Ed. — This is adapted from state Del. Barry Knight’s recent letter to his consituents in the 81st House District following the recent session of the Virginia General Assembly. It has been edited for style. The 81st District includes parts of Chesapeake and Virginia Beach — and much of the main coverage area for The Independent News, such as rural communities and Sandbridge.
BACK BAY — It is an honor to serve the 81st House District of the Virginia General Assembly. The 2020 legislative session came to an end on Thursday, March 12. Although our work in session has ended, we continue to track legislation that has passed and awaits the signature of Gov. Ralph Northam.
Before the General Assembly adjourns for the year, a conference committee resolves any differences between the versions of the state budget passed by the House of Delegates and the Senate of Virginia.
I serve on the House Appropriations Committee and was also selected by the Speaker of the House of Delegates as a budget conferee for the third year in a row. Therefore, I was directly involved in negotiating Virginia’s budget. The budget is the most important bill before the General Assembly.
The biennial budget the General Assembly passed this year increases teacher pay by 2 percent each year, provides for another freeze of college tuition and made the largest ever deposit of $182 million into the Rainy-Day Fund, totaling $2 billion and protecting Virginia’s AAA bond rating.
I do not like Washington-style politics in Richmond. Though there was much controversial legislation, I was able to work across the aisle, focusing on doing the business of my constituents and getting important work done.
Alongside my own legislation, I introduced budget amendments that sought to bolster the Back Bay Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Restoration Project and assist in funding the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center’s stranding program for distressed animals. In addition, I was able to secure funding for extending Nimmo Parkway, which is a vital access road to Sandbridge and often suffers from flooding, thereby putting added pressure on Naval Air Station Oceana Dam Neck Annex.
Seven of my bills passed both chambers of the General Assembly this session. I sponsored bills to help farmers, reduce regulation and foster economic development. Currently, the Governor has already signed some of my bills into law. The others are under his consideration now, and I am confident he will sign them as well. I will always do what is right for the 81st District and our Commonwealth.
HB 4 authorizes casino gaming in the Commonwealth to be regulated by the Virginia Lottery Board, but only after a local referendum. The Pamunkey Indian Tribe has received federal recognition and the ability to open a casino without state involvement, and the tribe has selected Norfolk as their site for business. If the Pamunkey come to Norfolk, then the state should see if it can enter into an agreement on rules and revenue sharing, as this would be a great economic opportunity. HB 4 passed the House by a vote of 60 to 35 and the Senate by a vote of 29 to 11.
HB 51 provides that children born or adopted after the death or disability of an employee covered by the Line of Duty Act are eligible for health insurance coverage. Under current law, such children are not eligible regardless of the effect on premiums. Our public safety officials honorably serve our communities and they should be looked after if they are harmed in the line of duty. HB 51 passed both chambers unanimously and was signed into law on Tuesday, March 10.
HB 119 seeks to help protect Virginia’s dairy farmers by specifically defining milk. In 2018, Virginia lost 54 dairy farms, bringing the total number of dairy farms down to 514. Agriculture is by far the largest sector of Virginia’s economy, and protecting Virginia’s farmers is very important. The passage of HB 119 is a strong signal by the General Assembly in support of Virginia’s farmers.
HB 390 is an omnibus bill that reorganizes many pages of Code language into 133 pages that pertain to Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control to reduce regulations and streamline rules. HB 390 passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 84 to 9 and the Senate of Virginia unanimously. Virginia ABC is an integral part of the budgeting process for the Commonwealth, and my bill makes it easier to carry out this business.
With the arrival of the novel coronavirus in Virginia, it is important that we use our common sense and do what we can to help stop its spread. The General Assembly will reconvene on Wednesday, April 22, to reevaluate the budget, considering anticipated drops in state revenue and consider other measures to help Virginians in this time of need.
Steps have been taken to make your government more transparent. All committee meetings are live streamed and archived. To watch, visit virginiageneralassembly.gov.
We have accomplished a great deal for our Commonwealth, but the work is never done. Throughout the year feel free to call or email my office if there is anything I can do to serve your needs at the state level. I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (757) 426-6387.
I am proud to be a Virginian and honored to have the opportunity to serve my family, friends and neighbors in the General Assembly. Together, we can ensure that Virginia remains one of the best places to live, work and raise a family.
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