Dear <<First Name>>:
Happy Super Bowl Sunday!
In the Virginia General Assembly, “Crossover” is the big game day, like a Super Bowl, but just without chicken wings.
This is the day that marks the traditional mid-way point during a legislative session, when the House of Delegates must complete action on bills introduced by Delegates, and the Senate likewise must finish every bill introduced by Senators.
This year, Crossover takes place on Tuesday, and we will spend several hours on the House Floor voting nonstop until all remaining bills are dealt with.
But tomorrow, Monday, is also a long day. All 100 Delegates will spend most of Valentine’s Day together, expressing our views on bills introduced by our colleagues by debating, amending and voting on them.
Half Time Report: My Bills that Passed the House
I’m pleased to share that, half-way through this legislative session, the House has passed eight bills I introduced.
Del. James Edmunds, II, R-Halifax, left, confers with Del. Mark Keam, D-Fairfax, center, and Del. Michael Webert, R-Fauquier, right, during the floor session in the Virginia House of Delegates in Richmond, VA Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022.
Photp Credit: BOB BROWN BOB BROWN/RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH
House Bill 691 would amend a bill I passed last year to update the Virginia Stock Corporation Act which regulates a variety of business transactions.
I'm also proud to note that all of these eight bills passed either unanimously or with only a couple of negative votes.
I've always worked with colleagues across the aisle to ensure that my legislative solutions to problems facing Virginians are bipartisan and common sense.
House Bill 693 would require the Department of Motor Vehicles to consider a car titled in the owner’s revocable trust to be eligible for property tax relief.
House Bill 695 would expand the worker training tax credit by creating partnerships with Virginia colleges to provide worker with new skills to improve their careers.
House Bill 700 would amend the charter of the Town of Vienna to allow its elections to be moved from May to November as the state mandated last year.
House Bill 702 would require home buyers to be notified about local zoning rules that prevent them from adding new structures to their purchased property.
House Bill 703 would make it easier for local governments to create and issue specialized automobile license plates designed to promote their community.
House Bill 710 would allow local governments to develop programs that give hiring preferences for people with disabilities in addition to military veterans.
House Bill 711 would provide financial relief to victims of sex trafficking by waiving court costs for expunging records based on them being forced into criminal activities.
Bipartisan Tax Relief Bill Moving Through the Process
One of my bills was incorporated into a similar bill by a Republican colleague, so it is moving through the legislative process with me as Chief Copatron:
House Bill 696 would eliminate the sales tax on essential personal hygiene products, including menstrual products.
In 2016, I was the first state legislator in Virginia to introduce a bill to eliminate what some people call the “Tampon Tax.” I thought this tax was discriminatory against women, many of whom have no choice in buying and using these hygiene products.
After several years of my efforts to push this agenda, I eventually partnered with a Republican colleague who agreed to reduce, but not to fully eliminate, this tax. That is the current state of this tax.
Last year, during his campaign for Governor, Glenn Youngkin proposed eliminating the grocery tax among his other ideas for tax reform. I agree that we should not tax groceries, but I also want to use this opportunity to not tax other essential products.
I again introduced my bill to eliminate the tampon tax, and my bill was combined with House Bill 90, a Republican bill that eliminate taxes on both the grocery and essential products. This bipartisan bill is now being considered as part of the state budget which will be taken up in the next couple of weeks.
The biggest challenge facing this bill is determining a way to make up the loss of revenues from a portion of the grocery tax that is currently dedicated to local governments and schools.
Leaders in both the House and Senate Finance and Appropriations Committees are working with Gov. Youngkin and with local government leaders to arrive at a compromise on how to help local governments with this revenue stream.
I will keep you updated on the negotiations which will be part of the state budget bill.
My Bills that Need More Work and Time
Six bills I introduced were considered by committees but were “carried over” to the next legislative session as they were unable to resolve the issue during this session.
Under House Rule 22, this procedure allows a Delegate to continue to work on a bill with colleagues and with stakeholders after the session adjourns. If a compromise can be found, then the bill is reintroduced in the next legislative session.
House Bill 698 would provide local governments the option of waiving taxes or fees on business licenses. The state legislature has long recognized that different localities apply these Business, Professional and Occupational License (BPOL) taxes in arbitrary or inconsistent ways. But to amend this particular tax to be fairer to businesses and to local governments alike, my colleagues recommended that we consider my bill as part of a larger comprehensive tax reform efforts proposed by Governor Youngkin.
House Bill 699 would require the State Police to develop statewide safety regulations on who replaces windshield glass in Virginia, and what standards they should follow. Unlike other car repairs that take place in brick and mortar mechanic shops, these windshield replacement business can come to your home or work to fix your broken window while you are away. My bill follows efforts in other states to ensure that only properly licensed and trained professionals and can conduct these repairs, but the State Police wanted more time to study those standards before agreeing to adopt them for Virginia. Here is an industry article describing how my bill was handled in committee.
House Bill 705 would allow local governments to use cooperative procurement contracts for construction contracts that cost less than $200,000. This option of “riding” on existing contracts would save localities like the Town of Vienna hundreds of taxpayer dollars each year. My bill was sent to be studied by a Procurement Workgroup currently led by the Virginia Department of General Services where officials from the Town of Vienna are invited to participate.
House Bill 709 would create a “Packaging Stewardship Program” to be run by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, which would shift costs for recycling certain packaging products from the consumer to the producer. My bill was drafted with input from the Northern Virginia Regional Commission which wanted to follow what other states are doing to curb costs for recycling. As noted in this news article, my bill will be studied by the Virginia Waste Diversion and Recycling Task Force which could make recommendations for action in a future legislative session.
House Bill 712 would direct the Virginia Board of Pharmacy to require pharmacies to provide and maintain a safe sharps disposal container on their premises for public use. This was a request from a constituent whose medical condition requires her to use dozens of syringes. However, she found that local governments have inconsistent policies in place for properly disposing these used sharps. After two committee meetings, the House Health Committee recommended the Virginia Health Department and the Department of Environmental Quality to jointly refine the policies for collecting these used hazardous products and for educating the public on the process.
House Bill 713 was prepared in response to a constituent who has faced severe abuse by her ex-husband. In addition to the emotional tolls of the divorce, my constituent endures repetitive and expensive litigation and coercive control which Virginia state laws do not address. In reviewing other states’ laws, I drafted a bill to establish a new misdemeanor for such abusive conduct. After meeting with prosecutors and family law practitioners, we agreed to redraft this bill into a civil, not a criminal violation, and take it up again during the next legislative session.
The rest of my legislative agenda for 2022 were either stricken by me or tabled in committees.
One bill that failed to pass this year received some media and stakeholder attention.
I introduced House Bill 1247 to ban outdoor sporting contest for killing coyotes and other small fur-bearing animals for cash prizes. As I mentioned in this TV interview, I see these as nothing more than gratuitous violence against animals. Virginia laws already authorize the killing of coyotes to protect farm animals on private properties or for field trials and other wildlife management purposes.
During a subcommittee meeting, I received bipartisan support for the bill, but the 3 to 3 vote was not enough to clear the majority needed. As a result, my bill was not acted on this year, but I hope that Virginia will soon join other states that have banned this cruel conduct.
Virtual Town Hall Meeting
Earlier this week, I cohosted a virtual town hall and legislative briefing with the Virginia Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus. We discussed a variety of bills and issues, including some of the hot topics in education.
You can watch the video of our most recent virtual town hall here.
I am still working to schedule a few more virtual and in person public meetings in the coming weeks which will be announced soon.
Considering the uncertain directions that COVID may take in the coming weeks, I am hesitant to schedule in person meetings during session, so I will likely hold a series of virtual briefings for groups that are interested in hearing updates from Richmond.
If you want to invite me to participate in your organization, neighborhood association, or any other gathering, please contact me to coordinate: DelMKeam@house.virginia.gov or (703) 999-2782.
I also welcome your questions and comments on anything we are working on in Richmond. Thank you for your interest in my work.