By Delegate Rob Bloxom
This is Rob Bloxom with this week’s Capitol Report. This report is in two sections. The first is about the budget that the House of Delegates and the Senate agreed to and is now off to the Governor for his approval. I will only provide specifics pertaining to the 100th District and not the entire budget. The first and probably most important appropriation that made it into the final budget is the increase in teacher salaries, also known as “the cost of competing.” This increase acknowledges that Maryland salaries are higher and that we must be competitive in order to retain our teachers. The budget also included a two million dollar allocation to Northampton County for a community center. This cultural and recreational center will also double as a hurricane evacuation shelter.
The budget also included $250,000 for seed money to support the Children’s Harbor expansion from the Hampton Roads area to the Eastern Shore. The conferees recognized our need for affordable, quality daycare, so this important funding made it into the final budget. Another appropriation that will directly affect the Shore is the increase in funding for cost share money for agricultural best management practices. This will help our farmers put into place practices that will reduce nitrogen and phosphorous runoff into the bay. Also, money was directed to the wastewater plants to upgrade some of them and close others in order to help reduce their nitrogen flow into the Chesapeake Bay. The other two measures that should help meet our 2025 clean Chesapeake Bay goals are a grant program to help low income households repair faulty septic systems as well an elevated septic systems pilot program for a cheaper alternative to engineered systems.
The second section of my report relates to the policy portion of this year’s session. I was on the losing side of most votes. We legalized the recreational use of marijuana late in the evening the last night of session. The bill goes into effect on January 1, 2024. It sets up the framework for the growing, processing, distributing and the selling of cannabis. We also passed a law stating that mobile gambling sites do not count as casino locations or require casino licenses. Officially, there is still a limit of five casino licenses available in Virginia. We also passed the “trifecta” of electric vehicle legislation. That is the patron’s verbiage, not mine. The first bill, HB1965, dictates vehicle emissions and dictates the percentage of zero emission cars to be sold in Virginia. I mentioned this bill before but the Senate amendment clarifies that we are adopting the California standard. The second, HB1979, is a tax credit for zero emission cars. However, the tax credit was not funded. The last, HB2282, studies the electrification of the transportation system. This bill studies the viability of the cost to setup charging systems throughout Virginia.
The General Assembly also passed legislation to make it mandatory for an employer to sign up an employee in the Virginia Saves Program. The employer would deduct at least 5% of the employee pay and remit it to the State. The 529 college prepayment program would administer the program. The employee retirement plan would follow that person from job to job.
There were a few pieces of legislation dealing with firearms and the second amendment. HB1909 permits school boards to deem any building or property that it owns or leases, whether or not the property is in a school zone, a gun free zone. HB2081 forbids possessing a gun within forty feet of a polling place. The last bill, HB2295, started out prohibiting firearms in and around the Capitol. However, I believe a late night, last minute amendment changed the language in the bill to include all state owned or leased buildings, or any building where a state employee works, as a gun free zone. This was not the intent of the patron, but in their haste, I think it might be interpreted as such.
The budget and these bills now await the governor’s approval, and Governor Northam may amend or veto legislation as he sees fit.
As always, I am truly honored to continue to represent the 100th District. You may reach me at my home office in Mappsville at 757-824-3456, email me at email@example.com and on Facebook @electbloxomfordelegate if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you.