Tax Credit Elimination Passes

Every session, I make it a mission to find a useless tax credit in the Virginia Code and eliminate it.

This year, my bill is SB 1399 and the target is the tax credit for political donations, which currently enables a potential $25/50 credit on state income tax returns. The total cost to the Commonwealth annually from this donation tax credit is $700,000.

Now I solicit political donations (out of session) and I greatly appreciate those which I receive.  I also make my share of political donations.  So I’m glad to see donors recognized and thanked.

But there is no reason for a donation to be the basis for a tax credit.  No reason to have that question on the state tax return.  No reason to lose that money from the State Treasury.  It’s a personal choice to donate that money.  Nothing more, nothing less.

The Senate Finance Committee evidently agreed, as they passed SB 1399 unanimously this morning.

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RTD Story Misses a Key Point

When I’m in session, I rely on the Richmond Times-Dispatch which is the daily media for Virginia politics.  It always has the inside dope.

Today, I picked up my usual copy at 6:00 a.m. at the Robinson Street Starbucks.  The front page headline was “Panel OK’s mandatory reporting of sexual assault.”

I read, with some surprise, that a Senate subcommittee of “five white men” (one being yours truly) had passed legislation which requires “employees of public universities and colleges” to report sexual assaults to police within 24 hours — despite the objections of student advocates.

The article accurately noted that the subcommittee panel recommended SB 712, which consolidated four “mandatory reporting” bills (including two carried by Democrats, Saslaw and Deeds).  However, the story essentially buried a critical detail:

The substitute version of SB 712 EXEMPTED “crisis counselors” and “sexual assault coordinators” from its reporting requirements.

In other words, if a young woman has an issue or potential complaint and meets with an on-campus counselor, that is a confidential discussion and neither party is legally required to go to the police or prosecutors.

That exemption was done yesterday morning (at the request of myself and Sen. Cosgrove) in response to the testimony we received from young women.  In some cases, this was public testimony — or private calls and emails.

That’s not to say that SB 712 is perfect.  As I stated yesterday in the subcommittee, I felt that the bill of Sen. Favola (D-Arlington) was a better vehicle on this issue for a number of reasons.  One, it’s a more holistic approach.  Two, she’s a woman.

Also, the subcommittee process is confusing.  We had two hours of testimony on this issue last week and then essentially “amended” the bill yesterday in another hearing, which was public but had no testimony.  Now the bill goes to the Courts committee, which will amend it further.

Having said all that, the RTD really dropped the ball by going with the easy headline and burying the issue of the exemptions, which took up nearly all our panel discussion both last week and yesterday.

[BTW, it seems like the Post story on "mandatory reporting" also missed this point.]

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Yes, Virginia, Size Does Matter

Today was a really good day for our legislative staff.

We got two major pieces of legislation through the demanding Senate Courts committee:  SB 891 (strengthening the rights of subcontractors to collect through mechanic’s liens) and SB 892 (ensuring that “Good Samaritans” who report overdose situations will not be prosecuted for misdemeanors).

Later in the afternoon, in Senate General Laws, we got a significant piece of legislation passed unanimously, SB 1008, or “the Homeowner Bill of Rights” which codifies a number of important rights for HOA and condo members.  If it actually passes the full Assembly, it will be one of the first pro-consumer measures to be added to the State Code since I joined in 2001.

For my last trick — at the witching hour of 5:00 p.m — I presented SB 885, which redefines “small business” in Virginia so that it actually reflects small businesses.

What do I mean?

The current law in Virginia defines small business as one with under 25o employees or $10 million in revenue.  That pretty much counts everyone.  The Secretary of Commerce estimated that over 90% of Virginia employees work for such a business.

Because the state law is so over-inclusive, the “small business” set asides in our state programs are taken up by companies which are not small businesses — some have $30 million in annual revenue.  (Remember that being under either threshold qualifies you).  That effectively cuts out the smaller-cap companies.

As one witness stated:  Yes, Virginia, size does matter.

My bill, SB 885, simply sought to change the “or” in the law to “and,” therefore halving the number of eligible businesses.  A number of groups, including the administration, spoke for the proposal.  The business lobby pushed back, and so the bill was eventually deferred by General Laws to next week to find a potential common ground.

Regardless, it was a very good day.  I’m headed to the AFL-CIO reception at the Marriott in a few minutes, then a late night work-out at the YMCA.  Size does matter.

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Let’s Stop Pretending “Deflate-gate” is a Real Scandal

In the unreal world of American media, there must be a national scandal at all times.   A prime subject is the NFL, whose overwhelming popularity overshadows all other sports, thus making it a 24/7 target for every social agenda.

That brings us to the New England Patriots, a team which has been uniquely successful over the past fourteen years — winning three Super Bowls and appearing in three others (including next Sunday’s).

Now the Pats are led by Tom Brady, the very prototype of a “pretty boy” NFL quarterback.  Of course, Brady is also one of the most competitive performers to ever put on a helmet.  There’s a reason he’s a 70% career winner.  His coach, Bill Belichick, has the look and personality of a medieval monk.  Somehow, he keeps putting winning teams on the field, with a bunch of guys who nobody else wants.

With that understood, let’s review the facts from last Sunday.  A couple hours before game time, the referees delivered twelve new footballs to the Patriots.  It is expected that the team will “break them in” in some manner — otherwise, why would they get them before the game?

During the first half, the Patriots used these twelve footballs on their offensive series.  After each play, the ball would be handed to the referee to spot the line of scrimmage.  Apparently, nobody noticed the balls were under-inflated — or, if they did, nobody cared enough to change the balls.  Again, the PATRIOTS were using the ball and, if they had a complaint, they didn’t say so.

At half-time, the Pats were leading 17-7.  At that time, there was a complaint from Indy — and the twelve balls were seized by the NFL.  Apparently, they were deflated by 10% or so.  A new set of balls was introduced.

Having lost their edge, the Pats struggled to a 28-0 margin in the second half. As in the first half, they mainly kept the ball on the ground and simply established physical dominance over the Indy front.  Ball game.

In my simple opinion, a ball should always be inflated (or deflated) at a pressure which is most to the liking of the offense.  Who else cares?  The defensive players are simply making tackles, rushing the passer or covering receivers.

It’s not like baseball where a doctored baseball prejudices the batter. There is no prejudice.  If you’re on defense, just make the damn tackle.

The entire investigation is a joke and the rule about ball pressure should be recognized for what it is — a meaningless regulation where none is needed.

Wisely the Colts have not participated in the “Let’s ban the Patriots from the Super Bowl” clown talk.  Please you people.  Get a life!

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Racing Through the Streets (of Richmond)

Dear Friends, Virginians and Citizens of Fairfax:

If the long session in Richmond is a 5K race, the short session is a quarter-mile dash. You start fast and never let up.  This year, the Senate will review nearly 700 pieces of legislation in four weeks before the “cross-over” date.

Here’s the status of my top pieces of legislation as we enter the first turn:

Ethics: My bipartisan bill, SB 696, with Senator Richard Stuart as copatron, institutes a $100 gift cap for state officials.  No hearing yet. Notably, the House of Delegates leadership has adopted a very similar concept.  So I expect this standard to become the law, whether or not I get credit.

Plastic Bag Tax: My bill to institute a five-cent tax on plastic bags to protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed was killed in Senate Finance Committee but did get some “yes” votes. This is a critical piece of environmental legislation but it won’t happen this year.

Dooring Prevention: My annual effort to protect cyclists and motorcyclists from suddenly opened vehicle doors is off to a good start this year, having passed out of Senate Transportation with only three no votes. It will be voted on by the full Senate next week.  I expect it to pass and go to the House.

Homeowners Bill of Rights: This consumer rights legislation will be heard in the General Laws committee on Monday. If enacted, it will be the first legislation specifically created to protect the rights of HOA and condo homeowners.

Overdose Good Samaritan Law: Another bill coming up on Monday, we’ll have counselors and advocates from across the Commonwealth to support a bill that can save lives.  A similar concept has been endorsed by the Attorney General so we’ll see how it goes.

Privacy Protection: My bill, SB 965, has gotten a lot of attention from both the media, the ACLU and police departments. It will prohibit law enforcement agencies from collecting (and keeping) data on citizens, when that information is acquired without a warrant.  It carves out a 7-day exception for “license plate readers” which are used by police departments in northern Virginia.  There is a parallel bill in the house patroned by Delegate Rich Anderson (R-Woodbridge).

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