Getting things done

Published 2:38 pm Thursday, February 28, 2019

The 2019 General Assembly session is officially over! It has been busy two months, but I am proud of the work I along with my colleagues in the House of Delegates were able to accomplish. Despite the distractions taking place elsewhere on Capitol Square, the General Assembly was laser-focused on getting our job done in a timely and responsible manner. I look forward to returning home to the district and meeting with constituent groups to share our many successes.

The 2019 General Assembly Session produced a stark contrast for Virginia. The controversies of the Democratic statewide office holders have led to chaos and embarrassment for our state. On the other hand, the Republican-led General Assembly has delivered leadership and results on the issues that matter most.

We were not distracted by the Democratic scandals that rocked the Commonwealth this year. And, since it appears that all three statewide elected officials intend to stay in office despite bipartisan calls for their resignation, it is more important than ever to make sure that the Republican-led General Assembly can be a check and balance on the Governor and his party.

We balanced the budget as our constitution requires without raising taxes, unwinding over $1 billion in new spending proposed by Governor Northam and the Democrats.

The budget includes no tax or fee increases. $120 million in health care savings are included in the budget as a result of lower than expected Medicaid costs and updated forecasting language.

We have included funding for a 5 percent teacher pay raise and $85.7 million in new funding for K-12 education. This is the fourth teacher pay raise in six years. The budget also makes targeted investments in our “at risk” programs; every student deserves a fair shot at an education regardless of their ZIP code.

School safety was a major priority for the General Assembly this year and our budget reflects that, including approximately $12 million in funding for school resource officers, infrastructure, and other initiatives designed to keep our students safe in schools.

In the higher education field, the budget takes a huge step on higher education affordability. We included $57 million to freeze tuition at our colleges and universities, and increased funding for financial aid by $16 million. Virginia has the nation’s best higher education system, but we must continually strive to ensure the it is affordable and accessible.

The state budget also includes a 3 percent pay raise for state employees. Our state employees are the backbone of Virginia government and often go without recognition.

Finally, the budget includes longstanding language that prohibits taxpayer funding of abortions.

You can view the full budget by visiting budget.lis.virginia.gov.

Throughout the legislative session, I’ve used these email updates to highlight several key pieces of legislation. Many of them passed both the House and Senate and are now awaiting action by the Governor.

In accordance with the Virginia Constitution, the Governor may either sign a bill into law, veto the bill, or send it back to the General Assembly with amendments.

Several of my House colleagues announced their retirement from the floor this week — Delegate Dickie Bell of Staunton, Delegate Gordon Helsel of Poquoson, Delegate David Toscano of Charlottesville and Delegate Riley Ingram of Hopewell. I’ve enjoyed working with each of them during their time in the legislature on a wide range of issues and wish them all the best in their retirement.

Now that session is over, I will be taking some time off to spend with my family, but then will be looking forward to speaking with all of you sharing our successes from this year, but also areas where we still need to improve on for next year.

DEL. C. MATTHEW FARRIS represents Buckingham in the Virginia House of Delegates. His email address is DelMFariss@house. virginia.gov.