February 26, 2015

Dear Friend,

The 2015 General Assembly convened on January 14 and is scheduled to adjourn on February 28. During the final days of session, the legislature will wrap-up the remaining bills in conference, and make adjustments to the $520 million state budget.

The Joint Conference Report on the 2014-16 Biennial Budget includes:

  • 1.5% teacher pay raise
  • 2% raise for state employees, college faculty, and state-supported local employees
  • $193 million added into the teacher retirement fund
  • $6 million to free clinics and community health centers
  • $129.5 million payment to the state’s rainy-day fund
  • $30 million in funding restored to local governments
  • $132.9 million for health-care and prescription drug benefits to 22,000 severely mentally ill patients
  • $11.7 million in fees eliminated
  • $2.4 million for health care, under the Family Access Medical Insurance Security, to the children of low-income state employees
  • $1.9 million for dental care for 45,000 pregnant Virginians
  • $42 million for higher education
  • $7 million for $1,000 raises for correctional officers
  • $1.4 million from the General Fund for supplemental payments to CHKD

Moreover, I have received many calls this session on bills ranging from Environmental Quality, Economic Development, Public Safety, Public Education, Health Care, and Transportation. Listed below are highlights of key pieces of legislation:

EDUCATION

H.B. 1626 – Prohibits public schools from joining an organization governing interscholastic programs that does not deem eligible for participation a student who is receiving home instruction. (Passed both chambers)

H.B. 1897 – Prohibits the sum of school funds and student fees used to support intercollegiate athletics programs from exceeding a certain percentage of athletics revenues. (Passed both chambers)

S.J. 256 – Grants the Board of Education authority to establish charter schools within the school divisions of the Commonwealth. (Passed both chambers)

S.B. 712 – Requires public university employees to report sexual assaults to the school’s Title IX coordinator. An assessment team must review reports and if it is determined necessary to protect the victim or other individuals, report them to law enforcement. (In Conference)

S.B. 727 – Redesigns the School Performance Report Card and repeals the A-F school grading system. (Passed both chambers)

S.B 782 – Requires the Board of Education to adopt regulations on the use of seclusion and restraint in public elementary and secondary schools in the Commonwealth. (Passed both chambers)

S.B. 874 – Directs the Board of Education to provide eligibility criteria for an expedited retake of any Standards of Learning test, with the exception of the writing Standards of Learning tests, to each student regardless of grade level or course. (Passed both chambers)

S.B. 1193 – Mandates a note on a college student’s academic transcript if he or she leaves because of a sexual assault accusation. (Passed both chambers)

GENERAL LAWS

S.B. 838 – Provides that any member of the armed forces of the United States, or a member of the immediate family of such a member shall be entitled to a state resident license or to a county or a city license to hunt, trap, or fish. (Passed both chambers)

S.B. 1381 - Clarifies that the purpose of a private animal shelter is to find permanent adoptive homes and facilitate other lifesaving outcomes for animals. (Passed both chambers)

HEALTH

H.B. 1499 – Provides that a mother may breast-feed in any place where the mother is lawfully present. (Passed both chambers)

H.B. 1940 – Requires health insurers to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder in individuals from age two through ten. (Passed both chambers)

S.B. 1235 – Permits the possession of non-hallucinogenic marijuana oil if there is a valid written certification issued by a practitioner licensed by the Board of Medicine for purposes of treating or alleviating a patient’s symptoms of intractable epilepsy. (Passed both chambers)

S.B. 1265 – Requires state facilities, community services boards, behavioral health authorities, and private inpatient psychiatric service providers to update information included in the acute psychiatric bed registry whenever there is a change in bed availability, at least once daily. (Passed both chambers)

PUBLIC SAFETY

H.B. 1964 – Creates new felonies for trafficking of persons for commercial sexual activity. (Passed both chambers)

H.B. 2303 – Requires the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, in preparing a conditional release plan for a sexually violent predator, to consult with the attorney for the Commonwealth, the chief law-enforcement officer, and the local governing body for the locality that is the proposed location of the predator’s residence upon his conditional release. (Passed both chambers)

S.B. 721 – Requires the agency seizing property to issue a receipt itemizing the property seized within three days after the seizure. (Passed both chambers)

S.B. 1168 – Provides that the children of a family day home provider and any children who reside in the family day home who are under the age of six and are present in the home while care is being provided shall be included in determining the number of children receiving care for the purpose of licensure. (In Conference)

TRANSPORTATION

H.B. 1355 – Provides that an operator of a motor vehicle found in violation of an ordinance created to enforce photo-monitoring systems for traffic lights has a right to appeal to the circuit court in a civil proceeding. (Passed both chambers)

S.B. 781 – Allows drivers to cross double yellow lines in order to pass a pedestrian or a device moved by human power, if such movement can be made safely. (Passed both chambers)

S.B. 956 – Allows the owner of any vehicle exceeding the prescribed maximum height who is attempting to drive through the westbound tunnel of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel to elect to wait until the end of peak traffic periods to proceed in the opposite direction instead of being subject to penalties. (Passed both chambers)

S.B. 1025 – Establishes a process for the licensing of transportation network companies (TNCs) by the Department of Motor Vehicles, provided that TNCs comply with the requirements for licensure. (Passed both chambers and signed into law)

Additional legislative information can be found by visiting the Virginia General Assembly website at http://virginiageneralassembly.gov, or to learn more on the budget, please visit the Senate Finance website at http://sfc.virginia.gov/.

Thank you for allowing me to represent you in the 5th Senate District of Virginia. Please do not hesitate to contact me with your suggestions, questions, or concerns.

Sincerely,

Kenny Alexander