This column was submitted by Del. Paul Krizek (D-44).
It’s hard to believe that we just completed the first week of the 2020 General Assembly session. I am looking forward to all that we will achieve together. I am honored to have the opportunity to now serve in the majority, and to work on tackling issues that are not just important to my constituents but to all Virginians, including voting rights, protecting workers, redistricting reform, public safety, education funding, transportation, non-discrimination protections, passing the Equal Rights Amendment, gun safety, preserving the environment, and so much more.
I have many new responsibilities as a member of the majority party. I am now the Chair of the Transportation and Public Safety subcommittee on Appropriations. Also, I am the Chair of the ABC/Gaming subcommittee of the General Laws Committee.
I also serve on two other Appropriations subcommittees, Health and Human Resources, chaired by Del. Mark Sickles, and Capital Outlay. Finally, I was assigned to the subcommittee on Campaign Finance of the Privileges and Elections Committee. So, I now serve on three full committees and five subcommittees, two of which I will be chairing. It will be a busy session.
A lot of focus this session will be on Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposed $135 billion two-year state budget which includes $47.5 billion in general fund spending for critical state services of education, public safety, and health care. I am most excited about his 3 percent raise for teachers, free community college for students pursuing careers in high demand fields (like cyber security), and $95 million in new funding for early childhood education, which includes $59.5 million for the Virginia Preschool Initiative, a program designed for at-risk four-year-olds. Research has shown that high quality preschool better prepares children to succeed in life – academically as well as socially. And, too many low-income children do not have access to these programs; starting them off at a disadvantage entering elementary school.
The governor proposed two tax increases — on gasoline and cigarettes. The tax on motor fuel would rise 4 cents a year over three years to pay for important transportation initiatives which projects declining revenue due to less sales from fuel sipping hybrids and the electric cars that use no gasoline at all.
And something I am concerned about, the Governor wants to eliminate annual vehicle inspections saving consumers $280 million a year. The savings are great but my worry is the impact getting rid of the car inspections could have on our highway safety.
The tobacco tax would double our 30 cents per pack tax, yet would still keep Virginia at a reasonable tax level in comparison with much of the region. The resulting funds are slated to go towards lowering health insurance premiums through a new state insurance marketplace to cover the higher cost health care consumers.
On the first day of session Governor Northam gave his annual State of the Commonwealth, announcing his progressive agenda. Indeed, he said:
“Tonight, I’ve presented an agenda that is different from every previous General Assembly session. It’s a lot bolder, and it’s more forward-looking than ever before. I’m here as your Governor because I’m a builder, and I hope you will choose to build too. Let’s build Virginia’s future together.”
My bills are filed, and you can find them here on the Virginia Legislative Information System Website and track them throughout the legislative process. To view all the pieces of legislation that have been filed by my colleagues so far, you can visit here.
I also encourage you to visit the Virginia General Assembly’s website here. This website is a great tool to track legislation, follow committee meeting schedules, and plan visits to the Capitol. In addition, each day’s House of Delegates floor session is streamed live here, including all committees and my subcommittees.
As always, I want to hear from constituents throughout the session regarding your views on the budget and the bills that may come before me in committee or voting on the floor of the House of Delegates. Please contact my office so that my team can pass along your feedback to me.
If you are interested in coming to visit me in Richmond, which I hope you do hope, please send me an email at DelPKrizek@House.Virginia.Gov. We would be happy to arrange a tour of the Capitol and reserve seating in the House Gallery for you to observe a floor session. I hope to see you in Richmond for what promises to be an historic year!