Message from Glen
A day late, but the regular session of the 2019 General Assembly adjourned Sine Die this afternoon. We’ve had a remarkably busy session and we’ve made substantial legislative accomplishments. There is still important work to be done, and I’m committed to continuing to fight for meaningful education reforms, affordable and accessible college programs for our students, and reduced tax burdens for Virginia families that help our economy grow.
Amendments to the 2018-2020 Biennial Budget were approved in both chambers today, with negotiators on behalf of the Senate and House of Delegates reaching an agreement on Saturday morning and with all members having 24 hours to deliberate over the contents. The final budget was remarkably close to what the Senate approved previously, which I’ve highlighted in earlier newsletters.
Importantly - our budget this year funds our top priorities while providing real tax relief to hardworking Virginians. Within this framework, we are providing significant funding for education, including the state’s share of a 5% raise for public school teachers, which will help our communities attract and retain the best teachers.
While I advocated for a more comprehensive and substantial increase in funding for school construction, this budget will provide millions to localities to help build and repair school infrastructure. We also added funds to enhance school safety and increased the availability of certified and credentialed Opportunity Grants at our community colleges.
For most Virginians, the most noticeable result of this year’s General Assembly session will arrive in the fall, when taxpayers receive their tax rebate checks ($110 per individual or $220 for couples). For future years, taxpayers will benefit from a significant tax cut from the first meaningful increase in the standard deduction in 30 years.
This General Assembly Session was very different than the others I’ve experienced during my freshman term. The national scrutiny, the influx of media and news crews on Capitol Square, and the general chaos experienced because of new information about the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General resulted in some truly bizarre moments.
Thankfully, the real story for legislators this year was the commitment to working on behalf of our constituents to make positive improvements to the challenges facing everyday Virginia families.
I’d like to give a special and sincere thanks to our 2019 interns, Paige and James, who were immensely helpful in ensuring that our office ran smoothly this Session. The extra hands during the busiest of days was especially appreciated.
We’ll be returning to the Capitol on April 3 to consider the Governor’s actions on the legislation we’ve approved. Until then, I am excited to get back to the regular schedule of a citizen legislator, husband, and father. It is an honor to represent the 10th district and I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to work on your behalf.
Sturtevant: Funding and freezing college tuition in 2019
The already high cost of a college degree is rising at unsustainable rates in the Commonwealth. Virginia is now ranked 6th highest in the nation for tuition and fees at four-year public colleges and universities. Costs have risen more than 75 percent in just 10 years alone. Without real, meaningful action by the General Assembly and our public colleges and universities, even more students will find themselves priced out of higher education all together.
As more and more of Virginia’s students are having to take on enormous debt to finance a college degree, they and their families are nervous about their financial futures, and rightfully so. Virginia families spend, on average, 32 percent of household income to pay for college. As the father of three young children, all of whom will be in college at the same time, this is a concern I understand firsthand. While my wife and I are working to pay off our own student loans, we are simultaneously saving for our kids’ tuitions.
Every year I have introduced legislation to make college, and continuing education, more affordable and accessible for our current and future students. Providing top-notch education isn’t free — but there must be a balance to ensure that colleges and universities are still accessible for Virginia families. Limiting tuition increases is just part of that puzzle — but it is a very meaningful step for students struggling to afford their education.
As we move forward deliberating over the state budget, my colleagues in the House of Delegates have proposed significant funding for Virginia’s public colleges and universities — which they will receive if they freeze tuition. This is not a mandate for our schools. It is a reasonable common sense approach.
Ensuring that quality, affordable higher education is in reach for all Virginians is a shared responsibility that must be taken seriously by state lawmakers and our public colleges and universities alike. By funding and freezing college tuition, the General Assembly can fulfill our side of the bargain by providing our public institutions with needed revenue without hamstringing our kids’ financial futures.
Offering relief for students and their families from another year of tuition increases while our public colleges get what they need means that everybody wins.
The skyrocketing costs of higher education and the subsequent student debt can severely hinder a student’s future success. Many young adults, faced with making significant payments of student loans into their 30s, are delaying life milestones far longer than those who came before them. That includes home ownership, marriage, and parenthood. It also makes it harder for entrepreneurs pull together resources and start a business.
The average student loan debt for a Virginia graduate in 2017, according to the Institute for College Access and Success, was almost $30,000. And more than 55% of graduates were facing some amount of student loan debt.
Meanwhile, parents and even grandparents are finding themselves reaching further and further into their own pockets to help put their students through college. Parent PLUS loans disbursements have increased over 600 percent in 10 years as Virginia parents struggle to cover the leftover college costs after applying student loans and other financial aid. The number of Virginians over the age of 60 who have student loan debt is now double what it was five years ago.
Without action — this problem is only going to get worse. The House of Delegates has proposed a reasonable way forward that can begin to offer hope and economic relief for those seeking brighter futures. I hope my Senate colleagues join me in giving it the consideration and support that it deserves.
We still have a lot of progress to make, but for the sake of the students and families we represent, our neighbors and our friends, I’m hopeful that this will be a turning point towards a better future.
What’s Happening at the Capitol
Medical students came to Richmond to advocate on behalf of my bill to protect patients and prohibit balanced billing. Their testimony was powerful support for ensuring patients have the best care and aren’t stuck with a bill. Though our bill wasn’t heard in the House of Delegates after earning unanimous support in the Senate, I’m thankful for their help in bringing awareness and thoughtful solutions to the table this year.
Seniors from James River High School joined us at the Capitol to chat with their representatives and learn more about the legislative process.
Jaiden and Jeremiah visited our office from Franklin Military Academy to witness government in action.
It was great to see Dr. Angel Cabrera from George Mason, my alma mater, to discuss college affordability and ensuring funding for Virginia’s public colleges and universities.
Constituents from the League of Conservation Voters stopped by to advocate on behalf of clean energy and other environmental preservation goals.
Students from the Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics met with us to discuss the importance of healthy lifestyles and access to nutritious foods from a young age.
I enjoyed meeting with Richmond area doctors from the Medical Society of Virginia who were participating in their “White Coats on Call” advocacy day.
Message from Glen
The General Assembly approved legislation providing nearly $1 billion in tax relief to Virginia families this week, and today, this important legislation was signed by the Governor. In this package, we are increasing the standard deduction by 50%, providing rebate checks to Virginia taxpayers this year, and largely conforming the Virginia tax code to the federal tax code.
Our plan directly benefits more than four million taxpayers by providing tax rebates in the current year and lowering personal income tax burdens starting in 2020. This is especially helpful for working families who make less than $50,000 a year, who will receive 40% of all rebate checks. Those making $100,000 or less will receive 70% of the rebates.
Providing direct tax relief to hardworking Virginians and reversing the unlegislated tax increase was one of my top priorities this year. My bill to increase the standard deduction was part of this important tax cut equation and represents the first meaningful increase in the standard deduction in three decades. This is the second largest tax cut in Virginia history.
This important legislation passed the Senate on a broad bipartisan vote after initially passing the Senate with only a 21-19 party-line vote two weeks ago. These details have also been incorporated into both budget proposals in the Senate and House of Delegates.
With the Governor’s signature, Virginians can now file their state taxes and you can start actualizing the savings.
Key Provisions of House and Senate Tax Relief Plan
- Returns all $976 million from increased individual provisions of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA)
- Provides a tax refund in October 2019, $110 for individuals and $220 for couples
- Increases the standard deduction by 50% to $4,500/individual and $9,000/couple
- Maintains current state law on SALT, preventing a double tax hike on homeowners
- Includes subtraction modification for Global Intangible Low-taxed Income (GILTI)
- Includes deduction for 20% of net interest expenses
- Places $189 million in Taxpayer Relief Fund
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Virginia Lawmakers Shoot Down Proposal to Give Powhatan County a Say in Cumberland County Landfill Project
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.
Dear Friends --
I am writing today in honor and remembrance of the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks, and the brave and courageous Americans who sacrificed in service to our country.
On this 17th anniversary, we remember and give thanks for all those who served, the fire fighters, police, and EMTs that rushed into harm's way, the passengers who gave their lives on Flight 93, those who worked tirelessly to help the victims and their families, and those in our community who rose up to support all those in need following the attacks.
In the aftermath, we found unity in each other. The American spirit and resolve shone brightly. We came together as a country, stronger and more resilient than ever, in a bond as neighbors, friends, family - as Americans.
Let us never forget the unity, the spirit of service and sacrifice, and the impact of simple kindness that spread throughout America following 9/11. Let’s continue to renew our efforts as fellow Americans to find and focus on those important things that bring us together and unify us.
Today, as we are all going about our day - preparing for Hurricane Florence's landfall, picking up our kids from school, getting tasks completed at work - I hope that we will all take a few minutes to remember the great loss of 9/11, the great sacrifice, and the great response.
Message from Glen
This week and the next few to come focus on the Commonwealth’s 2018–2020 Biennial Budget. On Thursday, the Senate passed our budget proposal, which makes investments in the core functions of government like K-12 education, pro-growth economic policies, transportation infrastructure, and public safety.
The Senate’s budget is fiscally responsible. It does not raise taxes and does not expand the Medicaid entitlement program under Obamacare.
The House of Delegates’ proposed budget includes Medicaid Expansion and creates a new Healthcare Tax to help pay for it.
Our current Medicaid spending is growing at an unsustainable rate and continues to crowd out other core functions of government. As state government spends more and more on Medicaid, there are fewer and fewer dollars to invest in education, ensure roads get paved, and keep our communities safe—functions of government that are vitally important to all Virginians.
The House’s plan will only make these budgeting challenges worse—and it’s premised on the assumption that the federal government will continue to fund a program that it has already said it plans to defund. In fact, several proposals have been made to significantly reduce the federal government’s contribution to the current Medicaid program in addition to the possible reduction or elimination of federal cost sharing for Expansion.
Affordable private health insurance coverage continues to be at the forefront of my legislative work. My bill to make all Virginians eligible to purchase more affordable, low cost healthcare plans passed with bipartisan support in the Senate and will be considered by the House of Delegates next week. This bill will create a new health insurance coverage option for low and middle class Virginians and their families by providing essential health benefits with lower monthly premiums.
Currently, federal law makes these lower cost plans available only to those under 30 years old. My bill unwinds this burdensome federal regulation to make these more affordable health insurance plans available to all Virginians. For example, the average monthly premium for a 21 year old who has this plan is just $167 per month.
I am also co-sponsoring and supporting legislation that increases insurance choices for individuals and small businesses, expands lower-cost healthcare coverage options in the individual market, and increases the number of waivers for intellectually and developmentally disabled Virginians. These are commonsense solutions focused on lowering the cost of monthly premiums and reducing the cost of healthcare.
The House Budget is substantially different than the Senate’s and we will work hard over the next two weeks to reconcile differences and come to a final budget proposal that does not raise taxes on Virginians and that does not expand Obamacare in Virginia.
We have only two weeks left before adjournment on March 10, and if you’d like to make a trip to the Capitol during this time, our office would be happy to help arrange your visit. Please keep in touch on matters of importance to you and our community by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students from James River High School joined us this morning in the Senate Chamber!
I enjoyed meeting with representatives and students from the Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics again this year!
Working with constituent Dave Edmunds, my bill to protect seniors from loss of retirement security through pension de-risking passed in the House Commerce and Labor subcommittee.
Career and Technical Students from Thomas Jefferson High visited the Capitol to learn more about state government and watch the Senate’s floor Session!
I appreciated the opportunity to meet with the American Cancer Society this week.
Michelle Cottrell-Williams was recognized by the Virginia Senate this week for earning the incredible honor of 2018 Virginia Teacher of the Year. As the husband of a school teacher, I greatly appreciate Michelle’s dedication to her students.
In the News
“Former city school board members pitch paid apprenticeships, tax credits in bipartisan bill” – WRIC – ABC 8, 2-22-18
“Editorial: Some good ideas for health care” – Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2-22-18
"Virginia Seeks to Expand Mental Health Services" –WCVE PBS, 2-16-18
“Here's where key legislation stands at the session's midpoint” – Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2-14-18
"Virginia Senate unanimously approves Richmond school facilities bill" - Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2-12-18
"Senate approves bill to give Richmond businesses tax credits for employing city students" - Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2-5-18
"Richmond Public Schools Referendum Advances to Senate Floor" - WCVE PBS, 2-7-18