This column was submitted by Del. Paul Krizek (D-44) and does not necessarily represent the views of Covering The Corridor.
We have successfully completed yet another busy week down in Richmond. This fourth week was filled with a marathon of bill presentations in subcommittees and committees, some lasting long into the night to get through large dockets of legislation.
A lot of important work was accomplished, including the passage of several landmark labor, gun safety, and long-awaited equality bills in the House, and it all starts up again early Monday morning as we prepare for “crossover” on February 11. That is the day when every bill originating in the House must make its way over to the Senate, and vice-versa.
Here is an update on my bills heard for the first time before subcommittees this week:
HB 333 seeks to eliminate the exclusion in the Virginia Minimum Wage Act “for persons whose earning capacity is impaired by physical deficiency, mental illness, or intellectual disability.” This language in the code is discriminatory. No one should be paid subminimum wages.
A big thank you to my constituent, Larysa Kautz, for her important advocacy on this issue, and for traveling to Richmond and waiting late into the night to testify in favor of this bill. Her testimony was critical to its passage in an unanimous subcommittee vote and then through the full committee of Labor and Commerce on a vote of 21-1. It goes to the House floor later this week.
An important bill for many of us in the 44th district is HB 334 which provides that if the termination of a rental agreement is due to the sale of a mobile home park to a buyer that is going to redevelop the park, the landlord shall provide to each mobile home owner in the park $3,500 in relocation expenses (in our planning district 8) within the 180-day notice period for the purpose of removing the mobile home from the park. This bill was reported out of the Housing/Consumer Protection subcommittee 7-0.
HB 500 directs the Department of Elections to provide lists of registered voters to the courts of the Commonwealth and the United States for jury selection purposes at no charge. Currently, the Department charges a fee to provide this information to the Clerks. Calling people for jury duty is an essential function of the Clerk’s office, and it makes sense for the state to provide this list free of charge. This bill reported out of the full Privileges and Elections Committee unanimously and is headed to the House floor.
HB 501 makes a small edit, and yet it makes a big difference. It essentially corrects a punctuation error in a bill passed last year which added a number of participants, or their designee, to required annual reviews of written school safety plans, but not for school boards. My bill would simply extend the ability to name a designee to school boards too. It will be on second reading on the House floor on Monday.
HB 1044, 1047, and 1048 are bills that I introduced in the Courts of Justice Committee. HB 1044 addresses a problem I have written about before with the unauthorized use of tracking devices. This bill will raise the penalty from a Class 3 to a Class 1 misdemeanor to install, place, or use an electronic tracking device through intentionally deceptive means and without consent.
Victims of domestic violence are often tracked by their abusers. The current punishment for such an offense is up to a $500 fine and no jail time, which is on par with the offense of unintentional property damage. Making it a Class 1 misdemeanor elevates unauthorized tracking to the same level as stalking, for example.
HB 1047 and 1048 will give police the power to take fingerprints and photographs of persons who plead guilty or are found guilty for driving while intoxicated, or persons found in contempt or in violation of the terms or conditions of a suspended sentence or probation for a felony offense, respectively. All three of these important bills that keep Virginians safer reported from subcommittee and the Courts committee unanimously.
My bill HB 1046, which prohibits food vendors from using single use polystyrene (styrofoam) containers as a means to give customers food, was rolled into Delegate Carr’s HB 533. Carr’s bill includes a 5-year phase-in period. Certain institutions, such as correctional facilities and public schools, will be exempt, and localities may also grant consecutive one-year exemptions to individual food vendors on the basis of undue economic hardship.
It is my hope that this bill will help to curb pollution and reduce the amount of styrofoam waste that ends up in the waterways of the Commonwealth, damaging the environment and wildlife.
I am happy to carry one of the Governor’s critical labor bills, HB 1646. This bill comes at the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Misclassification and Payroll Fraud. Essentially, it requires contractors to appropriately classify all workers as employees or independent contractors.
Misclassification creates a competitive disadvantage for Virginia businesses that follow the law, deprives the Commonwealth of millions of dollars in tax revenues necessary to supply services to Virginians, and prevents workers from receiving protections and benefits to which they are legally entitled. This is an important bill to protect Virginia workers, especially those in the construction industry. This bill reported out of subcommittee 5-2 and heads to the full General Laws committee.
Other notable bills are finding passage much easier this year, including Del. Jeion Ward’s HB 395, which would raise the state minimum wage to $9.00 per hour this July, passed through the Labor and Commerce subcommittee. Del. Elizabeth Guzman’s bill HB 582 passed through the Labor and Commerce Committee, and then I voted for it when it came before the Appropriations Committee which I sit on. I am proud to be a co-patron of this bill, as it provides the right to collective bargaining for public employees. I was especially pleased to see a favorite teacher of mine, Mr. Robert Wood, from Groveton High School, testify in support of this important legislation.
The new House Majority is also acting to make voting easier with HB1’s no excuse absentee voting. It is past time to let Virginians vote early without having to come up with an excuse.
And a lighter moment was had when Mike Rizzo, the General Manager of the Nationals brought the World Series trophy to the Capitol when we passed HJ 165, commending the World Champion Washington Nationals!