House Republicans file first legislation of 2016 General Assembly session

state-capitol2Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates pre-filed the first legislation of the 2016 General Assembly session Monday, laying the foundation for a strong policy agenda on transportation, energy, education and the economy. Monday is the first day Delegates and Senators can file legislation for the 2016 session.

Delegate Jim LeMunyon (R-Fairfax) introduced HB1, legislation to prohibit the tolling of Interstate 66 inside the Beltway. Delegate Israel O’Quinn (R-Washington) introduced HB2, legislation to require General Assembly approval and oversight of the implementation of the Clean Power Plan. Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albemarle) introduced HJ1, a constitutional amendment to grant the Board of Education authority to establish charter schools. Delegate Dickie Bell (R-Staunton) introduced HJ2, an amendment to add Virginia’s right-to-work law to the state Constitution. Both constitutional amendments are second resolutions, meaning if passed they will be sent to voters for ratification.

“The Republican-led House of Delegates has consistently demonstrated over the years that we are the party of ideas, our majority is a governing majority and we are focused on the issues most important to our citizens,” said House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford). “These are the first pieces of what I expect to be a broad, bold agenda to govern and lead our Commonwealth. Over the next several weeks, our members will continue to introduce and roll out our policy priorities for the 2016 session. Like the bills filed today, our goal will be to address the challenges that Virginians confront every day, whether it is traffic congestion, rising energy bills, fewer educational opportunities or a still stagnant job market.”

“We do not hesitate to say that every major legislative initiative passed in the last few years has been the work of the Republican-led House of Delegates. We expect this year to be no different,” said House Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights). “These first pieces of legislation are the start of a strong agenda for the 2016 session. They demonstrate our commitment to being the party of ideas, offering solutions and governing.”

House Bill 1 will prohibit tolling on I-66 inside the Beltway. Governor McAuliffe’s “Transform 66” plan calls for tolls as high as $17 per day for a round-trip commute. The toll revenue would be used for mass transit and other “multi-modal” improvements like pedestrian paths and bike lanes. The plan does not guarantee the construction of new lane capacity.

“There is bipartisan opposition to Governor McAuliffe’s plan to toll I-66 inside the Beltway,” said Delegate LeMunyon. “Taxpayers should not have to pay to use a road they’ve already paid to build. The plan to skim off toll revenue for mass transit and multi-modal projects will not provide congestion relief. This legislation will stop Governor McAuliffe from tolling I-66 inside the Beltway. I look forward to working with our Democratic colleagues to pass it, and to develop an alternative that provides real congestion relief on I-66.”

House Bill 2 will grant the General Assembly oversight and approval of the implementation of the Clean Power Plan in Virginia. The Clean Power Plan is the EPA’s latest round of carbon emissions regulations, which State Corporation Commission Staff estimates could mean $6 billion in higher energy prices for Virginia consumers. There are numerous court challenges to the plan. HB2 would require the Governor to submit Virginia’s state implementation plan to the General Assembly for approval.

“The implementation of President Obama’s executive action could have significant impacts on Virginia families and businesses,” said Delegate O’Quinn. “Energy prices will go up, disproportionately hurting senior citizens and the poor, and the rules will deal yet another blow to small businesses who are already struggling. The people who will be affected by these regulations should have a say through their elected representatives in how Virginia complies with that plan. Under this legislation, Governor McAuliffe must send his plan to the legislature for review. The House and Senate will then take a vote on behalf of the Virginians they represent. If the plan fails to pass, Governor McAuliffe tries again. He should not implement the plan without approval of the General Assembly and, by extension, the citizens of Virginia.”

Republicans also filed two constitutional amendments that if passed by the General Assembly in 2016 will be sent to the voters for ratification. House Joint Resolution 1 will grant the Board of Education the authority to establish additional charter schools in Virginia.

“Traditional public schools may be a good fit for many students, but others need additional choices,” said Delegate Rob Bell. “Public charter schools have been successful in many other states as a way to provide additional educational options to students and their families. New York has 197 charter schools. Washington D.C. has over 115 charter schools. Virginia has nine. This Constitutional Amendment will make it much easier for charter schools to be opened in Virginia.”

House Joint Resolution 2 will enshrine Virginia’s right-to-work law in the state Constitution. Right to work provisions prohibit requiring employees to join a union as a condition of employment. There are six states with right to work provisions in their constitutions.

“Virginia has long taken pride in its status as a right to work state, protecting the rights of our employees to work free from union interference or intimidation. That status is a key part of what attracts major businesses and jobs to the Commonwealth. It’s time we take action to enshrine this law in our Constitution” said Delegate Dickie Bell. “Across the country, major manufacturing and traditionally-blue states are adopting right to work laws, a sign that this issue bridges partisan divides. By adopting this Constitutional amendment, Virginia will make even clearer our status as a right to work state.”

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