Successes in reconvened session

Published 6:46 pm Saturday, April 16, 2011

By Delegate S. Chris Jones

The General Assembly reconvened April 6 to consider the governor’s amendments and vetoes to the legislation passed during the regular session. The day was long and exhausting, as it took nearly nine hours to act on everything.

In all, Gov. Bob McDonnell sent down amendments to 134 bills and vetoed four bills. He addressed a variety of issues, including amendments to reduce the unfunded liabilities in the Virginia Retirement System and strengthen funding for state troopers and local sheriffs.

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Virginia Retirement System

As I have said before, the biggest risk to our state’s prized AAA bond rating is the VRS’s $17.6 billion in unfunded liabilities.

During this year’s session, House Republicans advanced a number of reforms designed to reduce the VRS unfunded liability and ensure its solvency.

I introduced House Bill 2465, addressing VRS and the defined contribution retirement program, which was incorporated into House Bill 2410, patroned by Delegate Lacy Putney. This proposal was advanced by the House but,0 unfortunately, was passed by indefinitely in the Senate Finance Committee.

Like the House Republicans, Gov. McDonnell understands the serious threat the VRS’s unfunded liabilities pose to the fiscal strength of VRS and to our bond rating.

Gov. McDonnell proposed the following amendments to strengthen the VRS:

  • Increase the state’s contribution to the VRS by $27.8 million.
  • Speed up monthly payments into the VRS. By making monthly contributions instead of quarterly contributions, we will enable the VRS to invest its funds in a more timely fashion and generate increased returns from investments.
  • Create an optional plan. One way we can lower the VRS’s unfunded liability would be to give state employees an opportunity to enroll in a defined contribution plan. A defined contribution plan is less costly to the state, compared to the defined benefit plan that is currently offered. A defined contribution plan would appeal to younger workers who are less likely to stay with the state for a long period of time, because they could take their built-up contribution with them to their next job.

The State Senate went along with the first two of the Governor’s recommendations, but they again rejected the proposal to create an optional defined contribution plan for state employees. I am pleased that we were able to make some changes to strengthen the VRS, but I know that there is still more work to be done to ensure the long-term solvency of the VRS.

Supporting our police and sheriffs

Gov. McDonnell proposed two amendments to increase funding for our local sheriffs and state troopers.

He provided an additional $7.4 million to help our local sheriffs. I was especially pleased to see Governor McDonnell include an additional $3 million to pay for overtime for state troopers. The net effect of this funding will be to put the equivalent of 82 full-time troopers on duty at a fraction of the cost of creating new positions.

Both of these amendments passed the General Assembly and are now a part of the final budget.

Our community

I am pleased to report the governor’s amendments for both Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) and Oceana also were approved.

With the passage of these amendments, EVMS will receive an additional $4.1 million general fund support beginning July 1 as it increases its class size to meet the growing need for health care providers.

The state match for the Oceana BRAC program, $7.5 million, was restored, maintaining the commonwealth’s commitment to the Department of Defense, helping to secure the future of this important regional facility.


With the end of the reconvened session, we can now officially close the book on a successful 2011 General Assembly session. Legislators will now begin to do the research necessary to lay the groundwork for bills and legislation that could be introduced during the 2012 General Assembly Session.

My staff and I are back in the district office, and if we can be of service to you, please do not hesitate to contact me by phone at 483-6242, by mail at P.O. Box 5059, Suffolk, VA 23435 or by email at

Thank you again for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.

Delegate S. Chris Jones represents the 76th district in Virginia’s House of Delegates.