January 31, 2014 – Updates

January 31, 2014 – Updates

January 31, 2014

 

Friends,

 

We have just finished another very interesting and productive week in the General Assembly.   With “cross-over” just over two weeks away, the Senate and the House of Delegates continued to consider their legislation in numerous committees, with the surviving bills being given final consideration by the two houses no later than Midnight on February 11th. “Cross-over” is the mid-point of the General Assembly session when both houses exchange their approved legislation for consideration and final vote in each of the two bodies.

 

This week however marked yet another new and unprecedented milestone for our state government.  As you recall, we learned just last week that our new Attorney General has decided not to support and defend Virginia’s Constitution and instead has chosen to participate in a law suit against the state for which he was elected to represent.  In essence, he will be prosecuting his own client.  I have more remarks on this topic but first, here are my observations on the latest eye opener for the citizens of Virginia.

 

The Senate Democrats, on Tuesday, broke new ground on how the Senate will operate for at least the next two years. On Tuesday, the Democratic leadership concocted and launched into place a power coup that in effect could put a lock on the normal legislative process of both the Senate and the House of Delegates. By this unprecedented move, the Democrats, with the tie-breaking vote of Lt. Governor Northam, became the majority party in the Senate of Virginia.  Although the Senate was organized (as it has always done in the years past) for the full four-year term in 2012, Democrats ignored the rules and abandoned precedent to solidify their control.

 

First, the Democrats changed the committee structure mid-cycle.  Instead of permitting the current structure to remain in place for four years before opening it up for change, the Democrats removed all current Committee Chairs and shuffled some Republican members off of Committees to ensure full control by Democrats of all Senate committees.  Second, and more astounding, the Democrats solidified their power grab by creating a new Super Committee with a  their new rule that grants a single Senator, the Chairman of the Rules Committee, the power to prevent a Senate Bill from being approved by the Senate if it has been “substantially” amended by the House.  In effect, the rules give one legislator the ability to single-handedly kill legislation with no accountability or recourse. This “legislative veto” power not only makes the new Rules Committee Chairman more powerful than the Lt. Governor, but also I believe it was a move that violates the Virginia Constitution.

 

The Senate of Virginia has 40 elected members.  Bestowing on just one of the 40 senators the power to derail legislation without a vote by the entire body violates the foundations of representative government.  Even in Washington, where partisan bickering and gridlock have become commonplace, granting effective veto authority to a single legislator would be unthinkable.  But in the Senate of Virginia, it now appears to be the new rule.

 

The citizens of Virginia expect and deserve to have their elected officials vote on every piece of legislation without the fiat of a contrived process that would allow for a unilateral veto by one person at any point in the process.  It is also important to note that the Rules Committee is also a super majority composed of twelve Democrats and only five Republicans.  In effect, the Rules Committee can have a quorum without one Republican being present.  The voices of the citizens of Virginia will be silenced with this power structure overseeing the legislative process within the Senate.  Time will tell just how the Democrats will leverage their newly developed power structure.  I hope that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will use this power prudently and without bias.

 

In last week’s update, I shared my concerns about the law suit that the Commonwealth’s new Attorney General is supporting.  And as you recall, this law suit is in fact against the state of Virginia.  You may have also noticed this week the public relations campaign that the Attorney General has been waging in an effort to justify his position.  General Herring is pushing his argument in newspapers, on the radio, through surrogates, etc.  My opinion on this law suit has not changed and unfortunately, neither has the intention of the Attorney General.  It is extremely disappointing not only to me but for many Virginians as well that within three short weeks on the job as the state’s top lawyer, he finds it a priority to support a law suit against the State of Virginia.  I have very serious concerns about the AG’s refusal to defend Virginia’s constitution and just as important, I am very concerned about what other current Virginia laws may be the subject of the AG’s contempt that he will seek to dismantle in the future. In simple terms, what the Attorney General did would be unthinkable in a lawyer-client relationship.  Imagine for a moment that you hire a lawyer to defend you if you got sued. Instead of protecting you and representing you to the best of his abilities, he breaks his solemn oath to you and instead supports the very person who is suing you!  In the practice of law, we call this both unethical and legal malpractice, which would subject the attorney to disciplinary sanctions by the Virginia State Bar.  For these reasons, I again call on the Attorney General to rescind his decision to enjoin the state against itself and instead, focus on issues related to the growth of our economy and protection of its citizens.

 

Update on some of the legislation that I am proposing during this session:

To date, 12 of my bills have passed the full Senate and will be sent to the House of Delegates for consideration.  Another 9 bills will be presented in Committee beginning next week.

 

The strategy for my new legislation this year builds on the successes during last year’s General Assembly.  Jobs are my number one focus. And I am also focused on reducing poverty in our area by creating new opportunities for the poor that will help them greatly improve their economic station in life.  To achieve the much needed growth in our economy, I am focusing on two approaches.

 

The first approach is to ensure that our education systems are providing our children with the skills necessary to prepare them for the future in the modern economy. A skilled workforce will attract and retain those businesses that will bring jobs and improved economic growth to our region.  Much of my legislation addresses the K-12, vocational and community college educational systems as well as creating incentives for new businesses with new jobs to move into our area.

 

An example of the first approach is SB 628 which establishes a financial incentive of $1000.00 for a student to enroll in any community college and successfully complete a noncredit industry-recognized certification or license in a high employer demand field in the region of the community college.  Developing the much needed skillsets in the near term is critical to marketing our region as the place for new business to set up shop.

 

SB 168 is another example of promoting a skilled workforce in the district. This purpose of this bill is to help those schools with an assigned letter grade of C or less located in localities of populations of 50,000 or less by providing for a an income tax credit for one year for first time teachers who relocate to these schools to help them defray their moving expenses.  This is an innovative approach to attract new teachers to fill teaching vacancies in schools where education standards need to be improved.

 

The second approach that I believe necessary to stimulate economic growth and stability in our region is to attract new companies to Southside Virginia.  SB 106, a Building Revitalization Grant Fund is a bill that makes it more rewarding for new companies to invest their capital into our existing industrial buildings in our region.  Specifically, the Building Revitalization Grant Fund, which was approved by the full Senate by a vote of 37 to 0, would make available to qualified businesses a grant up to $100,000 that make a capital investment of $1 million or more  in revitalizing or retrofitting our existing industrial buildings to serve as a new place of business.  When coupled with a well trained workforce, new businesses with new jobs will be positioned to make investments knowing that the return on their investment is more certain.

 

Southside and Southwest Virginia is poised for a comeback and return to the prior years of growth and economic prosperity.  And education and workplace training must be a primary focus for this to occur. I am very proud to sponsor these bills and I firmly believe that ‘if we build it, they will come’.

 

For your information, here’s a list of the bills that have been advanced from the Senate to the House as of this week:

SB 31, Meth Lab Cleanup Certification

SB 34, Bail Hearings

SB 35, Capital Cases

SB 106, Building Revitalization

SB 108, Cemetery Maintenance

SB 110, Unemployment/layoff alternative

SB 114, Suit for Personal Injury

SB 170, Judges Retirement Age

SB 171, Writ of Actual Innocence

SB 266, Unemployment Benefits

SB 268, Beverage Licensing

SB 269, Education Improvement Scholarships

 

You can track these bills as well as other Senate or House bills by going to the Virginia Legislative Information System and navigating by bill number, sponsor’s name or by committee name.

 

You can also view the daily Senate (or House of Delegates) session by going on-line to the Senate of Virginia Portal, or by clicking here.

 

The following are photo –ops with some of the visitors to my office in the General Assembly Building this week. It’s always a pleasure for me to meet with folks from back home so feel free to stop by and say hello! If you plan to visit the Capitol while the General Assembly is in session, please call my staff in advance to make an appointment and I will do my very best to visit with you. And if you wish, I can arrange to introduce you to the Senate while we are in session each day from 12:00 noon until around 1:30 or 2:00.

 

Visiting from the Martinsville City school system are (L) Carolyn McGraw, Vice Chair Martinsville City School Board, and (R) Pam Heath, Superintendent Martinsville City Public Schools. Senator Stanley is sponsoring four bills and five budget amendments to promote numerous educational initiatives in the 20th District.  The Senator understands the importance of high quality education in the region as a way to sustain economic growth.  Higher skills will translate to more industry and more jobs in the future.

 

Senator Stanley was delighted to meet with students from the great Patrick Henry Community College. (L) to (R): Melvin Johnson, Bailey Jones, Jailene Cartagene, Senator Stanley, Destiny Jackson, Katherine Kopp, Caitlan Tuala, Haley Faulkner, Samantha Barton and Micah Hedgepeth.

 

 

Senator Stanley was interviewed this week by News Anchor Heather Sullivan of Richmond’s Channel-12 NBC on Tuesday.  The topic discussed was the Senator’s work share Bill 110 that provides employers with an alternative to layoffs when they are faced with a temporary decline in business.  Senator Barker is Co-Patron on the bill. The bill was passed by the full Senate on January 17th and on its way to the House of Delegates.

 

Visiting with the Senator from Piedmont Arts, Martinsville is (L) Barbara Barker, Director of Programs, and (R) Kathy Rogers, Executive Director. “I’m a Fan Of The Arts”!

 

Recent visitors to the Senator’s office in the General Assembly Building:

Tammy Horton, Galax

Lisa Lineberry, Woodlawn

Latala Payne, Martinsville

Beverly Abbott, Danville

Jennie James, Sutherlin

Ken Shafer, Union Hall

Melvin Johnson, Martinsville

Joshua Bocock, Ridgeway

William T. O’Sick, Danville

Dorothy M. Carter, Martinsville

Jimmy Gillie, Danville

Steve Galyean, Galax

Kate Berger, Gretna

Pam Heath, Martinsville City

Carolyn McGraw, Martinsville City

Susan Clark, Galax

Gary Grant, Danville

Barbara Parker, Martinsville

Kathy Rogers, Martinsville

 

Office contact information:

Aaron Houchens: Legislative Assistant
Phil Rapp: Director of Communications
JoAnn Lankford: Administrative Assistant
Telephone: 804-698-7520
Email address: district20@senate.virginia.gov
Web site: http://senatorbillstanley.com

 

Mailing Address:

General Assembly Building
3rd Floor, Room 313
P.O. Box 396
Richmond, VA 23218
Street address:
201 N 9th Street
Richmond, VA 23219

 

Warmest regards,

 

Thank you for your support and please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments that you may have.

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