Senate Democrats Reflect on 2011 Legislative Accomplishments before Veto Day

RICHMOND – There may be a rumble in the jungle. Or it may be another pleasant afternoon in the Virginia General Assembly. 
Either way, Wednesday is Veto Day for the Democratic-controlled Virginia Senate and Republican-controlled House of Delegates.
Although it's the outcome of tomorrow's session is still very uncertain, Senate Democrats are sure of one thing.
"Overall, Senate Democrats were very productive this year in championing a legislative agenda that is reflective of the Commonwealth’s priorities. By working in a bipartisan manner with our Republican counterparts, we introduced and passed bills to save and create jobs, improve public schools and protect citizens' rights," said Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Mary Margaret Whipple. 

"Unfortunately, a number of these initiatives that passed through the Senate with bipartisan support, including the nonpartisan redistricting legislation, were met with opposition from House Republicans. However, some of our best efforts have been signed into law and we look forward to achieving additional successes tomorrow." 
Democratic legislation that passed the Senate include:
Bills to Create Jobs
SJ 329- Economic development incentive grants; JLARC to study effectiveness in State. (Patron Janet Howell).  This legislation directs JLARC to study the effectiveness of Virginia's economic development incentives.

SJ 330 - Subaqueous bottomland in Virginia; VIMS and VMRC to establish a panel to study. (Patron Ralph Northam)   This legislation directs VMRC and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science to study ways to jump-start Virginia’s emerging aquaculture industry.

SB965 -Retail Sales & Use Tax; exemption for spaceport activities. (Patron Ralph Northam)This legislation extends the tax credit for Virginia’s commercial aero-space industry. 

SB 1326 - Income tax, state; research and development expenses tax credit. (Patron Mark Herring) This bill allows income tax credits for individuals and businesses for qualified research and development expenses for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2012, but before January 1, 2017.  

SB 1459 - Virginia Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2011. (Patron Edd Houck)  This bill establishes the Virginia Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2011 for the purpose of fueling strong economic growth in the Commonwealth and preparing Virginians for the top job opportunities in the knowledge-driven economy of the 21st century.
Bills to Improve Education 
SB 800 - Budget Bill. Appropriations for 2010-2012 biennium. (Patron Chuck Colgan) The final FY2012 budget passed by the General Assembly restores more than $75 million to K-12 education.
SB 946 - School buses; installation of video-monitoring systems thereon by school divisions. (Patron Janet Howell)  This bill authorizes localities to adopt ordinances to allow local school divisions to install and operate video-monitoring systems on school buses in order to detect drivers passing stopped school buses.

SJ 320 -Virginia school children; joint subcommittee to study academic achievement. (Patron Yvonne Miller) This bill directs the Commission on Youth to study how Virginia school children compare academically with students in other countries. This bill was left in the House Rules Committee. 
Bills to Expand Access to Healthcare 
SB 800 - Budget Bill. Appropriations for 2010-2012 biennium. (Patron Chuck Colgan) The final FY2012 budget passed by the General Assembly adds $110million GF over the introduced budget for health and human resources.  
SB 1062 - Health insurance; mandated coverage for autism spectrum disorder. (Patron Janet Howell) This bill requires some employers to provide autism insurance coverage for children ages 2 to 6, a critical period for treating the disorder.
Bills to Protect Citizens and Civil Rights
SB 745- Cannabinoids, synthetic; penalties for transport, possession, sale, or distribution, etc. (Patron Mark Herring) This bill establishes penalties for possession, sale, gift, distribution or possession with intent to sell, give or distribute synthetic cannabinoids; bath salts.
The Senate also introduced the following significant civil and consumer protection legislation. These bills were left in House Committees. 
SB 747-  Nondiscrimination in state employment; prohibited based on race, color, religion, etc. (Patron 
Donald McEachin) This bill make sexual orientation a protected class protected class in the state’s non-discrimination employment law.
SB 949 - Elections; qualified voters may vote absentee in person without providing an excuse or reason. (Patron Janet Howell) This bill 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.
SB 937-Absentee voting; persons age 65 and older will be entitled. (Patron John Miller) The bill provides that persons age 65 and older will be entitled to vote absentee.
SB 837 - Foreclosure; use of false records, documents, or statements. (Patron Chap Petersen)- This bill provides that any person who knowingly makes, uses, or causes to be made or used a false or fraudulent record, document, or statement in support of any foreclosure upon property under this chapter shall be liable to the injured party.
SJ 284 - Constitutional amendment; restoration of civil rights to persons convicted of nonviolent felonies. (Patron Yvonne Miller) Authorizes the General Assembly to provide by law for the restoration of civil rights for persons convicted of nonviolent felonies who have completed service of their sentences subject to the conditions, requirements, and definitions set forth in that law.
Bills to Encourage Bipartisanship
SJ 321 - Constitutional amendment; establishes Virginia Redistricting Commission (first reference).  (Patron Creigh Deeds) This legislation establishes the  bipartisan thirteen-member Virginia Redistricting Commission to redraw Congressional and General Assembly district boundaries after each decennial census.
SB 932 - Virginia Redistricting Commission; created.  (Patron John Miller) This bill establishes a five-member bipartisan commission to prepare redistricting plans for the House of Delegates, state Senate, and congressional districts.
These bills were also left in a House committee.

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