General Assembly Session 2022 – An Overview

On March 12, 2022, the General Assembly adjourned after 60 days of fervent discussion on a variety of bills and talks of the state budget. With this formal session over, what has been decided so far and what has been rejected?

Governor Youngkin has called for a Special Session to begin on April 4. The purpose of this special session is to finalize the 2023-2024 state budget. Any updates will be indicated on URGOV.

Update, April 4 – After more than an hour, the special session ended with little to nothing being accomplished. Some legislators were glad to have the opportunity to speak to other legislators, but many found the session to be a waste of time. Typically, specific conferees meet to negotiate on budget issues privately, but having the whole legislature meet was unnecessary.

The General Structure of How a Bill Becomes Law
The House of Delegates and the Senate receive their own set of bills that they discuss and vote for or against. The corresponding abbreviations for such bills would be HB000 (House Bill) or SB000 (Senate Bill). However, sometimes a House or Senate bill also has a corresponding version shown to the other chamber. The first few days of a session have each chamber finalize their decisions on the bills set in front of them. For all the bills passed, it must still be approved by the other chamber. This is an especially important point for this session, as both the House of Delegates has slightly more Republican members while the Senate has slightly more Democratic members. It is very possible that one chamber may expect their approved bill to be “killed” once delivered to the other chamber, which could be described in different ways. Some ways include a bill being “Passed by Indefinitely,” “left,” or “tabled,” which all roughly mean that if the chamber does not return to the bill, it will be killed.

Below is an image from UVA’s Office of State Government Relations on an overview of the Virginia Legislative Process:

Education
HB 787 – This bill can be summarized as prohibiting schools from teaching any “unlawful or discriminatory” teachings on race or sex, was met with a protest by the Democrats in the House. Democrats introduced different amendments to allow teachers to discuss certain topics, but they were all rejected. Ultimately, the bill passed 50-49, with all Democrats and one Republican against it. However, a similar version of this bill reached the Senate (SB570) regarding the prohibition of “inherently divisive concepts” being taught in schools, and this was shut down. On March 3, the Senate Sub-Committee of Public Education voted to let it pass by indefinitely, thus killing the bill.

HB 1009 – This bill was passed by the Senate, ensuring that there is parental notification of any instructional material that includes sexually explicit content. When the bill traveled to the Senate, the subcommittee of Education and Health defeated the bill.

Gun laws
HB 509 – The House approved this bill as a repeal of the “red-flag law” approved by Democrats in 2020. That law was to allow a judge to temporarily confiscate weapons from someone determined to be a threat to themselves or others. The Republicans in the House were arguing that this goes against a person’s rights to bear arms and have their personal property. When it reached the Senate, the Committee on the Judiciary had the bill pass by indefinitely, and thus fail.

SB 8 – In a moment of unanimous decision, both the Senate and House passed Senate Bill 8 allowing Sunday hunting on public or private lands, as long “as it takes place more than 200 yards from a place of worship.”

Higher Education
HB 484 – This bill allows full-time postsecondary college students to receive the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families without requiring that they work. Previously they would require proof of employment and re-apply every two years, which puts 4-year college students at a disadvantage. Both the House and Senate have approved the bill, so the bill is waiting for the approval of the Governor.

SB 159/HB 732 – Two very similar bills were introduced to the House and Senate. Both would have it so public higher education institutions cannot refuse to provide students diplomas or transcripts due to the students owing debt. The Senate passed SB 159, but the House did not follow with their version of the bill (HB 732) and they also defeated the Senate bill as well.

HB 457 – This bill would have it so if an individual comes forward with a “good faith report of an act of sexual violence,” they will be immune to disciplinary actions, such as violation of curfew or other issues. This bill would likely allow for more reporting of sexual violence, as there is no longer a fear of punishment. However, the bill did not pass the Education subcommittee.

SB 439/ HB 525 – The bills would require higher education institutions to formulate and conduct “hazing prevention training that includes extensive, current, and in-person education about hazing, the dangers of hazing, including alcohol intoxication, and hazing laws and institution policies and information explaining that the institution’s disciplinary process is not to be considered a substitute for the criminal legal process.” This would greatly protect students from the dangers of hazing. Both versions of the bill were fully passed, so all that is left is the Governor’s signature.

SB 223/ HB 507 – These bills protect student athletes from their institutions withholding compensation from them when their name or likeness is used, not allowing student-athletes to have legal representation in issues of using their likeness, and the bills prohibit institutions from taking away opportunities or treating them differently based on their compensation. The House and Senate approved the bills, so if the Governor signs off on it, it will be law.

Abortion
HB 304 – HB 304 details that if an infant is alive after a failed abortion, medical professionals are required to provide treatment and care, or else face a penalty. The House passed this bill, but the Senate’s Rules Subcommittee had it pass by indefinitely.

HB 212 – The bill would require medical professionals to follow certain procedures and processes to “effect a pregnant woman’s informed written consent” before an abortion can be performed. While the House passed the bill, the Senate’s Education and Health subcommittee had the bill pass by indefinitely.

Finances
HB 320 – This bill would repeal certain provisions of the Code of Virginia related to increasing the state minimum wage to more than $11.00 per hour. The bill also repeals provisions related to increasing the state minimum wage based on an annual adjusted minimum wage determined by the Department of Labor and Industry. This would give precedence to not increase minimum wage, which would be dangerous for low-income communities. This bill was passed by the House but defeated in the Senate.

Voting
HB 46 – This bill would require some form of photo identification in order to vote. As of now, Virginian residents can show non-photo identification as well to vote. This bill passed the Senate, but was defeated by the Senate’s subcommittee on Privileges and Elections.

Climate Change
HB 74 – This bill allows for “EITE industries” to be exempt from the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which was passed in 2020 and outlines a path for Virginia to get to zero carbon emissions by 2050. EITE industries are defined as “companies that are constrained in their ability to pass through carbon costs due to international competition, companies that engage in importation of products that cause emission leakage, and critical infrastructure facilities identified by certain federal agencies.” The House passed this bill, but was defeated in the Senate.

SB 708 – This bill would establish a “driving decarbonization program and fund to assist developers with non-utility costs associated with the installation of electric vehicle charging stations.” The bill passed the Senate but was tabled by the House’s committee on Appropriations.

Changing the State Constitution
SJ 5 – This would “repeal the constitutional provision defining marriage as only a union between one man and one woman as well as the related provisions that are no longer valid as a result of the United States Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.” This passed the Senate but was left in the committee of Privileges and Elections in the House.

State Budget
The Budget has not been finalized by the end of the 60 day regular session. However, many legislators believe that a compromise is on the horizon.

One notable topic has been on the 2.5% tax on groceries. Many dislike this tax as it often hits low-income communities the hardest. Both the House and Senate agreed to end the 1.5% portion of the tax. However, while Governor Youngkin and the Senate are for removing the whole 2.5%, the Senate wished for 1% to remain to give to localities. Local governments don’t particularly care for the tax, but the revenue is often used for needed improvements to public transportation and other services, so losing revenue to localities could be harmful.

Governor Youngkin also wished to double the standard deduction for state income taxes. The House approves of this, but the Senate decided to postpone the choice to a year later so that more research can be done on its effects.

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