Posts Tagged ‘Marijuana Legalization’

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.