Del. Butler on the end of legislative session

March 14, 2014

The “regular session” ended at midnight Saturday, March 9, and the last two days leading up to that time were hectic.

In the final hours, the House and Senate leadership, both of the same party, could not seem to come to agreements on some major bills. It appeared that time got away from them and some important bills were left on the table. As a result, the “Sudafed Bill” did not pass.

Previously, the Senate had passed a version that required a prescription for everyone. The House later passed a version that would require a prescription for anyone previously convicted of a drug crime. I would have supported that House version, but it became complicated when a new amendment was adopted that would allow individual counties to set their own rules. I voted against that version because I thought it would cause too much confusion and punish law abiding citizens. As I mentioned, the deadline was missed so we had no final bill to vote on.

We did pass a pay raise of $1,000 per year for teachers on the last day. I voted yes. Another bill that passed on the last day was SB 317, which standardizes firearms regulations across the state. I voted yes on that one, too. A bill to put taxpayer money into a so-called “Future Fund” passed. I voted no on it because it does not make sense to divert money away from services to senior citizens, veterans or roads and infrastructure, especially while we are borrowing money from the state’s rainy day fund just to pay our bills.

Additionally, saving money is a good thing, but I would prefer that the saving accounts were in the accounts of individual citizens rather than in a state account to be spent by politicians. We also passed dozens of lower profile bills on the last two days, mostly of an administrative nature.

Traditionally following the 60-day regular session, the Legislature goes into a special session, which lasts a few days, to finalize the state budget. This year, apparently due to poor time management of the House speaker and the Senate president, important bills to fill revenue gaps were not reported in time, therefore we will go into a special session to try to come to an agreement on these. Also on the subject of the budget, as I mentioned above, we are borrowing money from the state’s rainy day fund for the first time. This is going to make voting for the final budget very difficult. I am still waiting to see the figures.

All together, the Legislature passed about 200 bills by the end of the regular session. Sadly, very few bills to help our economy or attract new jobs were taken up by the committee chairmen, even though they were introduced early in the session. The few that were targeted to job growth, like” Project Launchpad,” were narrowly crafted to certain areas of the state and were highly regulated and restrictive.

We all need and appreciate your prayers as we make decisions on your behalf. It is an honor to serve you in the House of Delegates.