Emmett's Virginian Voice
From the Office of Senator Emmett Hanger   March 2018
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One major rule of politics is don't stray far from your base.

Political parties are key to our process and help to orient or align our basic political standings. It  is my belief that your position on an issue should generally fall in line with that sentiment, but your actual positions and corresponding votes should be more closely tied to your core beliefs and personal judgments rather than simply following party opinion. 

That has gotten me in trouble a few times over the years with my party. One salient example is my position on Medicaid.  Even as a strong conservative in the Senate I am considered a bit of a political anomaly because I am advocating for a reasonable plan to address our serious health care needs and close the gap of those working but unable to afford healthcare. I know there are plenty, in fact very many folks, in my political party throughout Virginia that also support this idea.
 
I was very pleased to see some rural conservative legislators step out in the House and that has resonated enough with House Leadership that they have included a somewhat limited Medicaid Expansion, with some Virginia specific requirements, in their House budget.
 
The language included in the House budget doesn't actually go far enough though in my opinion. I support a work requirement for all able-bodied adult recipients of medical assistance services, periodic verification of household income of an individual subject to the work requirement and for redetermination of the individual's eligibility for medical assistance eservices, and imposing certain requirements related to cost sharing for recipients of medical assistance services, including requirements for premiums, copayments, and coinsurance. I also would want to include initiatives to stabilize the Marketplace insurance program that was set up under the Affordable Care Act and set policies that will stabilize and reduce costs in the commercial health insurance market so that average Virginians can acquire affordable insurance and that businesses can continue to provide group plans that are adequate and affordable within the budget of their business.  

With the House including some of the Medicaid expansion components in their budget, this certainly advances the conversation. The majority of the Senate has still not agreed to any such plan but I believe other conservative Senators will emerge to stand with me. If not, I will stand with anyone willing to make bold moves to address the need because it impacts all of us, our budget, and my personal beliefs tell me it is the right thing to do. As we combine our Senate and House budget versions, I will continue to press that we address this critical need this year. 
UPCOMING on Emmett's Calendar:
Highlights in March:  

Budget conferees are appointed and the two remaining weeks of Session will be to meld the separate House and Senate budgets into the one final version of the General Assembly budget which will be sent back to the Governor for his final review.

Sine Die Adjournment is set for March 10
STAFF'S NOTES  
As a staff person, my role is to support the Senator and work on his agenda. But staffers obviously have opinions too, though while we are "on the clock" you won't often hear them expressed. The morning after the high school shooting in Florida I left the following personal note for Emmett. With his permission, I am sharing it with you because it is another humbling example that he votes not solely on party lines but for the greater good. He listens, and is working hard to make Virginia a better place for all.

My Point of Personal Privilege.

You made me cry this morning sir.

Last night, I cried because another senseless shooting occurred in a school. Children and teachers died and countless others will relive that horror over and over.

I had gotten (privately) very mad earlier this session at a "gun rights" person who tried to lobby me on the bump stock bill and told me it was "over-reactive and emotional", but "that in a few months' time everybody would forget about the LA shooting". Well, there was a school shooting the day after he told me that. And then another yesterday.

We are not even two months into 2018 and there have been 18 school shootings this year alone. The gun rights people like the one who came to lobby us are wrong. We can do something and must. I am a gun rights person with a handgun registered in my name, I am a mother and wife of hunters, a daughter and sister of law enforcement, and most importantly, I am a compassionate and proud American just wanting to send my kid to school and insure he returns home each day. My Constitution, same as everyone else's starts out with, "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." We cannot allow the Second Amendment to blindly trump the overall intent of the rest of our freedoms and liberties.  

But why did YOU make me cry? Simple, you did the thing so many others in "our party" won't. I never looked at the Finance vote on SB1. The lobbyist told me he had it wired to die. But when I clicked on the vote this morning, you were the lone vote of R's to ban bump stocks. Thank you.

Everyone says we can't overcome gun violence. And as a whole, we indeed can't stop it altogether but if you ask the families of the 17 victims yesterday, action like banning assault rifles or universal background checks, or more mental evaluations or something may have spared that school. And I can guarantee you, at least at this hour, those grieving families don't care if any of us are R's or D's, they would just want all of us to do SOMETHING to prevent more deaths. Thoughts and prayers are needed, but action is key.

Thanks for trying to always be one of the good guys!

I have had way too many conversations with my son about what to do if he finds himself in a similar situation and that is a heavy burden to ask any child to deal with. The mental scars of those Florida kids will be everlasting.

THANK YOU for making me cry. At least I know someone is listening and trying to make improvements. Holly

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  • SB 29 Budget Bill. Senate Version of the "Caboose bill" adopted and work continues to combine Senate and House versions into final General Assembly budget.  
  • SB 30 Budget Bill. Senate Version adopted and work continues to combine Senate and House versions into final General Assembly budget.  
  • SB 81 Landowner liability; educational activity. Passed Senate 39-0.Defeated in House Subcommittee. Working with groups like Friends of the Middle River, Emmett is offering clarifying language so they can continue to offer their educational programs to citizens on clean water and other conservation issues. Bill provides that a landowner whose property is used for an educational activity shall owe no duty of care to a member of the public arising out of the educational use of the land. Current law provides such an exemption for recreational activities and certain other uses of land.
  • SB 229 School bus personnel; training program on autism spectrum disorders. Passed Senate 39-0. In his role as Chair of the VA Autism Council, Emmett is offering a recommendation stemming from their council work. The bill requires the Board of Education to establish a training program for school board employees who assist in the transportation of students on school buses, including individuals employed to operate school buses and school bus aides, on autism spectrum disorders, including the characteristics of autism spectrum disorders, strategies for interacting with students with autism spectrum disorders, and collaboration with other employees who assist in the transportation of students on school buses. The bill requires each school board employee who assists in the transportation of students with autism spectrum disorders on school buses to participate in such training program.
  • SB 230 Commonwealth's tax system; conformity with federal law, emergency. Passed Senate 39-0. Passed House 98-0. Gov's Recommendations sent down an accepted 40-0.
  • SB 231 Capital outlay plan; updates six-year plan for projects. Passed Senate 39-0. Passed House with amendments 98-0.
  • SB 234 Autism Advisory Council; extends sunset provision. Passed Senate 40-0. Emmett chairs this council and the bill extends their work through July 2020.  
  • SB 446 License plates, special; Va. FFA. Passed Senate 39-0. Passed House 100-0. As a former FFA Member, Emmett is happy to help with authorizing a revenue-sharing special license plates for members and supporters of the Virginia Future Farmers of America (FFA) Foundation bearing the legend WE ARE THE BIRTHPLACE OF THE FFA.
  • SB 537 Computation of composite index; land-use assessment value. Carried Over to 2019 Session for further review.   
  • SB 538 Courthouses; expansion to contiguous land. Passed Senate 40-0.Passed House 98-0. Clarifies language which will allow for renovation of current Augusta County Courthouse in Staunton and permit it to expand its footprint to buildings across the street to accommodate needed space for court operations and security.   
  • SB 539 Child day programs; exemptions from licensure, removes certain programs from list. Passed Senate 39-0. Continuing Emmett's long-standing work on childcare and child safety measures, this sets out reporting requirements to i dentify those operating programs under exemption to give parents reliable information on all programs available - licensed and unlicensed. The bill sets minimum standards for safety and health for "license exempt" because there are none currently. No one is losing their exempt status but the issue of exemption had not been reviewed as a whole in over 20 years and the bill includes recommendations from Hanger's 2016 study resolution, SJ63, which was a year long study with stakeholders.
  • SB 540 Spousal support; modification when person reaches retirement age. Passed Senate 40-0. Provides that for the purposes of petitioning the court for a modification of spousal support, the payor spouse reaching full retirement age pursuant to the federal Social Security Act shall be considered a material change in circumstances. The bill provides a list of factors that shall be considered by the court in considering modification based on the payor spouse reaching full retirement age. A request for modification based on the payor spouse's retirement age is available to any person subject to a spousal support order regardless of the date of the suit for initial setting of support or the date of entry of any such order or decree. Finally, the bill provides that in the court's consideration of a petition for modification for any reason, it shall consider the assets or property interest of each of the parties from the date of the support order and up to the time of the hearing on modification or termination, and any income generated from the asset or property interest.
  • SB 547 Transient occupancy tax; eligible historic lodging properties. Passed Senate 25-15. Passed House 79-20. The historic Homestead in Bath County is the largest employer in the county and provides a huge economic base thru tourism and jobs. Those staying at the Homestead would pay this additional tax to help fund critical infrastructure updates to maintain the hotel's tourism and economic viability. The bill authorizes a qualified county to impose, after holding a public hearing, an additional transient occupancy tax not to exceed five percent of the amount of the charge for the occupancy of any room or space occupied at eligible historic lodging properties. Any revenue generated by the tax would be used by the local government to incentivize other entities to invest in substantial rehabilitation, renovation, and expansion projects at eligible historic lodging properties.
  • SB 557 School bus operators; hourly requirements for classroom and behind-the-wheel training. Passed Senate 39-0.Passed House 99-1. To address a shortage of school bus drivers and to insure compliance with federal law and provide adequate training Emmett has offered the following bill working with our schools, DMV and VA State Police. The bill requires any new school bus operator applicant who does not possess an commercial driver's license to receive (i) a minimum of 24 hours of classroom training and (ii) six hours of behind-the-wheel training on a school bus that contains no pupil passengers and requires certain school bus operator applicants who possess a commercial driver's license to receive (a) a minimum of four hours of classroom training and (b) three hours of behind-the-wheel training on a school bus that contains no pupil passengers. Current law leaves the setting of such hourly requirements to the Department of Education. The bill contains technical amendments.
  • SB 560 Long-Term Employment Support and Extended Employment Services; assisting persons with disabilities. Passed Senate 40-0. Passed House 97-0-1. Codifies existing practice and r equires the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services to administer Long-Term Employment Support Services and Extended Employment Services to assist individuals with disabilities with maintaining employment.
  • SB 572 Medical assistance services; State Board of Medical Assistance Services to include in state plan. Passed By Indefinitely 8-7. This bill is a modified "Virginia version" of expanding Medicaid and insuring protections of our state dollars while addressing the health care needs of those working poor  in the "coverage gap". Directs the State Board of Medical Assistance Services to include in the state plan for medical assistance services pursuant to Title XIX of the Social Security Act a provision for the payment of medical assistance on behalf of individuals described in 42 U.S.C. § 1396a(a)(10)(A)(i)(VIII) and directs the Secretary of Health and Human Resources to prepare and submit an application for a waiver to allow the Commonwealth to (i) institute a work requirement for all able-bodied adult recipients of medical assistance services, (ii) provide for periodic verification of household income of an individual subject to the work requirement and for redetermination of the individual's eligibility for medical assistance eservices, and (iii) impose certain requirements related to cost sharing for recipients of medical assistance services, including requirements for premiums, copayments, and coinsurance. Provisions of the bill providing for the payment of medical assistance on behalf of individuals described in 42 U.S.C. § 1396a(a)(10)(A)(i)(VIII) shall expire on July 1, 2020, unless the waiver has been approved and implemented.
  • SB 576 Stream restoration; standards and specifications. Passed Senate 39-0-1. Passed House 97-0-1.
  • SB 580 Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act; amends Act to facilitate sharing data. Passed Senate 40-0. In an effort to be more efficient and break down communication barriers between varying agencies and Secretariats, Emmett is carrying this bill that has evolved into a major piece of legislation. The bill amends the Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act (§ 2.2-3800 et seq.) to facilitate the sharing of data among agencies of the Commonwealth and between the Commonwealth and political subdivisions. The bill creates the position of Chief Data Officer of the Commonwealth (CDO), housed in the office of the Secretary of Administration, to (i) develop guidelines regarding data usage, storage, and privacy and (ii) coordinate and oversee data sharing in the Commonwealth to promote the usage of data in improving the delivery of services. The bill also creates a temporary Data Sharing and Analytics Advisory Committee (Advisory Committee) to advise the CDO in the initial establishment guidelines and best practices, and to make recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly regarding a permanent data governance structure. The bill directs the CDO and the Advisory Committee are directed to focus their initial efforts on developing a project for the sharing, analysis, and dissemination of data at a state, regional, and local level related to substance abuse, with a focus on opioid addiction, abuse, and overdose.
  • SB 582 Open-space land; increase threshold for substitution of real property when lands are converted . Passed Senate 39-0. Carried over to 2019 in House for further review. This bill addresses the land-swap issue that took place when the recent pipelines were routed thru property under conservation easements and is intended to further protect these properties. The bill Increases the threshold for the substitution of real property when lands are converted or diverted from open-space land use, requiring the substitute land to have "substantially" greater value as permanent open-space land than the land being converted or diverted. The bill establishes several requirements that an applicant for such conversion or diversion, such as an electric utility or a pipeline company, shall meet, including the requirements that it pay for appraisals conducted by a certified general real estate appraiser, and explain why, if the substitute land is not adjacent to the land to be converted or diverted, adjacent land could not be acquired. The bill authorizes a public body to further require that an applicant demonstrate the essentiality of its project and show that no feasible alternative exists. The bill also requires the creation of a stewardship fund for the substitute land.
  • SB 583 Western Virginia Transportation Fund; created. Passed Senate 24-16. Carried over to 2019 in House for further review. To address critical improvements needed along the I-81 Corridor the bill utilizes a motor vehicle fuel tax increase of 2.1% as done in other parts of the state. These funds will be captured from the truck traffic and travelers using 81. The bill c reates the Western Virginia Transportation Fund (Fund), to be used by the West Virginian Transportation Commission, also created by the bill, to fund transportation projects in Planning Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. The bill imposes an additional 2.1 percent regional tax on motor vehicle fuels in the counties and cities in such planning districts to generate revenue for the Fund.
  • SB 950 Pipeline construction; DEQ review, upland construction Passed Senate 34-6. Passed House 98-0.The bill is designed to ensure water quality is protected in local streams and downstream waters in connection with the construction of any future interstate natural gas pipelines (greater than three feet in diameter) that are regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The bill builds on experience with the ongoing regulatory process for the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, but it would apply only to pipelines for which approval is sought after July 1, 2018. The bill clarifies the process by which DEQ and the State Water Control Board will determine whether Virginia will issue a certification  -- required by Section 401 of the Clean Water Act - that a proposed pipeline will not harm water quality.  For these pipelines, the bill specifies that the 401 certification process will have two parts: 1) the bill requires a detailed individual Virginia Water Protection permit to protect each wetland and stream proposed to be crossed by the pipeline. 2) the bill requires an evaluation of pipeline activities in upland areas (not involving wetlands or stream crossings) that may result in a discharge to state waters that could adversely affect water quality.  The activities to be evaluated include land disturbances, trench digging, and related work.  The required evaluation will involve, among other things, submission of information regarding steep slopes, karst geology, proximity to streams and wetlands, seasonably high water tables, dams and similar structures, highly erodible soils and soils with low pH and acid sulfates. DEQ will review this material and determine whether additional conditions are required to protect water quality for activities in these upland areas, and prepare a draft certification. The bill also provides for: 1) The Department's ability to recover its direct costs for services rendered through an administrative charge to the applicant. 2) Public notice and comment; and an opportunity to request a public hearing. 3) Clarification that the 401 certification decision could be made by either the Board or DEQ.
In Closing:

You can access the  VIRGINIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY WEBSITE for the latest on legislation, committee action, and contact information. This is a very user-friendly resource for day-to-day updates on what is going on during Session and in the interim.  Or go straight to our  LEGISLATIVE INFORMATION SYSTEM  for bill and budget information.  
 
In addition, our Legislative Information and Constituent Services (LINCS)  staff can provide you with legislation updates, research information, copies of votes, and some educational materials. You can reach that office toll-free at 1.888.892.6948.
 
Please feel free to contact my Senior Legislative Director, Holly Herman, or me with any concerns or suggestions you may have regarding state matters in the future. My RICHMOND OFFICE staffed during Session will be located in Room E507 of the Pocahontas Building. My Session phone is 804.698.7524 and my mailing address is P.O. Box 396 Richmond, VA 23218. During the interim you can reach me by phoning 540.885.6898 or at P.O. Box 2 Mount Solon, VA 22843. At any time, I can be reached at district24@senate.virginia.gov.


Sincerely ,
Emmett Hanger Signature

Emmett W. Hanger, Jr. 

24th Senatorial District 

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