Crossover, electric bills & foreign affairs
Tuesday marked the 2023 General Assembly’s Crossover Deadline when each chamber must finish work on the vast majority of bills from their own chamber. Between Monday and Tuesday, the Virginia Senate considered 187 bills, confirmation of 1,177 gubernatorial appointments spread out over five confirmation resolutions, six other resolutions, and 4 proposed constitutional amendments. On Wednesday, most Senate committees started hearing House bills and on Friday the Senate passed fifteen House bills – including three from Delegate Joe McNamara to make Virginia’s tax system more favorable to taxpayers.
Bad News and Good News on Campaign Finance Reform
First the bad news, General Assembly members will continue be allowed to legally fundraise from their seat in the Capitol while actively voting on legislation during Special Sessions. My Senate Bill 946 that would have prohibited legislators from fundraising on any day the General Assembly was scheduled to meet during a special session was defeated without a vote after a Democrat-led parliamentary maneuver in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Although this is a disappointment, I will continue to fight for this common sense reform.
The good news is that my SB1427 that will add new timely reporting requirements for Political Action Committees cleared the Senate on Tuesday. Electric monopoly attacks against Glenn Youngkin veiled as a phony Second Amendment advocacy group during the gubernatorial campaign helped reveal major gaps in Virginia’s PAC reporting requirements. My legislation to close these gaps is expected to be considered in the House Privileges and Elections Committee next week.
The Continuing Fight over Electric Bills
Although the electric monopoly’s tactics in the 2021 gubernatorial campaign were abhorrent, Governor Youngkin’s resolute advocacy for captive rate payers facing ever increasing bills shows the monopoly was right to fear his administration. While the Virginia Senate remains extremely monopoly friendly, Virginians now have a Governor who has both the high finance acumen to understand utility complexities and the politically independent disposition to advocate for captive rate payers.
The 12-3 Democrat superstacked Senate Commerce and Labor Committee killed my bills to return significant authority to the State Corporation Commission and allow any competition in January. Since then Governor Youngkin and Speaker Todd Gilbert helped get bills containing pro-rate payer provisions through the House of Delegates that are now making their way to the Senate. The current pro-monopoly Democratic Senate leadership is expected to significantly rewrite these bills and that will likely lead to significant conference committees at the end of the General Assembly session.
During consideration of the Senate Budget proposal on Thursday, Democrats advocated hundreds of millions of dollars in additional spending proposals but went out of their way to remove $253,000 in the Office of the Attorney General’s budget dedicated to ratepayer protection. Every Senate Democrat voted to remove this modest provision to help captive rate payers during rate cases against the monopoly’s high priced attorneys. The House of Delegates’ Budget included these provisions meaning this will go to budget negotiations. On all issues related to electric bills the best advice is: stay tuned.
Foreign Affairs in the Virginia Senate
Right after the Chinese spy balloon finished its flight over the United States, foreign affairs legislation made rare appearances in Richmond – and passed with bipartisan support.
In his State of the Commonwealth speech in January, Governor Youngkin urged the General Assembly to prohibit a foreign adversary from acquiring or transferring any interest in agricultural land in Virginia. Senator Richard Stuart’s SB1438 does just that to protect both food supply and protect land close to Virginia’s abundance of militarily sensitive locations from the hostile actions of the Chinese Communist Party. Despite lengthy speeches by many Democratic detractors, five Democratic Senators joined the effort and it passed 23-16 and is now in the House of Delegates where Delegate Rob Bloxom’s similar HB2325 passed 99-0 the next day.
All of my Senate Republican colleagues joined me in co-patroning Senator Ryan McDougle’s SB1459 banning the Chinese Communist Party controlled TikTok and WeChat for use on state electronic devices. Despite no opposition in the Senate General Laws Committee, several Democratic Senators spoke against SB1459 and generated significant opposition producing a 20-20 tie vote that was broken in support of the bill by Lt. Governor Winsome Sears. The House of Delegates will soon consider SB1459 after having already voted 99-0 for Delegate Emily Brewer’s similar House Bill 2385.
Watch YOUR Government and Track Legislation
Every floor session of the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates is livestreamed on the internet. At those links, you can also watch committee and subcommittees. The full text, summaries, fiscal impact statements, and votes for every bill are available on the Legislative Information System.
Share Your Views
As always, you can reach me by calling 540-302-8486.
-Sen. David Suetterlein
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