Our fifth week
Column by Steve Landes
In last week’s column, I mentioned how many bills we had to process before the midpoint of the General Assembly session, commonly referred to as “crossover,” on Feb. 12. In just one day, Monday, Feb. 11, the House considered more than 200 bills.
In order to complete this task, we began session two hours earlier than normal. Still, as this was the last time any amendments could be offered in the House on legislation filed by delegates, we expected and completed a very long day. The final two days leading up to crossover are usually the two longest of the legislative year. Delegates ate lunch at their desks in the House Chamber. As is traditional for crossover, pizza was served in one of the rooms on the first floor of the Capitol. A positive consequence of this, it is nearly impossible for legislators to feel overly important when they have to spend their day dining on lunch of a sandwich and chips at their desks and standing in line to get a slice of pizza from the local chain.
It is hectic, but it works. Of the nearly 1,600 bills filed by delegates, somewhere around 700 were approved and forwarded to the Senate for consideration. Those that did not make it faced different fates. Some were defeated after debates on the House floor. Others did not garner enough support in the committee or the subcommittee to which they were referred, never passing beyond that point. Still others were very similar to another bill, and they ended up being incorporated or “rolled” into that bill. And a few bills were not ready for consideration yet, and they will be “carried over” for consideration in the next legislative session to be reviewed further.
Let me take the opportunity to bring you up to date on my legislation which successfully made it out of the House and has been referred to the Senate for further consideration. As chairman of the Code Commission, I introduced House Bill 1331 which is the Agriculture Recodification Bill and House Bill 1372, which is a simple “clean-up” repeal bill related to honey houses. In addition to those bills to clean up the Code of Virginia, I patroned House Bill 84 related to the Virginia/North Carolina Toll Road Compact, which is not needed in Virginia since North Carolina never passed the corresponding legislation, and House Bill 87, which is my annual bill to delete authorizations for special license plates that did not receive enough prepaid orders to be issued. House Bill 85 is an attempt to establish a prescription medicine donation program for unused medicines. To insure academic freedom in our colleges and universities, House Bill 118 has passed and been sent to the Senate.
House passage also included House Bills 119 regarding the representation of soil and water conservation districts, House Bill 312 related to the unintentional cause of a miscarriage, House Bill 1332 concerning the Department of Environmental Quality and Citizens Boards, and House Bill 1334 related to conflicts of interest pertaining to acceptance of awards by state and local government employees.
Finally, clearing the House was my House Bill 1335 related to Natural Resources Funding and House Bill 1425 discussing devising a plan for withdrawal from No Child Left Behind. Many of these bills have been discussed previously in my weekly column. All of these bills, as well as House Joint Resolutions I introduced, may be viewed in detail through my website at www.stevelandes.com.
The visits have slowed down somewhat as most familiar with the General Assembly were well aware legislators stay in long meetings just prior to Crossover. A few brave souls took their chances on visiting and setting appointments. Virginia Association of Counties/Virginia Municipal League Day was held last week, bringing a lot of local officials down from the areas I represent. Too numerous to mention by name, I was honored to visit with boards of supervisor members, city council members, school board members, and administrative officials from our local area.
Today brought many realtors from the Realtors Associations of Staunton as well as Harrisonburg/Rockingham Counties. A contingency from the Augusta Medical Center came by to introduce Mary N. Mannix, the new chief executive officer.
Although the House had to act on the vast majority of the bills filed by delegates by Tuesday, Feb. 12, two very important bills were exempt from that deadline. House Bills 29 and 30 will be debated and passed next week. What is so special about those bills? House Bill 29 contains the amendments to the 2006-2008 Biennial Budget, and House Bill 30 is the 2008-2010 Biennial Budget
The details of the budget under consideration by the House are not ready just yet. They are scheduled to be released next Sunday, Feb. 17, and approved in the days immediately following. By the time of the next column, I should be able to give you a few of the highlights of Virginia’s two-year spending plan.
Location, location, location
If you will be visiting Richmond during this year’s session, make sure to stop by our office, located in Room 528 of the General Assembly Building. You can contact us here by sending an e-mail to email@example.com or by sending a letter to me at P.O. Box 406, Richmond, VA 23218-0406. Or, if you just want me to know your opinion on a particular issue, you can call on the toll-free Constituent Viewpoint Hotline at 1.800.889.0229 or direct to 804.698.1025.
Have a great week, and look for more news from Richmond in this same place next week.
Steve Landes represents the 25th House District in the Virginia General Assembly.