Legislative Agenda 2012

Delegate Lopez’s 2012 Legislative Agenda 

From numerous ideas for legislation this session, I have formally introduced twelve bills and eight Budget Amendments on behalf of the 49th District.  The bill numbers and titles of each bill below is linked.  You may track the progress of each of my bills on the linked website. 


HB 779 In-state tuition; undocumented persons eligibility.

Referred to Courts of Justice 


In-state tuition; undocumented persons. Establishes that an undocumented person who is unlawfully present in the United States shall be eligible for in-state tuition if she meets all of the following criteria: (i) she has resided with his parent, guardian, or other person standing in loco parentis while attending a public or private high school in this state; (ii) she has graduated from a public or private high school in Virginia or has received a General Education Development (GED) certificate in Virginia; (iii) she has resided in the Commonwealth for at least three years since the date he graduated from high school, or for one year if a veteran or an active duty member of the United States armed forces; (iv) she has registered as an entering student in an institution of higher education; (v) she has provided an affidavit to the institution stating that he has filed an application to become a permanent resident of the United States and is actively pursuing such permanent residency or will do so as soon as he is eligible; and (vi) she has submitted evidence that he or, in the case of a dependent student, at least one parent, guardian, or person standing in loco parentis, has filed, unless exempted by state law, Virginia income tax returns for at least three years prior to the date of enrollment. 


HB 780 Converted vehicles.

Referred to Transportation 


Converted vehicles.  Creates a definition for vehicles converted from gas to electric power and provides that such vehicles, when accompanied by certain documents, need not be examined by the Department of Motor Vehicles prior to the issuance of a title. The bill also provides for the titling and registration of and special equipment required for a converted electric vehicle. The bill contains technical amendments.

HB 781 Minority Business Enterprises, Department of; changes definition of small business. 

Referred to General Laws 

Department of Minority Business Enterprises; definition of small business.  Changes the definition of "small business" to be a business located in Virginia that meets the definition of a small business concern as defined by the Federal Size Standards of the U.S. Small Business Administration – as embodied in the federal Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. § 631 et seq.).  This moves Virginia away from the one size fits all small business standard of 250 employees and $10 million in annual revenue.  This standard – which covers 95% of all businesses in Virginia – does a disservice to women and minority owned businesses who must compete under the Small, Women, and Minority Owned business standards in Virginia. 


HB 782 Medical assistance; coverage for certain children and pregnant women. 

Referred to Courts of Justice 


Medical assistance; coverage for certain children and pregnant women. Provides that the Board of Medical Assistance Services shall include a provision in the state plan for medical assistance services for medical assistance for otherwise eligible pregnant women during the first five years of lawful residence in the United States. The bill also requires the Department of Medical Assistance Services to provide coverage under the Family Access to Medical Insurance Security (FAMIS) Plan for otherwise eligible children and pregnant women during the first five years of lawful residence in the United States.  What this means – Virginia should improve pre-natal care for low-income legal immigrants.  Currently low-income, pregnant legal immigrants are barred from Medicaid and FAMIS for the first 5 years they are in the U.S.  This affects their ability to access medically necessary prenatal care.  The Solution – Virginia should adopt the federal option to provide Medicaid and FAMIS to pregnant women legally residing in the U.S. during their first 5 years in the U.S.  This would provide: 

  • Prenatal care to about 450 pregnant legal immigrants with income below 200% of the Federal Poverty Line ($37,060/year for a family of 3 in 2011) 
  • Labor and delivery coverage to FAMIS-Moms eligible women. (Medicaid-eligible legal immigrants already can receive labor and delivery coverage as a Medicaid emergency service.) 
    •  Prenatal care is very cost effective.  It promotes healthy pregnancies and healthy babies, avoiding higher costs. 
  • Women who receive no prenatal care are 3 ½ times more likely to have a low birth weight baby and nearly 3 times as likely to give birth prematurely as other pregnant women. 
  • Virginia’s estimated cost would be about $1 million, matched by federal dollars.   But, Virginia budget experts found the actual cost would be less – and largely offset by the savings from improved birth outcomes. 
  • Virginia’s Joint Commission on Health Care supported this coverage in 2010 and 2011.

HB 783 Microenterprise investment tax credits; created for individuals who make qualified investment.

Referred to Finance 

Microenterprise investment tax credits.  Creates a tax credit for individuals who make a qualified investment in a microenterprise in tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2012, but before January 1, 2017. The amount of the credit shall be 25 percent of an investment in a green business microenterprise or a microenterprise located in a historically underutilized business zone, or 20 percent of an investment in any other microenterprise. An individual may receive a credit up to $12,500, and the total aggregate amount of credits available in a calendar year is capped at $2.5 million.  According to the U.S. Small Business Administration one in every two jobs in the U.S. are created by small businesses and entrepreneurs.  I believe that considerably more should be done by Virginia to spur investment in small businesses. 

HB 784 Drivers to exercise due care.

Referred to Transportation 

Drivers to exercise due care.  Requires drivers to exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian or the operator of a human-powered vehicle.  This addresses an issue that needs to be fixed in the Virginia Code that protects bicyclists and recovery of damages. 

HB 785 Following too closely. 

Referred to Transportation 

Following too closely.  Includes bicycles, electric personal assistive mobility devices, electric power-assisted bicycles, and mopeds among vehicles that the driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow more closely than is reasonable.  This addresses an issue that needs to be fixed in the Virginia Code that protects bicyclists and recovery of damages. 

HB 786 Elections; absentee voting.

Referred to Privileges and Elections 

Elections; absentee voting.  Provides that qualified voters may vote absentee in person without providing an excuse or reason for not being able to vote in person on election day. The bill retains the present statutory list of specific reasons entitling a voter to cast an absentee ballot for those persons who vote absentee by mail.  I believe that we should make it easier for people to exercise their right to vote in Virginia.  This legislation is a small step toward that goal.  This will make it far easier for individuals who may work longer hours or hold down several jobs to vote absentee in person at their convenience. 

HB 787 Retail Sales and Use Tax; exemption on renewable energy equipment. 

Referred to Finance 

Sales and use tax exemption; renewable energy equipment.  Provides refunds of sales and use tax paid on the purchase of certain renewable energy equipment.  The maximum aggregate amount of refunds is $1 million each fiscal year.  Renewable energy equipment shall mean equipment used to generate energy through (i) solar photovoltaic, (ii) hydrokinetic, (iii) wind power, or (iv) geothermal means.  I believe we should be doing all we can in Virginia to incentivize and grow green energy sources, jobs, and companies. 


HB 788 Green Public Buildings Act; created. 

Referred to General Laws 

Department of General Services; Green Public Buildings Act.  Requires public bodies entering the design phase for construction of a new building above a certain square footage in size, or renovating such a building where the cost of renovation exceeds a certain percentage of the value of the building, to build to either the LEED Silver or Green Globes two globe standard.  The bill provides for a delayed effective date for localities of July 1, 2013.

HB 789 Electrical utility facilities; consideration of stability of fuel prices. 

Referred to Commerce and Labor 

Electrical utility facilities; consideration of stability of fuel prices.  Requires the State Corporation Commission, when required to approve the construction of any electrical utility facility, to consider the long-term price stability of any fuels used in the generation of energy from the facility.  What this means – as the utility-regulating agency for Virginia, the mission of the State Corporation Commission (SCC) is to balance the interests of citizens, businesses, and customers.   As part of this mission, it is the SCC’s responsibility to deny or approve any new generation proposals.  Previously, the SCC could take into account only three considerations:


  1. the cost effectiveness of a proposed project,
  2. any service reliability improvements it would bring, and
  3. its potential for contributing to economic development within the Commonwealth.


However, more often than not, the SCC has focused solely on cost effectiveness to ratepayers, using the very narrowest definition of the term.  The result is a focus on short-term utility rates to the exclusion of other, equally valid considerations. One such consideration should be the effect on utility rates over the longer term, a factor currently ignored.  This review process results in an uneven playing field for renewable energy developers.  Indeed, several recent renewable energy projects have not been approved due to this rule. 


Currently, most renewable energy projects cannot compete with traditional fuel sources on cost effectiveness as the SCC defines it, even if they provide greater long-term price stability and other important benefits to residents, such as cleaner air and water, reduced health care costs from pollution, and new job opportunities in a growing energy sector. 


To further level the playing field for renewable energy sources, the SCC should take into account a project’s ability to generate electricity at a stable cost to consumers.  One unique attribute of  wind and solar power is that the fuel is free.  Therefore, utilities can lock in 10, 15, even 20-year rates without worrying about increased fuel charges in the future. 


Directing the SCC to consider price stability will shield consumers from the worst effects of sudden and dramatic fossil fuel price increases such as occurred in the coal market in 2008, prior to the recession. Coal prices have already begun to increase again in spite of continued softness in the demand for electricity; should they return to their 2008 peak and remain there or continue to rise, they will force significantly higher electric rates. And although natural gas is currently at a low point in its very volatile history, it also comes with no price guarantees.

Wind and solar generation facilities, when added to the mix of existing fossil fuel and biomass facilities, would have only a modest impact on overall rates, but would serve as a hedge against price increases in coal and natural gas.


Accordingly, I am recommending that the SCC be directed to consider price stability along with cost-effectiveness and economic development and job creation goals when reviewing plans for electric generation facilities. 


HB 790 Virginia Housing Partnership Revolving Fund; renames to Virginia Housing Trust Fund. 

Referred to General Laws 


Virginia Housing Partnership Revolving Fund. Renames the Virginia Housing Partnership Revolving Fund to the Virginia Housing Trust Fund. The bill provides that 20 percent of the moneys deposited in the Fund in any fiscal year shall be used by the Department for grants for the construction of new or rehabilitation of existing housing units, rental assistance to individuals and families experiencing homelessness, and other appropriate assistance to facilitate the achievement of housing stability. Under the bill, money placed in the Fund is derived from 10 percent of the annual general fund revenue collections that are in excess of the official estimates in the general appropriation act and 10 percent of any unreserved general fund balance at the close of each fiscal year whose re-appropriation is not required in the general appropriation act. The Fund also consists of such other sums as may be made available to it from any other source, public or private, and shall include federal grants solicited and received for the specific purposes of the Fund.