February 18, 2022
As the only lighthearted holiday to fall during the legislative session, Valentine’s Day is celebrated with gusto in the General Assembly. Lurid decorations line the halls, gifts are exchanged, and the smell of lilies hangs cloyingly in the building. The briefly festive atmosphere is an annual tradition that stands in stark contrast to the daily stress and grind of the long legislative session.

This year, the holiday fell on one of the longest days on the House floor: the eve of crossover. On Valentine’s Day, more than 200 bills were on second reading on the House floor. Second reading is the point at which bills are explained by the patron, amended (if needed), and patrons are questioned about the content of their legislation. Bills are then in the correct posture to move to the third reading—the vote for final passage—the next day (crossover).

Both Valentine’s Day and crossover are now behind us. The decorations have been removed, and the flurry of pre-crossover activity have been replaced by…well, nothing. House Committees have yet to begin working on Senate bills, and Senate committees are just beginning to hear House bills. The floor calendar is therefore short. The pace will begin to increase next week, but the reality is that there are simply fewer bills left “alive” in the legislative process at this point. 
What happened at crossover?
Mask bill signed into law
The highlight of the week occurred on Wednesday, when the Governor signed into law the bill codifying the ability of parents to decide whether or not their child wears a mask to school. I was honored to patron the House version of this bill and to present and defend the bill in committee and on the House floor.
Status of my legislation
A total of ten of my bills passed the House this year. Following are brief descriptions of each bill:

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.

HB528 requires any individual or organization that sends an unrequested absentee ballot application to a registered voter to include instructions on how to complete and submit the application. Additionally, it will require a statement that the application is not sent by any state or local government official or agency and disallow information pre-population on the application.

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. This bill passed the Senate Transportation Committee with unanimous support and will next be heard on the Senate floor.

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.
HB539 requires Virginia public colleges and universities to include a disclosure to applicants that certain criminal offenses may disqualify applicants from pursuing a specific course of study or residing in on-campus housing.
HB542 reclassifies assistant registrars as deputy registrars.
HB544 allows voters to opt-in to a photo ID requirement individually.
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. This bill passed the Senate Finance Committee with an amendment. The bill will next pass the Senate and return to the House for consideration of the Senate amendment.
HB1093 gives local school boards the option to require a cultural competency evaluation and training for teachers after holding a public hearing before electing to make that requirement. Currently, the law requires cultural competence training and does not include reference to public hearings on this matter.
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. This bill is identical to Senate Bill 739 (elimination of mask mandates in schools), which has already been signed into law by the Governor. There is no need for the Senate to take action on my House version of the bill.
Proposed repeal of permanent COVID-19 regulations
During the pandemic, Governor Ralph Northam imposed the country’s first permanent COVID-19 workplace safety and health standard. Much has changed since then, and earlier this week, the Department of Labor and Industry’s (DOLI) Safety and Health Codes Board met and took the following action: 

  • Determined COVID-19 no longer poses a “grave danger” to employees based on Virginia’s strong vaccination rates compared to other states (10th in the country as of 02/05/2022) and other studies concluding the Omicron variant is less severe, results in shorter hospital stays and less likely to result in ICU admissions.
  • Proposed the COVID-19 permanent regulations should be repealed
  • Authorized a 30 day written comment period and public hearing prior to any final vote to repeal the regulations.

Next Steps:
  • The 30 day public comment period began February 17, 2022, and will end on March 19, 2022. To register comments, click HERE.
  • A public hearing will be held in the next 30 days. For meeting notifications, click HERE.
  • The final Vote to Repeal will be taken at 2nd meeting following the 30 day public comment period.

If you have specific questions about this process, please contact Nicole Riley, Deputy Secretary of Labor, by email at [email protected] or by phone at 804.663.7464.
On Sunday, the House and Senate will release their respective versions of Virginia's biennial budget. Next week we will work on the budget and also begin hearing Senate bills in committee. The countdown to adjournment--March 12--is officially underway!

If your travels take you to Richmond, please do not hesitate to stop by the Capitol. Our office is 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 great 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