2019 Session - Virginia Senate Update - Glen Sturtevant

2019 Session - Virginia Senate Update

Message from Glen

Dear Friends - 

This year’s General Assembly Session is the 400th Anniversary of the oldest continuous elected legislature in the country and we’ve had a busy session so far. In just 46 short days, we will consider about two thousand bills from senators and delegates from across the commonwealth.

I have a full legislative agenda this year focusing on meaningful education reforms, college affordability, reducing healthcare costs, and cutting taxes. To view a full list of the legislation I am sponsoring this year, please visit: http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?191+mbr+S99C.

Education, SOL Reform, and Workforce Development

As the father of three kids in elementary school, I understand the importance of ensuring that our youngest generation has access to a top notch education that prepares them for life after high school.

A big challenge for teachers and parents remains that our students are over-tested with the SOLs, which focus too heavily on memorization and do not accurately measure critical thinking, writing, and comprehension. We are making positive progress this year, and my bill to reduce the number of SOLs was combined with another bill that will allow for more alternative end-of-year testing by localities. This important legislation passed in the Education and Health Committee last week and will be voted on by the full Senate in the upcoming days.

Additionally, I have several bills focusing on addressing some of the challenges facing students and their families, including a bill to create more flexibility for school administrators to creatively address behavior issues without being forced to refer those cases to law enforcement, as well as creating a new pilot program for STEM teachers to receive microcredentials in order to stay up to date on the newest technologies.

Again this year, Delegate Bourne and I are sponsoring a pilot program for paid apprenticeships and internships for high school juniors and seniors to create a workforce pathway for students who want good, high-paying jobs in fields that don’t require a college degree.

College Affordability

Every year, college tuition goes up.  And yet students and their families really have no voice in that process.  Thankfully, my bill to require that colleges provide an opportunity for public comment before deciding to increase tuition passed out of committee last week.  This will give those Virginia students and families a voice in the process and hopefully provide our colleges with another perspective on their annual tuition-setting decisions.

I also sponsored a tuition control bill again this year.  The bill would cap college tuition increases at two times the rate of inflation.  So, if inflation for the previous year was 1%, the college could increase tuition by no more than 2%.  This is a way to try to keep tuition increases in line with the increase in the cost of goods and services, as well as trying to protect Virginia families from out-of-control tuition increases that bear no relation to reality or to their paychecks.

Healthcare Affordability

The rising cost of healthcare continues to be a top concern for Virginians. This year I am sponsoring legislation to end “balance billing” that unfairly hurts patients, in addition to bills to increase access to lower cost healthcare plans, and allow nurse practitioners more opportunities to practice autonomously to increase access and lower costs for many patients.

In 2018, I introduced legislation to comprehensively study balance billing and find solutions to protect patients. “Balance billing” typically occurs after a visit to the hospital when unbeknownst to you, the doctor that was assigned to you was not covered by your insurance company.  After your insurance company pays the doctor the in-network amount for the medical care, the doctor then “balance bills” you for the rest of the bill as an out-of-network patient. You’re stuck with the bill even though you had no control over which doctor was assigned to you and you expected your medical care would be covered by insurance.  I’ve heard from countless constituents who have struggled with these bills and other healthcare billing issues. So this year, we’re working on a comprehensive solution to prohibit balance billing, and create a framework for doctors to be compensated and patients to be protected from balance billing.

I’m also working to reform the Certificate of Public Need process.  This is an antiquated, 1970s-era bureaucratic process that requires the state to approve the creation of a new healthcare facility.  As part of the process, competitors of the prospective new healthcare facility are permitted to oppose the creation of the new facility and say why the new facility is not needed.  In many cases, this process simply kills competition (and, therefore, more access and lower prices) and helps protect monopoly-like healthcare and hospital systems.

Tax Cuts

As you’ve probably read in the newspaper, the federal tax cuts that went into effect this past year have a significant impact on your state taxes as well.  If the General Assembly does not make some important modifications to Virginia’s tax laws, many middle-class Virginians will actually see a tax increase on their state tax returns.  

Both the Senate and House of Delegates are working on proposed plans to address this and provide a meaningful tax cut for Virginia families.  I am carrying a bill to increase the Virginia state standard deduction to match the federal standard deduction. Virginia hasn’t meaningfully increased our standard deduction in three decades, which leads to a higher tax bill for anyone who wants to use the standard deduction on their federal taxes.

There are several other options that are under consideration, but whatever the final tax reform plan looks like, my focus is on working to ensure that Virginians actually get a state tax cut for the first time in a long time.

Transparency in Government Finances

More and more Virginia localities are beginning to post their check registers online.  This is a transparent way for citizens to see exactly how their county or city is spending their tax dollars.  I am carrying a bill again this year that would require all Virginia localities to do the same and post their check registers online so that residents, the media, and watchdogs can better ensure their limited financial resources are being used wisely.

Protecting Localities from Landfills

If you live or work in Powhatan, you’re probably aware that our neighbor to the west, Cumberland County, is working to develop a mega landfill just over the Powhatan line off of Route 60.  This will have an enormous impact on the Powhatan residents who live near the proposed landfill site, but it also has a significant impact on the rest of Powhatan and Chesterfield Counties. It is estimated that hundreds and hundreds of trash trucks are projected to travel Route 60 each and every day going to and from the landfill.  

Delegate Lee Ware and I carried a bill this session that would require any locality that plans to build a landfill must first get approval from any neighboring locality that is within five miles of the landfill site.  In this case, this bill would have required Powhatan County’s approval before the landfill could move forward. Sadly, the landfill industry was able to defeat that bill in committee. This issue was covered by the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the article is provided below.  

We are still working on another bill to require VDOT to perform a comprehensive traffic study before the landfill can move forward, which may be another opportunity to provide some relief and protection for Powhatan residents.  That bill will be heard in committee this week.

Ending Gerrymandering

Gerrymandering is as old as politics and both parties have done it.  It’s the practice of politicians picking their voters, instead of the other way around.  I was proud the carry the bill that was developed by OneVirginia2021 to work to end gerrymandering in Virginia, but unfortunately our legislation did not pass in committee last week.  

But we’re not done yet and I am continuing to work to put anti-gerrymandering provisions in place in the redistricting legislation that is still moving through the legislative process. Stay tuned for developments on this important issue.

While this is brief overview of the bills I am carrying this year, I hope you will take a moment to look at my full legislative package and provide feedback. Additionally, many of you may be interested in live streaming or watching archived committee meetings of this year’s Session. You can check those out by visiting: https://virginia-senate.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=3

If you’d like to schedule a visit during Session, go on a tour of the Capitol, or share your thoughts about legislation, please call my office at (804) 698-7510. Please do not hesitate to contact me about matters of importance to you and our shared community.

Sincerely,
Glen


Virginia Lawmakers Shoot Down Proposal to Give Powhatan County a Say in Cumberland County Landfill Project

Article by Graham Moomaw, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1-25-19

Good fences make good neighbors. Building a dump right on the boundary line apparently causes trouble.

Cumberland County’s decision to approve a 1,200-acre landfill right next to its border has irritated some of its neighbors in Powhatan County. But Powhatan residents who say they’ll now have to live next to a mega-landfill they had no say in won’t be getting any help from the Virginia General Assembly.

On Thursday, a Senate committee voted 14-0 to kill a bill brought by Sen. Glen Sturtevant, R-Richmond, that would’ve forced Cumberland to get Powhatan’s permission before proceeding with the landfill project.

Sturtevant’s Senate Bill 1761 would have required approval from any locality within a 5-mile radius of a new landfill project. Even though the landfill is in Cumberland, Sturtevant said, it will bring an estimated 250 trash trucks down U.S. Route 60, affecting his constituents in Powhatan and Chesterfield counties.

“This is not saying you can’t build a landfill,” Sturtevant told the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee. “It’s just saying don’t do it in a way that abuses your neighbor.”

Sturtevant’s colleagues didn’t buy that line of argument, saying they were worried about the ramifications of requiring one locality to get permission from its neighbor for an economic development project.

“They are not on the beaten path for economic development,” said Sen. Frank Ruff, R-Mecklenburg. “I would be very concerned about us leaving them in the lurch after they spent the money of going through the process.”

The website for the Green Ridge landfill says the project will create more than 35 jobs and pay Cumberland $1.3 million to $2.7 million in host fees in addition to additional tax revenue.

Two members of the Cumberland Board of Supervisors attended Thursday’s hearing to oppose the bill.

“It is landfills today,” said Cumberland Supervisor David Meinhard. “But what might be the industry or business that we want to aim at next time?”

Bea Gonzalez, a lobbyist for County Waste of Virginia, the company behind the Green Ridge landfill, said the bill would pit localities against each other and could lead to “skyrocketing” waste management costs for localities and businesses.

“This legislation sets an incredible precedent,” Gonzalez said.

Sturtevant said his bill applies only to landfills, and would force localities to take their neighbors into consideration or avoid the issue altogether by putting the landfill far enough away from a neighboring locality that the new law wouldn’t apply.

“There is no recourse for the folks in Powhatan as it currently stands,” Sturtevant said.

Powhatan resident Victoria Ronnau said she was worried the water supply for the hundreds of Powhatan residents who live near the site could be jeopardized by a landfill they had no control over.

“They didn’t want it in their county,” Ronnau said of Cumberland. “And they put it on us.”

The Virginia Association of Counties, which represents county governments throughout the state, also opposed the bill.

“I get that this upsets your constituents. I understand that,” Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Stafford, told Sturtevant. “But how would Powhatan feel if every time they wanted to do an economic development project ... they had to get Cumberland’s permission?”


What’s Happening in the Capitol

Lots of constituents have taken time out of their busy schedules to come to the General Assembly and advocate on behalf of the issues that are most important to them! Martin Luther King Jr. Day is usually one of the busiest days for visitors at the Capitol – and this week was no different. It was great seeing so many friends and neighbors.

Lori and Ethan joined me for the  State of the Commonwealth address on the opening night of Session.

It was great to see students from Powhatan High School’s Advanced College Academy again this year.

Citizen advocates from the Arc of Virginia were hard at work advocating for greater access to developmental waivers.

It was an honor to be recognized as the Humane Legislator of the Year by constituent members of the Humane Society of Virginia.

Students from St. Gertrude’s High School visited the Capitol and stopped by to chat about affordable higher education.

Girl Scouts from Daisy Troop 552 stopped by on a snow day to learn more about Mr. Jefferson’s Capitol.

I enjoyed chatting with members and employees of local credit unions on their annual lobby day.