Hala’s Highlights from Session: Passing the Budget Bill

 

Our legislative session is slowly coming to an end. It’s been a very active session, but very worthwhile knowing the incredible strides forward we are making with our legislation!

A huge win for Virginians this week with the passage this week comes in the House’s passage of our Budget bill. This year’s budget bill was a colossal undertaking to create, but I am very proud of the end result! It makes great steps to help create a Commonwealth ready for 21st century challenges, while at the same time maintaining the fiscal responsibility Virginia is known for.

The House Budget Highlights!

Virginia took a monumental step forward yesterday when we passed the budget bill on the House floor! The budget bill is important every session it comes up in, but it’s often seen as a routine measure. However, this year’s budget advances in many different facets that it did not in prior years. The House budget invests in Virginians both in the present AND for the future!

One of the biggest areas benefiting from this budget is in education. The higher funding will allow Virginian students develop the skills and knowledge to compete in the ever evolving 21st Century economy. The House budget would provide nearly $900 more per student during each fiscal year. The higher funding for teachers salaries (2% raise in both FY21 and FY22) will allow us to attract and keep our amazing teaching talent in the Commonwealth. Additionally, the budget gives $4.9 million in 2021 and $5.2 million in 2022 to the teacher retiree health credit plans. As a big proponent of supporting Virginia’s schools, especially those who are underserved, I am very delighted to see these funding measures!

This budget also makes great strides for our workforce. It puts aside over $11 million for state agencies and universities to meet the increased minimum wage under HB 395. There is also a $500 million increase in compensation for pay raises for various state employees such as in our schools and in our police forces. The House budget additionally establishes a more secure benefits program, including better funding for the State Employee Health Insurance Program and employee retirement plan.

The House budget will offer better funding for healthcare. It provides a $1.2 billion general fund increase over the current biennium for health care and human services. Also, a much needed increase for Medicaid Waivers for Virginians with intellectual and developmental disabilities will be achieved through a $125 million raise. I am especially proud of this measure as I carried a budget amendment related to this increase!

While these increased funding initiatives are incredible steps forward, I understand that there are those who many have some trepidation for fiscal reasons. Rest assured, our amazing House Appropriations Committee and its very hard working staff ensured that this budget enhances our reserves and retains our “AAA” bond rating. Our total combined reserves balance will come to nearly $2.2 billion, the most Virginia has ever had in its reserves throughout our history. What might have seemed like a dream even just a few years ago is now a reality with this legendary budget bill! If you’d like to see the budget in more detail, click here.

Actions on My Bills this Week

HB 201: This bill that would establish same day voting registration just passed the Senate Privileges & Elections! It’s on its way to the Senate Finance & Appropriations Committee. This legislation eliminates the arbitrary voter registration deadline and would allow any qualified voter in Virginia to register to vote or update their registration up to and including election day.  Link to bill: click here

HB 775: HB 775 has passed the Senate Floor! All that needs to happen now is for the House to accept the Senate’s substitute and it will head to the Governor’s office! This bill would authorize a study undertaken by Virginia 529 to see how the Commonwealth could best establish a program to give access to private employees retirement plans (administered by a state agency) if they do not already have access to such plans currently through their employers. Link to bill: click here

HB 852: HB 852 just passed the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee unanimously! It is headed to the Senate Finance & Appropriations Committee. HB 852 would establish a standard training program for all state employees to detect, assess, and address information security threats. This will go a long way in strengthening the Commonwealth’s cybersecurity infrastructure. Link to bill: click here

 

 

House vs. Senate Charity Basketball Game

The House beat the Senate in our annual basketball game last night. The game was close the entire time, but Speaker Filler-Corn’s son won it for the House with a 3-point buzzer beater! It was exhilarating to watch and was such a fun time cheering on my colleagues with the House pages and fellow legislators. The best part was that we were able to raise nearly $32,000 for the Massey Cancer Center through the event!

Office Visits

This week was certainly abundantly filled with some amazing visits with constituents from throughout the district. Earlier this week, I was able to visit with Nicole, who was lobbying for equality legislation. She shared some personal insights and mentioned how happy she was to see the passage of the Virginia Values Act HB 1663.  The central tenet of my legislative agenda is providing equality and equity to all throughout our Commonwealth, so it was great to talk to her about how we are passing legislation to protect our LGBTQ+ community.

Also this week, I met with one of my constituents, Melanie, who visited our office from Virginia Tech.  She shared that she is working on her double major and has hopes of working in politics after graduation.   Additionally, she shared her passion for Virginia Tech and the importance of advocating for issues that are important to her and the students.   It is so important to get our students involved in the democratic process, so I hope to see more of our student constituents over the next couple of weeks!

 

Additional Legislation

This session, legislation that I introduced has been sent to the speaker for further study. For instance, privacy was a huge topic of discussion this year given my background in national security.  Legislation introduced has passed out of the assigned committee(s) with a study prior to implementation.  

Here is a list of the pieces of legislation that will move on to a study until 2021: 

HB 322 Cybersecurity Advisory Council; created, report

HB 323 Criminal sexual assault; definition of intimate parts

HB 952 Digital services; protection for minors

HB 954 Cybersecurity; care and disposal of customer records; security for connected devices

HB 955 Children's online privacy protection

HB 956 Virginia Consumer Protection Act

HB 958 College and Career Readiness Steering Committee; Secretary of Education to establish

HJ 23 Voter records/election results; Dept. of Elections to study use of blockchain technology to protect

HB 1640 Obtaining records concerning electronic communication service or remote computing service; location data.

Here is a full list of all introduced legislation which can be found on the Legislative Information System (LIS).  click here

Emergency Contact Information

While we enjoy this time of year with our family and friends, it is always important to make sure we stay safe from inclement weather or any other danger.

Here is a link to Prince William County’s Emergency Services: PWC Emergency Link 

Additionally, you can find information on Prince William County school delays, closures or emergencies here: PWCS Closure, Delays, and Emergencies 

Winter Travel updates, suggestions and contact information: VDOT Winter Travel

NVRC Homeless Shelter List

Many of us aren’t so fortunate to enjoy the comforts the rest of us have. Things like shelter may be something a lot of folks don’t think about, but for many who don’t have stable access to it, it can very literally be life or death.

The winter months can be especially brutal to the homeless in our community. The Northern Virginia Regional Commission has updated their Homeless Services List. If you know someone who doesn’t have a home and needs shelter ASAP, please use their website to gain more information about homeless shelters in the region. You can visit the website here.

Thank you for your continued support!

I am so humbled to have been re-elected by the 51st District. I will continue to fight for you and keep the trust you have placed in me. As always, my door will be open to you should you need it. Thank you again for your support.

I take my legislative cues from you, the constituents who I represent every time I take a vote in Richmond. Your voice is an integral part of the 51st District’s well-being and betterment.

It is the honor of my lifetime to serve you, Looking forward to seeing you out and about in Prince William County! 

Sincerely, 

Hala Ayala