March 13, 2022
The final day of the 2022 General Assembly session began with a deafening peal of thunder and ended with a snowstorm—a fittingly turbulent end to this year’s legislative session. (Pictured at the right are House Republicans looking out at the snowfall.) On Saturday, March 12, the legislature adjourned, albeit without a budget. While House Republicans were prepared to work overtime in Richmond to complete the budget, Senate Democrats opted to leave town. For that reason, a Special Session must be called by Governor Youngkin in order to finalize the Commonwealth’s biennial budget.

Why the impasse? Simply stated, a philosophical difference exists between the House and Senate budget conferees. Unlike many other years, Virginia is in a strong fiscal position. House Republicans are focused on returning these tax dollars to Virginians who are burdened by runaway inflation and soaring fuel prices. Senate Democrats are committed to blocking tax relief and using the money on other spending priorities.

Although all 140 General Assembly members have returned to their districts for the time being, the fourteen budget conferees (eight from the Senate and six from the House) will soon regroup to continue their efforts to develop a compromise. Virginia’s fiscal year ends on June 30, so ample time remains for resolution. 
At Ease or In Recess?
The final week of the General Assembly session is marked by long floor sessions where much time is spent “at ease” or in “in recess.” When the House is at ease, members must remain in the immediate vicinity and be prepared to return to session at any moment. A recess occurs for a set amount of time and members are free to leave the Capitol.

Why all the pauses? When the House and Senate pass different versions of the same bill and cannot reach agreement, “committees of conference” are appointed in the House and in the Senate. These committees are typically comprised of three legislators per body. The three House and three Senate conferees are then tasked with developing mutually acceptable language. If no agreement can be reached, the bill will fail to pass. This conference process is rather informal: conferees meet whenever and wherever possible and rarely meet simultaneously. Meetings are often in passing and can occur in the hall, the back of the House chamber, an elevator, or anywhere conferees happen to intersect. All of the “at ease” and “in recess” moments occur so these conferees can meet and complete their work.
Senate Democrats "teach the House a lesson"
In other news, the Senate Democrats endeavored to “teach the House a lesson” by refusing to confirm Governor Youngkin’s four appointees to the parole board. This leaves only one parole board member (another Youngkin appointee). End result: no parole board = no parole. Congratulations, Senate Democrats! You've eliminated parole for the time being.
Status of legislation
Six of my House bills ultimately passed the Senate and will head to the Governor for his signature. Following are brief descriptions:

HB526 allows non-Virginia students who are in the Commonwealth as a result of being a victim of human trafficking to be eligible for in-state tuition at Virginia public colleges and universities.

HB530 addresses the bus driver shortage by authorizing governmental entities such as community colleges certified as third party testers to test and train drivers employed by another governmental entity or enrolled in a commercial driver training course.

HB537 expands telemedicine by allowing specific health care workers who hold an active, unrestricted license in another state to provide continuity of care for Virginia patients, provided that there is an existing practitioner-patient relationship.
HB542 reclassifies assistant registrars as deputy registrars.
HB936 removes the sunset clause for the sales tax exemption on gold, silver, and platinum bullion and legal tender coins and ends the restriction that only purchases over $1,000 are tax exempt.
HB1272 requires each school board to offer in-person instruction to public school students and makes masks optional for students based on the decisions of their respective parents or guardians. 
Stay in touch!
Now that session has ended (for the time being), I have returned to my district office. As always, we are available to assist with any state-related matters or agencies. My office is located at 7405 Richmond Road in Williamsburg and can be reached by phone at 757-741-7001 or by email at [email protected]. (For campaign-related matters, please send all correspondence to [email protected]).

Have a wonderful week!

Contact Delegate Batten
Legislative Aide: Dayle Brittain
Mail: P.O. Box 194, Norge, VA 23127
Phone: 757-741-7001
Paid for and Authorized by Friends of Amanda Batten