Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As we continue to navigate through the tumult of the last couple of weeks, I am reminded everyday of the reasons we are here—to do the people's business and move Virginia forward and to work on legislation that lifts everyone up and leaves no one behind. No matter what we go through as a Commonwealth, I'm always excited about the future and the amazing things we can accomplish working together.
The General Assembly has now passed the "Crossover" deadline—the date when each house of the state legislature is constitutionally required to end consideration of its own bills and begin considering bills passed by the other body.
Last week, we spent countless hours on the House Floor debating legislation to ensure it was all acted upon prior to our constitutional deadline. Now, the House of Delegates must consider hundreds of proposals passed by the Virginia Senate with only two weeks remaining in the legislative session. As we begin consideration of these bills, I will continue to update you on the work of the House and the developments in the General Assembly.
➤ Tax Conformity & The Budget
Last week, the House of Delegates debated and voted on the budget proposed by the House Appropriations Committee. This budget was a good effort, but I believe that it missed historic opportunities to substantially invest in communities across the Commonwealth—especially with respect to education funding, environmental initiatives, and affordable housing. As such, I voted against this budget because I believe we can—and must—do better.
Though the budget is typically a separate piece of legislation from the tax conformity bill—which aligns Virginia's tax code with changes made by the federal government—the two were linked this year by the Republican majority. They insisted on linking the two bills in order to push for policy changes that would prevent the Governor from investing desperately needed funds into programs that work for Virginia families.
In order to ensure the quick passage of the budget and avoid any delays in state tax refunds to be paid out to Virginia taxpayers, a compromise has been developed to conform Virginia's tax code with federal law and also provide a tax break to working Virginians. That compromise proposal would:
1. Conform our state tax code to the federal code, with a few exceptions;
2. Raise the Virginia standard deduction by 50%; and,
3. Provide a one-time tax credit of up to $110 to each taxpayer, depending on how much income tax you owe or have paid. Though this benefit does not expand to as many families as I have been pushing for, it will fund 2/3 of the Earned Income Tax Cut benefits to be refunded back to Virginia residents—including over 4,000 residents of the 49th District.
➤ On Monday, my office got a visit from a big group of activists with the Arlington Chapter of Moms Demand Action! They came to Richmond to urge the General Assembly to pass measures intended to curb gun violence, like my bill, HB 2399, which would have closed one of the glaring background check loopholes for gun sales in Virginia.
Though my bill was voted down on party lines, I’m grateful for the support of so many friends and neighbors who are active with Moms Demand Action and I pledge to continue fighting for this issue until it is the law of the Commonwealth!
➤ Later that evening, I joined a group of public servants and friends at a reception in honor of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, an affiliate of the University of Virginia. This organization teaches Virginians about the nuances of public policy, the power of bipartisanship, and ethics in public service. I am a proud graduate of the Political Leaders Program (Class of 2003) and currently serve as a member of the state board.
➤ On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to meet with George Mason University President Ángel Cabrera to talk about the work that he and his team are doing at GMU and for education throughout Virginia!
➤ I also had the opportunity to greet long-time Arlington activists John and Nacha Klopf as they visited the Floor of the House of Delegates.
➤ Later that afternoon, my office was visited by an incredible group of young women who have signed up to serve as cadets in in the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). CAP is an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force and its missions are to develop its cadets, educate Americans on the importance of aviation and space, and perform life-saving, humanitarian missions.
These three young cadets may still be in high school, but they’ve already flown airplanes and assisted with emergency responses during natural disasters. Congrats to them for their great work!
➤ On Thursday, I met with members of the Virginia Latino Leaders Council and discussed my work on immigration issues in the General Assembly, including my years-long effort to expand in-state tuition access to undocumented students. I am very glad to have the long-time support and friendship of these amazing Virginia leaders, including the Hon. J. Walter Tejada and Andres Tobar.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Two of my bills were passed last week by the House of Delegates and will now be considered by the Virginia Senate. These bills are:
➤HB 2395: Creating a Hazardous Waste Site Inventory
Virginia currently does not have a one-stop list of all the sites in the Commonwealth that pose a hazard to human health or the environment from toxic substances. The public has a Right-to-Know if one of these sites is in their community and poses a hazard to public health.
This bill consolidates existing lists of hazardous waste sites maintained by the state and federal government and puts that information in a format that the public can easily access. This inventory will collect the location of contaminated sites, the nature of which wastes are disposed of at each site, and the status of any undertaken or planned actions to remediate the site.
This represents an important first step for the Commonwealth as we take further steps to properly address these sites in Virginia.
➤HB 2396: Requiring Notification after Breach of Passport & Military ID Information
In 2017, one in five Americans became the victims of identity fraud. As the internet becomes further integrated into our daily lives, it has become all too common for companies to face massive security breaches, putting the information of millions at risk.
In Virginia, companies are required to notify someone when their Social Security number, driver's license number, or bank account information has been stolen in a security breach. However, there is no provision that mandates immediate notification to people whose passport numbers or military ID numbers are stolen in a security breach.
In a Commonwealth with over 115,000 residents who are active duty or reserve military personnel, it is unacceptable that we would not guarantee the same protections to their identifiable information that we provide for others. This bill would fix that hole in the Virginia Code.
Many of you may have begun to receive my 2019 Constituent Survey in the mail over the last few weeks. I send out this survey annually to get as wide a sample of opinions and perspectives as possible from folks all across my district on the issues that matter most to them. If you have not received a survey in the mail, or would prefer to submit your survey electronically, please visit the link here. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!
As always, it is an honor to serve as your Delegate to the General Assembly. If there is any way that my office may be helpful to you, please feel free to contact us by email atDelALopez@house.virginia.gov or by phone at (571) 336-2147. Additionally, you can always visit my website at www.alfonsolopez.org.
Member, 49th District
House of Delegates