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Veto session will change some proposals

This week we return to Richmond to consider the revisions that Governor Ralph Northam has made to various legislative proposals that passed both the House and the Senate.

Some of those changes I will support, while others I cannot. Some were to better please Northam’s Democrat friends. Other changes were driven by the coronavirus and the lost revenue from the shutdown of many businesses this spring. A shutdown lasting longer than in most other states that will destroy some small businesses and the jobs they create. Several of the changes are below.

MINIMUM WAGE

INCREASE DELAYED

Northam amended the minimum wage, delaying it until May 1, 2021 giving business owners a few more months to dig out of the losses that are piling up on them this year.

Likewise, he delayed to the same date the implementation of collective bargaining by local governments, as well as requirements that construction projects must be bid at the prevailing wages rate set by the Davis Bacon Act, and project labor agreements. All three of these bills were pushed by the unions and the costs on their implementation will be borne by the taxpayers.

If the Democrats continue to support the original dates, you will clearly see that they are tone deaf to the problems that citizens and local government are facing this year, choosing to side with out-of-state unions instead of you.

MARIJUANA

This legislation was delayed for one year. Thankfully, Northam wisely clarified that law enforcement cannot ignore the driver of a tractor trailer driving while under the influence.

CASINOS

The governor has proposed that a good portion of the profits the state receives from the legalization of casinos will go into needed school construction projects.

SKILLED GAMBLING GAMES

The original bill would have made it clear that these games found in many locations around the state are not legal. The governor’s amendment allows them to remain legal for a year. However, for the first time they will be taxed. The tax rate will be 35% of net receipts after winners are paid and the funds will go to fund the costs associated with coronavirus.

GAS TAXES

While Northam did choose to delay some of the new gasoline taxes that were proposed, all those that will affect our region will go into effect as they were passed by the majority of the General Assembly.

THE BIG OVERRIDING

ISSUE – BUDGET

There will be changes in the budget that was passed in early March. That was a reasonable budget based on the economy as it was seen in late February. As March moved in, it was clear that the rosy forecasts of February had to give way to what was starting to occur throughout the country. Very shortly after the proposed budget was delivered to the governor, he announced that he was going to shut down much of Virginia’s economy. Many of the governor’s amendments reflect the need to reduce the budget by billions of dollars. I expect most, if not all, of them will be accepted by the General Assembly.

What he has done is leave in place his ability to reinstate every new expenditure that was sent to him prior to the virus shutdown. Again, many of those things made sense, but the world has changed. The way he has structured the budget changes, he will get to pick and choose what he wants to fund rather than the General Assembly. Just as he has done with the closing of businesses.

HOUSE OF DELEGATE SPEAKER’S ANTICS

The Senate will meet at the Science Museum of Virginia which has the capacity to serve both the House and Senate. Instead, the speaker has decided that she will hold the House session on the grounds of the Capitol. This sounded crazy when first proposed because of weather and the technology required for recorded voting. Then we found out that she will attempt to have only one vote.

She is proposing that the House will vote to allow themselves to return home and then vote by phone. They would do that for the veto session and anything else that might arise this year. Nothing could possibly go wrong with voting by phone. Hopefully common sense will prevail.

Frank Ruff Jr. represents Charlotte in the state Senate. His email address is Sen.Ruff@verizon.net.