General Assembly Report column by Del. Ben Cline
Crossover week is the midpoint of this year’s 60-day General Assembly session when all House bills must “crossover” to the Senate, and vice versa.
The week culminated in crossover day on Monday, which was the longest floor day of the session. While we have grown more efficient in recent years, the House of Delegates was in session on Monday from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m., and by the time the day was over, we had debated hundreds of bills on every subject imaginable.
The House continues to consider legislation to improve our mental-health laws in the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy. One bill (HB 559) we passed would lower the standard for the involuntary commitment of an individual to a mental-health facility from the current standard of the person being “an imminent danger to oneself or to others” to the new standard of “a substantial likelihood that the person will cause serious bodily harm to himself or others.” This bill will ensure that a judge can order a person to be committed if the person is not an “immediate” danger but still poses a potential risk.
Another bill (HB 815) we passed would codify into law the governor’s executive order closing the gap in the background-check reporting system through which the Tech murderer Cho was able to purchase his firearms. It would require the state to report to the central background-check database those individuals who were the subject of a temporary detention order and ordered for involuntary commitment, but who then agreed to voluntarily commit themselves to treatment. This bill will ensure that the background-check database is complete and provides accurate information to firearms dealers when they conduct their required background checks.
The House also approved legislation this week to maintain our superior network of state colleges and universities. HB 1547 would provide $1.2 billion by issuing state bonds for the construction of much-needed projects at our institutions of higher education, including our local community colleges. This package includes funding for a new culinary-arts school at Central Virginia Community College, new construction and renovation projects at Virginia Military Institute, and new classroom and administration space at Blue Ridge Community College, among other projects.
This bipartisan package will help continue Virginia’s record of success in educating our young people and preparing them for the workforce. The reforms to our system that we have put in place in recent years, including my legislation to provide scholarships to community-college students who continue their education at public four-year colleges in certain fields of study, have made Virginia’s system the envy of the rest of the nation. This bond package will keep our colleges and universities on solid footing while providing our economy with a solid stream of well-trained and well-educated workers into the next century.
This weekend the House and Senate will release their amendments to the governor’s budget. I look forward to reporting next week on the different proposals and the latest happenings in the General Assembly.
As always, I am reachable while in Richmond at 804.698.1024 or [email protected].
Ben Cline represents the 24th House District in the Virginia General Assembly.