Local lawmakers goals ahead of General Assembly’s return
HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Virginia lawmakers will reconvene in Richmond on Wednesday for the 2022 General Assembly Session.
“As always our goal is to enact legislation that will beneficial to the citizens of Virginia and I try to do that and weigh that against every bill that I carry or every bill that I vote on,” said republican Del. Tony Wilt who represents Harrisonburg.
Wilt has filed his first piece of legislation, renewing his efforts to pass the Association Health Plan. Wilt introduced the bill in previous sessions over the last few years and it had bi-partisan support but was rejected by Governor Ralph Northam.
The bill would provide small businesses with more options to provide affordable healthcare coverage for employees through a shared risk pool with other small businesses.
“They make too much money to qualify for the marketplace but the premiums and so forth out on the regular market and the deductibles they can’t afford that either, so they’re stuck in the middle so what this bill will do is work through larger organizations,” said Wilt.
Wilt is also carrying a bill aimed at increasing meat processing capacity across the state and helping independent processors.
“That’s a very challenged industry right now, people are just not finding the meats that they’re looking for from a processing standpoint and if they are the prices are so high that they just can’t afford it,” said Wilt.
Wilt’s bill would direct the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to develop a strategic plan to increase meat processing capacity in Virginia.
Wilt also plans to introduce legislation that will limit how long the governor can maintain emergency powers following an emergency declaration which he has done in the past regardless of the governor’s political affiliation.
“It limits the authority of the governor to issue an executive order and there are stipulations, but it’s going to limit that declaration to 45 days,” said Wilt.
Senator Mark Obenshain who represents Harrisonburg and other parts of the Shenandoah Valley is also back to work in Richmond and is planning to carry a bill aimed at making charter schools more available across the state.
“We want to make sure that our children have access to a high quality world class education and we’re gonna work hard to see that that happens,” said Senator Obenshain.
The republican lawmaker said he’s been working with Governor-Elect Glenn Youngkin on the bill. He carried a similar bill years that had bipartisan support but was vetoed by former Governor Terry McAuliffe.
Obenshain also plans to introduce legislation that will protect senior citizens from financial exploration. He and other republicans will also look at amending or scraping some of the legislation passed by Democrats over the last two years.
“I’ve introduced a bill that is going to roll back the law that was passed last year that permitted collective bargaining by public employees in Virginia, I just don’t believe that public employee unions are a positive thing in Virginia,” said Obenshain.
“We’ve seen some legislation enacted in the last year or two that was not thought through properly, so we need to go back and revisit some of those things and take appropriate action, maybe it’s amending it to make it a little better or perhaps it might be something that needs to be completely repealed,” said Wilt.
The General Assembly is split this year, with a Republican majority in the House of Delegates, and a Democratic majority in the Senate, but both Wilt and Obenshain said they’re prepared to reach across the isle and believe the General Assembly will still be able to get things done.
“One of the dirty little secrets of legislating is that probably 90 percent of the bills that we deal with are just problems. They aren’t republican problems or democrat problems. they’re just problems and we actually do a lot better job of working across party lines than most people think we do,” said Obenshain.
The General Assembly will convene for the first time on Wednesday mornin, and republican Glenn Youngkin will be sworn in as governor on Saturday.
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