Delegate Wiley’s Richmond Roundup: 2023 Legislative Report
As this legislative session comes to a close, I wish to extend my gratitude to each of you for sending my team to Richmond on your behalf. During our time at the capitol, we met with individuals from all industries and walks of life. We are glad to be home but still remain strongly committed to working toward the Valley’s priorities of efficient transportation, strong education and an affordable way of life.
Transportation & I-81 Corridor
This year, we continued to discuss problem areas in our transportation system. The House budget included funds to improve spots on Interstate 64 and 81. Our area is home to individuals who commute, and we are driven to revamp our infrastructure to meet the needs of our workforce. I will continue to push efforts to improve I-81.
We continued to emphasize the need to improve our educational system in Virginia by providing more support to teachers and funding to schools. Teachers have an extraordinarily difficult job, which has only been exacerbated in the past few years. My colleagues and I introduced several pieces of legislation to empower teachers with the support needed to reestablish normalcy in their classrooms. However, a divide between House Republicans and the Democrat-controlled Senate halted bills that would’ve increased transparency and parents’ rights. One success I am glad to see HB1526 move to the Governor’s desk to establish an updated scope and sequence for literacy in grades four through eight.
Supporting our Veterans
One area of specific focus for my team was improving the quality of life and services for our veterans. Retaining veteran families here in Virginia and providing them with support was at the heart of several bills I carried this session, including HB2362, which provides burial fees for military spouses. I also was the chief co-patron of HB1470 that will provide a tax exemption for certain disabled veterans and their surviving spouses.
Setting Virginia’s budget is the primary responsibility of the General Assembly. I’m disappointed to say that we did not get that work accomplished in our 45-day window. The House budget that we passed includes significant tax relief for Virginians to ensure more of your hard-earned money stays in your pocket. As inflation continues to burden families, The House voted for several measures to lower costs. My Republican colleagues and I created a budget to reduce your electricity bill, ease the process of purchasing a car, and raise the standard deduction to minimize your tax burden. Democrats in the Senate prevented these measures. The “stopgap” budget we passed will hold us over until a more permanent agreement can be reached.
While not all of our efforts were successful this session, I remain sound in my commitment to serving our district. The City of Winchester and Frederick County are great places to live and work. It is my honor to represent you in the House of Delegates. I look forward to continuing to advocate for the issues we care about as your voice in Richmond as we transition into District 32.
If I can be of assistance to you and your family, please do not hesitate to reach out.
All the best,
Delegate Bill Wiley
Virginia House of Delegates – 32nd District (new)
District Office: 540-686-1771
P.O. Box 2034 Winchester, VA 22812
Warner calls on State Department to address problems with passport renewal processing ahead of summer travel
With summer just around the corner, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) has seen a steady rise in requests for assistance regarding passport applications and renewals. Many constituents are expressing frustration caused by prolonged and unexplained delays as to the status of their travel documents. Today, Sen. Warner sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken to ensure that the State Department is taking proper steps to clear the passport backlog and fulfill renewal requests.
Specifically, Sen. Warner wrote to Sec. Blinken regarding the now-closed Online Passport Renewal (OPR) System, which received more than 500,000 requests from August 2022 to February 2023. The online system has been unable to keep up with demand, leaving travelers scrambling to replace their passports at the last minute. In addition to costly delays, many constituents who filed to renew their passports online are receiving little to no information on the progress being made with applications regardless of how well in advance of planned travel their requests were filed, leaving many in limbo waiting for their documents.
“In an increasingly online age, I welcome the ability for my constituents to renew their passports through a secure paperless process,” wrote Sen. Warner. “However, the OPR system seems to be fraught with significant errors that have caused Virginians headaches, stress, and, unfortunately, in some instances, delayed or missed travel. Simply put, the service my constituents have received is unacceptable.”
In his letter, Sen. Warner posed a series of questions to better understand how the State Department plans to address the backlog:
· How does the agency’s handling of passport applications submitted online differ from those that are filed through traditional processes, either by applying at a Passport Acceptance Facility in person or by U.S. Mail?
· How does the agency determine the assignment of OPR applications to their Passport Agencies across the country? How does this compare to the assignment of traditional applications received?
· What is the current average processing time of an application submitted through the OPR process compared to those submitted through the traditional process? Please indicate the processing time for applications submitted under both expedited and routine processing.
· Does agency data reflect that some Passport Agencies are more successful in processing OPR applications timely than others? If so, what does the agency believe is the source of this imbalance, and how is the agency addressing this problem?
· Members of my staff have been told by Passport Agency officials that “technical issues” can at times, impede the processing of an OPR application and that officials must transfer the application into the traditional system for final processing. Can you further explain these technical issues and what steps the agency is taking to fix these issues?
Sen. Warner’s constituent casework team works daily to help Virginians with a variety of federal agency needs, including help with passport renewal. Constituents experiencing any problems with new passport applications or passport renewals through both online and traditional applications can reach out to Sen. Warner for assistance through his website, available here.
A copy of the letter can be found below.
Dear Secretary Blinken:
I write today to express my concern and frustration with the State Department’s Online Passport Renewal (OPR) system.
The OPR system opened to the public in a pilot status in August 2022, and the agency reports it received more than 500,000 applications before they system closed in February 2023. During that time, many Virginians participated in utilizing this system to submit their passport renewals. Since the start of 2023, my office has received a significant increase in requests from Virginians who are experiencing considerable delays in the processing of their renewal applications filed through the OPR system prior to its closure. In many cases, my constituents filed well in advance of their travel date and paid for expedited processing. That said, the applicants still faced delays and, in some cases, ultimately needed to physically travel to a Passport Agency, often the day before their scheduled travel, in order to have their passport issued.
In an increasingly online age, I welcome the ability for my constituents to renew their passports through a secure paperless process. However, the OPR system seems to be fraught with significant errors that have caused Virginians headaches, stress, and unfortunately in some instances, delayed or missed travel. Simply put, the service my constituents have received is unacceptable. Therefore, I ask that you please address the following questions:
1. How does the agency’s handling of passport applications submitted online differ from those that are filed through traditional processes, either by applying at a Passport Acceptance Facility in person or by U.S. Mail?
2. How does the agency determine the assignment of OPR applications to their Passport Agencies across the country? How does this compare to the assignment of traditional applications received?
3. What is the current average processing time of an application submitted through the OPR process compared to those submitted through the traditional process? Please indicate the processing time for applications submitted under both expedited and routine processing.
4. Does agency data reflect that some Passport Agencies are more successful in processing OPR applications timely than others? If so, what does the agency believe is the source of this imbalance, and how is the agency addressing this problem?
5. Members of my staff have been told by Passport Agency officials that “technical issues” can at times impede the processing of an OPR application and that officials must transfer the application into the traditional system for final processing. Can you further explain these technical issues and what steps the agency is taking to fix these issues?
My office has been told that the agency is experiencing “an unprecedented volume of early demand for passports this year.” I commend officials at Passport Agencies across the country for their tireless work in adjudicating millions of passport applications each year. However, it appears that the OPR system’s flaws are directly inhibiting this effort, and I look forward to understanding how the agency will address existing challenges and improve the system for future use.
Rep. Ben Cline votes to end Biden’s War on America’s Energy
On March 30, 2023, Congressman Ben Cline (VA-06) voted for, and the U.S. House of Representatives passed, the Lower Energy Costs Act (H.R. 1). This legislation will restore America’s energy independence and reduce costs by increasing domestic energy production; cutting burdensome government red tape; and reforming the permitting process.
“Families in Virginia and across the Nation have been hit hard by the high fuel prices caused by the anti-energy policies of the Biden Administration,” said Cline. “Joe Biden has waged war on our energy independence. That war ended today as House Republicans passed the Lower Energy Costs Act, which will work to put America back in the driver’s seat on domestic energy production so folks can keep more of their hard-earned paychecks.”
The Lower Energy Costs Act (H.R. 1) will cement into law key provisions to reduce costs and return America to energy independence:
1) Spurs responsible development of domestic energy and mineral resources.
2) Maximizes efficiency and minimizes delays for hardrock mining projects on federal land by extending existing permitting efficiencies to mineral development and limiting claims on mine projects to those filed within 120 days of final agency action.
3) Modernizes the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to further energy and infrastructure development without sacrificing environmental standards or public involvement.
4) Reverses anti-energy policies advanced by the Biden Administration.
5) Streamlines energy exports.
For a section-by-section summary of the bill, click here.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – March 29, 2023
It was a short but busy week in Washington as House Republicans were working to get Big Government out of the way. We passed parent-friendly legislation to ensure they are in charge and have a voice in their children’s education, and we voted to overturn President Biden’s veto of a bipartisan resolution that would protect Americans’ retirement savings. Further, officials from the Biden Administration came before several subcommittees on which I serve, where I demanded answers and accountability on behalf of the American people. As always, it was a pleasure to meet with constituents and see friendly faces around the Capitol. House Republicans’ hard work in the new majority to deliver on our Commitment to America is only just beginning, and I look forward to continuing our efforts to ensure a brighter future for Virginia’s Sixth District.
Reclaiming the Role of Parents in Their Children’s Education
Under the Biden Administration, the Department of Justice and the FBI have been investigating parents who voice their concerns about what is happening in their children’s schools. Parents are furious that the government and school boards are working together to silence them.
Parents know what’s best for their children’s education, not the government. That’s why I was proud to vote for, and the U.S. House of Representatives passed, the Parents’ Bill of Rights Act (H.R. 5), which puts parents back in control of their child’s education and ensures parents have the tools needed to hold schools accountable. For more information, click here or below.
Fighting the President’s Counterattack on Seniors’ Savings
This week, House Republicans voted to overturn President Biden’s veto of our efforts to nullify the Administration’s attempt to greenlight environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing in retirement plans. Financial managers should prioritize maximum returns and retirement security for the American worker, not be forced to fund Biden’s woke ESG agenda with their money. While I’m disappointed that Democrats overwhelmingly refused to join us, I won’t stop fighting to protect Americans’ retirement savings.
Biden’s Budget: Deficits, Inflation, and… National Gun Registries??
President Biden’s $6.9 trillion tax-and-spend budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2024 won’t just fuel inflation and skyrocket our national debt — it will also give agencies more funding to enforce unconstitutional gun regulations. Biden’s budget proposes $2 billion for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) — a $200 million increase from last year — which has been working to ban pistol braces and inch closer to a national gun registry.
During a Budget Committee hearing, I asked the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Shalanda Young point blank whether this funding would be used for a national gun registry, and wasn’t pleased that she could not give me a straight answer. Rest assured I’ll continue fighting for fiscal responsibility and to ensure our Second Amendment rights are protected from gross government overreach. See the full questioning here or below.
Bringing Transparency: Department of Justice Inspector General
The Justice Department subjected moms and dads to the opening of an FBI investigation about them, the establishment of an FBI case file that includes their political views, and the application of a “threat tag” to their names as a direct result of voicing their concerns about their children’s education. As my Subcommittee on Responsiveness to Oversight has been demanding documents from DOJ, we found that there was no legitimate basis for AG Garland’s directive to target parents. In fact, the FBI misused federal law enforcement and counterterrorism resources to do so.
During a hearing in the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science, I asked the DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz whether he would conduct an internal investigation of the DOJ and FBI’s abuse of power. It is a shame that he would not commit to an investigation, but my Republicans colleagues and I on the House Judiciary Committee will. See the full questioning here or below.
Department of Commerce Inspector General
The Constitution, which I always carry a copy of, lays out the role of Congress to promote “the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” I spoke with the Department of Commerce’s Inspector General Peggy Gustafson about the department’s role in fulfilling this mission in a fiscally responsible manner while shielding fraudulent applications from America’s patents, trademarks, and copyrights. In addition, I asked her about troubles with the 2020 Census and room for improvement. See the full questioning here or below.
Top Issues of the Week
I joined “Mornings with Maria” on Fox Business to discuss House Republicans’ efforts to stand up for parents and pass our Parents’ Bill of Rights. Watch a clip from the interview here or below.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please get in touch with my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.
For the latest updates from Washington and across the Sixth District, please follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the latest updates.
Warner on the Senate vote to repeal the AUMFs for the Gulf and Iraq wars
U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement after the Senate voted to repeal the 1991 and 2002 authorizations for use of military force (AUMFs) against Iraq:
“It’s long past time that Congress re-assert its authority to responsibly wield the power to declare war, and I’m proud to support repealing the outdated authorizations for use of military force against Iraq.
“That we have reached this moment at all is thanks largely to the determined leadership of my friend and colleague Tim Kaine. Over years of steady, relentless focus, he has been a consistent and, at times lonely, voice of clarity calling for Congress to pay attention to its constitutional prerogatives, and through will and hard work, he and Sen. Young have corralled the bipartisan coalition that made today’s vote possible. Tim’s staunch stewardship of this legislation is a credit to his unwavering commitment to our troops and honoring the many sacrifices we ask of them in defense of our freedoms.”
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – March 17, 2023
This week in Congress, the House passed legislation ensuring Americans’ First Amendment rights; overturning EPA’s burdensome WOTUS rule; and, in a moment of bipartisanship, a bill requiring information on the origins of COVID-19. Additionally, it was a week of firsts in Washington as I chaired my first subcommittee hearing on the Biden Administration’s compliance to congressional oversight and had the high privilege of serving as Speaker pro tempore of the House of Representatives. Further, President Biden released his $6.9 trillion budget proposal, which doubles down on more taxes and policies that continue the spiral of financial hardships that hurts families across Virginia. Lastly, I was pleased to recognize the 50th anniversary of the Winchester Rescue Mission on the House Floor and had the opportunity to meet with constituents and see friendly faces around the Capitol. As House Republicans work to ensure freedom, transparency, and prosperity continues, I look forward to being back home with those I am fighting for in Congress.
COVID-19 Origin Act
With each passing day, the real role that China and a complicit media played in spreading falsehoods as to the origin and spread of COVID becomes clearer. In an effort to expose the truth, Congress unanimously passed 419-0, the COVID-19 Origin Act (H.R. 1376), which requires the Biden Administration to declassify all information relating to potential links between the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the origin of COVID-19. Passing this legislation ensures that Americans are finally going to get the answers they deserve.
Attacking Government Censorship, Restoring Freedom
Far too many times we have seen agencies of the federal government weaponize their power by pressuring social media companies to censor Americans’ views online. Government agencies such as the FBI and the State Department have been secretly working with Big Tech to censor conservative views and suppress stories that don’t fit their narrative, like the COVID-19 lab leak theory. This week, House Republicans passed the Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act (H.R. 140), which prohibits federal bureaucrats from colluding with private platforms to silence lawful speech by expanding the Hatch Act, which prevents federal employees from engaging in political activities in their official capacity. Americans have the right to express themselves lawfully online without government suppression.
Protecting Our Farmers, Checking the EPA
Agriculture is the number one industry in Virginia, and the Sixth District is proud to be home to more than 8,000 farms. Unfortunately, the Biden Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working to regulate every pond and puddle, saddling folks with costly red tape. President Biden’s rule redefining “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act expands the federal bureaucracy’s regulatory power and broadens the EPA’s jurisdiction by failing to define what waters are covered. This new rule is going to negatively impact the vital goods and services that farmers, ranchers, and small businesses provide to the Commonwealth and the Nation. That’s why I was proud to vote for and that the House passed H.J. Res. 27 to block the Biden EPA’s overreaching WOTUS rule and protect small businesses and farmers from government overreach of power.
Oversight in Action
As Chairman of the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Responsiveness and Accountability to Oversight, I held my first hearing to try and get to the bottom of why the Department of Justice and Department of Education have ignored hundreds of Judiciary Committee letters requesting information on the agencies’ role in targeting parents at school board meetings. During the hearing, I was able to question DOJ and DOE Legislative Affairs officials on the agencies’ refusal to comply with requests for documents on their role in the targeting of parents at school board meetings in Virginia and across the country. While I’m pleased the witnesses came before our subcommittee and pledged cooperation, one thing was abundantly clear: we need answers from these agencies, and they better stand ready to come back up to Capitol Hill if they don’t provide them.
Advocating for an Effective USDA
When I speak with farmers up and down the district, they always tell me they want a USDA that assists, not obstructs, their efforts. This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General testified before the House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee on recent investigations into wasteful spending at the agency. I spoke about how the SNAP program must operate effectively and be held accountable to the taxpayers that fund it.
The Fight for a Balanced Budget and Prosperous Economy is Just Beginning
Late, bloated, and inflationary, President Biden released his Fiscal Year 2024 budget proposal to Congress. The $6.9 TRILLION tax-and-spend budget would continue the downward economic spiral hard-working Americans have faced over the last two years. Instead of addressing our unsustainable $31.5 trillion debt and soaring deficits, Biden’s budget is more of the same: more taxes, more costly regulations, and more inflationary spending. In the coming weeks, House Republicans will put forward a budget that actually works toward getting our fiscal house in order by reining in out-of-control spending and putting us on a path to balance.
The Winchester Rescue Mission
I was pleased to recognize the Winchester Rescue Mission on celebrating 50 years of caring for the homeless in our community. In 1973, Morris Whitaker took out a $20,000 loan and bought a building to convert it into a homeless shelter for men, and the Rescue Mission was born. Over a decade later, the Rescue Mission extensively expanded its operations to help more people in need, adding a commercial kitchen and increasing the number of beds. Today, the organization provides shelter for both men and women, and will offer even more services to help local residents without permanent housing get back on their feet. I was glad to recognize the Winchester Rescue Mission on the House Floor for its 50th anniversary, and wish the organization another 50 years of success.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.
For the latest updates from Washington and across the Sixth District, please follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the latest updates.
Warner & Thune announce bipartisan co-sponsors for their bill to tackle national security threats from foreign tech
U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and John Thune (R-SD), ranking member of the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband, announced six new bipartisan co-sponsors for the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act, legislation that will comprehensively address the ongoing threat posed by technology from foreign adversaries by better empowering the Department of Commerce to review, prevent, and mitigate information communications and technology transactions that pose undue risk to our national security.
U.S. Sens. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) have signed on to the bill in the last week. This announcement brings the total number of cosponsors to 18 – nine Democrats and nine Republicans. The legislation has also been endorsed by the White House.
“We are pleased by the growing support for our sensible, bipartisan bill to establish a comprehensive, risk-based approach to tackle technology threats from countries like China and Russia,” said Sens. Warner and Thune.
The Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act would:
• Require the Secretary of Commerce to establish procedures to identify, deter, disrupt, prevent, prohibit, and mitigate transactions involving information and communications technology products in which any foreign adversary has any interest and poses undue or unacceptable risk to national security;
• Prioritize evaluation of information communications and technology products used in critical infrastructure, integral to telecommunications products, or pertaining to a range of defined emerging, foundational, and disruptive technologies with serious national security implications;
• Ensure comprehensive actions to address risks of untrusted foreign information communications and technology products by requiring the Secretary to take up consideration of concerning activity identified by other government entities;
• Educate the public and business community about the threat by requiring the Secretary of Commerce to coordinate with the Director of National Intelligence to provide declassified information on how transactions denied or otherwise mitigated posed undue or unacceptable risk.
“The technology challenges that we face require a strong approach to protect Americans online from our foreign adversaries,” said Sen. Luján. “I’m proud to co-sponsor the bipartisan RESTRICT Act to improve the federal government’s capabilities to address growing technology threats to our national security.”
“Beyond the piecemeal attempts we have seen in the past, the RESTRICT Act provides a holistic approach to dealing with current and emerging technologies emanating from our foreign adversaries that pose an undue risk to the national security of our country. I was proud to join my colleagues on Day One of this legislation, which establishes a clear plan to address these risks and threats,” Sen. Capito said.
“As a member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, America’s national security is one of my top priorities,” said Sen. Kaine. “That’s why I’m proud to cosponsor the RESTRICT Act. This comprehensive legislation would help address 21st-century technological threats posed by foreign adversaries, who may seek to manipulate Americans’ personal data or track U.S. military personnel, assets, or their families, among other dangerous steps. There is bipartisan agreement on the need to counter these threats, and it’s time to turn that agreement into action.”
“Digital security is national security, and much like foreign purchases of land in the U.S., we ought to carefully scrutinize the technology products we use daily and store our personal data. This bill will establish a process to quickly identify and respond to foreign technology while making the public aware of the real threats they face,” said Sen. Cramer.
“The risks are unacceptable—foreign powers exploiting tech platforms like TikTok and Huawei to undercut our national security must be stopped,” said Sen. Blumenthal. “The reasons for passing the RESTRICT Act are real and urgent—preventing espionage and privacy invasion. This bipartisan measure should command broad support.”
A two-page summary of the bill is available here. A copy of the bill text is available here.
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