Opinion — Budget to get final OK after amendments considered

Published 6:16 pm Friday, June 17, 2022

On Thursday, June 9, both HB 29 and HB 30 were duly enrolled, signed by the presiding officers of each house and communicated to the Governor.  Pursuant to Article V, Section 6 of the Constitution, the Governor has seven days to act on the budget bills, with a deadline of Thursday, June 16th, at 11:59:59 p.m. 

The Governor may sign, veto or recommend one or more specific and severable amendments within this constitutional timeframe.

Legislators are expecting a series of amendments from Governor Youngkin to be released this week. The General Assembly will return to Richmond this Friday at noon to consider the amendments and put the budget to bed once and for all.

We’re still waiting on details on the apparent U.S. Senate guns deal. Actual language has yet to be worked out. Much of the deal appears to involve enhanced background checks for buyers 18-21 years old, as well as more money for mental health treatment and the adoption of “red flag” laws in unsocial states. While this is a federal regulation, I will be continue to follow and update constituents as the information comes in.

Virginia will receive $220 million in federal grants to build out its broadband telecommunications networks to offer affordable high-speed internet service across the state.

The U.S. Treasury announced that Virginia would be one of the first states in the country to receive grants from a $10 billion capital projects fund created in the American Rescue Plan Act that Joe Biden signed into law 15 months ago.

The grant to Virginia was the largest of the four and will allow the state to expand high-speed internet service to almost 78,000 homes and businesses, about 28% of the users still lacking broadband access in the state.

The state will use the money to provide grants to local and regional broadband projects through the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative, which also is expected to benefit from a $65 billion fund created by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to expand high-speed internet networks and make access to them affordable for families that previously have been left behind by either location or income.

Under the program, internet providers must deploy networks with service at minimum speeds of 100 megabits per second for downloading or uploading data. They also must participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program to provide service for no more than $30 per month to an estimated 48 million families eligible for the discount across the U.S.

The Virginia Telecommunication Initiative, or VATI, as the state program is known, receives applications from local governments, which partner with internet service providers and utilities to expand broadband access to residents.

In addition to the American Rescue Plan funds already allocated by the General Assembly and the new grant, the state will be able to benefit from the funds for broadband under the infrastructure act.

Del. C. Matthew Fariss represents Buckingham in the Virginia House of Delegates. His email address is DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov.