Posts Tagged ‘2021 Virginia General Assembly’

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.