General Assembly session gets started

Published 9:15 pm Friday, January 10, 2014

The Virginia General Assembly has begun its 2014 session.

Del. William J. Howell was re-elected as Speaker of the House of Delegates. I was reappointed to the Courts of Justice, with the sub-committees of Criminal Law, Judges, and Mental Health Issues; Militia Police and Public Safety; and Counties, Cities and Towns committees.

Gov. Bob McDonnell gave his final State of the Commonwealth address to a joint session of the General Assembly, highlighting the achievements made in Virginia during the last four years.

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He spoke about the landmark transportation package passed last session that will provide funding for roads across the commonwealth in the coming years; a two-point drop in the unemployment rate since 2010, and four years of budget surpluses totaling $2 billion.

The governor urged the General Assembly to provide increased funds for mental health, to provide a friendly economic atmosphere for businesses to create jobs in Virginia and to continue making Virginia a “commonwealth of opportunity.”

I have sponsored the strongest legislation since the Property Rights Amendment that will help protect individual property rights of the citizens.

Other legislation I sponsored includes HB 513, which will give local governments authority to remove appointments to Boards and Commissions that they have appointed, without having to go to court. This will help make government more efficient and effective.

In addition, HB 510 will prohibit federal funds from being accepted by state agencies without first being appropriated by the General Assembly. When a state accepts federal funds, there are federal regulations that go with those funds and bind the citizens of that state. Prior to accepting those federal funds, I believe the citizen’s representatives should have a vote on accepting those regulations.

I have submitted legislation that will modify the required septic tank pump-out in order to reduce the financial impact on the citizens.

Also, last year I submitted legislation that would eliminate the committee method of selecting School Board members. Under the committee method, a School Board Selection Committee, appointed by a Circuit Court judge, appoints School Board members.

The School Board spends a large portion of the taxpayers’ money, and I firmly believe that anyone spending the taxpayers’ money must be held accountable to the taxpayers. Accountability can be through direct election of the School Board, or by the election of City Council or the Board of Supervisors, which then appoints the School Board — either way there is accountability to the voters.

As much as I believe in accountability to the citizens, there was no public support for this legislation, and I dropped it from consideration by the General Assembly.

As the General Assembly moves forward this session, I will keep you updated on significant events. It is a pleasure serving the people of the 64th District. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.

Delegate Rick Morris represents the 64th District, which includes a portion of Suffolk, in the Virginia House of Delegates. Email him at