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Delegate Mark Sickles' Statement on his 2016 Legislative Agenda

RICHMOND, VA – In the first week of the 2016 General Assembly Session, Delegate Mark Sickles (D-43) introduced legislation and budget amendments that, if passed, would further efforts to reform Medicaid to better assist our disabled population, improve the efficiency of our voting process, rationalize our reckless driving law, better protect individual rights, and help transition the Commonwealth’s economy away from its dependence on defense spending and to a “new Virginia economy.” These initiatives cover a wide range of topics including foreign language education, election law, healthcare, public safety, consumer protection, and women’s rights.

“The 2016 session will be an exciting time for the Commonwealth as Governor McAuliffe fights to pass his first biennial budget. I am proud to be working in concert with our Governor and my fellow legislators as we progress towards a ‘new Virginia economy.’ This is my 13th year in the House.  We have faced serious budgetary challenges over that period leading to harmful cuts in K-12 and higher education. With the revenue picture now stable, we have a chance to restore some of these cuts and stoke our economy during the two-year reprieve from the threat of federal sequestration. I am looking forward to working on these tough budgetary decisions as a member of the Appropriations Committee on a bipartisan basis over the next 60 days,” said Delegate Mark Sickles.

The House finished its first half-week of the 2016 session on Friday. Attached is information on some of Delegate Mark Sickles’ legislative agenda.

2016 Legislative Agenda

Education

HB 1022 – Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Program; eligibility; use of funds: Makes several changes to the student eligibility criteria for Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Program grants.  This is an Administration bill.

HB 1029– Critical National Security Language Grant Fund and Program established: Establishes the Critical National Security Language Grant Fund and the Critical National Security Language Grant Program for the purpose of awarding grants on a competitive basis to any school division that provides a foreign language course in a foreign language that is currently identified as critical by the National Security Language Initiative for Youth scholarship program.

Elections

HB 1027 – Special elections; quarterly schedule; exception: Provides for a quarterly schedule for special elections, with some exceptions.  The bill is intended to help localities save on election expenses by encouraging special elections to be held on the same day as regularly scheduled elections at no additional cost to the locality.  For example, costly special elections have been held within weeks of the second Tuesday in November that could have been held on that day with no impact.

HB 1030 – Officers of election; required training: Establishes a training schedule for officers of election. It requires all officers of election to receive training every two years and whenever a change is made to the election laws or regulations that alter the duties and conduct of the officers.

HB 1033 – Absentee voting; emergency voting: Makes it easier for a voter to vote absentee in an emergency and allows the Commissioner of Elections to facilitate absentee voting for Virginians that provide emergency or other services in an area in which a state of emergency has been declared.  The bill allows the State to do what localities try to do when an emergency calls Virginia's first responders out of State at the last minute.  Many Virginians were working on Superstorm Sandy recovery on the second Tuesday of November that year.

Health and Human Resources

HB 1021 – Medicaid nonemergency transportation providers; background checks: Requires every provider with whom the Department of Medical Assistance Services enters into a contract for the provision of nonemergency transportation services to individuals eligible for medical assistance to conduct extensive background checks for every applicant.

HB 1028 – TANF; federal funds not used to supplant nonfederal funds: Provides that federal funds made available to a the Commonwealth for purposes of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program shall not be used to supplant nonfederal funds for existing services and activities that promote a purpose of TANF.

Public Safety

HB 1025 – Firearms; removal from persons posing substantial risk; penalties: Creates a procedure by which an attorney for the Commonwealth or law-enforcement officer may apply to a circuit court judge for a warrant to remove firearms from a person who poses a substantial risk of injury to himself or others.

HB 1185 - Speeding; reckless driving. Raises the threshold for per se reckless driving for speeding from driving in excess of 80 miles per hour to driving in excess of 85 miles per hour if the applicable speed limit is 70 miles per hour. The threshold for per se reckless driving for speeding for driving at or more than 20 miles per hour in excess of the speed limit remains unchanged.

Consumer Protection

HJ 149 Study; reasonableness of interest rates on motor vehicle title loans; report: Requests the Bureau of Financial Institutions of the State Corporation Commission to study the reasonableness of interest rates on motor vehicle title loans, including the profitability of such loans and how such rates and profit levels compare with those for alternative types of loans.  Title lending was legal but unregulated leading up to the overwhelming passage of legislation in 2010 that set monthly interest rate caps depending on the amount borrowed.  The industry has blossomed under the now five-year-old law and this study would assess whether the 2010 rate caps are appropriate in light of this experience.

Women’s Rights

HJ 136 United States Constitution; Equal Rights Amendment: Ratifies the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution, adding the Commonwealth to the 35 states that have already ratified.  If three more states ratify the amendment, women's equality would have constitutional protection.