February 28, 2024
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Hi, this is Rob Bloxom reporting to you from Richmond. Last week’s legislative bills were rather redundant as we reached the halfway point, and most committees took companion Senate bills that were amended to be exact replicas of their House counterparts. The votes on the companion bills were the same and the measures were sent to the floor for final passage. Some of the legislation that the majority party is carrying is very controversial and they need to get this legislation to the Governor’s desk this week in order to hit the seven-day rule window. This rule states that the Governor needs to act on the legislation within seven days if there are more than seven days remaining in the session. Whatever he does to the bill, whether it is amending, signing it into law, or vetoing it, this will play a huge role in budget negotiations.

The House and the Senate both passed its version of the budget last week. The two budgets will be sent into negotiations this week. The key pieces of legislation are establishing a framework for a retail marijuana market, raising the minimum wage, and legalizing the gray machines, known as games of skill, that are located in bars and convenience stores in the state. The growing, distribution, and retail of marijuana is a priority of the Senate’s leadership. Raising the minimum wage is a priority of the majority party, while the gray games are a priority of the Speaker. The pet project of Governor Youngkin is a two-billion-dollar arena and campus in the Potomac Yards of Northern Virginia. This is to entice the Washington Wizards and the Washington Capitals to move to the area. It is hard to say at this point what the chances are for these items to be merged into a product of which everyone can agree. It is vitally important that we come to an agreement, or all local and state employees will be negatively impacted without a completed budget. 

A bill of interest I will highlight this week is the eight-week paid sick leave bill SB373. The theory behind this is very noble. No one should go to work sick or miss the birth of their child or have to leave a sick child home alone. The issue is the way in which the leave would be paid. Both the employee and employer would contribute through payroll deductions on a percentage basis. The bill fiscal analysis showed a ½ percent deduction would cover the cost. The contribution would be sent to the Virginia Employment Commission at the time of the deduction. A two-day sick event could trigger a claim accompanied by a doctor’s note. A person could also take leave for a family member’s sickness. The theory behind this is similar to short term disability insurance but on a much wider scale. The problems with this legislation are so numerous I will mention only a few. The first eight weeks are roughly twenty percent of the work year, so to think the fiscal cost is only ½ of a percent is ludicrous. When the pool drops below 140 percent of the previous year’s payout, the percentage deducted from the employee’s paycheck and matched by the employer automatically increases. I assume the cost of administration will also be deducted from the pool. This would also send people to the doctor’s office for any small ailment as that is how the claim is started. This is one bill I feel confident the Governor will veto and I certainly hope he will do so.  The Virginia Employment Commission is doing all it can do just to recover from the pandemic and really would be unable to handle another responsibility such as this. The bill would also exempt state employees and teachers from receiving this benefit due to the cost to the state being indeterminate. 

Last, but certainly not least, I have just learned that I have been appointed to be one of the six conferees that will be negotiating the budget with the Senate. This will fill my schedule for the last remaining two weeks of the session. Being one of just two House Republicans on this committee, I feel very honored and humbled to fulfill this responsibility.

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March 9th is “sine die” – the last day scheduled for this session.

Hopefully, all work will be complete.

You may still contact me while I am in Richmond at (804)698-1100 or at the District Office in Mappsville at (757)824-3456. Thank you again for supporting me and giving me the privilege to represent you in the General Assembly.

Sincerely,

Robert S. Bloxom, Jr.

Delegate – 100th District

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