Facts from the Floor: Week Seven

February 25, 2020

We are down to the final couple of weeks of the General Assembly Session 2020. The house bills are starting to come our way for a vote in the Senate. This week also saw the Senate budget bill coming across our desks for a vote.

Last Monday started out with the Senate Judiciary Committee defeating the House “assault weapons ban” bill. Although the Senate version of this bill was pulled early in the session, the House had approved their version of the bill with just 51 votes in favor and not a single Republican voting for it. In committee, the legislation was blocked with four Democrat senators joining all six Republicans to “carry over” the bill until next session.

The legislation would have effectively banned multiple guns owned by tens of thousands of Virginians, turning countless law-abiding Virginians into criminals through no fault – and no action – on their part. Although the bill was not successful this year, it will be considered next year again.

On Thursday, we were here well-past dinner time discussing, debating, and voting on the budget (I always worry when they start ordering pizzas for the chamber!). When you are considering spending $138 billion of Virginians’ tax dollars, decisions should not be made lightly!

I was among the 11 senators who voted against this budget. The expenditures represent a nearly 12% increase over the current budget, far exceeding the rate of inflation or population growth. Considering the budget under which we are currently operating was 17% higher than the budget it replaced, spending by Virginia’s government has reached an alarming rate. I was told before session started to look at where the Democrats would spend their money and that would define their priorities. For this budget, I’d say that’s a pretty accurate statement!

As a result, it includes $9 million to provide driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, $50 million for Washington’s failing Metro system, and $7 million to increase the pay of some state employees to match the Democrats’ planned doubling of the minimum wage. The budget is also being used as an instrument to raise your power bill. By having Virginia sign onto the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), you’ll soon be paying more for electricity. The budget reflects hundreds of millions of dollars in higher taxes and fees, including a 8-cent per gallon hike in the gas tax.

I’m sure many of you have heard that one of our Republican senators proposed to provide a 3% raise for our Virginia Sheriffs’ Departments and was told by the Democratic Senate Majority Leader that they voted against the raise because the sheriffs had said they supported 2A rights and had threatened to not enforce gun control laws. This is a budget that spends too much on too many of the wrong things, while simultaneously charging taxpayers a lot more. For me, voting against this budget was the only responsible course.

Some of the other bills we voted on this week included:

-HB 967: Provides for the expedited issuance of professional credentials and licenses to the spouses of military service members. I voted YES and this bill passed unanimously 40-0 out of the Senate.

-HB 1150: Removes mandatory requirements for officers to report illegal immigration status for a person charged with or convicted of certain crimes. Jail officers are no longer required to ask the citizenship of any inmate taken into custody at a jail. I voted NO but this bill passed 21-19 along party lines.

-HB 257: Eliminates the requirement that principals must report certain enumerated acts that may constitute a misdemeanor offense to law enforcement. I voted NO because this bill would no longer require school administrators to call the police when a student engages in stalking, assault & battery, or threatens school personnel or the school itself. It passed out of the Senate with a 28-11 vote.

-HB 1070: Repeals the crime of expectorating (spitting) in public places. I voted NO and the bill did NOT pass with a vote of 14-24. (Take note: public spitting is still illegal in Virginia!)

-HB395: Increases the minimum wage from its current federally mandated level of $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour effective July 1, 2020; to $11 per hour effective July 1, 2021; to $13 per hour effective July 1, 2022; and to $15 per hour effective July 1, 2023. One of the Republican senators proposed an amendment to make the wage increase regionally mandated but this amendment was a 20-20 vote with the Lt. Governor voting AGAINST the measure. The originally proposed bill (as described) passed 21-19 along party lines with all Republicans voting NO.

-HB533: Prohibits the use of styrofoam food containers by certain food vendors. I voted NO to this bill and it passed out of Senate 23-13. I voted NO because I felt like this was an over regulation bill that would negatively impact small businesses.

If you are ever interested in reading the full bill description or knowing more details, please go to the General Assembly homepage (https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+men+BIL) and you can enter the bill number and track any bill as it goes through the process to become a Virginia law.

We had so many groups from around the state visit our office this week including the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Hampton Roads Chamber, the Virginia Military Institute, the Girl Scouts of America (they brought cookies!), the Virginia Aquarium, Students For Life, and the Virginia Beach Library. If you’re planning a trip to the Capitol before March 7th, please stop by our offices in Room 518 of the Pocahontas Building and come see us!

There are only two weeks left in the 2020 General Assembly session. The final two weeks will be super busy as we complete the debating and voting on the hundreds of bills still being considered. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we continue to fight the good fight for our families and the future of our Commonwealth!

SENATOR KIGGANS’ TOP FIVE MOST SURPRISING THINGS SEEN IN THE VIRGINIA SENATE THIS PAST WEEK:

1- The Chesapeake Oyster Alliance brought steamed oysters from across the state for us to sample last week.. Apparently oysters taste differently depending on where they are from in Virginia. I think they all just taste better with tabasco!

2- The carpet in the Old Senate Chamber was designed by a Historic Carpet Specialist to match the olive green curtains which hang in the chamber. The carpet includes dogwood leaves and branches. (I’d love to know how you become a Historic Carpet Specialist!)

3- The Capitol Classic Basketball game held every year at VCU was quite the event with the Senate staff and legislators playing the House staff and legislators. The students from both house Page Programs were there to rally the crowd and cheer on their teams. The VCU Ram mascot, band, and cheerleaders all came out in force to watch the House win at the buzzer!

4- The Virginia Military Institute held a Legislative reception one night filled with students and staff from VMI. They had cookies and rolls in the shape of kangaroos which is their mascot.

5- I received a cookie last Monday in the shape of a gun with icing stating “Vote No HB 961” (the assault weapons ban bill). People are getting very creative these days when it comes to getting their message across!