INTRODUCING OUR 2023 LEGISLATOR REPORT CARDS:
Ahead of the 2023 General Assembly session, Virginia Organizing developed four legislative priority areas for the upcoming year: 1) school funding; 2) housing; 3) mental health; and, 4) energy burden. In addition to those priority areas, Virginia Organizing also supports efforts to make our state income tax structure more progressive, protect abortion access, and increase investments in childcare access and affordability.
During the 2023 General Assembly session, we supported bills that met those priorities and opposed bills that undermined them. You can read more about those priorities and the bills below.
HOW LEGISLATORS MADE THE GRADE:
From dozens of bills matching our priority areas, we selected 19 with which to evaluate our representatives. Not all of the representatives we scored voted on each of the bills, because not all of the bills made it to the House or Senate floor for a full vote. On the “Scoring Spreadsheet” and on the individual report cards, you can see whether your representative supported or opposed the bills they did have a say on.
We totaled those voting opportunities and then divided that number by the number of times they supported our position on a bill. If a representative patroned a bill we supported, then we added one point to their score as “extra credit.” If they were a chief patron, we added two points. And if they patroned a bill we opposed, we subtracted a point. The total score can be found on each representative’s score card. Higher scores indicate representatives who better supported our legislative priorities. To see how they stacked up against each other, please visit the spreadsheet linked below.
THE BILLS WE TRACKED:
Virginia Organizing’s efforts focused on four main legislative priorities:
- Education: As a member of the Fund Our School coalition, we organized for full funding of the revised Standards of Quality, increased wrap-around services, additional school support staff, and better compensation for teachers and staff. We opposed the diversion of public school funding to private school vouchers and tax credits.
- Housing: We also supported bills that provided more affordable housing and increased tenants’ rights.
- Mental Health: We supported mental health bills that increased the availability of quality, community-based care, that increased the number of qualified providers, and that ensured Virginians experiencing mental health crises would not be subjected to the use of force by an untrained police response.
- Energy Burden: Lastly, we supported bills that reduced energy burden as well as bills that protected households from utility shutoffs during weather extremes, over weekends and holidays, and for vulnerable household members such as those with a serious medical condition.
Here is a brief summary by priority area of the bills we used to score representatives:
Specialized Student Support: SB1325 passed the Senate unanimously but was defeated in the House Appropriations committee. It would have increased the required number of specialized student support positions from at least three to at least four such positions per 1,000 students. Such specialized student support positions include school social workers, school psychologists, school nurses, licensed behavior analysts, licensed assistant behavior analysts, and other licensed health and behavioral positions. Virginia Organizing supported the bill.
School Construction Standards: SB1124 passed the General Assembly and was signed into law by the Governor. It requires the Board of Education to make recommendations to the General Assembly for amendments to the Standards of Quality to establish standards for the maintenance and operations, renovation, and new construction of public elementary and secondary school buildings. The bill also requires the Board to solicit the input of relevant stakeholders and the public in developing such recommendations. Virginia Organizing supported the bill.
Tax Credits for Education Improvement Scholarships: HB 1821 passed the House but was defeated in a Senate committee. The bill would have diverted funding away from public schools into the education improvement scholarships tax credit program. Virginia Organizing opposed the bill.
Lowers Individual Income Tax Rate and Raises Standard Deduction: HB2319 passed the House but was defeated in a Senate committee. It would have lowered the top income tax rate from 5.75 percent to 5.5 percent for taxable years beginning on and after January 1, 2024. The bill also would have raised the standard deduction to $9,000 for single individuals and $18,000 for married persons. Reduced taxation means less revenue for the state to invest in critical programs such as the Standards of Quality, the Equity Fund, and other means of supporting student achievement, like access to broadband. Virginia Organizing opposed the bill.
Reduces Corporate Income Tax Rate: HB2138 passed the House but was defeated in a Senate committee. It would have increased the Virginia individual and corporate income tax deduction for business interest, allowed an individual income tax deduction in an amount equal to 50 percent of certain federal qualified business income deductions, and reduced from six percent to five percent the corporate income tax rate beginning in taxable year 2023. Reduced taxation means less revenue for the state to invest in critical programs such as the Standards of Quality, the Equity Fund, and other means of supporting student achievement, like access to broadband. Virginia Organizing opposed the bill.
Uninhabitable Dwelling Unit: HB1635 passed the General Assembly and was signed into law by the Governor. It allows a tenant to terminate the rental agreement and receive a full refund of all deposits and rent paid to the landlord if, at the beginning of the tenancy, a condition exists in the rental dwelling unit that constitutes a fire hazard or serious threat to the life, health, or safety of tenants or occupants of the premises, including an infestation of rodents or a lack of heat, hot or cold running water, electricity, or adequate sewage disposal facilities, so long as the tenant provides the landlord notice of his intent to terminate the rental agreement within seven days. Virginia Organizing supported the bill.
Nonrefundable Application Fee: HB1651 was defeated in a House committee. Under the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, it would have disallowed a landlord from obtaining a consumer report or conducting any other investigation into the background or qualifications of a rental applicant without first establishing a written rental admission policy that is available to the public and providing the applicant with a copy of such policy. The bill also provides that such policy must contain a disclosure of the amount of all nonrefundable application fees and deposits. Virginia Organizing supported the bill.
Extends Grace Period for Late Rent: HB1652 was defeated in a House subcommittee while its companion bill SB1330 passed the Senate but was defeated in a different House subcommittee. The bills would have increased from five days to 14 days the mandatory waiting period after a landlord serves written notice on a tenant notifying the tenant of his nonpayment of rent and of the landlord’s intention to terminate the rental agreement if rent is not paid before the landlord may pursue remedies for termination of the rental agreement. Virginia Organizing supported the bill.
Notice of Rent Increase: HB 1702 narrowly passed the House and Senate and was signed into law by the Governor. It requires a landlord who owns more than four rental dwelling units to provide written notice to tenants notifying them of any increase in rent during the upcoming rental agreement term no less than 60 days prior to the end of the current rental agreement term. Virginia Organizing supported the bill.
Loan Repayment Program for Mental Health Professionals: HB1534 was defeated in a House subcommittee. It would have created a loan repayment program for persons who have worked as mental health professionals in the Commonwealth for at least five years. Virginia Organizing supported the bill.
Counseling Compact: HB 1433, and its companion bill SB 802, passed the House and Senate with broad support and was signed into law by the Governor. The legislation authorizes Virginia to become a signatory to the Counseling Compact which permits eligible licensed professional counselors to practice in Compact member states, provided they are licensed in at least one member state. Due to a continued shortage of qualified mental health professionals in the state, Virginia Organizing strongly supported these bills.
Trauma Learning Modules: SB1300 passed the House and Senate and was signed into law by the Governor. The bill will modify existing Trauma Learning Modules to incorporate (i) the definitions of “childhood trauma” and “trauma-informed” provided in the bill and (ii) information and guidance on concepts including (a) the impacts of childhood trauma on a child’s physical, emotional, and behavioral development and health; (b) the importance of mental health and wellness; (c) how to foster a trauma-informed classroom environment; (d) how to recognize the signs of childhood trauma in students; (e) how to respond when a student informs a teacher of a traumatic experience or exhibits signs that such student has had a traumatic experience; and (f) when and how to contact support services or other resources outside the classroom to ensure any student who has experienced trauma receives the necessary support. Virginia Organizing supported the bill.
Shutoff Protection for Serious Medical Conditions: HB1875 was defeated in a House subcommittee. The bill would have required a public utility to delay termination of service up to three times within one year for residential customers with serious medical conditions or for households that include someone with a disability, someone over the age of 65 or someone younger than 12 months. Virginia Organizing supported the bill.
Shutoff Protections for Extreme Weather: HB2283 and its companion bill SB 1447 failed to pass. The former was defeated in committee, and the latter passed the Senate with bipartisan support before being defeated in a special House Commerce and Energy subcommittee. The bills would have directed the State Corporation Commission to prevent electric, gas, water, and wastewater utilities from shutting off customers for the nonpayment of bills during temperature weather extremes, or on a Friday, weekend, state holiday, or day immediately preceding a state holiday. Virginia Organizing supported the bills.
Affordable Energy Act: HB1604 and SB1321, commonly known as the Affordable Energy Act, passed both chambers and were signed into law by the Governor. The Act returns power to the State Corporation Commission (SCC) to determine in its sole discretion if Dominion Energy’s or Appalachian Power’s existing base rates will either produce revenues in excess of the utility’s authorized rate of return or revenues below the utility’s authorized rate of return. If so, then the SCC is required to order any reductions or increases to the base rates to ensure the resulting rates (a) are just and reasonable and (b) provide the utility an opportunity to recover its costs of providing services over the rate period and earn a fair rate of return. Virginia Organizing supported these bills.
Commonwealth Solar and Economic Development Program: SB 1333 passed the Senate but was defeated in the House Appropriations committee. It would have allowed the Clean Energy Advisory Board to advise Virginia Energy to apply to certain federal loan guarantees or grant funds to facilitate the development of solar energy, storage, and energy efficiency projects. The bill also expands the Low to Moderate Income Solar Loan and Rebate Fund to extend grants in addition to loans or paying rebates to electric customers who complete solar installations or energy efficiency improvements. Virginia Organizing supported the bill.
Shared Solar in APCo territory: SB1083 passed the Senate but was defeated in a House subcommittee. It would have required the State Corporation Commission to establish a shared solar program in Appalachian Power’s territory that allows customers to purchase electric power through a subscription in a shared solar facility that does not exceed 5,000 kilowatts. The shared solar program would have a minimum requirement of 30 percent low-income customers. Virginia Organizing supported the bill.
Although not all of the bills we supported passed, Virginia Organizing will continue to organize for these improvements!
HOW THEY VOTED:
Visit the Spreadsheet to see how the legislators stacked up against each other. You can also find their voting record in the individual report cards below.
WHAT’S IN STORE FOR 2024:
The Impacts of Redistricting and Retirements
In 2021, the Supreme Court of Virginia drew new maps for congressional and state legislative districts. These new maps take effect this year for the upcoming elections in which all seats are up for election. Many of our representatives will now be running in new districts. And in some new districts, incumbents will face each other in primaries. In the scorecards, you can find a map of your representative’s new district for the 2024 election.
In large part due to redistricting, many representatives are retiring this year. Also, about a dozen delegates are running for state Senate or other office. And as noted above, some incumbents will face each other in primaries. Because of these changes, more than one quarter of next year’s Senate will be new and about one third of the House will be new. As others have noted, this will likely impact leadership and institutional knowledge. What we can say is that there will be a new General Assembly in 2024.
SEE THE SCORECARDS FOR YOUR REPRESENTATIVES:
New River Valley