we have made a strong case for its continuation.”

“It’s exciting to see that the program is working,” stated Wilt. “Since Rockingham is the top dairy
producing locality in the Commonwealth by a wide margin, ensuring a sustainable industry is vital not
only for our farmers, but our local economy as a whole. It’s equally as exciting that this program likely
encouraged dozens of farmers to voluntarily implement or renew best management practices on their

“The recent VDACS report confirms the program has been a success both in terms of assisting our
farmers and encouraging environmental stewardship practices,” said Eric Paulson, Executive Secretary of
the Virginia Dairyman’s Association. “Given this success, it makes sense to continue it beyond this year
and I’m thankful to Senator Obenshain and Delegate Wilt for their willingness to bring legislation

Without this legislation, the original program was implemented on a trial basis and is otherwise
scheduled to expire in July. Both Delegate Wilt and Senator Obenshain played a significant role in
establishing the original program a few years ago through prior legislative action and their efforts to
secure funding in the state budget.

The federal Dairy Margin Coverage Program is part of the federal Farm Bill and functions much like an
insurance policy to guard against volatile milk prices and high commodity costs. The state premium
assistance program helps small to mid-size dairy farmers in covering their significant costs to sign up for
the federal program. To qualify for the state program, farmers must adopt or be in the process of adopting
a nutrient management plan or resource management plan. Dairy farmers that are interested in
participating should contact VDACS for more information.

Wilt Introduces Legislation to Untangle Virginia from California Vehicle Emissions Standard

November 8, 2022

Harrisonburg- On Wednesday Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Rockingham) filed legislation to untangle Virginia from the California Vehicle Emissions Standard, Advanced Clean Cars II. This standard calls for 100% of new passenger cars, light duty trucks and SUVs sold to be zero emissions vehicles (ZEVs) by 2035. Practically speaking this will eliminate the allowable sale of internal combustion engine vehicles and require all new vehicles sold to be predominantly electric.

“With rampant inflation already hitting Virginia families hard, it’s absurd that we would allow such a massive government mandate to move forward when we know it will only add to their struggles through increased transportation costs in the coming years,” said Wilt. “I support a market driven transition to cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles, but the plain reality is it’s highly unlikely we will have the infrastructure in place to support the aggressive and arbitrary transition required under Advanced Clean Cars II. Vehicle manufacturers and others have confirmed as much. Proponents of the mandate have claimed no one is forced to buy a new EV, but what do we think will happen to the price of conventional used vehicles? They will skyrocket, squeezing low to middle income folks even harder. We must pump the breaks on this before it can inflict irrevocable harm on Virginia families and our economic competitiveness.”

In 2021, the then Democratic controlled General Assembly passed legislation requiring Virginia to follow California’s vehicle emissions standard. While at the time that standard did not culminate in requiring 100% of new vehicles sold to be ZEVs, in August of this year the California Air Resources Board updated their standard to the more stringent Advanced Clean Cars II. Starting with model year 2026 35% of new vehicles sold must be zero emissions and that percentage steadily increases every year thereafter until reaching a 100% requirement for the 2035 model year. Virginia is obligated to follow this more aggressive mandate unless the legislature intervenes to roll it back.

Delegate Wilt initially pursued this issue in the 2022 session. While it passed the House of Delegates the proposal did not garner the necessary support in the Democrat controlled State Senate. With the new reality of the more aggressive 100% ZEV mandate, the Delegate is hopeful the proposal can gain some bi-partisan support this year. Governor Youngkin has called for a repeal of the California emissions standard in Virginia and backing out of the mandate was a recommendation included in the recently released Virginia Energy Plan.

Budget Update

July 2, 2022

While it took a few extra months to get it done, we finally have a budget that is close to the finish line. Wednesday the General Assembly headed back to Richmond to take up the vote on the final budget conference report. It was approved with overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both chambers and will now head to the Governor to sign or offer any amendments he feels may be necessary. I supported this budget because it is structurally sound, funds key priorities, and provides much needed tax relief.

Tax Relief
With Virginia families struggling with the effects of record inflation, meaningful tax cuts were a key priority for the House and Governor Youngkin. While there was some compromise with the Senate on this front, on the whole I believe the final product is closer to the House position. This budget provides over $4 billion in tax cuts – which amounts to just over $1100 in tax relief for the average family of four per year. Some of the highlights include:

A near doubling of the standard deduction on the state income tax to $8,000 for individuals and $16,000 for joint filers.
A tax rebate check later this year that will be $250 per individual and $500 for joint filers
The elimination of the 1.5% state sales tax on groceries starting January 1.
It exempts the first $40,000 of veteran retirement pay from state income tax, phased in over 4 years.
It ends the accelerated sales tax gimmick that unfairly penalizes small businesses and retailers. This is something I have fought to eliminate for a number of years through both legislation and budget amendments.

The budget includes record investment in k-12 education. With a 20% boost in spending for our schools, this results in the highest K-12 budget ever, even when adjusting for inflation. For higher education, there is support to hold down tuition increases to no more than 3%, along with additional targeted financial aid for undergraduate students. Some of the particulars include:

Up to a 5% salary increase for school employees each year of the biennium, along with a $1,000 bonus in December with no local match requirement for the bonus.
Through a combination of grants and loans, this budget will leverage over $3 billion for school construction and renovation. While historically construction was the sole responsibility of the locality, this has been widely recognized as a significant need for some time.
An additional $45 million set aside for the school resource officer grant program.
On the local higher ed. front, I’m pleased that our effort to secure substantial additional support to address JMU’s per-pupil funding disparity was also included to the tune of $12 million over the biennium.

Public Safety
This budget invests heavily in our law enforcement in terms of training and equipment, as well as compensation. It also supports violence intervention efforts, including Operation Ceasefire. Some of these highlights include:

Almost $200 million for targeted compensation initiatives for the State Police, correctional officers, deputy sheriffs and regional jail officers. With so many of these essential public safety agencies being chronically understaffed with vacancies, this represents some serious investment – a 20-40% boost in compensation for many.
$47 million additional in “599” funding to support local police
$13 million for violence prevention efforts, with $5 million of this directed specifically to the Operation Ceasefire program. This is legislation I carried with the support of the Governor and Attorney General and I’m glad to see that funding for the program has made it into the budget.
$75 million in ARPA funds for one-time grants to local law enforcement to support equipment purchases and training.

Similar to law enforcement, there is a workforce crisis in many healthcare related fields, particularly in the areas of public behavioral health and community based providers to serve the disabled and other vulnerable populations. This is one area where I would like to have seen us go even farther and I carried budget provisions to do so. Even so, the additional resources included to support our front-line healthcare professionals is still significant.

Roughly $544 million to support and maintain rate increases for various waiver services, such as the developmental disability waiver and consumer and agency directed care
An additional 600 developmental disability waiver slots in FY 2024
$50.5 million to fully implement the STEP-VA program in our Community Services Boards to better meet the needs of those struggling with mental health challenges
My amendment to provide an additional $850,000 each year of the biennium for our centers for independent living was also included.

Other Highlights
While the Commonwealth is experiencing record revenues, this budget hedges against future downturns by directing much of the additional spending to one-time investment needs and bolstering our savings.
Based on various additional deposits, Virginia’s cash reserves will reach $3.9 billion
Includes an additional $750 million payment to VRS with an additional $250 million deposit if revenues remain strong to continue to improve the funded status and keep rates low
Takes on no new debt, and instead switches some previously approved bond projects to cash.
Among the other amendments I put forward this year, $4.8 million was included for the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District specifically for infrastructure improvements at various battlefields across the Valley to increase tourism at these sites, and ultimately bring in additional tourism dollars for localities and the Commonwealth.

While this touches on some of the major policy areas, if you have any questions about the budget or if my office might be of any assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out. You can call 540-208-0735 or email [email protected]

Wilt Announces Appointments

April 12, 2022

Harrisonburg- Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Broadway) has been appointed by Speaker Todd Gilbert to serve on several commissions and committees for his current term in office. This includes a new appointment to the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), as well as reappointment to the Chesapeake Bay Commission and I-81 Committee.

JLARC is the General Assembly’s primary oversight body that reviews state agencies and programs to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used appropriately and to make recommendations for improvements. Staffed by a dedicated team of professionals, JLARC reports also play a vital role in legislative decision making.

“Citizens must have confidence that taxpayer dollars are being used as intended and that government programs serve their purpose. JLARC provides that review,” said Wilt. “I look forward to my service on JLARC to be an active contributor to their important mission. I also appreciate the Speaker reappointing me to the Chesapeake Bay Commission and the I-81 Committee.”

Delegate Wilt previously served on the Chesapeake Bay Commission from 2018-2020. The Commission is comprised primarily of legislators and citizen members from the three member states – Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. The group develops coordinated policy solutions that can be implemented throughout the Bay states to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Delegate Wilt currently serves on the I-81 Committee. This committee is tasked with providing advice and recommendations to the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) regarding the development and updates to the I-81 Corridor Improvement program. This includes identifying and prioritizing projects to recommend for funding.

Wilt Dairy Bill First to be Signed by Governor Youngkin

February 14, 2022

RICHMOND- On Monday Governor Youngkin signed his first bill into law. It happened to be legislation patroned by Shenandoah Valley Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Rockingham). Taking office in mid-January, Delegate Wilt’s was the first to make it to the Governor’s desk due to the emergency status of the legislation. The bill makes several adjustments to the recently established Dairy Margin Coverage Premium Assistance Program.

“As the Commonwealth’s top industry, it’s fitting to have the first bill signed into law be one that supports our farmers and agriculture economy,” said Wilt. “This bill makes some necessary improvements to our Dairy Margin Coverage Premium Assistance Program that was established last year. Providing some assistance to our dairy farmers while also further incentivizing conservation practices is something that I have worked on for several years. I’m glad we had the opportunity to get something across the finish line last year and can build on that progress now.”

“Thank you, Governor Youngkin and Delegate Wilt, for your work to expand eligibility to the Virginia Dairy Producer Margin Coverage Premium Assistance Program,” indicated Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) Commissioner Joseph Guthrie. “Now, more of the Commonwealth’s dairy farmers can participate in the federal Dairy Margin Coverage program and receive tier 1 level reimbursement for their participation, when they have a resource management plan or nutrient management plan that is certified or undergoing certification by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation or a local soil and water conservation district. This is a win for Virginia agriculture, for the consumer, and for environmental stewardship.

The legislation that has now become law ensures farmers can participate in the state premium assistance program, despite recent delays in the rollout of the federal farm bill program. The federal program works like an insurance policy to guard against low and volatile milk prices. The state premium assistance program helps small to mid-size dairy farmers in covering their costs to sign up for the federal program. The bill also ensures that farmers that choose to work with the federal Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) on their conservation practices are still able to participate in the premium assistance program. Dairy farmers that are interested in participating should contact VDACS for more information.

This year is the long 60 day session and is set to conclude in mid-march. Delegate Wilt has served in the House of Delegates since 2010 and represents the City of Harrisonburg and a portion of Rockingham County.

Wilt Appointed to Rules Committee

January 13, 2022

RICHMOND- On Wednesday it was announced that Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Rockingham) will serve on the powerful Rules Committee in the Virginia House of Delegates. This is in addition to his other three previous assignments on the Commerce and Energy Committee (previously Labor and Commerce); Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources Committee; and the Public Safety Committee. It was announced a few weeks ago that he will serve as Chairman of the Public Safety Committee for the current term.

The General Assembly officially got underway on Wednesday. In addition to electing a Speaker and Clerk, committee assignments were announced for all members.

“I’m honored to receive this additional committee assignment and look forward to the new challenge,” said Wilt. “As the name implies, the Rules Committee takes up matters related to how the General Assembly operates and conducts business, in addition to a myriad of other issues. How we conduct ourselves and the process with which we do things is extremely important. Without a fair legislative process that the public can have confidence in and trust, nothing else matters.”

In addition to taking up issues of how the body governs itself, the Rules Committee handles all study resolutions, official designation resolutions, and anything else the Speaker decides to send to the Committee. The Speaker, Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), will serve as the Chairman of Rules in accord with the historic custom and practice of the body.

This year is the “long” 60 day session and is set to conclude in mid-march. Delegate Wilt has served in the House of Delegates since 2010 and represents the City of Harrisonburg and a portion of Rockingham County.

Wilt Renews Effort to Provide Affordable Healthcare Option for Small Business

January 11, 2022

RICHMOND- On Tuesday Delegate Tony Wilt introduced legislation to allow for a health plan option that could provide more affordable access to healthcare for many small businesses and their employees.

Delegate Wilt patroned similar legislation in 2019 and Democratic legislators took the lead in the two previous years. While the policy has enjoyed broad bipartisan support in the legislature, Governor Northam had rejected the plan. With a new Governor come Saturday, Delegate Wilt is hoping to get the bill across the finish line this year.

“This bill opens up an opportunity for coverage for many who currently have no option under the crushing premium increases we have seen in recent years,” said Wilt. “Small businesses want to provide robust benefits and take care of their employees, but with the inflationary pressures we are experiencing this continues to be a challenge,” said Wilt. “In the most recent campaign I committed to pursue this solution again if reelected, and today I’m making good on that promise!”

“Small businesses continue to struggle to find affordable health coverage options for their employees. This legislation will provide Virginia’s small businesses with an additional option for quality, more affordable health coverage through a shared risk pool with other small businesses,” said Virginia Chamber of Commerce President & CEO, Barry DuVal. “The Virginia Chamber applauds this innovative, bipartisan effort and thanks both Del. Wilt and Sen. Mason for carrying their companion bills that will improve access to quality health coverage for small business workers.”

The legislation expands the opportunity for small businesses to join under a Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangement (MEWA). A MEWA is a self-funded benefits consortium of small employers that pool together to offer their employees comprehensive, affordable group health care coverage on terms similar to those available to large employers. The bill includes a number of safeguards to ensure minimum coverage requirements and solvency of the plans.

Delegate Wilt represents the 26th House District, which encompasses Harrisonburg and part of Rockingham County. He was first elected to the House of Delegates in June of 2010.

Wilt Named Chairman of House Public Safety Committee

December 29, 2021

HARRISONBURG–Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Rockingham) issued the following statement following the announcement that he has been selected to chair the House Public Safety Committee when the General Assembly convenes in January.

“Ensuring safe communities for our citizens is a core function of state government. It is an honor to be named chair of this important committee that guides much of our policy as it relates to law enforcement, individual liberties, and criminal justice.

“The last two years we have seen efforts that restrict the ability of law enforcement to do their jobs. We have seen attacks on the rights of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves. Finally, the rights of crime victims have often been overlooked.

“I look forward to working with the incoming administration and General Assembly leaders to ensure law enforcement has the tools necessary to keep our citizens safe, secure our Second Amendment freedoms and maintain a criminal justice system that treats offenders fairly while also looking out for the interests of crime victims.

“I’m anxious to get to work in Richmond for the citizens of our Commonwealth.”