This past week in Richmond, the Senate of Virginia finally completed its work on all bills filed by senators. As a result, we were finally able to adjourn for the evening of “crossover” on Friday, February 5th at around 11 p.m., after a 13-hour marathon of debate on the remaining bills before us. While legislation to abolish the death penalty grabbed an outsized share of media coverage, several significant measures approved by the Senate are now headed to the House of Delegates for their consideration.
The liberal Democrats are determined to fundamentally change the Commonwealth of Virginia that will make us less safe, and also will make it much harder for businesses to operate successfully in Virginia. I have never seen anything like this in the years I have had the honor and privilege to serve as your Senator. The Democrat majority Senate has voted to: pack the state appeals court with their liberal judges by increasing their numbers from 11 to 17; change our Constitution not just to remove the marriage amendment, but also to propose an amendment to enshrine Gay marriage in our Constitution; legalize recreational marijuana; reinstate parole; provide for automatic restoration of civil rights to violent felons; create the institution of a newly-coined phrase of “environmental justice” programs in and across all levels of state government; expand job-killing regulations on all small businesses; eliminate mandatory minimums prison sentence for persons convicted of the most heinous crimes; deny our military, OGA, and ex pats the ability to vote overseas-electronically; and further weaken the integrity of our state and local elections.
There is even more unwise and radically liberal legislation passed by the House that we will now be considering now in the Senate. It is clear the wishes of the liberal lawmakers of Northern Virginia have dominated this session so far, and they are ignoring the needs of the rest of Virginia. I will keep you updated on these bills as they progress through committee.
Republicans were able to find victories for Virginia in spite of the Democrats’ push to make Virginia more like California. The Senate approved legislation to bring some transparency to the deliberations and decisions of the Virginia Parole Board by a bipartisan vote of 33 to 6. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. David Suetterlein (R) of Roanoke County, would require the Parole Board to adhere to the provisions of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Last year, the Parole Board was subjected to investigations by the State Inspector General after the Board granted parole to a convicted murderer without first consulting with the victim’s family as required by law. Things got worse after it was learned the Inspector General was investigating several cases of malfeasance related to the Parole Board. Exacerbating the situation, the Northam Administration worked to quash public information about the investigations and the Parole Board asserted its exemption from the provisions of FOIA.
Senator Suetterlein first offered this reform legislation during last year’s special session, when it passed the Senate by a vote of 29 to 10. House Democrats killed the legislation on a party-line vote in committee.
Election integrity is a long-standing priority for Senate Republicans. Sen. Jen Kiggans (R) of Virginia Beach won bipartisan support for her common-sense bill to ensure deceased Virginians don’t remain on the voter rolls. Her legislation requiring the State Registrar of Vital Records provide a list of Virginians who have died to the Department of Elections on a weekly basis was approved by a vote of 34 to 5.
Last year, in a study of 42 states, the Public Interest Legal Foundation found over 350,000 dead people on voter rolls. Maintaining accurate and up-to-date voter rolls is critical to ensuring the integrity of elections and preventing fraud. Sen. Kiggans’s legislation will increase the accuracy of our voter rolls and help to prevent invalid votes from being cast.
Additionally, Democrats in charge of both the House and Senate want to tax the payments of PPP given by the government to our small Virginia businesses, even though the receipt of those loans by business owners staved off massive layoffs of people from their employment during the pandemic that could have bankrupted Virginia’s unemployment compensation fund. Unfortunately, the Democrats’ proposals only partially conformed with the federal PPP tax laws which means those VA businesses that took the loans to keep their employees working under COVID will now pay taxes on the PPP.
Whenever there are changes to the federal tax code, Virginia adjusts its taxation policies. When the federal government passed the CARES Act to respond to the pandemic, it included measures so businesses receiving proceeds from the Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) to keep their employees on the job wouldn’t have added taxes for utilizing the program.
You might think it would be obvious that Virginia wouldn’t tax PPP funding, either. But Democrats have a lot of liberal spending priorities to fund. And, they have never been known to favor less taxes and less government spending. As a result, their bill conforming the state’s tax code to the federal government’s does not exempt PPP funds received.
The Senate defeated a Republican-offered amendment to the conformity legislation that would have ensured these funds weren’t taxed, with every Democrat voting against this fairness measure. Then, as a compromise, Senate Democrats agreed to approve exemptions that would lower the potential tax burden on a portion of these funds. While not ideal, it does mean struggling small businesses won’t be unfairly taxed for keeping people employed by utilizing a federal program they were encouraged to use.
If there’s an issue or bill about which you’d like to share your views, call the Senate Message Center toll-free at (833) 617-1821; the Richmond branch of my law office at (804) 225-0528 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.