2016 General Assembly Session Recap

FROM THE DELEGATE’S DESK

Michael Webert

The 2016 General Assembly session has adjourned sine die, and concluded a day ahead of schedule. This is the second year in a row we finished our work early. During the 60-day legislative session the General Assembly reviewed more than 3,200 bills, as well as numerous amendments to the Commonwealth’s budget.

During my time in Richmond I focused on initiatives that protect our constitutional rights, remove barriers and burdensome regulations on small businesses, promote civic engagement for our youth, increase funding for the Agriculture Best Management Practices program, and make adjustments to our commodity boards.

This past year, there were numerous attempts to undermine our constitutional rights. Many of these attacks were through executive fiat—actions that generated a need for a legislative response. So, I proposed legislation to protect the rights of law-abiding, responsible gun-owners and reverse these orders. I introduced, HB1096 which rescinds the Governor’s executive actions pertaining to the carrying of firearms on state property, as well as the other actions taken under Executive Order #50. This bill also preempts the executive branch from regulating firearms and ammunition.

To nullify the Attorney General’s decision on concealed carry reciprocity, I carried HB1163. This bill ensures that Virginia will recognize all valid out-of-state concealed carry permits, and requires the State Police Superintendent to enter into reciprocal agreements with states that require mutual recognition. I was pleased to see the Governor recently signed this bill into law.

Not every bill I proposed focused on dismantling executive actions. My legislation, HB206 removes the requirement for a Virginia resident to present a secondary form of identification to purchase a firearm. This measure stipulates a Virginia resident would need to present only an ID issued by the Commonwealth of Virginia or by the U.S. Department of Defense that demonstrates residency in Virginia.

Our right to keep and bear arms is not the issue area that needed to be reinforced—our free enterprise system, which provides small businesses with the opportunity to grow and thrive, is facing a growing number of regulations at the local, state and federal levels. To curb these restrictions and provide greater economic certainty for job creators, I introduced several measures this session.

One bill I worked on is HB18, legislation that pertains to the relationship between franchisees and the status of employees by clarifying that these staff members are not employed by the franchisor. This measure is in response to a recent National Labor Relations Board ruling which undermined years of state and federal legal precedent, and threatened thousands of independent franchise small businesses in the Commonwealth.

State and local governments across the country are increasingly forcing burdensome fixed wage provisions on small business owners.

Government mandated compensation requirements disproportionately impact job creators with high costs that they can’t absorb; thereby unfairly discouraging many qualified small businesses from bidding on projects being paid for with their own tax dollars. To ensure Virginia retains a business friendly atmosphere, myself and my colleagues introduced legislation to prohibit these requirements in procurement. My proposal, HB145 forbids state agencies from requiring contractors, or subcontractors who are engaged in business with the state to provide compensation beyond what state or federal law dictates. In addition, I have taken action to preclude localities from mandating wages levels beyond state and federal requirements as outlined in HB264, a bill which helps prevent a patchwork of compensation requirements. Mandates are not the only issues facing employers.

Currently, many contractors are excluded from participating in the bidding process for construction projects because the Experience Modification Rating (EMR) is being misused in risk assessment. So I introduced HB1108, legislation that prohibits the use of any experience modification rating (EMR) as the sole condition of any bidder or offeror’s eligibility to participate in a solicitation for construction services. According to the National Compensation on Compensation Insurance, the organization that created the EMR, this rating system was designed solely as a premium calculation factor for workman’s compensation, and is not an indicator of overall contractor safety.

Civic engagement is important, which is why I carried HB205. This bill allows high school students participating in the Election Day program to assist with the arrangement of voting equipment, furniture, and any other materials for the conduct of the election. This additional support allows election officers to focus their time and energy on performing other duties.

This session I also focused on addressing issues in the agriculture community. Under the Clean Water Act, states are required to meet certain commitments which exert tremendous pressure to farmers. To comply with these mandates and reduce the burden for farmers, Virginia utilizes the Agriculture Best Management Practices (Ag BMPs) program. Ag BMPs are a voluntary incentive to help those of us in agriculture mitigate the impact imposed by these obligations. To ensure this program receives adequate funding, I carried a budget amendment that increased financial resources available for Ag BMPs.

Processes pertaining to Virginia’s agriculture commodity boards also needed to be updated, so I introduced HB1094. This legislation repeals certain board specific provisions related to appointments and creates in their place general provisions applicable to a number of boards. The bill also contains technical changes pertaining to the state cattle assessments.

Over the duration of the legislative session I sought to address challenges facing law-abiding gun owners, job creators, and farmers. Of the many proposals listed, I am happy to report that all of these have advanced to the Governor for his consideration. It’s an honor to represent you in the House of Delegates.

Delegate Webert represents the 18th House District which includes all of Rappahannock County and portions of Fauquier, Culpeper and Warren counties. He has served since 2012. For any questions or concerns, please contact his office at (804) 698-1018 or via email at DelMWebert@house.virginia.gov