Newsletter: 2017 General Assembly Session -Sine Die

The General Assembly adjourned sine die on February 25th, completing work on thousands of bills and closing a $1.26 billion shortfall. 

The $107 million budget adopted by the General Assembly that avoids cuts to K-12 education, restores pay raises to state employees, provides the state share of a raise to teachers, and invests in mental health reform, while creating a $35 million cash reserve to be used to close future shortfalls.  

You can read an overview of the budget conference report prepared by the Senate Finance Committee here, and one prepared by the House Appropriations Committee here. Specific budget amendments adopted by the final budget conference report can be found here

The General Assembly also passed over 800 other bills than now await the Governor's action.  The Richmond Times Dispatch provided an overview of 25 of the most significant bills that passed, which you can read here.  The Governor has until March 27th to amend or veto any bills. We will return April 5th for Veto Session to vote on his actions. 
 
Addressing the Opioid Crisis

Although final numbers are not yet available, the Virginia Department of Health projects that more than 1,000 people died from fatal opioid overdoses in Virginia in 2016.  If those projections hold, 2016 will have seen a 33 percent increase in the number of fatal opioid overdoses compared to 2015. 

Last week, Governor McAuliffe signed several bills to fight the opioid epidemic. These bills focused on recovery, prescribing, and creating harm reduction programs. 

The Governor signed the following bills:
  • SB 848 (Wexton) and HB 1453 (LaRock) allow community organizations or persons authorized by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to possess and dispense naloxone to those that have completed a training program.
  • HB 2317 (O'Bannon) allows local departments of health to administer harm reduction programs in at-risk communities of the state with very high rates of HIV, Hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases in Virginia. Harm reduction programs would include the provision of sterile and disposal of used hypodermic needles and syringes. 
  • HB 1786 (Stolle) initiates family assessment to determine whether the mother of a child who was exposed in utero to a controlled substance sought substance abuse counseling or treatment prior to the child's birth. 
  • HB 2165 (Pillion) requires a prescription for any controlled substance containing an opiate to be issued as an electronic prescription and prohibits a pharmacist from dispensing a controlled substance that contains an opiate unless the prescription is issued as an electronic prescription. 
You can read more on these bills and what the Administration is doing to address the opioid crisis here and here

My Legislation

Three of my bills passed the General Assembly and now await action by the Governor.  

First, SB 1475 adds to the family life education curriculum age appropriate information on the value of family relationships in addition to marriage and instruction that increases student awareness of the fact that consent is required before sexual activity.  The bill also changes the focus of instruction from an individual avoiding sexual assault to deterrence of sexual assault.  
Second, SB 1493 establishes a public-private partnership between Northern Virginia Community College and a Virginia-based entity to develop and implement computer science training and related professional development activities for Virginia public school teachers.
Third, SB 1494 establishes a legal framework to allow companies such as UZURV to pre-arrange rides with transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft, or to request specific drivers whom they designate as their favorites.
You can track the progress of all of my 2017 legislation here