Report from Richmond: Compensation, college and Colonial Downs

The first full week of the 2015 General Assembly session is complete, the work of committees is underway, and we are seeing some measures reach the floor of the House of Delegates. I am pleased to report that my House Bill 1285 received unanimous preliminary approval from the House on Friday. This measure, which was a request from the Willow Shade Homeownersâ?? Association in Culpeper, exempts non-compensated employees and directors of a homeownersâ?? association from the requirement to purchase workersâ?? compensation insurance. This measure will allow more of the fees paid by residents of these communities to stay in the community.

One theme that is emerging this session is an effort to address the rising cost of college education. Our efforts in Richmond stand in stark contrast to the approach being taken by the administration in Washington. In his State of the Union Address, President Obama outlined tax increases that include targeting 529 college savings accounts for taxation, which would make it even more difficult to save. As your delegate in Richmond, I am supporting legislation that makes college more affordable by capping expensive athletic fees and making it easier for small schools to cut wasteful spending, both of which passed unanimously out of the House this week. As the session advances we will also review a measure to provide â??flat feeâ? degrees in high demand fields.

As Chairman of the House Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources Committee, I am reviewing a number of measures affecting Virginiaâ??s number one industry, agriculture and forestry. This week the committee passed out a measure that will strengthen local monitoring and testing of the land application of industrial wastes. This measure strikes the proper balance between protecting the environment and the beneficial reuse of a product that otherwise would have to be landfilled or incinerated. As the session progresses, we will address a number of other issues, including farmland preservation, farm direct sales, and Virginiaâ??s hunting and fishing laws.

Last year because an agreement could not be reached between Virginiaâ??s only racetrack, Colonial Downs, and Virginia horsemen, there was no horse racing in Virginia. Ultimately, Colonial Downs surrendered its license to own and operate the track in New Kent County. Horse racing in Virginia supports not just horse farms, but also a number of related businesses, including feed and hay suppliers, farriers, and veterinarians. I have introduced House Bill 1826 that will allow for alternative sites for racing, like the Virginia Gold Cup in Fauquier County.

I look forward to providing updates on this bill and others as the session advances. Iâ??ll close this weekâ??s column with thanks for the visits by a number of 30th District residents this week and appreciation for those who have filled out this yearâ??s legislative survey. If you have not shared your thoughts with us, the survey is online at