In just 46 days we not only closed the budget shortfall, but also provided our valued state police, state employees and teachers with raises, passed major initiatives geared towards stimulating economic growth, improving education, making college more affordable and attacking the opioid crisis.
I also carried several pieces of legislation and introduced budget amendments aimed at addressing our region’s need to adapt to flooding, provide mental health support for psychiatric patients, protect young children from substance abuse, restore inflation inpatient hospital payments to CHKD, and restore funds for care coordination for our senior citizens.
I continue to focus my efforts on offering a positive governing vision for our Commonwealth. I have included a short summary of key highlights by subject to provide you with a general session overview. The General Assembly will reconvene on April 5th to take action on any budget item or bill amended or vetoed by the Governor.
We are now back in the district office, so please call my district telephone at (757) 633-2080 or email me at email@example.com should you need assistance with a state agency or would like to share your thoughts on an issue. I also invite you to connect with me on social media or visit my website at https://ChrisStolle.com.
It is an honor and a privilege to represent you in the House of Delegates.
The most important task of the General Assembly is crafting the two year state budget. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I can tell you that this session was especially challenging to pass a state budget that not closed the $1.2 billion shortfall, but also used your taxpayer dollars wisely by investing in the core functions of state government. I am happy to report that the House of Delegates passed a conservative, responsible, and structurally-balanced amended budget protects precious taxpayer resources and funds core services. Here are the highlights of the amended 2016-2018 state budget: - The budget does not contain any tax or fee increases on hardworking Virginians. - 3% salary increase for state employees - We are investing over $18 million in new funding for K-12 more than Governor McAuliffe proposed. Our funding also gives local school divisions added flexibility to spend the money as best fits them. - We’ve secured $32 million for a 2% teacher pay raise, with no local match required, effective February 2018. - We are providing over $20 million in new funding for higher education to hold down tuition costs for Virginia families. - We are making strategic investments in economic development, but adding additional oversight to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. - $32.2 million to strengthen the delivery of mental health services through the expansion of the GAP program, same day arrest, and supportive housing.
Improving our public education system is a top priority for the House of Delegates. We remain committed to supporting our world-class public education system. That is why a 2% teacher pay raise was a priority in this year’s budget. There is also room for innovation is the classroom so all students can learn in a way that best fits their needs. The House passed legislation to create Education Savings Accounts for parents and took steps to finalize the establishment of Virginia’s virtual school. This legislation, combined with our investments in public schools, will help make sure all children have the opportunity to succeed. While most Virginia students attend a good school, some are still being left behind. We are committed to maintaining Virginia’s strong K-12 system, and working to give all children the opportunities in education they deserve by enacting reforms in public education, promoting choice and flexibility, and encouraging early childhood education. Some of the education initiatives passed this session include: - Establishing the Virginia Virtual School to allow students to take K-12 coursework online that is not offered locally. - Awarding verified units of credit for a satisfactory score on the PSAT exam. - Allowing any individual who has obtained a valid out-of-state teachers license reciprocity with Virginia. - Awarding students partial credit for correct answers on multipart Standards of Learning assessment questions. - Establishing a policy for granting undergraduate general education course credit to any entering freshman student who has successfully completed a dual enrollment course. - Broadening eligibility for the Two-Year college Transfer Grant Program by including more low-income students. - Establishing the Online Virginia Network for the delivery of each online course, degree program, and credential program offered by a public institution of higher education.
To help strengthen Virginia’s economy, the House of Delegates advanced several major pieces of legislation aimed at fostering private-sector economic growth, promoting a positive, pro-business climate, and protecting small businesses through regulatory reform. We are also leading the effort to review Virginia’s economic development spending to ensure that we are maximizing the effectiveness of your tax dollars. Key jobs, opportunity and economic growth legislations passed includes: - Making changes to the Small Business Investment Grant Fund to make it easier for investor applicants to qualify for grants and provide more benefits for investor applicants. - Reducing the minimum percentage of revenues that a small business must derive from out-of-state services from 50% to 35% in order to be eligible for grants from the Small Business Jobs Grant Fund Program. - Granting localities authority to create economic revitalization zones to provide incentives to entities to purchase properties. - Reforming the Virginia Economic Development Partnership Authority to ensure the Commonwealth has an efficient economic development organization.
In December 2016, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), a state watchdog agency, issued a report entitled “Managing Spending in Virginia Medicaid Program”. This JLARC report highlighted tens of millions of dollars spent unnecessarily on Medicaid, made 35 recommendations for improvements to Virginia’s Medicaid system, and confirmed that Medicaid is a broken system that needs reform. An overburdened Medicaid system results in lower quality care and access for patients. While we continue to reform our Medicaid system, we also passed legislation this session that creates a new innovative healthcare delivery model between patients and doctors that establishes direct primary care agreements. The House of Delegates also passed legislation to establish a uniform framework for determining the value of charity care and requires health care providers required to provide charity care or to contribute to the charity care fund to report their provider data to the Commonwealth.
Attracting and retaining public safety professionals is paramount to providing public safety to our citizens. Therefore, the budget includes $14.6 million to raise the starting salary of state police officers and provide a $6,793 increase to current state troopers. Sheriff's offices and regional jails are also allocated $7.3 million to provide a compression adjustment for employees. With more than 12 million people impacted by domestic violence each year and recidivism rates as high was 40% in some studies, the House of Delegates continued its commitment to empowering and protecting women. More than 36 pieces of legislation aimed at combatting domestic violence has been passed by the House of Delegates in the past 10 years. This session, legislation is also awaiting the Governor's signature that will give protective order protectees with a provisional concealed carry permit and will provide protective order protectees with firearms safety training courses. The passed budget also includes investments in providing crisis, trauma and advocacy services throughout the Commonwealth.
The Governor's proposed budget presented to the General Assembly in December 2016 omitted allocations that support both the district's and the entire region's citizens. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I introduced and advocated for budget amendments that: - Provide partial funding for the Commonwealth's share of a 3 x 3 x 3 study by the U.S. Corps of Engineers. The name stands for 3 years, $3 Million and 3 levels of Corps Review. Our Commonwealth had a number of authorized Corps Projects but now we don’t have any left, these 3x3x3 studies will make new recommendations for that the Commonwealth needs to gain federal funding for flooding projects. - Restores payment of an inflation adjustment in inpatient hospital payments to Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters (CHKD) in fiscal year 2018. - Restores funding for Care Coordination for the Elderly Virginians Program. The restoration of funds supports the Southeastern Senior Services Center and other programs throughout the Commonwealth. I carried two pieces of legislation aimed at combatting the opioid crisis. My resolution, HJ745, establishes the Substance-Exposed Infant Awareness week as the first week in July of each year to raise awareness of the impact of substance abuse on our youngest citizens. HB1786 provides family support and protection for infants who are believed to have been exposed to a controlled substance in utero. The bill provides that if a local department of social services receives a report or complaint of suspected child abuse or neglect on the basis of one or more of the aforementioned factors, the local department shall (a) conduct a family assessment, unless an investigation is required by law or is necessary to protect the safety of the child, and (b) develop a plan of safe care in accordance with federal law. The bill directs the State Board of Social Services to promulgate regulations to implement the provisions of the bill. I am pleased to report that the Governor sign HB1786 on February 23, 2017. I introduced HB1877 to provide hospital in-patient psychiatric patients with increased support for transitioning outside the emergency room environment. Requires the Board of Health to promulgate regulations that require each hospital that provides inpatient psychiatric services to establish a protocol that (i) requires, for any refusal to admit a medically stable patient referred to its psychiatric unit, direct verbal communication between the on-call physician in the psychiatric unit and the referring physician, if requested by the referring physician, and (ii) prohibits on-call physicians or other hospital staff from refusing a request for such direct verbal communication by a referring physician. To protect confidentiality, I introduced HB1840 at the request of the Department of Health. This bill states that the results of every test to determine infection with human immunodeficiency virus shall be confidential. Such information may only be released only persons or entities permitted or authorized to obtain protected health information under any applicable federal or state law. When a local coin dealer contacted me to ask me to introduce a bill that will allow Virginians Exempts legal tender coins whose total transaction sales price exceeds $1,000 from sales and use tax and extends from January 1, 2019, to June 30, 2022, the same exemption for gold, silver, or platinum bullion. This bill creates opportunity for Virginia to host much larger trade shows and helps Virginia's small business coin dealers much more competitive in our global economy. It is always especially meaningful to pass legislation that resolves an issue directly impacting constituents and to have constituents make the effort to come testify before committee hearings in Richmond. HB1796 places an end to an issue that has gone on for a few years that has create an impasse between watermen and homeowners. Certain oyster ground leaseholders in the Lynnhaven River are subject to the conduct of approved municipal dredging projects to restore existing navigation channels. The bill limits such projects to oyster grounds that are condemned, restricted, or otherwise nonproductive, and it requires the locality to compensate the lessee for the use of the ground. As the Chair of the General Assembly's Joint Subcommittee on Coastal Flooding, I assisted other members of the committee with advanced legislation that will assist the region in flooding adaption and will directly impact homeowners who take steps to adapt their property by taking steps to reduce their flood risk. My bill to create a Coastal Protection and Flooding Adaption Office advanced through the committee process but was re-referred to the Appropriations Committee to its limited fiscal impact. While I am disappointed that in this tight budget year, the bill was not advanced, I will continue my commitment and advocacy for a more flood ready Commonwealth.