February 4, 2022
After a long week, the arrival of Friday is a relief for everyone except several unlucky members of the House Courts of Justice Committee who face a daunting docket this afternoon. The rest of us will straggle back to our districts to catch up with family, constituents, and laundry. At this point, we have been in session for 3.5 weeks that feel more like 35 weeks.

Legislation is now moving extremely quickly through committees. One of our biggest challenges is the lack of available meeting space. All subcommittee and committee meetings must be live streamed, but that technical capacity exists in only six rooms, some of which are separated by quite a long (often uphill) walk. Case in point: on Wednesday, one of my House colleagues walked 4.2 miles during the course of his work day. To ease the situation, subcommittee meetings are currently beginning at 7:00 a.m. and others are wrapping up around 10:00 p.m. Next week promises to be just as busy as we rush to meeting the February 15 crossover deadline. The pace of work will slow dramatically after that date.
Republican Legislative Priorities
Many additional Republican priority bills have now moved out of committee and passed the House. Of interest is Delegate Freitas’ House Bill 294, which makes students who are in need of a safer school environment (due to cases of assault, battery, bullying, harassment, hazing, etc., that occur on school property) eligible for scholarships funded by the education improvement scholarship tax credit. This is yet another innovative idea to ensure students’ safety while in school. The bill passed the House today on a party-line vote. Unfortunately, the bill likely has slim odds of passing the Democrat-controlled Senate.
House and Senate Differences
The differences between the House and Senate are nearly too numerous to list; however, one bears mentioning: committee composition. In the House of Delegates, committees (with the exception of the Rules Committee) have membership proportional to the partisan composition of the entire House. The House is comprised of 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats—a narrow Republican majority. House Committees therefore have a similar composition, which leaves a slim Republican majority in committees.

The Senate is quite different. Senate committees are NOT proportional to the partisan composition of the entire Senate. The Senate is comprised of 21 Democrats and 19 Republicans—a narrow Democratic majority that includes a couple of swing voters. Senate Committees, however, do not reflect this ratio. For example, the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee’s membership consists of 12 Democrats and 3 Republicans.

Bottom line: when House Republicans’ bills on key issues—like charter schools and photo ID for voters—are heard in Senate committees, there are not enough swing votes to pass the bill to the floor. 
House Bill 528
In this morning’s meeting of the House Privileges and Elections Committee, my House Bill 528 passed on a vote of 12-10. The bill simply requires organizations that send unsolicited absentee ballot (AB) applications to
1) provide instructions on how to return the application to the correct registrar’s office
2) mail AB applications only to registered Virginia voters who have not yet cast a ballot

The bill also prohibits the organization from pre-filling the form with the voter’s personal information. Despite garnering support from the League of Women Voters and the voter registrars, the bill passed on a party line vote. The bill will be heard on the House floor next week.
The following groups brought visitors from the district this week:

  • Breakfast Club
  • James City County Government
  • TeenPact

My legislative survey remains open for one final week! If you have not yet done so, please click HERE to complete the questionnaire. If you'd like to visit my Richmond office, I am located in Room 432 of the Pocahontas Building at 900 E. Main Street, Richmond, Virginia 23219. As always, we remain available to assist with constituent service. If you have a problem with a state-related matter or agency or would like to set up a virtual meeting, please contact my legislative aide, Ms. Dayle Brittain by phone at 804-698-1096 or by email at [email protected].

Have a wonderful weekend!
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