Facts from the Floor: Week Eight

March 5, 2020

I’ve almost made it through to the end of my first session! With one week left to go, I can absolutely say there is a lot that is about to change in Virginia. Considering the outrageous number of new laws being enacted by this new majority in the General Assembly, it is challenging to fully comprehend just how different things are about to become.

For those who own and operate businesses in the Commonwealth, the changes are going to be especially dramatic – and expensive. Virginia Democrats are charging ahead to give Virginia the nation’s highest minimum wage. Only six other states and the District of Columbia have set their minimum wages that high. And, the states that have – California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York – are not renowned as great states in which to do business. I’m sad because my son’s summer landscaping and yardwork job at our church has gone away already as I know the church cannot afford to pay these high school students minimum wage any longer. As a parent, I know that it will be harder for high school students to find summer jobs. How will we keep them all busy, out of trouble, and away from too many video games?!

The adoption of a Virginia version of AOC’s “Green New Deal” will also cost our businesses dearly. Virginia Democrats are on board with this scheme, and they’re busy enacting it. It will mean substantial increases in electricity and energy bills for everyone, and businesses will be especially hard hit.

From proposals that will subject Virginia businesses to more lawsuits, new mandates, more stringent and costly regulations, the state’s job creators are going to have a harder time growing. Virginia’s reputation as America’s best state for business is, sadly, poised to become a thing of the past. Time will tell, but I don’t have a good feeling about it.

Some of the bills we voted on this week included:

-SB 462: Provides that any child of an active duty member or veteran who claims Virginia as his home state and file Virginia taxes for at least 10 years during active service is eligible for in-state tuition regardless of domicile. I voted YES for our veterans and this bill passed unanimously 40-0 out of the Senate and 100-0 out of the House.

-HB 1678: Extends from 7pm to 8pm the time at which polls close on election day. I voted NO because we have passed way too many election reform bills this session and I am suspect of the underlying consequences these bills have. This bill passed out of the Senate on a party line vote of 20-17 (3 people absent).

-HB 201: Allows any person who is qualified to vote to register to vote in person up to and including the day of the election. I voted NO for same reasons as above. Again, passed out of Senate on an almost party line vote of 22-18.

-HB 674: House version of the Red Flag law- grants the government the authority to seize a person’s firearms with an “emergency substantial risk order” but without a hearing or other opportunities for the target of the order to be heard and present evidence. I voted NO. It was initially a 20-20 vote with one democrat voting against it. The Lt. Gov. broke the tie, voted for the bill, and it passed out of the Senate headed to the governor’s office.

-HB 38: Prohibits a tanning facility from allowing individuals under the age of 18 from using a tanning device. I voted NO because I felt this was an over-regulation bill (and being a teenager who grew up in Florida, I know there are many other ways to get a sunburn if you try). The vote was almost a party-line vote of 22-18, with the bill ultimately passing out of the Senate headed to the governor’s desk for signing.

-HB 1442: Authorizes speed-monitoring cameras to take pictures of car license plates in school zones and construction zones for cars traveling 10 mph or more over the speed limit. I voted NO to this over-regulation bill but it ultimately passed out of the Senate on a 23-17 almost party-line vote and headed to the governor.

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 many groups from around the state visit our office again this week but the most meaningful was a visit from the families of the victims of the Virginia Beach shootings and some co-workers from Building Two. They came to advocate for an additional state-funded investigation which I support. There are so many unanswered questions and issues for these families along with areas not explored by the city investigation previously done. The House budget has language for the cost of this investigation and it will ultimately be up to the governor to decide if we get the funding we have requested ($77,000) or not.

We are down to our last week in the 2020 General Assembly session. I have learned an incredible amount and have been humbled on a daily basis to sit on the Virginia Senate floor representing the good people of my district. I have also been discouraged, enraged, and shocked at the direction the new majority has taken Virginia. If you think it’s frustrating to sit and read about what is going on in Richmond, imagine how I feel sitting here on a daily basis while so many awful bills come my way. Bottom line is, I need you on a ballot. Get up here and fight the fight with me. If not, then I need you working a poll, knocking on doors, texting your friends, and driving your neighbors to the polls. We must do better in 2020, 2021 and beyond, and we will with your help.

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

1- There is a panic button on the desk where the Lt Governor stands during session. He can push it at any time to call for help!

2- Rumor has it there is an escape tunnel behind the dais desk where the Lt. Governor stands. On a break, several of us asked him about it and he showed us the removable carpet and hole in the ground where a tunnel might lead. The Clerk says it’s where they access the wires and cables for the floor. I like the tunnel theory better!

3- We were at work on the floor this past Wednesday until 1:15am voting on bills. As one democrat stated on his social media: “This will be the second night in 2 weeks when we will adjourn after midnight. (And I predict at least one more). Way too much legislation was filed this year and too many bills allowed to go forward. (Not everything has to happen this year) Now we have limited time to get it all done, especially with so many complicated bills outstanding and only 40 members in the Senate. Next year? Filing fee for each piece of legislation. Or a limit on bills. Only way to avoid this train wreck.” TRUTH!!

4- We are picking “mean tweets” to tape with VPAP for an end of session bit of late-night humor and have chosen our favorite from twitter: “#JenKiggans needs to look the part if she wants a high-profile position. No one wants a leader who always looks as if she just rolled out of bed.” Posted 1 week before the election after an exhausting 9-month campaign. Gee, thanks for the support!

5- When someone hides the Lt. Governor’s gavel in your desk during a late night session, he will wait and wait and let you find it on your own. Then he will join the room shouting “Thief! Thief!” until it is properly returned! (That may or may not have happened to me this past week during one of our very late nights!)

There’s only one week remaining before this session comes to an end. With over 900 pieces of legislation still pending, the final days are likely to be very long. Stay tuned and look forward to my last weekly newsletter after session ends! (I’ll be switching to monthly newsletters after that!)