Opinion — Flying with One Wing

Published 1:00 pm Thursday, February 10, 2022

Last week brought a new challenge to our office. My right arm, my aide Cindy, was out most of a week because of COVID contact. Meanwhile, the secretary decided that, with the virus running rampant in the Senate, she needed to quit. The end result, we were hampered in responding to all the calls and emails. Our VCU student intern Basit did a super job. I apologize to those who could not get through in a timely manner. While I am in session, committee, and subcommittee meetings most of the time, the success of our office is very dependent on Cindy. Without a secretary in place, we were able to get our page, Bliss, from Prince George to assist answering the phone for a while. He was a big help.

MORNING PRAYER

Each day’s full session begins with a prayer. This past week we were honored to have Dr. John (Bo) Bohannan offer a powerful prayer. He was joined by his wife, Jody and their daughter, Joelle.

LEGISLATION

This year, because of divided government, as expected many bills that are passing the House will come to the Senate which will block their passage. Likewise, many successful Senate bills will be rejected in the House. Governor Youngkin ran on issues that many voters agreed with. His successful campaign was a major reason why Republicans won the House. Despite this, the Senate Democrats are voting down those issues that are important to many voters. Voters in the future will decide if they are making a major mistake by not listening to the voters.

The next week and a half will be a mad dash to deal with any bills that originated in the Senate. Often these are the more complicated or controversial proposals. I am fortunate that most of my bills are ahead of the rush, therefore, I will be able give more attention to working on issues that will be dealt with in the budget.

MY PROPOSED BILLS

Thursday, a Finance Committee subcommittee approved my legislation that deals with assisting teens in continuing their education or training past high school. Senate Bill 27 is an adjustment to existing law that allows private groups such as GRASP to assist 10th and 11th graders to understand that, no matter what their family’s finances, money is available to assist them to a brighter future. Too often, high schoolers that don’t have the right assistance decide that they have no future. This results in either dropping out or simply going through the motions in high school.

GRASP assists those young people that want to go to college or go into job training programs. Those counselors help with applications and assure those students they work with that, if they apply themselves, then GRASP will guarantee that scholarships will be available.

The scholarship money is available because, for every dollar that an individual invests in this program, they will receive a tax credit of 70% of that dollar. This encourages more folks that want to help young people to get involved. The adjustments that my bill makes gives them a little more credit but also raises the cap in order for more to be involved. For at least the last several years, donors have overwhelmed the available resources.

DATA CENTERS

Mecklenburg has been very fortunate to have the Microsoft data centers that have been built around Boydton and others that will soon begin construction in other parts of the county. While most data centers do not hire vast numbers of permanent employees, they bring big dollar investments that add to the county’s tax base as well as construction jobs. I offered Senate Bill 736 that would work to bring data centers to more communities. The subcommittee rejected the idea 3-2 simply because they could not or would not understand that our competition is from other states.

Under current law, if a company invests at least $150 million and employs more than 50 full-time employees, they get a tax break on some of the equipment. Because often they are staffed by employees of contractors, that job requirement can be a detriment. My bill reduced the number of required jobs to make some of our counties more attractive for investment. The majority of the committee were willing to let other states win by default.

FRANK RUFF JR. serves as the 15th District senator in Virginia. He can be reached at Sen. Ruff@verizon.net, (434) 374-5129 or P.O. Box 332, Clarksville, VA 23927.