News

Reconvene Session Update

April 8, 2021

The final business of the 2021 Regular Session and Special Session I wrapped up yesterday as we “returned” for the Reconvene Session to handle the Governor’s amendments to legislation and the budget.

Parole Board Scandal
The first noteworthy issue was the consideration of the Governor’s budget language for a non-investigation “investigation” of the Inspector General’s handling of the Vincent Martin Parole Board investigation. Despite the Governor claiming he wanted an independent investigation of the Parole Board scandal, his unserious proposal is a whitewash in hopes of making the issue go away. For starters, the scope of what the Governor put forward is so narrow that it is almost certain nothing will become of it. The Governor’s language only allows the “independent” investigator to review the actions of the Inspector General’s office in the handling of the Vincent Martin investigation. It does not even allow consideration of the Parole Board’s actions or the review of other cases outside of Vincent Martin. For example, the recent revelation of discussions between Parole Board staff and members stating they felt “drunk with power” will not be reviewed under the terms of the Governor’s investigation. Secondly, two of the parties in charge of appointing the investigator have been accused of their own inappropriate involvement in the original investigation – the Attorney General and the Governor. Additionally, the Speaker of the House and the President pro tempore are to be consulted as well in this selection- all Democrats. So much for independent or bi-partisan.

Despite efforts in the Senate to move forward with a path for a truly transparent and bi-partisan investigation, the Governor’s amendment was adopted.

Marijuana Legalization
The other major debate of the day surrounded the marijuana legalization bill. When the bill left the House during session it had its flaws, but at least it allowed time for the regulatory and retail framework to be set up before it was legalized. Majority Leader Herring stated at the time that legalizing before the retail market was established would enable the black market to grow to the degree that legal retail sales could never catch up. That was not good enough for their activists, however. Caving to the pressure, the Governor put forward a substitute that legalizes possession of up to an ounce immediately with possession up to a pound (which I understand is quite a lot of pot) being only a small fine. Meanwhile, it will still be a few years before the LEGAL retail market can be established.

The Governor knows this action will have immediate negative outcomes, that’s why he also proposed some budget funding for immediate youth prevention efforts and law enforcement training to attempt to better recognize when someone may be driving impaired. That issue has been one of my main concerns with legalization all along. Unlike alcohol, there is no definitive means for law enforcement to know or prove when someone is driving impaired because they are high. When I questioned the Majority Leader on the floor yesterday, she acknowledged no objective means currently exists. By acknowledging that more people will be driving while high, we must also acknowledge this will likely mean more accidents and tragedy on our roadways – which has been an unfortunate reality in other states that have legalized marijuana.

To top it off, the Governor added provisions to his substitute that really have nothing to do with marijuana, but that have everything to do with continuing the back-door effort to fully dismantle Virginia’s right to work law. The substitute includes a number of pro-union positions. These include a requirement for private licensed businesses in the legal marijuana industry to grant unfettered access to their private businesses and property for union organizing efforts. It also forces these businesses to remain neutral in unionization attempts, implements card check requirements which potentially destroy employees right to a secret ballot and his substitute institutes prevailing wage requirements. It’s certainly a bag of goodies for the unions. Of course this will serve as the precedent to mandate these requirements on all licensed businesses down the road. If a business does not adhere to these pro-union policies they lose their license and their ability to operate.

Unsurprisingly, the Governor’s substitute for this bill also passed on a largely party line vote.

Final Update on My Legislation
Prior to the Reconvene session, I had two bills that were signed into law by the Governor.

The first is our initiative to establish a new tax credit that will cover 50% of the cost of best management practices that farmers wish to implement on their farms to aid water quality improvement efforts. The idea for an enhanced tax credit for our farmers was one of the recommendations included in the latest roadmap for restoring the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, so I’m glad to see it come to fruition. Along with existing cost-share and other programs, this will further assist in the effort to improve water quality and meet our goals without the need for heavy-handed government intervention.

Anyone interested in this new enhanced tax credit will work with their local soil and water conservation district office. Given that the new credit does not officially go into effect until after July 1, the agencies will be taking the next few months to develop the finer details of how it will be administered. However, I should note the program does contain a $2 million cap in the total amount of credits that can be issued a year, so anyone that is interested should not delay too late in the year to inquire.

The Governor also signed our bill that modifies the definition of brain injury for special education purposes. This bill is more inclusive of acquired brain injuries, beyond only those obtained through external physical force (blunt force). The current narrow definition can result in some students with an acquired brain injury not receiving the appropriate services or receiving services that are unnecessary.

This bill was originally brought to me by a constituent whose son experienced difficulties in receiving the appropriate services, at least in part due to the current narrow definition that is in place. For a more in-depth look at this issue, WMRA recently did an interview with the constituent, Mrs. Morris, and Cindy Noftsinger, another critical stakeholder involved in moving this legislation forward. You can find that story here.

Contact Us
As always, if my office might be of assistance on any state government related matters, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We can be reached by phone at 540-208-0735 or by email at [email protected] Also, don’t forget to stay connected through our social media on Facebook and Twitter.

Wilt Declared Republican Nominee for 26th House District

March 29, 2021

Harrisonburg – Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Broadway) released the following statement after being declared the Republican Nominee for the 26th House of Delegates District. Delegate Wilt was the only individual to file for the Republican nomination.

“I am pleased to stand for reelection as the Republican nominee for the 26th House District. It has been a privilege to serve the citizens of Harrisonburg and Rockingham and I would be honored to continue in that service.

“The last two years under complete one-party Democrat control has revealed why a check on this control is essential. As many of their ill-advised policies do not officially become effective for another few months, we have not even begun to realize the full scope of the majority’s actions.

“As achievement gaps widen as a result of school closures, the majority has failed to recognize the urgency of providing families the option for in-person education or put forward a plan to ensure we don’t leave behind a generation of students. When it comes to the economy and job growth, they adopted countless measures to add costly mandates and regulations on small businesses, many of whom are still struggling to survive because of the pandemic. This will result in fewer jobs being available in our Commonwealth and will harm the very individuals they claim to want to help. We have also seen time and again where the Democratic majority prioritizes violent offenders over the interest of crime victims and law enforcement. The Parole Board scandal has laid bare this reality.

“I will remain a voice of reason and if reelected along with a Republican majority will work to ensure students have the support they need as the pandemic ends. We will foster an economic environment that encourages, not discourages, job and wage growth. Finally, we need a criminal justice system that is fair and transparent, but not one that disregards crime victims or the policies that have made the Commonwealth among the lowest in violent crime and recidivism.

“I have enjoyed the opportunity to build relationships with countless community members and local officials over the years. Rest assured, if reelected I will continue to listen and learn about the challenges facing 26th District residents and seek out solutions to improve our Commonwealth. Despite differences, there are also areas where I will continue to work with my Democratic colleagues in a bi-partisan fashion to find solutions. Our efforts this past session to offer additional support for our farming community is just one example.

“I appreciate the strong support given to Vickie and me during the entire duration of my service in the House. In the effort to collect the necessary number of signatures to get on the ballot, we collected almost three times the amount needed prior to our self-imposed deadline. This is just one example of the overwhelming support for our campaign and demonstrates that citizens are anxious to see a change in leadership in Richmond.”

Delegate Wilt has represented the 26th House District in the Virginia General Assembly since 2010. The 26th District includes the City of Harrisonburg and part of Rockingham County.

Governor Signs Brain Injury Bill into Law

March 23, 2021

Harrisonburg- On Thursday Governor Northam signed a bill into law that aims to make it easier for students with a brain injury to receive the appropriate educational supports and services in school. Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Broadway) patroned the bill during the 2021 Legislative Session after hearing from a local mother who faced difficulties in getting the appropriate services for her child with a brain injury.

The bill modifies the current definition of brain injury for special education services to be more inclusive of acquired brain injuries, beyond only those obtained through external physical force. The current narrow definition can result in some students with an acquired brain injury not receiving the appropriate services or receiving services that are unnecessary. Delegate Wilt worked with the constituent, Amanda Morris, Brain Injury Connections of the Shenandoah Valley, the Brain Injury Association of Virginia and the Virginia Department of Education to develop the bill last fall and ensure its passage in the General Assembly.

“March is Brain Injury Awareness month and it provides Brain Injury Connections of the Shenandoah Valley with additional opportunities for advocacy concerning the needs of individuals living with brain injury,” commented Cindy Noftsinger, Executive Director of the local organization. “We understand that people living with brain injury deserve better access to services and supports, but we need champions like Delegate Wilt and our parent advocate, Mrs. Morris, to help spread the word. With better understanding of the unique needs of persons with brain injury, our communities become aware of existing challenges and ways folks can help improve lives. When we all work together, as we did on this bill, we can make a huge impact on individuals, families and our community.”

“We are hopeful that this bill will fill the gap between the medical and educational field for children affected by brain injury and increase collaboration between educators and health professionals who are trained to provide guidance on the specific needs of the child’s cognitive abilities,” stated Mrs. Morris. “My son James was the inspiration for this bill, he has had to fight many battles in his life, the right to a free and appropriate education should not have been one of them.”

“I appreciate Mrs. Morris bringing this issue to my attention and I’m hopeful the broader definition will better meet the needs of students with a brain injury and their families,” said Wilt. “It’s certainly fitting this new policy that will benefit students with a brain injury was signed into law during Brain Injury Awareness Month.”

Brain Injury Connections of the Shenandoah Valley seeks to enhance the lives of individuals affected by brain injury through cultivating connections with information, services and resources. Through their work and the work of similar organizations, brain injury awareness and supports for individuals with a brain injury has made gains in recent years. In addition to this bill the General Assembly has passed several other reforms, including a bill sponsored by Delegate Wilt last year to ensure law enforcement crisis intervention team members have traumatic brain injury training.

Governor Signs Wilt Ag Legislation into Law

March 13, 2021

Harrisonburg- On Friday Governor Northam signed a bill into law that many in the agriculture and conservation community believe will be a helpful new tool to encourage local producers to implement water quality improvement practices. The bill, sponsored by Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Broadway), will offer an enhanced tax credit to farmers that implement certain best management practices on their farms.

Delegate Wilt first introduced similar legislation during the 2020 Regular Session, but that bill did not make it out of the Appropriations Committee. However, after a diverse coalition of agriculture, conservation and environmental groups spoke out strongly in support of the measure it found success in the legislature this year. The new credit will cover 50% of the cost of the practice and farmers interested in pursuing the credit will work with their local Soil and Water Conservation District office.

“The idea of an enhanced tax credit for our farmers was one of the recommendations included in the latest roadmap for restoring the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, so I’m glad to see it come to fruition,” said Wilt. “Along with existing cost-share and other programs this will further assist in the effort to improve water quality and meet our goals without the need for heavy-handed government intervention.”

Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) carried companion legislation in the Senate this year and that bill was also signed into law Friday by the Governor. In addition, Delegate Wilt served as the chief co-patron of another agriculture initiative sponsored by Delegate Wendy Gooditis (D-Clarke) that seeks to aid the struggling dairy industry through a Dairy Margin Coverage Premium Assistance Program. That bill is still awaiting the Governor’s signature, but it is expected he will sign the legislation. Delegate Wilt has championed targeted support for the dairy industry the last number of years as farmers have had to contend with extremely low milk prices and other compounding factors.

Wilt Files Legislation to Establish School Remediation Task Force

January 15, 2021


Harrisonburg- On Wednesday Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Broadway) filed legislation to establish a task force dedicated to ensuring Virginia’s students do not permanently fall behind as a result of the pandemic and subsequent remote learning environment.

The task force calls for 22 members, including state education leaders, teachers, parents, legislators and other education officials and citizen members. The group will develop policy and funding recommendations to assist public school students impacted by school closures and the remote learning environment to ensure students that may be struggling during this time do not fall further behind, but rather are given the tools and services necessary to succeed moving forward. The task force is charged with developing a uniform strategy to effectively identify students in need of remediation services, identify the necessary interventions and services that must be deployed, as well as conduct a review of existing education mandates and requirements that may be appropriate to waive or modify.

“I’ve talked to numerous parents with students struggling in the current learning environment, even students that typically excel in school,” said Wilt. “While I know our teachers and school officials are trying to do the best they can in these challenging circumstances, the reality is the current situation is not ideal for most. When we get back to relative normalcy, hopefully sooner rather than later, we cannot continue as if nothing ever happened. A significant population of our k-12 students will be in desperate need of remediation services and coursework- not to mention the behavioral and mental health component. In discussions with local school officials I was delighted to hear they are already planning innovative and substantive remediation efforts. This state-wide review is intended to complement any local efforts and ensure all students have the supports they need.”

The bill is awaiting committee referral, but the Delegate expects it to be taken up within the next two to three weeks.

Wilt Renews Effort to Limit Governor Emergency Powers

November 23, 2020

Harrisonburg- On Monday Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Broadway) reintroduced his proposal to amend Virginia’s Constitution to give the General Assembly a say in the Governor’s emergency orders.

Delegate Wilt originally offered the resolution during the recently concluded special session, but the committee that handles proposed constitutional amendments never convened. He is confident it will be given a hearing during the upcoming regular session.

If approved, the amendment would require any emergency executive order issued by the Governor that restricts, limits or prohibits otherwise lawful action by a private business, non-profit entity, or individual to be approved by the General Assembly before it can continue for more than 45 days. Currently, the Governor has broad discretion over emergency orders and their duration with no ability for the General Assembly to directly weigh in. According to a review by the National Conference of State Legislatures, roughly 34 other states and several U.S. territories grant some type of authority to their legislative body to review and consider orders by the executive.

“For over eight months now, the Governor has had the sole discretion to issue orders in response to COVID-19 that limit citizen’s ability to gather, worship, maintain employment and operate their businesses,” said Wilt. “Even for those that agree with the Governor’s actions to date, everyone should recognize this is a lot of power for the executive. My proposal will restore the appropriate balance of power to ensure the lawmaking body of our Commonwealth can weigh in on actions that have the force of law.”

For the amendment to be adopted into the Virginia Constitution, it would need to pass the General Assembly twice, with a legislative election in between each passage. It would then be placed on the ballot for approval by the voters. Despite the timeframe for such passage, Delegate Wilt feels a Constitutional Amendment is necessary because of legal challenges and hurdles regular legislation could face. While he acknowledges the current orders put in place by Governor Northam in response to COVID-19 were the impetus for the legislation, he views the proposal as a way to guard against overreach by a future administration.

Elected in 2010, Delegate Wilt represents the 26th District in the Virginia House of Delegates, which includes Harrisonburg and part of Rockingham County.

Wilt Introduces Amendment Providing Legislative Check for Governor Emergency Powers

August 4, 2020

Harrisonburg- Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Broadway) introduced a proposed amendment to the Virginia Constitution Wednesday that would grant the General Assembly oversight and authority over certain emergency orders issued by the Governor.

The resolution, if approved, would require any emergency executive order issued by the Governor that restricts, limits or prohibits otherwise lawful action by a private business, non-profit entity, or individual to be approved by the General Assembly before it can continue for more than 45 days. Currently, the Governor has broad discretion over emergency orders and their duration with no ability for the General Assembly to directly weigh in. Delegate Wilt feels a change to the Virginia Constitution is necessary to ensure the proper balance of power between the executive and legislative branch of state government and to help protect the rights of Virginia citizens.

“As we have come to realize over the course of the last several months, the Governor has broad authority to require citizens to suspend or alter otherwise lawful actions. A direct result of this compliance might mean the loss of one’s livelihood, ability to worship or move about freely,” stated Wilt. “While emergency powers for our executive remain necessary to ensure quick response to a crisis situation, there must be some check on this authority to ensure the lawmaking body elected by the citizens has a say in the duration of these emergency orders that have the force of law. According to a study by the National Conference of State Legislatures, roughly 34 other states and several U.S. territories grant this type of authority to their legislative body in some form and it’s time the Commonwealth become one of them.”

In order for the amendment to be adopted into the Virginia Constitution, it would have to pass the General Assembly twice, with a legislative election in between each passage. It would then be placed on the ballot for approval by the voters. Despite the timeframe for such passage, Delegate Wilt feels a Constitutional Amendment is necessary because of legal challenges and hurdles regular legislation could face. While he indicated the current orders put in place by Governor Northam in response to COVID-19 were the impetus for the legislation, he views the proposal as a way to prevent overreach by a future administration.

“Regardless of party affiliation or how you may feel about the current Governor’s actions and response to COVID-19, I hope my fellow legislators and the citizens would agree that we must guard against a future Governor using this situation as precedent to unnecessarily overreach without limitation in the future,” said Wilt.

Elected in 2010, Delegate Wilt represents the 26th District in the Virginia House of Delegates, which includes Harrisonburg and part of Rockingham County.

Bad Bills Advance

February 17, 2020

At the halfway point of the 2020 Virginia General Assembly Session, unfortunately there are countless bills advanced by the majority that will be a detriment to our economy, to our freedoms and to taxpaying Virginians if passed into law. Below is just a small sampling of some of these initiatives.

Public Safety
HB 34 Refusal of tests; restricted license
HB 33 Parole; exception to limitation on the application of parole statutes.
HB 995 Grand larceny; threshold.
HB 1150 Inquiry and report of immigration status; persons charged with or convicted of certain crimes.

Energy
HB 528 Coal fired or natural gas fired electric generation facilities; retirement of facilities.
HB 1526 Virginia Clean Economy Act.
HB 1451 Electric utilities; mandatory renewable energy portfolio standard.
HB 1450 Electric utility regulation; energy efficiency standard.

Taxes
HB 502 Litter tax; adds $100 to the existing penalty for delinquency.
HB 534 Disposable plastic bag; local tax.
HB 729 Transit funding; raises the existing regional transportation fee, etc.
HB 785 Local taxing authority; equalizes city and county taxing authorities.
HB 1414 Transportation; amends numerous laws related to funds, safety programs, revenue sources, etc. [Gas tax]

Education
HB 1322 Public institutions of higher education; admissions applications; criminal history.

Elections
HB 177 Presidential electors; National Popular Vote Compact.
HB 187 Elections; same-day registration; in-person absentee and election day voting.
HB 19 Voter identification; repeal of photo identification requirements.
HB 185 Voter registration by mail; certain first-time voters permitted to vote by absentee ballot.

Business
HB 617 Workers’ compensation; injuries caused by repetitive motion.
HB 833 Prevailing wage; public works contracts, penalty.
HB 123 Nonpayment of wages; construction contracts, etc.
HB 395 Minimum wage: raises to $10 per hour
HB 416 Prohibition on employer inquiry about wage or salary history of prospective employees; civil penalty.
HB 582 Collective bargaining by public employees; labor organization representation.
HB 1635 Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority; labor organizations.

Statement on Veto of Association Health Plan Legislation

May 3, 2019

Harrisonburg – Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Rockingham) released the following statement after the Governor vetoed House Bill 2443:

“It is unfortunate that the Governor chose to ultimately veto HB 2443 after it received strong bi-partisan support from the General Assembly. This bill would have created a new option for affordable health coverage for many who currently have no option under the crushing premium increases we have seen in recent years. The bill expanded the opportunity for small businesses to join together under a Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangement (MEWA) – a self-funded benefits consortium of small businesses and self-employed individuals that may pool together to offer their employees comprehensive, affordable group health care coverage on terms similar to those available to large employers.

“Following passage by the legislature, the Governor put forward a heavily amended version that was rejected during the reconvened session by a large bi-partisan majority. The Governor’s substitute contained several amendments that were acceptable, but unfortunately, he also included language that rendered the bill useless and actually took us backwards with regards to a specific policy related to the ability of self-employed individuals to access the small group market.

“Despite the veto, in the interim I intend to continue to work with stakeholders and the Administration to seek out a path forward on this important issue. Virginia’s expansion of Medicaid did nothing to address the increasing challenges that middle-class families face in trying to obtain and afford their healthcare – in some respects it only made it worse. We must implement policies that can provide more affordable coverage options for these middle-class families that simply can’t afford premiums that have doubled or tripled.”

Wilt Statement on Veto of Voter Registration Legislation

March 26, 2019

Harrisonburg – Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Rockingham) released the following statement after learning that Governor Northam vetoed House Bill 2764:

“I am deeply disappointed in the Governor’s decision to once again veto our common-sense bill that sought a modest improvement in the voter registration process. HB 2764 would help to ensure more voters are properly registered and improve accountability in the process. This bill required any third-party individual that assists an applicant with the completion of a paper voter registration application to include their basic contact information on the application.

“It would simply afford registrars an additional tool to educate individuals working as part of a voter registration drive on the proper instructions for completing applications to avoid rejected applications moving forward. In rarer cases, it could also serve as a way to prevent or detect potentially fraudulent activity.

“In his statement, the Governor claims including this basic information on an application is an unnecessary burden on those facilitating voter registration drives. I think most reasonable people don’t consider writing your name and contact number an undue burden. This veto is especially disappointing given that the bill was amended this year to explicitly eliminate the concern the Governor raises regarding an individual’s application potentially being denied on the grounds the third-party individual did not complete their portion. 

“Voter registrars from across the Commonwealth report that applications turned in as part of registrations drives often contain numerous errors and omissions. That’s why the Voter Registrars Association of Virginia saw the value in this legislation and supported the bill the last two years.  

“It is unfortunate that the Governor opted to once again follow the position of the hard left by avoiding any policy that might remotely improve the integrity and accuracy of the election process. The sad irony is that his veto ensures more Virginians are denied the right to vote because of applications rejected due to errors deriving from incorrect instructions given by a third-party individual or group. If he can’t support this basic good government measure, I question to what extent this Governor or his Administration has any concern for a fair, accurate and honest electoral process.”