On Sunday, the House budget proposal was presented to the delegation. I believe it is a responsible, conservative proposal that saves first and spends second. It is a structurally balanced budget that invests in the core functions of government and numerous key priorities.
Similar to the actions you must take in running your personal household, I recognize that tough choices must be made to ensure that Virginia remains fiscally sound and continues to be a great place to live, work and raise a family. That’s why we have taken a “savings first” approach to crafting the budget, setting aside over $380 million in two state savings accounts. And like Virginia families, we recognize that we have to set priorities. Our obligation is to the core functions of government – education, public safety, transportation and healthcare. Our budget puts an emphasis on investments in K-12 and higher education, mental health services, hospitals and healthcare, and state employees.
Savings first- Virginia’s economic recovery has been stronger than most states, but still not strong enough. We have included a $243 million Rainy Day Fund deposit that brings the fund to over $900 million. We have also set aside nearly $140 million for a revenue reserve fund to offset any potential economic slowdown. This revenue reserve will be used to absorb any future revenue reductions.
Investing in Key Priorities- Our budget recognizes the need to invest in the core functions of government which are K-12 and higher education, supporting the health care safety net, rewarding our hard-working state employees and investments in mental health services. If Virginia meets its revenue forecasts, the revenue reserve fund will be used to provide some state employees with pay raises and bonuses, and to fully fund the state’s pension system. The House budget includes $81 million in total funds to restore the Medicaid inflation adjustment for hospitals, and the $111 million inflation adjustment for Virginia nursing homes. Caring for Virginia’s most vulnerable citizens has always been a House priority. That’s why we have included an additional 50 ID and 15 DD waivers. We also provide $48 million for mental health access, treatment and services. The House budget includes an additional $530.9 million for public education. This strong investment, when combined with numerous reforms over the last several years to ensure that money is spent in the classroom, will help provide teachers with the tools and resources they need to provide our children with a high quality education. The budget commits over $210 million to higher education, including $20 million to help keep tuition affordable and $6 million for more in-state slots at William & Mary, UVA, Virginia Tech and JMU.
Health Care Safety Net & Hospitals - Federal health care cuts due to the Affordable Care Act, sequestration and other federal actions are negatively hurting our hospitals. Unfortunately, Virginia’s options are limited; however, we can ensure that the state continues to support our hospitals for the indigent care services they provide. In response to the federal cuts, the House proposal includes over $118 million in inflation adjustments for our hospitals and $111 million for our nursing homes.
Health Care Safety Net & Mental Health - This year, we have taken a number of steps both legislatively and in the budget, to address critical weaknesses in our Mental Health System. The House budget includes $48 million for mental health treatment, intervention and access services. This funding will help create 17 additional crisis drop-off centers across the state, create three new PAC teams and ensure that a bed of last resort is always available for someone who needs mental health care. The House budget also includes 50 additional ID and 15 DD waivers slots, bringing the total number of slots provided to 750 and 65, respectively. The House budget also includes a 50 percent increase in funding for Virginia’s free clinics and community health centers, bringing the total to $6 million.
K-12 Education- This year, the House budget includes nearly $531 million in new funding for our students, teachers and school systems. This investment, as well as the numerous reforms over the last several years to ensure that money is spent in the classroom, demonstrates our long-term commitment to public education in the Commonwealth. The budget includes $5.4 million new money for “cost to compete” in eligible school divisions. It also includes over $7.5 million for math and reading initiatives, Teach for America and board certification bonuses for teachers.
Higher Education- The House budget commits over $210 million for higher education, including funding for more in-state tuition slots, funding to help moderate tuition costs and more funding for research. Building on our landmark higher education package from several years ago, this budget includes $6 million in new funding to complete the phase-in of more than 1,700 additional in-state slots at William & Mary, Virginia Tech, James Madison and the University of Virginia. Virginians saw average tuition increases of 4% and 4.7% in the last two years – some of the lowest increases in the last decade – due to our continued commitment to higher education. This year, we are continuing that commitment with $20 million in new funding to help keep college affordable for Virginia families.
Once the House and Senate pass their respective budgets, the conferees will iron out the differences between the two and send it on to the Governor for his review. Therefore, the budget is subject to numerous changes as the process unfolds.
I certainly hope that this overview is helpful to you. If you have any comments or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.
James "Jay" Leftwich, Jr.
February 14, 2014
As we have just passed the mid-point of the 2014 General Assembly Session, I want to update you on activities in the House and highlight some of my responsibilities and legislation.
During last year’s election, Virginia voters showed great confidence in the Republican led House by electing 67 Republicans to the 100 member Chamber. We will work to retain this trust by focusing on legislative initiatives that will benefit all Virginians. We’re taking the lead on addressing issues like K-12 education reform, sexual violence and domestic abuse prevention, ethics reform, and ensuring our transportation dollars are spent wisely.
I am honored to have been appointed to three standing committees: Courts of Justice, Education, and Science and Technology. I am also humbled, as a “freshman” Delegate, to be one of eleven house members to serve on subcommittees tasked with shaping legislative reforms on mental health, K-12 Education, and Ethics.
- ETHICS - As a member of the Courts of Justice Ethics Reform sub-committee and co-patron to HB1211 ( Gilbert ), I played a key role in crafting the bi-partisan ethics reform package that will increase accountability, promote greater transparency, and preserve the integrity of state government.
- EDUCATION- In addition to ethics reform, I was appointed to the House Education sub-committee on Education Reform for K-12, where our Caucus members are carrying legislation to reduce the number of SOL tests, enhance blended learning opportunities, and create teacher career ladders that will encourage our best teachers to stay in the classroom. I was co-patron on much of the key legislation such as Delegate Greason’s HB1115 (Virtual Schools) and HJ1 (teacher Career Ladder program) effecting positive change to benefit our public education students in Chesapeake and throughout the Commonwealth.
- TRANSPORTATION- Our members are carrying more than a half-dozen transportation reform initiatives aimed at increasing the use of technology, prioritizing congestion-relief, and ensuring return on investment in transportation spending. I am carrying a budget amendment (Item 444#2h) to provide funds to begin the preliminary engineering for the replacement of the I-64 High Rise Bridge. This expansion is of major importance to the region and once completed will help alleviate the notorious traffic congestion problems that plague that stretch of highway. I am pleased language was included in the House budget providing carryover funding from 2013 for this purpose; I hope the Senate will concur when the budget conferees meet to negotiate a final budget bill.
- MENTAL HEALTH- Mental Health Reform was an important issue for our caucus as well. I am a member of the Courts of Justice Mental Health Reform sub-committee which was tasked with evaluating legislation to ensure that our friends, family members and fellow citizens receive the care and treatment they need when faced with a crisis. I helped craft and co-patroned legislation to address many of those issues faced by Chesapeake’s residents. HB1216 (R. Bell) directs the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to review requirements for qualifications, training, and oversight of clinicians. HB293 (R Bell ) directs state facilities to accept individuals held under a temporary detention order (TDO) in the event that a private facility cannot be found. This is the "bed of last resort" bill that will ensure that no one ordered into treatment will be released without receiving care. HB1172 (R Bell ) establishes a procedure for transferring custody of a person who is the subject of a temporary detention order from one facility to another facility. HB478 (Villanueva) Provides for a second two-hour extension of the time during which a person may be held pursuant to an emergency custody order.
- FIGHTING DRUGS- Much of the legislation I co-patroned dealt with topics I participated in shaping throughout the committee process. However, I took particular interest in a bill introduced by Delegate Garrett (HB1112) which I hope will allow law enforcement to stay ahead of criminals who avoid prosecution and endanger our children by constantly changing the chemical formulas of synthetic drugs. In co-patroning Delegate Garrett’s bill, I joined his effort to authorize the State Board of Pharmacy to add new chemical compounds to the list of illegal drugs as soon as they are discovered rather than waiting for the General Assembly to update the list during its Session each January/February. An example of why this is so important: In 2013, the General Assembly added several new compounds to the list of illegal drugs. Just after passage 88% of seized synthetic drugs fell within the new list of outlawed chemical compounds. By December of 2013, only 2% of seized synthetic drugs fell within the new list of illegal chemical compounds. You can see how important it is to quickly add these compounds to the statutory list of illegal substances so law enforcement can get them out of our city and prosecutors may obtain convictions.
- JOBS- I can assure you that we will continue to make jobs our top priority, work to improve our economy, and champion legislation that benefits all Virginians. We want to continue our successes over the last four years that ended in 2013 with Virginia ranked the best state for doing business and our unemployment rate at 5.4%, lowest in the Southeast and 1.8% lower than the average for our region. I am pleased to report we have been able to do a great deal in a fiscally responsible manner while growing our financial reserves from $295 million to an expected $1 billion by 2016.
- VETERANS- I continue to focus on legislation that supports our veterans, the military, and their families. Partnering with Tidewater Community College Chesapeake Campus, I have submitted a budget amendment (461 #1h) which provides funding for the staffing of a Veterans Benefit Office in Chesapeake to better meet the needs of more than 27,000 veterans residing in our city. In that regard, it was a pleasure to meet with many representatives of Veterans Services Organizations to include the American Legion, VFW, and MOAA who stopped by my office to exchange views.
- RESOLUTIONS- I believe it is important to recognize the achievements and the contributions of our fellow citizens who have had an impact in the 78th District. Thus far, I have submitted two Commending Resolutions. One Resolution (HJ250) commends Andolyn Medina on her selection as Miss Virginia Collegiate America 2014. The second resolution (HR108) recognizes the retirement from public service of the Honorable Harry Burns Blevins. My Memorial Resolution (HJ249) recognizes the passing and service of Cassell Basnight. And finally, I was chief co-patron of a memorial resolution memorializing the life of Bill Parker and his many years public service. I welcome your recommendations for citizens or organizations that should be recognized for making a difference.
While this has been very busy session with many long and productive meetings, I try to meet with as many constituents as possible. We handle a range of constituent requests for assistance. My Richmond office can be reached at (804) 698-1078 or through email at Deljleftwich@house.virginia.gov.
I appreciate your views on legislation that will help me do a better job for the people I represent. Please visit my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Delegatejayleftwich or www.facebook.com/Leftwichfordelegate . This page, along with my website at http://jayleftwich.nationbuilder.com has information on my activities for the 2014 Session, visitors’ photos and the Session. I encourage you to sign-up for my email Updates on my webpage home page.
James A. “Jay” Leftwich, Jr.
Weather reports are showing a snowfall between 6 and 12 inches in Hampton Roads. As we deal with falling and lingering snow, be mindful of the hazardous driving conditions in our area. Please remember to call 511 or visit the VDOT website for current statewide road conditions and weather-related traffic updates. For closings in your area, please monitor your local news stations. Enjoy the winter weather safely and stay off the roads if possible.
CLICK HERE for the latest Winter Weather Update
as of Noon on Tuesday, January 28th.
During the storm, motorists should avoid driving on the roads. About 70 percent of deaths related to ice and snow occur in automobiles.
Monitor your local news sources for the latest weather conditions
Prepare your car for winter driving conditions, including having an emergency kit in your car
Prepare your home for winter weather conditions in case of power outages
Before getting behind the wheel, call 511, go to www.511virginia.org or download the 511 mobile app to get the latest road condition information
You can also call 800-FOR-ROAD (800-367-7623) to report road hazards or ask road-related questions at VDOT’s 24-hour Customer Service Center
When driving, give yourself extra time to reach your destination, leave plenty of driving room between you and the vehicle ahead and slow down.
For more winter travel information, go to http://www.virginiadot.org/travel/snow.asp.
Emergency contact information for reporting utility outages and general information is as follows:
Dominion Virginia Power – Call to report power outages or downed power lines, or to make other inquiries: 1-888-366-4357
Virginia Natural Gas – Natural Gas Leaks, Odors or Emergencies: 1-877-572-3342
For Chesapeake Emergency Contacts – CLICK HERE
Local Emergency Management Offices for Chesapeake:
Edmund (Ed) E. Elliott
304 Albemarle Dr.
Chesapeake, VA 23322
Local News Outlets:
Please stay tuned to your local news: WAVY – TV 10, WTKR – Channel 3, WVEC – Channel 13, WCTV – Chesapeake TV, Fox 43 TV, WHRO, VDOT’s 511 Virginia at http://www.511virginia.org/, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management - Twitter: @VDEM; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VAemergency.