Lots of excitement in week 4!

Lots of excitement in week 4!
News and updates on week 4 in Richmond
News and updates from week 4!
Virginia Progressive Legislative Alert Newsletter
February 1, 2020

Lots of bills made their way out of subcommittees and committees this week, and up for floor votes. It’s been very exciting and we’re making so much progress on lots of issues that a majority of Virginians wanted to see reformed!

Here are just a FEW highlights from this week and things to watch for next week:

Legislative Update

House and Senate making good on campaign promises

This week both the House and Senate voted to pass similar bills to repeal Virginia’s TRAP (targeted restrictions on abortion providers) laws, that restrict access to safe and legal abortions. The bills remove the 24 hour waiting period and ultrasound requirement, expand who may perform abortions, and reduce some of the anti-abortion informational materials that a provider must give to the patient.

On the Senate floor, there was some surprisingly level-headed discussion on SB733 (McClellan-SD9, with Saslaw-SD35 and Locke-SD2 rolled in) about whether nurse practitioners were qualified to perform abortions. Jen Kiggans (R,SD-7), herself a nurse practitioner, wanted the bill to be amended to take them out.

  • The Senate ultimately voted on the bill as reported from the committee, and the result was a tie 20-20 vote, with Senator Morrissey (SD-16), who is known to be somewhat anti-choice, voting with the Republicans. The tie was broken by the Lieutenant Governor, who voted yea, so the bill passed.

In the House, HB980 (Herring-HB46, with Adams-HB68 rolled in) advanced to the floor, where Minority Leader Gilbert (HD-15) tried to trip it up with some last-minute dog whistle floor amendments. One was to add a “Born Alive Infant Protection Act,” regarding attempted late-term abortions that result in a live birth; the second was to add language prohibiting the sale of fetal tissue.

  • Delegate Simon (HD53) argued that the amendments were not germane (meaning that they weren’t really amending the underlying bill, as much as just trying to tack on some unrelated language). Speaker Filler-Corn ruled that they were not germane. Amusingly, Gilbert tried to push her around, talk over her, question her authority (according to their own rules, the decision of the Speaker is final and not negotiable), and she was NOT HAVING IT.
  • The bill passed on a 52-45 vote. Democrat Cliff Hayes (HD-77) voted against the bill.
  • Note: the House bill that passed allows physician’s assistants to perform abortions, while the Senate version struck that part out. When the bills cross over to the other body, this will have to be resolved.
Minimum wage more complicated than it seemed

In the Senate, things got heated during the Commerce and Labor Committee, taking up SB7 (Saslaw-SD35) and SB81 (Marsden-SD37)

  • Saslaw’s bill set the minimum to $10July 2020, and increased by $1 per year until 2025, indexing to CPI thereafter. It did not change the tipped minimum, nor change any exempted categories of workers.
  • Marsden’s bill set the minimum to $9.75 July 2020, and increased by $1 until 2023; remaining at $11.75 thereafter for employers providing health benefits to workers, and increasing $1 per year for those who do not until 2025. It also allows a 320 hour lower training wage, changes the tipped wage credit, requires a regional study before next year; and specifically includes home health care workers.
  • Numerous retail and industry lobbyists stepped up to testify against raising the minimum. Saslaw rejected the idea of stopping the minimum at $11.75 with benefits, saying workers deserved to earn decent pay AND benefits.
  • Ultimately, the committee voted to incorporate Marsden’s bill into Saslaw’s, substituting in Marsden’s language, making this a substantially weaker bill.

Over in the House, HB395 (Ward-HB92) underwent some transformations too as it moved through the subcommittee, although this was less contentious, at least at first.

  • Ward’s original bill set the minimum wage to $9 July 2020, increasing by $2 per year until 2023, with no changes to exemptions, no indexing after 2023, no mention of home health care workers, no changes to tipped minimum. 
  • The version coming out of the subcommittee set the minimum to $10 July 2020, increasing by $1.25 until 2024, after which it is adjusted upward according to the CPI-U. It also removed exemptions for farm workers, domestic workers, piece rate workers, those working in businesses with fewer than five employees; and raised the tipped wage credit.
  • This version reported out of the House Commerce and Labor subcommittee on a 5-3 partisan vote. When it came up in the full committee, however, numerous bartenders and retail food servers spoke out against the changes to the tipped wage, arguing that it would hurt them dramatically. The bill was tabled for the day, and will be back next week, possibly with more changes.

…and more excitement!
  • No-excuse absentee voting: HB1 (Herring-HD46, with Lindsey-HD90 and Murphy-HD34 rolled in) passed the House on a partisan vote, 65-35. The Senate was less partisan on this issue, with SB111 (Howell-SD32, with Spruill-SD5, Stuart-SD28, Mason-SD1, Locke-SD2 rolled in) passing the Senate 31-9.
  • House passes Governor Northam’s gun violence prevention package: The House passed all 7 of the Governor’s gun violence prevention bills: 1) expanding background checks, 2) required reporting of lost/stolen weapons, 3) local authority to regulate firearms, 4) Extreme Risk Protective Orders, 5) re-instating one-handgun a month limit, 6) disarming persons subject to permanent protective order, 7) strengthening child access protection laws. NOTE: the House passed all 7 in their original strong language, while the Senate has not yet passed all 7, and has watered down more than one, including the background checks. This will be important to watch as the bills cross over to the other body!
  • Payday lending/car title loan reform: HB789 (Bagby-HD74, with elements of Carroll-Foy-HD2, Helmer-HD40, Levine-HD45, and Murphy-HD34 rolled in) passed the House on a wholly partisan vote of 65-33. In the Senate, SB421 (Locke-SD2, with elements of Surovell-SD36 rolled in) reported out of Commerce and Labor 13-4, with Democrat Saslaw (SD35) voting with the Republicans against. The bill has yet to be heard in the Senate Finance Committee, and then on the floor. It’s a big sprawling bill to close a number of loopholes in the consumer financing industry that make the system unfair to consumers–opponents claimed that lenders would pack up and leave Virginia and leave borrowers without access to available credit.
  • Student Borrower’s Bill of Rights: The House passed HB10 (Simon-HD53) to require SCC licensing and regulation of loan servicers, on a vote of 84-15. The Senate has reported similar SB77 (Howell-SD32) out of its Commerce and Labor Committee and Finance and Appropriations, and will be up for a floor vote next week
  • Solar Freedom and Virginia Clean Economy Act. A House Labor and Commerce subcommittee has reported out the Solar Freedom bill (to remove obstacles to installing rooftop solar projects) HB572 (Keam-HD35, with Simon-HD53 rolled in) on an 8-2 vote, and will be heard in full committee next week. In the Senate, SB710 (McClellan-SD9) was recommended by the Energy Subcommittee, which is advisory only, and will be heard Monday in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. According to McClellan, the bill is still under negotiation with stakeholders, including Dominion Energy. 
    • The Virginia Clean Economy Act SB851 (McClellan-SD9), to mandate renewables and efficiency standards for retail electric, was heard in the same advisory Senate Energy Committee. It was made clear by the patron that the bill is still being negotiated and that a fairly substantial substitute was expected before the full Committee meets. There was very little discussion of the details, mainly just stakeholders speaking generally in favor of or against the bill in concept. Dominion Energy and Appalachian were neutral, pending seeing the final version; the biomass industry spoke strongly against the bill. The subcommittee did not recommend reporting the unfinished bill. In the House, matching bill HB1526 (Sullivan-HD48) will be heard in a Labor and Commerce subcommittee possibly on Tuesday.
  • Bills to watch this week
    • There are several disposable bag tax bills that are making their way through committees, with discussion over whether to enact the tax statewide or as a locality opt-in program. 
    • Driver’s license and driver’s privilege card bills are moving through–there is some reluctance among more conservative Democrats to pass the less-restrictive license, so that will be something to watch. 
    • The House Courts carried over to next year all expungement bills and all but one parole bill, sending them to the Crime Commission, but the Senate is moving forward on a handful of expungement bills and will take up parole bills next week. 
    • Marijuana legislation is still struggling through both chambers. 
    • Last but not least, we have yet to see the Senate or House take up the issue of whether to pass the Redistricting Amendment once again for advancement to voters in November, or whether to pass legislation to set up a fairer, nonpartisan, and more inclusive temporary redistricting commission instead.

If any of the above bills are important to you, now is the time to contact your legislators and tell them how this bill affects you and your family. Contact information for Delegates and Senators can be found HERE; if you aren’t sure who represents you, put your address in HERE to find out.

Virginia Progressive Legislative Alert Network

PO Box 2612, Merrifield
Virginia 22116-2612 United States

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