Last week in Richmond, the General Assembly continued to sift through legislation, with Delegates and Senators attempting to find (and convince their colleagues of) the best solutions to challenges facing the Commonwealth today. Election integrity legislation received a multitude of votes in House and Senate Committees and Subcommittees, a bill regarding the State Telehealth Plan passed the House unanimously, and a bill that removes local authority to prohibit guns in certain locations passed out of Committee and Subcommittee and is headed to the House floor for a vote next week.

EDUCATION

House Bill 553: Opportunity Classroom
This bill opens the door for Virginia students to get a head start in a career by granting teachers the authority to enter into an agreement with a school board to teach a curriculum on required subjects through an industry specific lens in a designated school classroom. 

  • Bill status: Referred to House Committee on Education
  • Bill text and info: Click HERE

House Bill 1025: Educational Savings Account
This bill champions parental choice in education by giving parents 90% of the state funds allotted for a public school student if the parents would like to pursue different education options. The money would be offered to parents through an Educational Savings Account system and is required to be spent on education related expenses.

  • Bill status: Referred to House Committee on Education
  • Bill text and info: Click HERE

ELECTIONS

House Bill 46: Voter Identification
This bill requires a voter to present an ID with a photograph at the polls in order to cast a ballot. If the voter does not present a photo ID, they can receive and vote a provisional ballot. The legislation also removes the option for a voter to sign a statement confirming their own identity as an alternative to providing an ID. Further, it removes the option to provide a utility bill or other document without a photograph to provide proof of identity. Lastly, it repeals the permanent absentee voter list. These are good policy measures and would create robust safeguards for election integrity in Virginia.

  • Bill status: Passed House Subcommittee on Privileges and Elections, re-referred to this Subcommittee for amendment
  • Bill text and info: Click HERE

House Bill 54: Sort and Report Absentee Ballots by Precinct
This legislation would require that officers of election sort Central Absentee Precinct (CAP) ballots by precinct after the ballots have been removed from the envelope. Further, the CAPP ballots would be reported by precinct. 

  • Bill status: Referred to House Committee on Privileges and Elections
  • Bill text and info: Click HERE

House Bill 71 & Senate Bill 45: Campaign Contributions by Public Utilities
Both pieces of legislation, if adopted, would add protection from bias to elections and protect from corruption in the marketplace by prohibiting public utility entities from making financial contributions to candidates campaigning for political office.

  • HB 71 bill status: Referred to House Committee on Privileges and Elections, assigned to Subcommittee #2
  • HB 71 bill text and info: Click HERE
  • SB 45 bill status: Referred to Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections
  • SB 45 bill text and info: Click HERE

House Bill 187: Limited Same Day Registration
Adoption of this legislation would establish a good policy to prohibit same day voter registration, with only three exceptions. The three specified exceptions are: service members of the United States on active duty, individuals temporarily living outside of the country, and a spouse or dependent of one of the first two categories.

  • Bill status: Assigned to House Privileges and Elections Subcommittee #1
  • Bill text and info: Click HERE 

House Bill 205 & Senate Bill 80: Election Financing
Both pieces of legislation would make it illegal for any elected state or local election official to accept money from any individual or entity except the government to fund an election in Virginia. This policy would be beneficial in preserving unbiased elections.

  • HB 205 bill status: Passed House Privileges and Elections Subcommittee #2 – recommended with amendments, referred back to Subcommittee for further changes
  • HB 205 bill text and info: Click HERE
  • SB 80 bill status: Passed Senate Privileges and Elections Committee with substitute, will be voted on by the senate next.
  • SB 80 bill text and info: Click HERE

House Bill 305: Board of Elections and Department of Elections
This bill proposes to increase the number of members of the State Board of Elections from five to six, three members from each party. Currently, the Commissioner of Elections is appointed by the Governor, but if this bill is adopted the Commissioner would now be appointed by a supermajority of the State Board of Elections instead. The bill also includes provisions to improve accuracy of the voting roll, require voter ID, require election audits, better manage drop off locations, and more.

  • Bill status: Referred to House Committee on Privileges and Elections
  • Bill text and info: Click HERE

HB 544: Optional Restrictive ID
This bill would allow a voter to inform the state that they are personally opting into a photo ID requirement which would be enforced at the polls for that voter. This would prevent a person from showing up to the polls and falsely claiming they were that voter and casting a ballot. Although it doesn’t provide as much security as a full photo ID requirement for all voters, this measure would be a step towards increased election security.

  • Bill status: Passed House Privileges and Elections Subcommittee #1 and full Privileges and Elections Committee
  • Bill text and info: Click HERE

House Bill 1141: Eliminate Drop off Boxes
This bill is a good policy that would still allow a voter to return their own ballot to their general registrar’s office while eliminating all drop off box locations, which arguably come with increased chances of ballot tampering.

  • Bill status: Referred to House Committee on Privileges and Elections
  • Bill text and info: Click HERE

Senate Bill 318: Donor Disclosure Requirements
This bill proposes a requirement that an organization that engages in an independent expenditure that includes an advertisement for or against a candidate or for or against a referendum must disclose the organization’s top 3 donors on the ad. This requirement would apply if the ad was run 1-2 months before an election. This policy would be a step in the wrong direction, as it would violate the privacy of individuals who contribute to causes that are personal and expose them to risk of being targeted. The ambiguity of the bill could also be interpreted to apply to issue related communications that don’t expressly support or oppose a candidate. 

  • Bill status: Passed Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections, Passed the Senate 23-15
  • Bill text and info: Click HERE

Senate Bill 371: Board of Elections and Department of Elections
Like HB 305, this bill would increase the number of members of the State Board of Elections and move the responsibility to appoint the Commissioner of Elections to the State Board of Elections. This bill originally increased the number of board members from five to eight, four from each party (HB305 proposes 6 total, 3 from each party). However, this bill was amended to establish an uneven number of board members; with the amendment, the bill now proposes a board composed of 7 total board members, 4 from the party of the Governor. Although similar to HB 305, this policy is less favorable when compared to HB305 because a board composed of equal representation from each party would prevent the dramatic changes that occur each time the Virginia Governor’s office changes political party.

  • Bill status: Passed Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections with substitute, will be voted on by the Senate next
  • Bill text and info: Click HERE

Senate Bill 390: Election Audit Process
This bill addresses the need to ensure that all voting machines in the state are functioning correctly, by establishing an audit process that would check every machine once every 5 years.

  • Bill status: Referred to Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections
  • Bill text and info: Click HERE

Senate Bill 652: Absentee Ballot App, Social Security Number
This bill clarifies that an absentee ballot application that is missing the 4 last digits of a social security number can be rejected. It also adds the requirement to provide the last 4 SSN if you apply in person for an absentee ballot.

  • Bill status: Referred to Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections
  • Bill text: Click HERE

EMINENT DOMAIN

Senate Bill 666: Citizen Protections Related to Eminent Domain
This bill revises the definitions of “lost access” and “lost profits,” related to eminent domain. This is a good policy that would increase protections to citizens who are affected by a public use project.

  • Bill status: Assigned to Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Law 
  • Bill text and info: Click HERE

Senate Bill 694: Update to Eminent Domain Code
This bill would continue to align the sections of the state code that cover eminent domain with language and intent of the 2012 Constitutional Amendment on the issue.

  • Bill status: Assigned to Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Law 
  • Bill text and info: Click HERE

FREE MARKET ECONOMICS

House Bill 208: Universal Sandbox Program
This bill facilitates a stronger free market and accelerated innovation by establishing the Virginia Regulatory Sandbox Program. Individuals who would like to participate in the program would apply, and once accepted would be granted a waiver from one or more state laws to make a desired product, use a desired production method, or provide a service. 

  • Bill status: Referred to House Committee on General Laws and assigned to Subcommittee #1
  • Bill text and info: Click HERE

House Bill 529: Misclassification of Workers
This bill proposed to provide an independent contractor with legal protection to explicitly self-identify as a contractor and prevent forced classification as an employee.

  • Bill status: Referred to House Committee on Commerce and Energy and assigned to Subcommittee #1
  • Bill text and info: Click HERE

HEALTHCARE

House Bill 80: Healthcare Regulatory Sandbox
This legislation advances innovation in Virginia by creating the Healthcare Regulatory Sandbox Program for five years. Participants that have been accepted into the program may temporarily test a healthcare product or service for 2-3 years without the normal licensure or authorization the state requires. An annual report including information about the participants and effectiveness of the program will be prepared and given to the health related committee chairmen in the House and Senate each year.

  • Bill status: Referred to House Committee on Health, Welfare, and Institutions and assigned to Subcommittee #1
  • Bill text and info: Click HERE

House Bill 81: State Telehealth Plan
This bill requires the Board of Health to use a private Virginia telehealth organization for general consultation and assistance with tracking implementation of the State Plan. This would contribute to the success of the State Telehealth Plan going forward.

  • Bill status: Passed out of House Committee on Health, Welfare, and Institutions, Passed House in block vote  97-0.  
  • Bill text and info: Click HERE

House Bill 537: Exception for Telemedicine
This bill allows a licensed professional outside of the Commonwealth of Virginia to temporarily provide care to a patient located within the state through telemedicine under certain conditions. This is a good bill that increases access to medical care.

  • Bill status: Referred to House Committee on Health, Welfare, and Institutions and assigned to Subcommittee #1
  • Bill text and info: Click HERE

REGULATORY REFORM

House Bill 207: Committee Chairmen
This bill requires that when any legislation would increase or start occupational regulation through the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR)  that the chairman of the committee having jurisdiction over the bill send it to (DPOR) for evaluation.    

  • Bill status: Referred to House Committee on Rules
  • Bill text and info: Click HERE

House Bill 244: Red Tape Reduction Act
This bill institutes a beneficial Regulatory Reduction Program, designed to inhibit the growth of executive agencies and create a system of target goals for them to reduce regulations and provide regular reports on their progress.

  • Bill status: Referred to House Committee on General Laws and assigned to Subcommittee #1
  • Bill text and info: Click HERE
  • Additional link: Video on the issue

House Bill 922: Financial Technology (FinTech) Sandbox Program
This legislation advances innovation in Virginia by creating the FinTech Regulatory Sandbox Program. Participants that have been accepted into the program may conduct testing of a financial product or service for 2-3 years without the normal licensure or authorization the state requires.

  • Bill status: Referred to House Committee on Commerce and Energy and assigned to Subcommittee #2
  • Bill text and info: Click HERE

SECOND AMENDMENT 

House Bill 133: Guns at Preschools and Childcare Centers
This policy would increase public safety, allowing guns at preschools and childcare centers (currently, they’re not allowed there), specifically if the location is not a home of one of the children or the childcare provider.

  • Bill status: Referred to House Committee on Rules
  • Bill text and info: Click HERE

House Bill 827: Localities’ Authority to Restrict Carrying
This bill would remove localities’ authority to prohibit guns in government buildings and public parks and buildings. Sixteen localities currently have such laws, which leaves individuals carrying a gun vulnerable to unintentionally violating the law as they travel across the Commonwealth.

  • Bill status: Passed House Public Safety Subcommittee #1 and full Public Safety Committee 
  • Bill text and info: Click HERE

House Bill 1166: Right to Firearm at Government Locations
This bill is a repeal of the current prohibition to carry a firearm at or near the Virginia Capitol building and various other locations where government work takes place.

  • Bill status: Referred to House Committee on Rules
  • Bill text and info: Click HERE