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Legislative Update

Warner YEARLY Wrap-Up: Goodbye 2021

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Happy Holidays from the Warner Press Office. This year, Sen. Warner worked to deliver big for the people of Virginia by securing a wealth of measures to bolster COVID-19 recovery efforts, strengthen the economy, support Virginia families, and upgrade our nation’s decaying infrastructure.

Read all about it in your Warner YEARLY Wrap-up:

FOR MAIN STREET

Restaurant Relief: In order to help small local restaurants, bars, and craft breweries stay in business and keep their workers employed during the public health emergency, Sen. Warner fought to secure $28.6 billion for direct grants to restaurants and other qualifying businesses affected by COVID-19 as part of the American Rescue Plan. As a result, more than 2,700 restaurants in Virginia received relief totaling $649 million. The measure was based on the RESTAURANT’s Act, a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Warner, and he will keep fighting in the new year to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund so that more struggling local businesses can get access to the government help they need to survive the pandemic.


Save our Stages: To support live entertainment venues hard-hit by the pandemic, Sen. Warner secured $1.25 billion as part of the American Rescue Plan. This provision was based on the Save our Stages Act cosponsored by Sen. Warner. After the government rollout of the program was snarled by delays and technical problems, Sen. Warner successfully pushed the Small Business Administration to get its act together, distributing $200 million in grants to more than 200 venues across Virginia.

Hotel Recovery: To support the hotel industry’s recovery, Sen. Warner succeeded in getting the General Services Administration to once again freeze “per diem” rates to pre-COVID-19 levels and ensure that government travel can continue to play an important role in the sector’s recovery.
Paycheck Protection: Throughout the pandemic, Sen. Warner has fought to help struggling small businesses. Thanks in part to his strong advocacy, the American Rescue Plan included $7.25 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and an expansion of eligibility to include more nonprofits and digital media companies. Over the course of the pandemic, 113,491 PPP loans provided close to $5.57 billion in relief to Virginia businesses.

Helping Minority Businesses and Entrepreneurs: As part of the December 2020 COVID-19 relief package, Sen. Warner secured $12 billion for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) to help minority-owned small businesses and entrepreneurs weather and emerge stronger from the pandemic. In June, the U.S. Treasury Department awarded more than $21 million in funding for 18 CDFIs across Virginia, with more funding expected to follow this year.

FOR VIRGINIA FAMILIES AND WORKERS

Child Tax Credit: In 2021, 939,000 families across Virginia received over $2 billion from the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) that was included in the American Rescue Plan. In Virginia, 1.6 million children across the Commonwealth benefited from the expanded tax credit, including 249,000 children living in poverty or deep poverty, and the CTC is credited with a 40 percent reduction in child poverty nationwide – a monumental accomplishment. Sen. Warner is currently fighting to renew the credit, which expired earlier this month.

Earned Income Tax Credit: The American Rescue Plan also expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit for one year, helping 400,000 Virginia workers. Sen. Warner is fighting to make the ARP’s changes to the EITC permanent in the new year.

Stimulus Checks: More than 7 million people in Virginia received more than $9 billion in economic impact payments (EIPs) from the American Rescue Plan, helping them cover essential expenses like food, rent, and medical bills.

Reopening Schools: The American Rescue Plan delivered $2.11 billion for Virginia K-12 schools and more than $955 million for Virginia’s colleges and universities to allow them to safely reopen and address learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Making Child Care More Affordable: To help Virginians afford child care and to help ensure child care providers can continue operating safely, the American Rescue Plan included $306 million for Virginia Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) programs; $490 million for Virginia Child Care Stabilization Grants; $16.557 million for Virginia Head Start programs; and an increase in the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit to significantly ease the burden of child care costs for many Virginia families, who pay on average $14,063 annually for infant care and $10,867 for the care of 4-year olds.

Helping Families Stay in their Homes: The COVID-19 pandemic placed an unprecedented financial strain on many families across Virginia. Through the American Rescue Plan, Virginia received $451 million in emergency rental assistance to help people behind on their rent. It also included more than $258 million in aid to Virginia homeowners for help with mortgage payments, utility bills, and other housing costs.

FOR VIRGINIA’S URBAN COMMUNITIES

Addressing a Costly Technicality: Sen. Warner successfully worked to ensure fair treatment of Virginia’s independent cities in the local fiscal recovery funds authorized by the American Rescue Plan after a misclassification technicality threatened to cost Virginia as much as $800 million in federal funding.

Protecting Urban Funding: To protect crucial funding for a number of metropolitan localities, Sen. Warner successfully urged the Office of Management and Budget to reconsider a proposal that would have increased the minimum population needed to qualify as a metropolitan statistical area from 50,000 to 100,000. This proposed change would have eliminated the designation for 144 communities, including five in Virginia (Blacksburg-Christiansburg, Charlottesville, Harrisonburg, Staunton, and Winchester-Frederick County). These classifications are tied to several housing and transportation programs and have important impacts on their respective cities and towns.

FOR OUR NATIONAL SECURITY

American Competitiveness: Sen. Warner helped ensure Senate passage of the United States Innovation and Competition Act – legislation to make generational investments in advanced manufacturing, and research and development. As part of this bill, Sen. Warner successfully secured:
$1.5 billion for the Utilizing Strategic Allied Telecommunications Act, which will help encourage and support U.S. innovation in the race for 5G by investing in Western-based alternatives to Chinese equipment providers Huawei and ZTE.

$52 billion for the Senator’s Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act, to help fund the construction or modernization of new semiconductor fabs, promote research and development in advanced packaging, and promote greater supply chain security.

Military Base Resilience: To strengthen military base resilience, Sen. Warner secured an amendment to the nation’s annual defense bill that makes stormwater management eligible under military construction projects, military installation resilience projects, unspecified minor military construction projects, and defense access roads projects. As the second-largest Federal landholder in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the Department of Defense – which has 137 Defense installations, sites, and facilities in the area – plays a vital role in reducing stormwater loads, while at the same time enhancing climate resiliency. This provision was based on legislation introduced by Sen. Warner.

FOR VETERANS & MILITARY FAMILIES

Servicemember Care: Sen. Warner secured an amendment in the nation’s annual defense bill to pause a proposal that would transition some servicemembers from receiving care at Military Treatment Facilities (MTF) to receiving care from community providers. The amendment pauses the restructuring for one year and requires a U.S. Government Accountability Office assessment of the proposed cuts in order to provide a better picture of the proposal’s impact on servicemembers.

Pay Raise and Benefits: Sen. Warner strongly supported the move in this year’s defense bill to grant servicemembers a much-needed 2.7 percent pay increase for next year. The legislation also authorized up to 12 weeks of parental leave for all primary and secondary caregivers following the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child.

National Guard Readiness: To support the Virginia National Guard, which was particularly affected by the Afghan resettlement mission, Sen. Warner secured an amendment in the nation’s annual defense bill to help bring assistance and resources to help cover the costs and resources associated with the mission. The amendment directs the Department of Defense to submit a report outlining all the ways in which the mission has affected the Guard so that Congress can ensure the Guard has the support it needs going forward.

Mental Health Support: To combat military suicide, Sen. Warner secured an amendment in the nation’s annual defense bill that will require the Department of Defense to allow servicemembers to self-refer for an immediate and confidential mental health evaluation. In practice, this amendment will allow servicemembers to use a verbal phrase with a figure of authority to self-report and seek help for any mental health issues, without having to divulge full details of their situation, or formally go through command or law enforcement entities – all of which can be barriers to reporting for individuals who are afraid of the stigma or repercussions of their seeking help.

Care for Blue Water Vets: To ensure appropriate access to medical care for veterans exposed to Agent Orange, Sen. Warner pressed the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand Agent Orange coverage to veterans who served on ships off the shore of Vietnam. In May, the VA announced that it would re-adjudicate previously-denied claims for veterans who served in the offshore waters of Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

Traumatic Brain Injury Support: To support American public servants who have incurred brain injuries from probable microwave attacks, Sen. Warner – the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee – secured the passage of the HAVANA Act. This legislation gives the CIA Director and the Secretary of State additional authority to provide financial support to those suffering from brain injuries as a result of the anomalous health incidents.

FOR DRIVERS AND RIDERS

Infrastructure Deal Dollars: Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Sen. Warner negotiated and secured:
o $66 billion for passenger and freight rail, including $16 billion for the Amtrak National Network to distribute to non-Northeast Corridor states – $944 million of which has already been promised to Virginia for the construction of a new Long Bridge across the Potomac River to double the capacity of rail crossing between Virginia and DC

More than $1.2 billion over five years for Virginia’s public transit systems

More than $7.7 billion for Virginia roads and bridges

Renewed Federal Funding Commitment for Metro: Sen. Warner secured $150 million annually in federal funding for WMATA through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. As part of this legislation, he also successfully advocated to include a series of WMATA Inspector General reforms in an effort to provide more robust oversight of WMATA. These provisions were based on the Senator’s Metro Safety, Accountability & Investment Act of 2021.

American Rescue Plan Dollars: Sen. Warner secured $1,348,000,000 in rural transit funding and $1,517,221,000 in urban transit funding for the Commonwealth to help transit providers stay afloat and avoid drastic service and staffing cuts during the pandemic. This funding came as part of the American Rescue Plan, which was negotiated by Sen. Warner, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, which has jurisdiction over public transit.

FOR AIR TRAVELERS

COVID-19 Dollars: Thanks to the work of Sen. Warner – who last year negotiated and crafted the framework for the December COVID-19 relief bill – Virginia received more than $19 million to help 11 regional airports throughout the Commonwealth continue combatting COVID-19 and serving travelers.

American Rescue Plan Dollars: As airports continued to struggle with pandemic-related declines in air traffic, Sen. Warner secured $218,722,000 for airports in the Commonwealth to help them stay afloat and avoid drastic service and staffing cuts during the pandemic. This funding came as part of the American Rescue Plan, which was negotiated by Sen. Warner.

Infrastructure Deal Dollars: The United States built modern aviation, but America’s airports have long lagged far behind our competitors. According to some rankings, no U.S. airports rank in the top 25 of airports worldwide. That should all change soon thanks to funding included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which Sen. Warner helped write and negotiate. The bill includes $400 million for Virginia airports that can be invested in runways, taxiways, safety and sustainability projects, as well as terminal, airport-transit connections and roadway projects. The first round of $77 million has already gone out the door to Virginia’s 46 airports, and the full list of how this funding from the bipartisan law will be distributed to airports across Virginia over the coming years is available here.

FOR OUR PORTS AND WATERWAYS

Port of Virginia: As part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Sen. Warner secured $1.5 billion in funding within the Army Corps of Engineers for construction activities in and around harbors and navigation channels in the U.S. This funding can potentially be used for construction activities important for the Port of Virginia, including the Norfolk Harbor Deepening and Widening project. The infrastructure law included a total of $17 billion overall for port infrastructure to fund waterway and coastal infrastructure, inland waterway improvements, and land ports of entry, and much of this money is expected to make its way to Virginia in the months and years ahead.

Port of Virginia, Part II: Just this week, Sen. Warner announced that the Virginia Port Authority will receive $20 million in funding from the Department of Transportation for improvements to Portsmouth Marine Terminal that will allow it to serve as a staging area for the 2.6 gigawatt Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind commercial project and for other commercial offshore wind projects up-and-down the East Coast. In letters and phone calls, Sen. Warner personally lobbied Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg for the money for the Port project.

FOR OUR FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS

WOOF: To ease a unique burden on Virginia’s military and diplomatic families, Sen. Warner urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop plans to lift a blanket suspension of the importation of dogs from 113 countries with increased risk of rabies. While Sen. Warner understood the importance of limiting the threat of reintroducing canine rabies virus into the U.S., he also recognized the ban’s effect on Virginia’s military and diplomatic families that could not bring home their family pet from an assigned duty station. Thanks to Sen. Warner’s advocacy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) implemented a refined ban on December 1 that exempted dogs who were previously vaccinated against rabies and entered through ports of entry with CDC quarantine stations, which includes Dulles.

NEIGH: To protect horses from abusive show practices, Sen. Warner pushed the Department of Agriculture to help enforce the Horse Protection Act (HPA). Sen. Warner, a longtime champion of the [Prevent%20All%20Soring%20Tactics%20(PAST)%20Act]Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, has been a leader in calling for increased HPA enforcement to prevent horse soring – the cruel and inhumane practice of deliberately inflicting pain on the legs and hooves of horses to produce an artificially high-stepping gait, known as the “Big Lick.” On December 9, 2021, the Department of Agriculture announced that it would promulgate a new, stronger proposed enforcement rule.

YAY: In light of his leadership on horse soring and other critical animal welfare priorities, Sen. Warner once again received a perfect 100 on the Humane Society 2021 scorecard.

WINS FOR NOVA…

COLONIAL PARKWAY: Sen. Warner secured $128.7 million to rehabilitate a section of Colonial Parkway at Colonial National Historical Park. This funding was made available through the Great American Outdoors Act, legislation authored and championed by Sen. Warner.

MEMORIAL TRAIL: To provide a tribute to the family members and loved ones who were victims of the 9/11 attacks, Sen. Warner secured Senate passage of the 9/11 National Memorial Trail Act, which links the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City, the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, and the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania. In 2019, Sen. Warner worked to pass a Senate Resolution recognizing the September 11th National Memorial Trail.

… CENTRAL VIRGINIA

24/7 Operations: Sen. Warner succeeded in keeping the Richmond Air Traffic Control Tower open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. After the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expressed interest in closing the tower between the hours of midnight and 5:00 a.m., Sen. Warner pressed to maintain 24/7 operational hours for the sake of travelers, businesses, and other stakeholders.

“Dude, Where’s My Mail?”: After a series of personal visits from Sen. Warner, service and delivery at the Charlottesville Post Office is finally improving, Virginians report. Under pressure from Sen. Warner, the USPS has hired dozens of much-needed new employees to alleviate mail backlogs that resulted in many residents waiting days or even weeks to receive their mail, packages, and other necessities.

… COASTAL VIRGINIA

New Clinic: To alleviate high demand and wait times for care at VA medical facilities in Hampton Roads, Sen. Warner pushed the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to finally select a location for a new Southside outpatient clinic for veterans. The 196,000-square-foot outpatient facility will be constructed on a 25-acre parcel of land on the Chesapeake Regional Hospital campus and was ultimately the result of Sen. Warner’s efforts beginning in 2016 to approve 28 overdue VA medical facilities leases.

F-22s: After years of advocacy, Sen. Warner successfully advocated for the permanent relocation of the F-22 Raptor formal training unit (FTU) to Joint Base Langley-Eustis (JBLE) in Hampton. The rebasing of the F-22 FTU will include the relocation of more than 31 F-22 and 16 other training aircraft, along with an estimated 700 skilled military and civilian personnel and contractors and approximately 1,600 dependents. The personnel will settle in communities near JBLE to support the unit’s training mission and operations.

Norfolk Harbor Project: As part of the President’s FY22 Budget Request, Sen. Warner secured $83.7 million and a New Start designation for the Norfolk Harbor Deepening and Widening project – a key step to getting the cost-share agreement between the Port of Virginia and the Army Corps of Engineers initiated. The Norfolk Harbor project was one of only a small number of U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) projects selected for a New Start in the President’s budget request.

Offshore Wind Project: Sen. Warner helped facilitate an agreement between the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) that will allow USACE to provide additional staff and resources to expedite the permitting process for the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project. This partnership is critical to the success of the offshore wind industry in the United States, allowing USACE to immediately provide technical support to BOEM to facilitate federal reviews and assist in decision-making on the growing number of offshore wind projects. This additional capacity will allow BOEM to focus on a broader range of challenges, including the development of additional offshore wind leases that will offer additional market opportunities and help secure the supply chain needed to reach renewable energy targets.

Seafood Processors: To support Virginia’s seafood processors, Sen. Warner successfully advocated for additional H-2B visas, by urging the Department of Homeland Security to quickly make available the maximum number of Congressionally-authorized H-2B visas in order to ensure Virginia seafood producers had an adequate seasonal workforce. After a series of personal follow-ups by Sen. Warner, the Department of Homeland Security issued an additional 22,000 visas.

Milford Haven Station Hours: Sen. Warner successfully advocated against the Coast Guard’s proposed downgrading of the Milford Haven station in Mathews County to summer-only operations. After hearing from numerous constituents who opposed the decision and its potential impacts, Sen. Warner maintained constant communication with the Coast Guard until it decided to reverse course and maintain year-round service.

… & RURAL VIRGINIA

Internet Access: In 2021, broadband isn’t a “nice to have” – it’s a necessity – but for too many Virginians, especially in the Valley and Southwest and Southside Virginia, access to high-speed internet remains out of reach. In order to increase access to broadband internet for Virginia families, Sen. Warner secured $10 billion for the Critical Capital Projects Fund as part of the American Rescue Plan, which he helped negotiate. Virginia used funding from this effort and other funds secured as part of the American Rescue Plan to commit to a bold, first-in-the-nation $700 million commitment to expand broadband to every household in the Commonwealth.

Internet Access, Part II: Building on the down payment made through the American Rescue Plan, Sen. Warner personally secured $65 billion for broadband through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which he helped negotiate.

Internet Access, Part III: Are you sensing a theme here? Since his days as Governor of Virginia, Sen. Warner’s been fighting to expand access to high-speed internet across the Commonwealth – a need that became all the more acute during the pandemic, as working, learning and healthcare shifted online. In response, Sen. Warner used his connections to bring a SpaceX trial program to Wise County that used satellite technology to expand internet access to 50 homes with school children and no broadband access. Over the last year, the Starlink program has continued to expand across SWVA, with an additional 200 children gaining access to broadband.

Lee County Hospital: In 2013, the Lee County Regional Medical Center closed abruptly, leaving the residents of Lee County without access to a nearby hospital and hindering opportunities for economic development in the area. Sen. Warner spent years working with the Lee County Hospital Authority, Ballad Health and local officials to reopen the hospital, which began operations this summer.

CASEWORK – BY THE #’S

One of Sen. Warner’s most integral duties is assisting constituents with federal services like Social Security, Medicare, veterans or military affairs, taxes, passports, and immigration issues. Each year, Sen. Warner’s office assists thousands of Virginians in navigating the federal bureaucracy. This year, that was particularly important for folks struggling to bounce back from the pandemic. Let’s take a look at the numbers:

Number of Casework Letters Sent – 34,461
Cases Opened – 6,451
Cases Closed – 6,316

Agency Funds Recouped to Virginians: $10,647,903.09 from the IRS, VA, Social Security Administration, Office of Personnel Management, Small Business Administration, Department of Defense, and other federal agencies

Just a couple of highlights from a busy year in casework:

Passports: Increased demand, mail delays, and processing backlogs due to COVID-19 meant that it took more time than many Virginians expected to obtain or renew a passport this year, with passports taking 12 weeks or longer to renew through the U.S. State Department – resulting in stress, added expenses, and canceled trips. As a result, Sen. Warner’s office saw a record number of requests for assistance expediting passports this year, opening 1,346 cases (representing anywhere from one to ten passports for a whole family) and successfully closing out 1,338 of these by year’s end, allowing constituents to travel on to their international destinations.

Resettled: Earlier this year, in the immediate chaos of the Kabul airport bombing, two young children were pulled through the gates while their mother was killed and their father and teenage brother were pushed back in the crowd. After hearing about this case, Sen. Warner worked to get the two children boarded on a medical flight from Germany to the U.S., and eventually released into the care of their aunt in Alexandria, Va.
Vaccinations: When a long-term care facility in Arlington spent weeks trying to get their residents vaccinated against COVID-19, only to be told that they would have to individually register each of their 350 residents with the Virginia Department of Health to get them vaccinated, Sen. Warner’s office stepped in to cut through the red tape and help set up a mass vaccination clinic on-site at the facility to protect the staff and residents against COVID-19.

YEAR AHEAD

From all of us in the Warner Press Office, Happy New Year! Here’s to a better 2022.

 

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Legislative Update

Obenshain: Judges, Bail, Heroes and Budgets

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It has been a very busy two weeks here at the General Assembly as we prepare for Crossover (next week’s official halfway point of the session).

Yesterday, on a party-line vote, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to kill two public safety bills I patroned. The first would have established a criminal penalty for individuals who intend to intimidate a judge by picketing or parading near the home of that judge.

Threats against judges are up 400% since 2016, many of which were motivated by political extremism. In 2022, an armed man attempted to kidnap or murder Brett Kavanaugh and his family. In 2020, a federal judge’s son was killed, and her husband seriously wounded after a man targeted them in their home.

Our judges are critical to our democracy, and we depend on them to administer justice by applying the law, not out of fear or intimidation. Moreover, there is just no excuse for the deliberate efforts of political extremists, whether from the right or the left to target or intimidate the families of these public servants.


Another bill killed, on a party-line vote by Senate Democrats, was one that would have established judicial presumption that those arrested for rape, robbery, or murder would not be released on bail. As a part of the Democrats’ so-called “social-justice reforms” over the past few years, progressives in the Virginia House and Senate removed all presumptions against bail that existed in our code, even for the worst of the worst — those accused of rape, robbery, or murder.

This reckless “reform” has put dangerous offenders back on the street where they are free to re-offend while awaiting trial. Such was the case in the tragic murder of Karla Dominguez in Alexandria; after her accused rapist was released on bond, he murdered her.

Look, I get it. It’s an election year, and Senate Democrats are looking to solidify support from their ultra-liberal base voters who often push policies that overlook the safety of families across the Commonwealth for the sake of so-called social justice. What they fail to recognize is that they are applying “Social-Justice” in ways that ignore victims — and many of these victims are persons of color.

I will continue to stand up for the safety of neighborhoods, communities, and families, election year or not.

On a more positive note, my SB 1220 to name the westbound bridge on Rt. 211 in Luray after fallen Stanley Police Officer Dominick ‘Nick’ J. Winum unanimously reported from the Senate Transportation Committee. Officer Winum was killed in the line of duty almost two years ago while selflessly protecting members of his community. He was a former State Trooper, and one of his favorite spots to sit while on patrol was on the westbound side of Rt. 211 outside Luray to overlook the Shenandoah River and the scenic views of the Valley. It is only fitting that this bridge is named in honor of Officer Winum. SB 1220 will be on the Senate Floor Monday for final passage.

This week marked the one-year anniversary of the tragic incident at Bridgewater College. The loss of Officers John Painter and J.J. Jefferson still stings our community.

After their death, it came to light that their families were not eligible for any death benefits as police officers because private college police departments were not eligible to enroll in the state-administered Line of Duty Act (LODA.) I am grateful that Governor Youngkin offered a budget amendment last year, providing both families with the death benefit that would have been available to any other law enforcement officer who died in the line of duty. I strongly suspect that this was an inadvertent oversight that escaped notice until the death of two officers. I promised the Governor and private colleges last year that I would introduce legislation this year to make them eligible to enroll in this program. If a private college elects to enroll, they would be required to pay premiums for participation, so they will pay their own way.

I am pleased to report that this legislation, SB 1228, passed the Senate unanimously and now makes its way to the House. With the advancement of my bill, we are making progress in our efforts to do right by law enforcement officers and their families.

This weekend, the House Appropriations and Senate Finance and Appropriations Committees will release their respective packages of amendments to the 2022-2024 budget. Both chambers will approve their versions of the budget on February 9, and negotiations over the different versions will begin shortly thereafter. Ultimately, those negotiations will determine how much tax relief Virginians will receive this year. Presumably, the House version will incorporate most provisions of Governor Youngkin’s tax relief plan, and the Senate version will not.

I submitted a budget amendment seeking $235M to expedite safety improvements along the I-81 Corridor. Last year I-64 received double that amount for widening projects near Williamsburg. This week, another serious crash on 81 resulted in multiple fatalities.

You can look here for a full list of the bills I am carrying this session. I will continue to provide updates on significant developments during the course of the Session. If you have opinions (pro or con), questions, or concerns about any legislation before the General Assembly, please do not hesitate to share those with me. You can always reach me by email at mark@markobenshain.com, and my office can be reached at either 804-698-7526 (Richmond Office) or 540-437-1451 (Harrisonburg District Office.) Should you be in Richmond at any point during the General Assembly Session, please stop by my office (Room 502), say hello, and let us know if we can do anything for you during your visit.

Page County Sheriff Chad Cubbage and his Deputy Sheriffs

I always enjoy visiting and meeting with groups and constituents from home. In the last two weeks, I’ve had the pleasure to visit with Old Dominion Association of Christian Schools students, Blue Ridge Beverage Company, JMU President Jon Alger, Pro-Life Advocates, Page County Sheriff Chad Cubbage and his Deputy Sheriffs, Brain Injury Connections of the Shenandoah Valley, JMU Victim Assistance Program, and local dentists as part of Virginia Dental Association Day.

Best,
Mark

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Legislative Update

Delegate Wiley’s Richmond Roundup: Week 3 – Making Virginia a safer place for families

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Despite the lightning-fast pace of the General Assembly session, House Republicans are working diligently to pass legislation that lowers costs, improves our schools, and makes our communities safer.

This week, we have already advanced several key pieces of our public safety agenda that will reduce crime and protect Virginians. The legislation includes effective measures to prevent crimes before they happen, provide the necessary tools to law enforcement to do their jobs, and keep dangerous criminal and drug activity off our streets.

Stopping Crimes Before They Happen
A critical piece of our public safety agenda includes undoing failed policies that passed the Democrat-controlled General Assembly three years ago. For instance, Democrats passed a law in 2020 that took away law enforcement’s ability to conduct various traffic stops that could subsequently reveal more serious offenses – such as possession of illegal firearms or deadly drugs – and allow law enforcement to take action to prevent more heinous crimes from happening. With an increase in traffic-related deaths and fatal drug overdoses over the last two years, local leaders across the 29th district and around Virginia have asked for legislation to reverse this policy.

Fortunately, House Republicans are advancing legislation (HB 1380) sponsored by our late friend Delegate Ronnie Campbell that restores law enforcement’s ability to do its job and provides the necessary tools to prevent serious crimes from occurring.


Holding Criminals Accountable
Rather than promote a restrictive gun control agenda that punishes responsible gun owners, House Republicans are advancing legislation (HB 2360, Webert) to deter crime more effectively by ensuring criminals who commit heinous offenses with a firearm stay behind bars. Meanwhile, we’re moving forward with
legislation (HB 1365, Williams) that ensures individuals accused of serious crimes abide by stricter conditions before being allowed out on bail. These measures are currently making their way through the House of Delegates.

House Republicans are also advancing legislation (HB 1642, Kilgore) that nearly became law four years ago to ensure drug dealers responsible for fatal drug overdoses can be charged with felony homicide. Despite bipartisan support, Governor Ralph Northam vetoed the original bill. Since then, fatal drug overdoses have skyrocketed and now outnumber driver-related deaths and gun-related deaths combined. We are committed to getting this legislation across the finish line to get fentanyl and other illicit drugs off our streets and save lives.

Wiley’s Work in Richmond
It was a busy week in our office. We met with leaders from the Virginia Aviation Business Association, representatives from Blue Ridge Realtors, the Top of Virginia Building Association, the Virginia Forestry Community, and Middletown’s Mayor, Charles Harbaugh.

In committee, my bills, HB 1462 and HB2285. HB 1462 is another fight for our second amendment rights. It addresses the 30 Day wait period placed on individuals with new driver’s licenses. The reasoning behind this only hurts the law-abiding citizens of our district and Virginia! HB 2285 unanimously passed through the Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources Committee to convey an easement through Shenandoah State Park.

See 2023 legislation that Delegate Wiley is Chief Patron 
See legislation that Delegate Wiley is Co-Patron on
See a list of House Committees Delegate Wiley serves on or Chairs
Other Commission and Committee Appointments in the General Assembly

You can also track any other legislation in the General Assembly here at www.lis.virginia.gov.

Delegate Bill Wiley, House District 29
delbwiley@house.Virginia.gov
1-804-698-1029

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Legislative Update

Warner reintroduces legislation to deliver new VA facilities and modernize infrastructure

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U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner joined Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in reintroducing the Build, Utilize, Invest, Learn, and Deliver (BUILD) for Veterans Act of 2023. This legislation would modernize and streamline the delivery of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities and other infrastructure projects, bolster its workforce, and save taxpayer dollars by expediting the disposal or repurposing of unused and vacant buildings owned by the Department.

 

Currently, the VA lacks a strategic plan, sufficient infrastructure workforce, and consistent funding to initiate the building or remodeling of facilities identified by the Department. The BUILD for Veterans Act would strengthen the Department’s ability to initiate critical projects to meet better the need of current and future veterans—including women veterans, veterans in need of long-term care services, and veterans with spinal cord injuries and diseases. Among its many provisions, the bill would require the VA to implement a more concrete schedule to eliminate or repurpose unused and vacant buildings, develop and execute a plan to hire construction personnel, examine infrastructure budgeting strategies and identify required reforms, and provide annual budget requirements over a 10-year period.

 

“Cumbersome bureaucratic processes have long stood in the way of critical VA projects such as the opening and remodeling hospitals, clinics, and benefits offices. As a result, we’ve seen unnecessary challenges in meeting the needs of veterans seeking care and support through the VA,” said Sen. Warner, who successfully spearheaded congressional efforts to approve new VA healthcare projects across the country, including outpatient clinics in Hampton Roads and Fredericksburg. “This legislation builds on recent efforts and will allow us to serve veterans better and cut down on some of these pointless delays by pushing the VA to plan and budget for projected demand more strategically and to improve its capacity to manage current and future infrastructure projects.” 

 

Veterans service organizations, including Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, The American Legion, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, endorse the bill.


 

This effort builds upon the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022, legislation supported by Sen. Warner and signed into law by President Biden to expand health care and resources for toxic-exposed veterans. The law provided $5.5 billion in funding for 31 new facilities across the country – including another outpatient clinic in Hampton Roads – and streamlines the process for the VA to execute new leases, removing bureaucratic hurdles and cutting down on some of the frustrating delays to these facilities’ completion.

 

In addition to the PACT Act, Sen. Warner spearheaded a bipartisan effort to approve long-overdue leases for more than two dozen VA medical facilities across the country, including two in Virginia. In October 2022, Sen. Warner joined VA officials to break ground on a new VA facility in Chesapeake that will provide primary care, mental health, and eye clinic services and reduce drive times for Hampton Roads’ fast-growing veteran population.

 

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Legislative Update

2023 General Assembly Session: Week 2 update

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With the conclusion of the second week of the 2023 General Assembly Session, one thing is becoming increasingly clear – Republicans need to retake control of the Virginia Senate! This week, the Democratic leaders in the Senate showed just how partisan they have become and have demonstrated their unwillingness to put good policy ahead of politics.

Last Monday, the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, upon which I sit, considered the repeal of 2021 legislation that ceded to California authority to control the timeline for banning the sale of new gas-powered vehicles in Virginia. The liberal elite wants to require working Virginians to spend upwards of $75,000 for an electric vehicle as their next car or truck. Unless repealed, 35% of all new vehicles sold in Virginia by 2026 must be electric vehicles, and it will impose a complete ban on the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035. In what must have been an accidental moment of candor, one Democrat on the Committee admitted that these goals are aspirational and cannot be met, but on a party-line vote (15 Democrats to 3 Republicans), the Committee rejected this commonsense measure.

Last week, the Privileges and Elections Committee heard multiple election integrity bills. Notwithstanding broad bipartisan support, the Committee refused to reinstate the photo ID mandate. The Committee also rejected a bill that would have ended same-day voter registration – allowing persons to show up on Election Day, register, and vote at the same time. Finally, the Committee killed a bill that would have criminalized intentional efforts to register non-citizens to vote.

As most are aware, I have been working to restore integrity to Virginia’s Parole Board and its operations. The scandal-ridden Northam-appointed Parole Board found itself in the midst of a media firestorm when it was caught releasing convicted murderers, rapists, and kidnappers without properly notifying victims, their families, or law enforcement in the communities where the crimes were committed. On Friday, a Senate committee killed my transparency bill to require Parole Board members to actually show up, and meet in person, require current interviews of inmates and allow victims to offer input via virtual means. Americans are sick and tired of having legislators or government officials not showing up to do their jobs. If a friend or family member of mine were preparing for a parole hearing, I would certainly want parole board members to take it sufficiently seriously that they would actually meet in person, discuss the case and have a current interview of the inmate before making a parole decision. Finally, the bill would have allowed victims to provide input virtually. Nobody testified in opposition to this bill, yet Democrats on the committee killed it on a party-line vote. Attorney General Jason Miyares pledged to investigate the misconduct by the Northam parole board, and I hope that he will get to the bottom of the scandal-ridden conduct of that panel. For the sake of safe communities across Virginia and for the sake of fairness from the perspective of everybody involved in the process, it is essential that integrity and public confidence be restored in the process.


Finally, on Friday, a Senate subcommittee considered bills protecting innocent human life. First was a bill introduced by Senator Travis Hackworth, limiting abortion from conception with exceptions for medical emergencies and rape or incest (before 20 weeks and with a police report). The Governor’s bill, patroned by Steve Newman, would limit abortions after 15 weeks of gestational age with exceptions for medical emergency, rape, or incest. Senator Siobhan Dunnavant introduced a bill that would limit abortions in the third trimester, with exceptions for medical emergencies and nonviable pregnancies. The Senate Education and Health Committee, controlled by Democrats, recommended defeating all those bills. Surveys show that more than 80% of Americans across all racial, ethnic, and political lines oppose late-term abortions, but not a single Democrat on the Committee was willing to vote even for those very limited restrictions. Innocent human life needs to be protected. It is clear that those Senate Democrats want no restrictions whatsoever on abortion.

You can look here for a full list of the bills I am carrying this session. I will endeavor to provide weekly updates on significant developments during the course of Session. If you have opinions (pro or con), questions, or concerns about any legislation before the General Assembly, please do not hesitate to share those with me. I can always be reached by email at mark@markobenshain.com, and my office can be reached at either 804-698-7526 (Richmond Office) or 540-437-1451 (Harrisonburg District Office.) Should you be in Richmond at any point during the General Assembly Session, please stop by my office (Room 502) and say hello and let us know if we can do anything for you during your visit.

I always enjoy visiting with and meeting with groups and constituents from home. This week was very busy with visits from Second Amendment supporters from the VCDL, local Credit Union leaders, Leadership Harrisonburg/Rockingham Chamber Class, Page County advocates for the Federation of the Blind, EMS representatives, Rappahannock Board of Supervisors members, Virginia Interfaith Council and students from Shenandoah County Central High School’s Y Street program.

Best,

Mark Obenshain

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Legislative Update

Delegate Wiley’s Richmond Roundup: Week 2 – Restoring excellence in education

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In the second week of this year’s 46-day General Assembly session, we have been working quickly to advance a legislative package to improve our schools. We have filed legislation that will raise the standards in education. It will also empower teachers to regain control of their own classrooms. Most importantly, the proposals incorporate input from both parents and teachers around the 29th (soon to be 32nd) district and across Virginia.

Empowering Teachers & Listening to Parents
Disruptive classrooms make it harder for teachers to do their jobs. A recent JLARC study underscores the severity of the issue: 56 percent of those surveyed in our schools said behavior is a “very serious issue,” while another 24 percent called it a “serious” problem. It is beyond time for teachers to reestablish the consistency needed to instruct students effectively and without distractions. It’s time to support our teachers with much-needed legislation.

 

Advocating for School Choice:
We are fighting for school choice and have co-sponsored several pieces of legislation, along with demanding better standards of Education. These include:

  • HB 1822 Public school employees; offense involving solicitation of sexual molestation, physical or sexual abuse, or rape of a child; penalty.
  • HB 1508 Virginia Education Success Account Program; establishment
  • HB 1396 Education Savings Account Program established; Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits
  • Addressing Learning Loss & Preparing Students for Success

Recent reports from the Department of Education related to student test scores show a clear and immediate need for more resources for our students to succeed. The General Assembly cannot be idle and hope that students recover from the learning loss brought on by the pandemic and virtual learning – parents and teachers deserve support now.


House Republicans are answering that call by advancing legislation (HB 2269, Greenhalgh) that earmarks specific unspent federal funds to invest in our students and combat learning loss. Moreover, we are promoting legislation (HB 1526, Coyner) that expands proven and effective reading support to more students across Virginia. This legislation received unanimous approval in a House subcommittee and awaits further consideration in the legislative process.

A visit from the Top of Virginia Chamber
Thanks to Literacy Volunteers Winchester Area, Fox Urban Farms, Julia Shaffer, and NW Works for joining us, as well as Cynthia Roberts Schneider, President of the Chamber. Special congrats to John Fox for being inducted into the Virginia Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

VCDL Lobby Day
VCDL Lobby Day was a success, and we hope to have our 2nd Amendment legislation assigned to the committee sometime in the near future. We won’t give up fighting!

Honoring the life of our own, Adrian O’Connor.
With great respect, I will introduce a Memorial Resolution in the General Assembly honoring the life of our community friend, Adrian O’Connor. O’Connor was The Winchester Star’s editorial page editor for 27 years until his retirement in 2020. He passed away peacefully at his Stephens City home early Monday morning at the age of 68.

Upcoming Legislation for our Firefighters
Monday morning, we will be introducing HB2353 Professional Firefighters Pension tax relief bill. We enjoyed a visit from our local representatives to discuss this upcoming legislation.

Governor Youngkin’s State of the Commonwealth Address
Meanwhile, Governor Glenn Youngkin delivered his State of the Commonwealth address last week, highlighting various accomplishments over the past year while stressing a renewed mission to lower taxes, improve our schools, and make our streets safer. House Republicans are delivering on these goals – and you will continue to hear more about them over the next few weeks.

See 2023 legislation that Delegate Wiley is Chief Patron 
See legislation that Delegate Wiley is Co-Patron on
See a list of House Committees Delegate Wiley serves on or Chairs
Other Commission and Committee Appointments in the General Assembly
You can also track any other legislation in the General Assembly here at www.lis.virginia.gov.

Updates on our work in Richmond are shared on my Facebook page daily, Facebook.com/WileyforDelegate

Delegate Bill Wiley, House District 29
delbwiley@house.Virginia.gov
1-804-698-1029

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Legislative Update

Delegate Wiley’s Richmond Roundup: Week 1 – Delivering for all Virginians

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As we flip the calendars to a new year, my colleagues and I in the General Assembly have returned to Richmond to build on the past year’s momentum and deliver real results that make Virginia the best place to live, work, and raise a family.

While the session is just getting underway, House Republicans are already hard at work to legislate and advance a budget that serves all Virginians.

Tax Relief
Last year, House Republicans successfully worked with Governor Youngkin to deliver much-needed tax relief to Virginians. This year, we are renewing our commitment to provide further tax relief, starting with cutting income taxes to ensure more of your hard-earned money stays in your pocket. Moreover, after significantly cutting taxes on groceries last year, we must finish the fight and eliminate the burdensome tax entirely.

Last year, we were able to cut taxes on military retiree pay for those over 55. This year, we are expanding on this progress and will fight to make all military retiree pay exempt from state taxes. We are committed to taking care of those who fought to protect our freedoms.


This year, I am bringing legislation that will provide tax cuts to our veterans. See links to them here:

HB 1460: Tax cuts for veterans with a service-related disability

HB 2361: Property tax exemption for veterans and surviving spouses

Lowering the Cost of Living
Rampant inflation has squeezed Virginians’ wallets for too long. While the General Assembly cannot control the rate of inflation, House Republicans have initiatives in place to alleviate its effects by lowering costs. For instance, legislation has been filed to lower your monthly electric bill while ensuring your lights stay on. We are also committed to disconnecting from California emissions standards to make it easier to purchase a car. In Virginia, we should be writing laws that improve the quality of life for Virginians.

As many Virginians struggle to pay for the high costs of prescription drugs that they need, we are pushing legislation that passes the savings from prescription rebates directly to consumers at the pharmacy counter. This will lower healthcare costs without adding bureaucratic red tape or taxpayer expenses.

Economic Development
In addition to cutting taxes and reducing the cost of living, it is critical to support businesses coming to Virginia to create jobs, spur competition and innovation, and continue to grow Virginia’s economy. That is why investing in acquiring business-ready sites is critical to ensure we have the infrastructure to welcome new businesses to Virginia.

These proposals are just the tip of the iceberg – you can expect updates in the coming weeks on our legislative progress to improve our schools, make our communities safer, and so much more.

See 2023 legislation that Delegate Wiley is Chief Patron on:

https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?231+mbr+H0329C

See legislation that Delegate Wiley is Co-Patron on:

https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?231+mbr+H0329S

See a list of House Committees Delegate Wiley serves on or Chairs:

https://virginiageneralassembly.gov/house/members/members.php?id=H0329

Other Commission and Committee Appointments in the General Assembly:

https://virginiageneralassembly.gov/house/members/members.php?id=H0329

You can also track any other legislation in the General Assembly here at www.lis.virginia.gov.gards,

Delegate Bill Wiley, House District 29
delbwiley@house.Virginia.gov
1-804-698-1029

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Thank You to our Local Business Participants:

@AHIER

Aders Insurance Agency, Inc (State Farm)

Aire Serv Heating and Air Conditioning

Apple Dumpling Learning Center

Apple House

Auto Care Clinic

Avery-Hess Realty, Marilyn King

Beaver Tree Services

Blake and Co. Hair Spa

Blue Ridge Arts Council

Blue Ridge Education

BNI Shenandoah Valley

C&C's Ice Cream Shop

Card My Yard

CBM Mortgage, Michelle Napier

Christine Binnix - McEnearney Associates

Code Ninjas Front Royal

Cool Techs Heating and Air

Down Home Comfort Bakery

Downtown Market

Dusty's Country Store

Edward Jones-Bret Hrbek

Explore Art & Clay

Family Preservation Services

First Baptist Church

Front Royal Independent Business Alliance

First Baptist Church

Front Royal Women's Resource Center

Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce

Fussell Florist

G&M Auto Sales Inc

Garcia & Gavino Family Bakery

Gourmet Delights Gifts & Framing

Green to Ground Electrical

Groups Recover Together

Habitat for Humanity

Groups Recover Together

House of Hope

I Want Candy

I'm Just Me Movement

Jen Avery, REALTOR & Jenspiration, LLC

Key Move Properties, LLC

KW Solutions

Legal Services Plans of Northern Shenendoah

Main Street Travel

Makeover Marketing Systems

Marlow Automotive Group

Mary Carnahan Graphic Design

Merchants on Main Street

Mountain Trails

Mountain View Music

National Media Services

Natural Results Chiropractic Clinic

No Doubt Accounting

Northwestern Community Services Board

Ole Timers Antiques

Penny Lane Hair Co.

Philip Vaught Real Estate Management

Phoenix Project

Reaching Out Now

Rotary Club of Warren County

Royal Blends Nutrition

Royal Cinemas

Royal Examiner

Royal Family Bowling Center

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Oak Computers

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Spice

Ruby Yoga

Salvation Army

Samuels Public Library

SaVida Health

Skyline Insurance

Shenandoah Shores Management Group

St. Luke Community Clinic

Strites Doughnuts

Studio Verde

The Institute for Association & Nonprofit Research

The Studio-A Place for Learning

The Valley Today - The River 95.3

The Vine and Leaf

Valley Chorale

Vetbuilder.com

Warren Charge (Bennett's Chapel, Limeton, Asbury)

Warren Coalition

Warren County Democratic Committee

Warren County Department of Social Services

Warren County DSS Job Development

Warrior Psychotherapy Services, PLLC

WCPS Work-Based Learning

What Matters & Beth Medved Waller, Inc Real Estate

White Picket Fence

Woodward House on Manor Grade

King Cartoons

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