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Updates from Alfonso: “Sine Die” and Women’s History Month

Dear {{FirstName or "Friends and Neighbors"}},

 

Happy Women’s History Month!  As we celebrate the many contributions of women to our communities, Commonwealth, and nation, I cannot help but think of the outstanding contributions of the trailblazing women I work with in the Virginia House of Delegates. Whether it is Majority Leader Charniele Herring, Caucus Chair Kathy Tran, Labor and Commerce Chair Jeion Ward, or the countless others in the House, I count myself lucky to work beside them and I know that we would not have achieved all that we have without their hard work and leadership.

 

In previous newsletters I’ve highlighted the work I’ve done on my bills and budget priorities. But, with the regular session finished “Sine Die”, I would like to highlight some that were introduced by my colleagues that I also worked on as either a Chief Co-Patron or Co-Patron. You can click here to see the full list of bills that I Co-Patroned (42) and Chief Co-Patroned (28). Here are some highlights: 

 

➤    HB 35 (Del. Clark): This bill expands the Firearm Safety Device Tax Credit that my bill created last year. Del. Clark and I worked to expand the credit to cover trigger locks.

➤    HB 800 (Del. Herring): This bill helped to resolve issues that are holding up rural broadband expansion. It sets up practices for attaching broadband internet cables to existing utility poles and sets up a system for disputes between internet providers and utilities.  This is something I have worked on extensively at the federal level and I was happy to be part of the effort to pass this bill.

➤    HB 1157 (Del. Krizek): Requires agencies to consult with the Federally recognized Tribal Nations in the Commonwealth on permits, reviews, and other issues that affect them. Del. Krizek has been a strong advocate on tribal issues for years and has worked tirelessly to get this commonsense measure passed over several sessions. I’ve been working on Federal recognition for Virginia’s Tribal Nations for many years and I was honored to assist. 

➤    HB 1287 (Del. MCClure): Allows localities in Northern Virginia to permit all of their towers. As I have mentioned before, the Virginia Code has really tied the hands of Northern Virginia localities when it comes to regulating towing and this has led to our significant predatory towing issues in the region. Del. McClure worked together closely on our respective towing bills to ensure that they both passed the General Assembly (nearly unanimously).

➤    HB 1458 (Del.Hernandez): Virginia is the 2nd most susceptible region of the country to coastal flooding issues - behind New Orleans. This legislation creates a standalone Office of Commonwealth Resilience to support the coordination of planning and implementation of resilience and flooding reduction efforts in Virginia. The office would also oversee distribution of loans and grants from the Resilient Virginia Revolving Fund. I worked closely with Del. Hernandez on drafting this bill. Also, my bill HB 948 - which increases the transparency requirements for the Virginia Community Flood Preparedness Fund and Resilient Virginia Revolving Fund - was incorporated into this bill.

➤    SB 729 (Sen. Surovell):  This legislation is one of the most significant environmental victories of the 2024 session! The bill creates the Virginia Clean Energy Innovation Bank. I introduced a similar bill that was continued to 2025 due to cost concerns. Working closely with Senator Surovell, we were able to structure this bill slightly differently and address the issues raised by the House Appropriations Committee. In the end, we got it passed!  



Click the title of this section to see a list of all my bills with more specifics. Below is a rundown of all the bills I introduced that have passed and are on the Governor’s desk for consideration. Highlighted below are the latest updates.


Education

HB 947: Regulating Vape Shops near Schools and Daycares

Requires a locality, after July 1, 2024, to incorporate strategies to limit vape shops near schools to reduce the use of nicotine vapor products by youth

PASSED - On the Governor’s Desk for Consideration


HB 958: Incorporating Student Input into School Boards

Amended to have the Commission on Civic Education create model guidance on incorporating student input and adding a student representative to school boards across the Commonwealth

PASSED - On the Governor’s Desk for Consideration


Environment and Renewable Energy

HB 953: Allows Local Governments to create Environmental Impact Funds

Localities can establish a permanent Local Environmental Impact Fund funded by local appropriations, gifts, and donations. The money in such a fund can be used to grant residents or local businesses funds for mitigating environmental impacts, specifically targeting energy-efficient equipment purchases (leaf blowers, HVAC units, e-mobility, and other prescribed uses)

PASSED - On the Governor’s Desk for Consideration


HB 944: Forest Sustainability Fund; fund allocation.

Requires proportional allocation of Forest Sustainability Fund money to localities foregoing tax revenues due to use of their forests for commercial forestry

PASSED - On the Governor’s Desk for Consideration


HB 949: Regulating Above Ground Storage of Hazardous Chemicals

Amended to prepare Virginia for compliance with the forthcoming federal regulations on this issue, increase penalties for bad actors, and increase recordkeeping requirements

PASSED - On the Governor’s Desk for Consideration


Housing 

HB 955: Making Leases Language Accessible

Landlords must include a summary page with key details like lease duration, rent amount, due date, deposits, and termination provisions in rental agreements; requirements apply to certain landlords in languages that are prevalent in the local area

PASSED - On the Governor’s Desk for Consideration


HB 957: Remedies for Tenants When Their Rental Unit is Condemned

Amended to ensure renter’s whose unit is condemned by no fault of their own get their security deposits and prepaid rent refunded, and receive actual damages caused by the source of condemnation

PASSED - On the Governor’s Desk for Consideration


HB 967: Transparency to Prevent Junk Fees in Housing

Amended to require use of a cover sheet for all leases that clearly displays rent and all mandatory fees that a tenant will have to pay

PASSED - On the Governor’s Desk for Consideration


HB 950: Protecting Energy Efficiency and Basic Safety in Our Building Code

Despite the fact the Board of Housing and Community Development recently completed its triennial review of the building code and did not suggest that it was needed, the Governor is pushing for a 25% reduction in regulations in the building code. As opposed to taking out all of the construction and safety provisions of the Code, the concern is that he will take out all of the energy efficiency sections of the Building Code. This bill has been amended to ensure that such discussions remain where they belong, the next triennial review

PASSED - On the Governor’s Desk for Consideration


Economy, Jobs, and Workers’ Rights

HB 960: Incentivizing the Protection of Historic and Properties - Increasing the historic rehabilitation tax credit

Increases the maximum amount of the historic rehabilitation tax credit from $5 million to $7.5 million

PASSED - On the Governor’s Desk for Consideration


HJ 43: Studying the shortage of large animal veterinarians; report

Instructs the Board of Veterinary Medicine to conduct a two-year study on the shortage of large animal veterinarians, with technical assistance from various stakeholders, including appointed members of the House and Senate

PASSED - Studies do not require approval by the Governor


Social and Consumer Justice

HB 962: Removing Offensive Terminology from the VA Code

Removes offensive terms for persons who are not citizens or nationals of the United States from the code and replaces them with modern language that mirrors terminology being considered and used on the federal level

PASSED - On the Governor’s Desk for Consideration


HB 959: Cracking Down on Predatory Towing

This legislation takes on the predatory towing bad actors in our community head on! The final legislation increases the penalties for bad actors and give localities in Northern Virginia and the Fredericksburg-Stafford Area the same authorities to regulate towing that all other Virginia localities as well as some additional authority to regulate predatory monitoring practices

PASSED - On the Governor’s Desk for Consideration


HB 972: Prohibiting inquiry into the immigration status of the defendant and notification of consequences. 

Prohibits courts from inquiring into the immigration status of a defendant unless it's relevant to the offense and requires courts to inform defendants of possible immigration consequences of conviction and guilty pleas before proceedings commence

PASSED - On the Governor’s Desk for Consideration


HB 1454: Making the expiration date rules the same for all types of licenses

Without a valid reason, driver privilege cards expire every two years instead of every seven like other licenses. This bill makes sure all Virginians face the same requirements

PASSED - On the Governor’s Desk for Consideration


The Budget


My House Priorities included in the Budget Conference Report:  

➤  $25 million added to the House budget for the Virginia Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which I created in 2013, that supports the development of affordable housing and homeless reduction efforts. 

➤  An amendment that created the Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Cambridge Assessment Fee Reduction Fund. With $750,000 in each year of the biennial budget, this fund would cover all but $20 of the test fees for Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Cambridge Assessment tests for students who qualify for free and reduced lunch. Poverty should never be a barrier to a child’s success.

➤  $3 million to assist our Soil and Water Conservation District offices, which handle a lot of environmental programs including grants, tax credits, and Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Agricultural and Urban soil and water conservation. 


See below for some highlights from the final budget that have passed the House and Senate:


Education

- 3% salary increase each year in the biennium for our public school teachers

- $2.5 billion in additional funding for K-12 public education

- $527.8 million in additional funding over the biennium to support early childhood education

- $371.3 million in additional funding over the biennium to implement several JLARC recommendations $72.1 million in additional funding to provide support for ELL students 

- $205.4 million over the biennium to increase access, affordability and degree production for public colleges and universities. This works to limit in-state undergraduate tuition increases and includes $40 million in support for HBCUs


Economy/Working Families

- $79.5 million over the biennium to support increasing the state’s minimum wage to $15/hr. by January 2026

- 3% salary increase each year of the biennium for state-supported employees

- $175 million for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund to support the creation or preservation of affordable housing - this is a $25 million increase! 

- $40 million over the biennium for the Virginia Business Ready Sites Program 

- $243.1 million over the biennium to backfill revenue lost from the removal of the  grocery sales tax


Health/Mental Health

- $30.5 million over the biennium to combat the opioid epidemic in our Commonwealth, including…$11 million for the Virginia Department of Health to purchase opioid reversal agents and test kits , $400,000 for the Virginia Department of Health to conduct a waste water demonstration project to test for fentanyl and norfentanyl, and $100,000 to equip public schools with naloxone to combat the deadly opioid epidemic 

- $191.4 million to add additional DD waiver slots and a 3% rate increase each year of the biennium for DD services

- $126 million over the biennium in additional mental health services 

- $6.2 million over the biennium to fully fund community health workers in local health departments 

- $40 million over the biennium to incentivize higher staffing for nursing homes


Public Safety

- $75.1 million over the biennium for community violence intervention initiatives, including….$18 million over the biennium for the Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Program, $10 million for the Operation Ceasefire Grant Program, $7 million over the biennium to add Roanoke to the Safer Communities program , and $6 million in additional support over the biennium for youth community violence programs 

 - $21.3 million over the biennium to backfill and maintain funding for the VOCA Victims Services Grant Program and maintains funding for the Victim Witness, Sexual Assault, and Domestic Violence Victim and Victim Services grant programs


Natural Resources/Infrastructure

- The budget directs the Governor to reenter the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative 

- $149.5 million over the biennium to improve our transportation system and ease the burden of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)

- $100 million for the Community Flood Preparedness Fund 

- $400 million to meet Chesapeake Bay improvement goals

- $25 million for the City of Norfolk for Coastal Risk Storm Management Projects



My full list of committee assignments for this session includes: 


Agriculture, Chesapeake, & Natural Resources (ACNR) is the committee tasked with stewardship over the Commonwealth’s environment, natural landscape and waterways, supporting our farmers, and sustaining our agriculture and forestry industries, which are a cornerstone of Virginia’s economy. I am the Chair of the full Committee.  


Labor and Commerce covers legislation from a wide variety of topics, ranging from wage and labor issues to small business regulations and energy. I am also the Chair of the Labor & Commerce Subcommittee #2 that deals with all of the Labor & Workforce issues before the General Assembly (ex. Paid Family and Medical Leave, the Minimum Wage, Workforce and Labor protections, and Collective Bargaining for employees are some of the issues we are working on this year).


Public Safety handles legislation meant to protect Virginia residents and communities.  This includes but is not limited to bills on firearms, policing, and justice reform. I am also a Member of the Subcommittee on Firearms. 


Communications, Technology and Innovation covers legislation on issues concerning technology and communications policy, including telecommunications and internet issues. I’m a Member of the Subcommittee on Communications.


SESSION HIGHLIGHTS


➤   Thank you to all who attended the Town Hall meeting on Saturday,  March 2. Senator Barbara Favola and I were happy to hear from our constituents, update them on the session, and answer questions. 


➤ I enjoyed my visit with student leaders from the Alexandria City High School International Academy’s Leadership Club. As many of you know, my late mother was a long-time school counselor who worked with ESL/HILT students. After speaking with these students, I know she would be proud of the great work they are doing.


SESSION HIGHLIGHTS






COMMUNITY UPDATES

➤ Students can now use an iRide SmarTrip card to ride Metrobus for free in Arlington. This new collaboration between the County and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (WMATA) aims to provide young people with greater access to safe, environmentally friendly transit options to go to school and other destinations.



 ➤ Jackie Robinson Foundation: 

The Jackie Robinson Foundation provides a multi-faceted experience designed to not only address the financial needs of students who aspire to attend college but to guide them through the process of higher education. Deadline: March 30. Scholarships up to $7,000. Apply here!


➤ The Esperanza Education Fund: 

The Esperanza Education Fund helps bridge that gap by providing scholarships to students who can’t get help elsewhere. They help immigrant students achieve their dreams through higher education regardless of their national origin, ethnicity, or immigration status. Scholarships of at least $5,000 and up to $20,000. Deadline: April 1.


➤ The Scholarship Fund of Alexandria:

A single application enables seniors to apply for more than 100 different scholarships. Financial need-based scholarships are at least $3,000 per year and renewable for all four years of college. Students can learn more and apply here. 


➤ Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership - High School Leaders Program

HSLP prepares future leaders for ethical and responsible civic engagement and public service in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Upcoming Program: July 13-27, 2024. Online application due March 25, 2024. Supplemental materials due March 29, 2024. Tuition details and Financial Aid application is available online.


As always, it is an honor to serve as your Delegate in the Virginia General Assembly. If there is any way that my office may be helpful to you, please don’t hesitate to contact us by email at DelALopez@house.virginia.gov or by phone at (571) 336-2147. Additionally, you can always visit my website at www.alfonsolopez.org.









Alfonso H. Lopez

Member, 3rd District

Virginia House of Delegates

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