By Del. Carrie Coyner
The Virginia General Assembly has reached the halfway point of the 2020 Session. Known as Crossover, this is the point at which the House and Senate exchange legislation and begin to work on the other chamber’s bills.
In a year with so much partisan debate, I have kept my focus on the issues you said impact your family the most: increasing quality jobs in our community, improving our schools, keeping your neighborhood safe with a focus on crime and the drug epidemic, and tackling access and affordability of health care in our communities. This has been a difficult task with a Democrat majority focused on other priorities and passing legislation that will deter jobs, place more burdens on our teachers with inadequate funding, and eliminate consequences for criminals.
On jobs, Virginia was named CNBC’s 2019 Best State for Business, but we didn’t get there by accident. House Republicans helped keep taxes low, reduced regulations and promoted a stronger workforce. Our economy has been strengthened, as evident in our surplus revenues, by businesses who are here because of what the state offers them and their employees such as low costs of living, reliable infrastructure, strong schools, and safe communities. We are now seeing these business benefits eroded by the policies enacted this session.
On taxes, Democrats are working quickly to implement new or additional taxes on Virginians. The Democrat majority has passed legislation that will increase taxes for plastic bags, cigarettes, admissions, meals, and lodgings without a voter referendum — totaling up to $528 million.
You will also see a historic tax on gas in the entire state (increases 12 cents over the next 3 years) as well as an increased Richmond region tax (further increases gas and sales taxes). House Bill 1414, known as the “omnibus transportation bill,” raises taxes for additional transportation revenues and makes changes to highway safety laws. HB1414 reshuffles a number of transportation funds into the new Commonwealth Transportation Fund for road and transit projects financed by several fee and tax increases. The proposed offset to taxes is the elimination or curtailment of vehicle safety inspections which, of course, will result in increased insurance limits and premium costs to vehicle owners.
On public safety, Republicans have worked every year to hold accountable those who would harm our fellow Virginians and ensure that our laws keep up with the changing times and changing threats.
House Democrats have advocated for and passed legislation that will make certain violent criminals eligible for parole, including 112 offenders who committed premeditated first-degree murder. If signed by the governor, those who will now have the ability to come before the Virginia Parole Board include rapists and murderers. House Democrats claim they want to keep neighborhoods and communities safe, but their legislation will make it harder to hold accountable those who commit crimes.
On education, Democrats have not listened to parents and teachers who want less testing and increased attention to student growth. My House Bill 931 (incorporated into HB1277) would have reduced the number of SOL tests in our schools, but the bill was killed in committee with little discussion. I believe our Board of Education should decide how we hold our schools accountable and measure success; therefore, I will continue advocating to lessen the state legislative grip on our schools using outdated achievement measures and support our educators’ quest for growth-based academic performance standards.
On teacher pay, I co-patroned House Bill 233 which would increase teacher pay at or above the national average by 2025, but Democrats wouldn’t let this bill out of committee, either. I spoke up on several occasions about giving our local school boards the flexibility to use money coming from the state budget to help alleviate salary compression which results in losing more experienced teachers, but meaningful teacher pay increases and addressing salary compression are not evident priorities in the seemingly flat budget for teacher pay.
I hope you will continue to follow what I have been doing in Richmond. As the delegate from your district, I look to constituents like you for input regarding the direction we should be heading as a commonwealth. Feel free to contact my office at (804) 698-1062 or through email at DelCCoyner@house.virginia.gov, if I can be of assistance to you in any way. You can also follow me on Twitter at @CarrieCoyner or like my Facebook page to receive additional updates on my daily activities. If you’d like to receive email updates or learn more about me, visit my website at www.carriecoyner.com.