Opinion

Transformative Bills to Watch in Va. General Assembly This Session

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Posted: Jan 14, 2022 12:01 AM
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Transformative Bills to Watch in Va. General Assembly This Session

Source: AP Photo/Steve Helber

As “wounded healer” Ralph Northam moonwalks out of the Governor’s Mansion and “cheerful suburban dad” Glenn Youngkin settles in, the Commonwealth of Virginia is back and open for business.

The 74th governor, who enters office tomorrow, promises bold change starting on Day One. And the Left is openly seething with rage. 

Similarly, a divided General Assembly (the oldest continuous law-making body in the New World) will garner attention — especially over cabinet appointment confirmations and Republicans pledging to undo extreme Democratic laws.  

New House Majority Leader Terry Kilgore (R-Gate City) promised, “We’re setting an agenda that will make it easier for Virginians to put food on the table and gas in the tank, and we’re rolling back regulations that strain families, workers, and businesses.”

The state legislature convened on Wednesday and published pre-filed bills online. Here’s some transformative legislation being considered during this 60-day session.  

Fund Students, Not Systems

A recent Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) poll found that Old Dominion residents want state lawmakers to prioritize education. 

52% of Virginians support increasing charter schools up from the current seven in existence. 40% of poll respondents also said Critical Race Theory shouldn’t be taught in Virginia schools compared to 28% who want it taught and 30% who were undecided.

Pertaining to public charter school creation, current law only permits local school boards to “grant or deny'' school creation. Insanity. Instead, HB 356 would give the Board of Education greater latitude to approve and establish them.

House Bill 293 would establish education savings accounts (ESAs)—a policy reform Governor-elect Youngkin already supports. House Bill 333 would permit school districts to establish local education savings accounts too.

These are great first steps to overhaul education, empower parents, and fund students instead of systems.

Economics & Labor

Keep an eye on bills to repeal minimum wage increases and protect independent contractors from misclassification by unions.

On January 1st, the state minimum wage increased to $11.00 per hour. If unchallenged, it’ll gradually become $15.00 per hour by 2026. Many Virginia business owners worry price increases and reduced staff hours, for instance, will result.

HB 171 and HB 296 would stop damage. The latter of the two would repeal “provisions related to increasing the state minimum wage based on an annual adjusted minimum wage.”

With over 500,000 independent contractors working and operating in Virginia, one lawmaker, Amanda Batten, introduced HB 529 to prevent lawmakers from reclassifying these workers as employees. Our neighbor West Virginia passed similar legislation (Senate Bill 272) to protect workers from being deliberately misclassified as employees— a method favored by Big Labor to coerce workers into union arrangements. 

Speaking as a full-time Virginia freelancer, HB 529 would protect my livelihood and that of my fellow independent contractors. 

Fear not: small business support and tax relief is on the way, too. 

Second Amendment & Hunting

Important firearm and hunting legislation is also being mulled.

While gun control won’t be enacted, it’ll be challenging to repeal laws given Democratic control of the State Senate. If Republicans recapture the chamber in 2023, then reforms can happen. 

Silver lining: Should one Senate Democrat cross-over to vote with GOP members, new Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears will cast the tie-breaking vote.

However, bills to restore state preemption laws, repeal the one-handgun-a-month ban, eliminate certain conceal handgun permit (CHP) fees, allow multiple ways for CHP permit applicants to demonstrate competence, and permit-less carry can make waves. 

Expanding Sunday public land hunting opportunities, though, has a good shot of advancing. Another one, if passed, would allow Sunday hunting on wildlife management areas (WMAs) managed by the Department of Wildlife Resources. 

Abolish ABC & Daylight Savings Time

Delegate Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper), a former Green Beret and self-described Liberty Republican, has introduced some bold legislation. 

He wants to abolish state-run liquor stores operated by the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) and Daylight Savings Time in Virginia. 

As it concerns ABC, the agency has a troubled history with alcohol enforcement agents using excessive force. 

Two notable incidents come to mind. The first case involved former University of Virginia student Elizabeth Daly, then 20, who bought non-alcoholic LaCroix beverages for an Alzheimer’s Association fundraiser in 2013. The other case involved Martese Johnson, another UVA student, who agents beat up for allegedly entering a bar using a fake-ID in 2015. 

HB 238, which would privatize ABC, is timely because banning alcohol is archaic and outdated. 

“Prohibition ended nearly 90 years ago. There is absolutely NO reason to maintain a state monopoly on the sale of alcohol,” Freitas, the bill’s chief sponsor, tweeted

If passed, the bill “requires the Board of Directors of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (the Board) to dispose of all real estate used as government stores and to terminate leased property upon which the Board has operated a government store.” 

Conclusion

Despite bizarre claims of Virginia morphing into a totalitarian hellscape, normalcy is returning here after years of disastrous uniparty rule in Richmond. 

Rest assured, Republican policies are now mainstream. Much to the chagrin of Virginia Democrats, their GOP colleagues flipped the state last fall and now have a mandate. 

Virginia is indeed for freedom lovers. Soon, the Florida of the Mid-Atlantic? This is the way. 

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