February 14, 2024
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     This is Rob Bloxom reporting from Richmond. We have reached the midway point of this year’s session, with a grueling schedule of beginning the day by 7:00 am and not finishing until late in the evening. An interesting phenomenon that is occurring this year is that the bills are being conformed to the Senate’s companion bill before crossover. In the past, we did not pay attention, nor did we really care, what the other chamber did to a companion bill. A companion bill is the same piece of legislation introduced in both the House and Senate. We would independently work on the legislation that solves a problem and might do it completely differently than our counterpart in the Senate. In the end, the bill would go into “conference” and hopefully we would compromise so that the best solution was obtained. I believe that this is a deliberate strategy by the majority party. When a bill passes both chambers in the exact form, it is then communicated to the Governor. If this happens while we are in session, he has seven days to act on the legislation. Strategically there are some large issues the Democrats want passed and will most likely be held as leverage against some of his own priorities. The big issues in play are legalizing marijuana for a retail market, legalizing the gray machines (otherwise known as games of skill), increasing Virginia’s minimum wage, and the Governor’s project-an arena for Northern Virginia. I feel these are the ones that will be tied with the negotiations in the budget, which will make for an interesting second half of session. 

     The final two pieces of legislation I have not discussed yet are House Bill 1399 and House Bill 1466. House Bill 1399 simply reduces the membership of the Potato Board from seven members to five. With the reduction of the number of potato farms we have on the Eastern Shore, it was difficult to get a quorum in which to conduct business. It was a very simple bill, but the Delegates enjoyed a robust discussion with potato related puns such as “We need to bring this measure to a vote and let the chips fall where they may.” It passed unanimously and is now getting ready to go to the Senate. House Bill 1466 is legislation aimed to provide our farmers an incentive to use surface water to irrigate their crops instead of well water. A situation arose when farmers tried to dig a pond and the Department of Mines and Minerals treated it as if sand was being mined. The farmers were restricted from moving the sandpiles from the area. We believe we now have a bill in which the Farm Bureau, The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and the Department of Mines and Minerals that solves the problem without creating a loophole.

In the coming weeks of the General Assembly, I will continue to keep you informed on these and other bills the House and Senate are working on. If you are in Richmond, please visit me at my office in the new General Assembly Building. I am in Room 711. My phone number while I am in Richmond is (804) 698-1000. You may reach my District office in Mappsville at (757)824-3456 for additional assistance.

Sincerely,

ESVA Tourism's 2024 Local's Choice Survey

Robert S. Bloxom, Jr.

Delegate – 100th District

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