Last week marked the conclusion of this year’s regular session of the General Assembly, with the House of Delegates having adjourned sine die in the late hours of Friday evening.
This adjournment, initially scheduled to occur on Saturday, came a day early for what I am told was for the first time in the past 15 years.
The final week of deliberations addressed numerous bills debated in conference with the Senate, some of which are particularly noteworthy.
Included among these votes were those made in support of the House and Senate budget conference report, which contained new items not initially found in either chamber’s budget bill.
Also, some proposals that may have at first failed in one of the two bodies were at last reconsidered in the final budget vote.
In the end, these final amendments to the biennium budget, maintained the key features of the House proposal about which I have written earlier.
These include pay increases to teachers and police while reducing overall spending and not raising taxes.
Additionally, Virginia’s budget will replace a significant portion of the “rainy-day” fund that was tapped last year.
Likewise, nearly $30 million in recent funding cuts to localities were restored in this proposal.
And with regard to higher education, capital construction projects are addressed, including needed renovations at Danville Community College.
It was my privilege to specifically help lobby the House conferees for the DCC funds, which, I was happy to learn, were ultimately included in the final legislation.
Another important vote taken last week relating to higher education in Virginia was with regard to legislation addressing the problem of on-campus sexual assault.
Proposed policy solutions to this increasingly statewide concern received ample attention from the beginning of the session by the Courts of Justice Committee on which I serve.
With the passage of HB 1930, colleges and universities will be required to establish a memorandum of understanding with a victim support organization, and must provide that each victim of sexual assault be informed of all of her options.
Besides enhancing services to victims, this legislation also seeks to prevent further attacks by promoting the enforcement of justice on the wrongdoer.
Specifically, with this measure, every charge of felony sexual assault must either be immediately reported to the police or sent to the commonwealth’s attorney for his review, depending on the circumstance.
Although this legislation invoked much discussion over the course of the session, the final bill passed with broad, bipartisan support.
In fact, this spirit of cooperation marked much of the assembly’s work this session, in contrast to the acrimony and unnecessary delays of last year when the governor was able to use his slight majority in the Senate to obstruct the timely passage of the budget.
With different leadership in the Senate this year, our Republican majorities modeled effective and productive lawmaking in this short session.
Del. Les Adams of Chatham represents the 16th District, which includes most of Pittsylvania County, Martinsville, and part of Henry County.