SENATOR MARK OBENSHAIN’S REPORT ON THE 2012 GENERAL ASSEMBLY, WEEK 6

Here is what Senator Dick Black had to say about the General Assembly. Note what the good senator had to say about the unwillingness of the news media to provide significant coverage of an important bill.

Senate Republicans Streamline Crossover

This week marked Crossover, the midway point of every legislative session. This annual milestone marks the day by which the Senate must have completed work on the bills filed by Senators, while the House needs to have done the same on those filed by Delegates.

Out of the nearly 700 bills filed by Senators, more than 400 were approved and sent to the House for consideration. Remarkably though, the Senate had already considered and approved a significant number of House bills —passing 77 to be exact — before the Crossover deadline. This result is due to changes made by the new Republican Majority

During the previous four years under the Democratic majority, a significant number of bills did not emerge from the committee system. Many bills opposed by the Democratic leadership were never even given a hearing. Some were never called to be heard by the committees to which they were assigned, while others were sent to “special” subcommittees that never met.

Republican control has brought an end to bills being “bottled up” by these so called committees.  Standing committees still fulfill their roles as legislative clearinghouses to screen bills, but now those bills are actually heard and voted on in committee. As it turns out, the legislative process actually runs more smoothly when extraordinary means are not taken to obstruct legislation.

A wide range of bills dealing with every major issue facing the Commonwealth have been approved by the Senate this session. To create jobs and strengthen our economy we’ve approved measures that provide incentives for investment in small businesses and for the placement of major business facilities in Virginia.

To improve the quality of education and workforce development, the Senate approved legislation streamlining diploma requirements for high school students, making them more rigorous and enhancing their value. Legislation providing for the accreditation of new virtual schools and allowing more partnerships between local school boards and colleges also won approval.

This week, the Senate voted on my Senate Bill 3, which was the biggest jobs bill of the session. This bill would have prohibited the use of Virginia funds for Phase 2 of Metro if the project required a union-favoring Mandatory Project Labor Agreement. “This isn’t about whether Phase 2 should or shouldn’t be build,” I said on the Senate Floor. “It’s about fighting to keep jobs in Virginia.  If this project is built with Virginia’s tax dollars, it should not discriminate against Virginia’s contract workers simply because 96% of them are non-union.”  After a heated debate, SB 3 failed by the razor thin margin of 19 to 21, falling along a mostly party-line vote.

Had we been able to get the press to report on the importance of SB 3, I believe informed voters would have contacted their representatives on this important jobs bill. However, not a single news outlet picked up the story, instead opting to focus all of their attention on social issues. This is the fifth press release that was not picked up by the press due to the fact that it dealt with jobs and the economy rather than social issues.

The Senate’s version of the 2012-2014 Biennial Budget will be unveiled and considered next week. In next week’s column, I’ll report on the details of the proposed spending plan.

Until the, have a great week.

Warm Regards,
Senator Black

Follow Senator Black on Facebook to keep up with events in Richmond, and please don’t hesitate to contact our office during the legislative session at (804) 698-7513.

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