Change is the operative word for the beginning of the 2020 legislative session in Richmond. We have a new Speaker, a new Clerk, several new staff leaders and members in various departments. Rules and procedures have changed. Many who knew the historic and successful procedural operations of the House have been replaced. While I have always welcomed new ideas, I believe there should be thoughtful, deliberate change where the possible consequences have been discussed. Daily we watch to see what surprise is coming down the pike.
After some delay, the new speaker has made committee assignments. I will return as a member of the Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee and am still on the Committee that experienced a flip of its name from Commerce and Labor to “Labor and Commerce.” My third assignment is the Education Committee. Every committee Chair and the majority on every committee are Democrats.
One decision that was a quick and serious surprise came from a Rules Committee meeting called on Friday afternoon where the decision was made by the committee Democrats in a 12-5 vote to ban firearms from buildings on Capitol grounds. Then a screening, much like TSA at airports, was quickly put into place on Monday morning for all staff and employees entering the buildings to go to work. Many employees waited outside in line more than an hour to get to committee meetings or to their offices and desks.
After 400 years of orderly work at the General Assembly, it was very disruptive. The time-consuming screening of credentialed staff remains in place, with one more entrance offered to try to move lines along. This is all a result of banning guns and strong enforcement procedures. Concealed carry by licensed gun owners had been allowed historically until Monday. The General Assembly members had no opportunity to vote on this.
While we deal with the changes at the legislature, my concern is for the changes that will affect you at home if the proposed budget and bills pass. There are numerous legislative proposals and independent gubernatorial actions that are going to have significant impacts on you and Virginia, especially those of us in rural areas.
These proposals will:
a) raise Virginians' electricity rates by about $6B according to the State Corporation Commission (SCC);
b) raise gas and diesel taxes not just by the 12-cents as proposed in the Governor's budget but by another 18-cents on top of that to join a northeastern states compact to phase out gas and diesel use via a "cap and tax" system; and
c) raise taxes by taking your money that had been a result of reduced taxes from the Trump tax bill.
I am not on the Appropriations Committee but am told by Appropriations colleagues that the proposed increases in state spending fall between $2.7B and $4B. Can we afford or need up to 10% increase in state spending, along with the accompanied mandated increases on localities?
Elections have consequences and we are dealing with the 55 Democrats to 45 Republicans in the House. This is more significant than in the past because of the radical policies and bills that are coming to us.
I will continue to work for our region to pass and keep as much good policy as possible. The goals of careful spending, protecting second amendment rights, and working for jobs and prosperity continue to be my priorities.
I always want to hear from you. We are in our office in Richmond located in Room 301 East of the Pocahontas Building. You can contact us by sending an e-mail to DelDMarshall@house.virginia.gov or by sending a letter to me at PO Box 406, Richmond, VA 23218-0406, or by calling 804-698-1014.