This week was crossover at the Virginia General Assembly, marking the halfway point of the 2020 session. This is the week we send the House Bills that passed over to the State Senate, and the Senate sends their bills to the House.
There was a definite philosophical difference between Republicans and Democrats, as bills were passed on the House floor, I cast an unprecedented number of no votes. House Democrats passed many pieces of legislation that will have a detrimental impact on our Commonwealth and I have highlighted some below. These bills must pass the Senate before they will become law.
BUSINESS, JOBS, AND THE ECONOMY
In 2019, Virginia was rated America’s Top State for Business. Many of this year’s bills will make Virginia less competitive with surrounding states in attracting new business, decreasing the potential for economic growth and jobs. One bright spot, repeal of “Right to Work” HB 153 was defeated in committee.
One of the most significant bills to pass is HB 395 which would raise the minimum wage across Virginia to $15 an hour by 2025. Because of this huge increase in labor costs, jobs will be consolidated or eliminated. It will not only impact the small businesses but will lead to fewer job opportunities for those just entering the workforce and unskilled labor.
HB 534 will impose a 5-cent fee on every plastic bag used when shopping unless you are buying meat, ice cream, drugs or liquor.
HB 582 repeals the ban on collective bargaining for public employees. This is the first step in unionizing public employees – if that ever happens, stand by for potential strikes and increased taxes. HB 833 would require government contractors to pay the prevailing (union scale) wage, even if they are non-union businesses, significantly increasing costs and reducing competition.
Other bad for business bills will make it easier to businesses to be sued, increases regulations and costs on businesses.
HB 33 expands eligibility for parole to hundreds of violent criminals and is the first step towards repealing Virginia’s truth in sentencing law that was adopted in the 1990s. Since that law was passed, our crime rate has declined – many crimes are committed by repeat offenders. In fact, Virginia currently has the 48th LOWEST crime rate in the nation and the lowest recidivism rate – crimes being committed by repeat offenders.
HB 34 that would make it more challenging to prosecute drunk drivers. Democrats also led the initiative that doubles the grand larceny threshold from $500 to $1000 (HB 995).
HB 961 prohibits the sale, and transport of so called “assault” firearms and the possession of magazines that hold more than 12 rounds. The US had a similar nationwide ban in place for a decade and it had no measurable impact on crime. All this will do is turn thousands of law-abiding Virginians into criminals overnight.
HB 812 reimposes the “one gun a month” limitation on handgun purchases. HB 264 would make it more difficult to obtain a concealed handgun permit.
ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Democrats passed a slate of legislation that will implement Virginia’s version of a “Green New Deal,” including HB 528, HB 1526, HB 1451, and HB 1450. The overall effect of these bills will be to significantly increase energy cost. This means your electric and heating bills will be going up for no real benefit to the environment or climate. This cost increase will have ripple effects throughout the economy.
Virginia and the country are already doing our part to reduce harmful emissions. From 1970 to 2017, the aggregate US emissions of primary air pollutants declined by 73 percent. Ambient concentrations of these pollutants have declined an average of 64 percent since 1990.
Virginia is doing its part in this area as well. From 1990 to 2017, Virginia’s emissions of key pollutants have decreased across the board. Additionally, from 2005 to 2016, Virginia’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions decreased by almost 20 percent despite increasing population and energy demands.
While the US and Virginia are doing our part, unfortunately, other nations are not. Countries, like China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and other developing nations continue to dump more pollutants into the air and oceans with little regard for the consequences.
HB 1663 places special protections for “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” into Virginia law without providing protections to churches, religious organizations, and schools whose faith may prohibit such behavior. While people are free to live their lives as they wish, that does not give someone the right to impose their beliefs on others. I am concerned that without religious protections, this bill may lead to lawsuits and prosecution of religious organizations and individuals for simply living by their sincerely held religious beliefs.
The Democrats passed legislation that would allow illegal aliens to obtain a driver’s license (HB 1211). HB 1150 eliminates the requirement that jails, and prisons determine the citizen status of the inmates, so that Federal immigration officials could be informed whenever an illegal alien commits a crime in the Commonwealth and be turned over for deportation. HB 1547 will allow illegal aliens to qualify for in-state tuition at our state colleges and universities.
These bills are steps in Virginia becoming a sanctuary state for illegal immigrants.
Democrats have pushed through several significant changes to our election laws which I am concerned will disenfranchise voters and make election fraud easier.
HB 201 will allow someone to register to vote and vote on Election Day, without the opportunity to verify their eligibility or residency. There is also no way to check to see if the person already registered and voted at another precinct.
HB 19 guts the voter photo ID requirement by allowing someone without an ID to just sign a statement and vote.
HB 177 would cast Virginia’s Electoral Votes for President to whichever candidate receives the most votes nationally regardless of how Virginia voted. The founders created the Electoral system to make it harder for big states to dominate smaller states. This would basically give control of Virginia’s votes to California and New York.
As I said, these bills must still pass the State Senate and be signed by the Governor before becoming law, so there is a chance that they may be defeated.