Delegate Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) released his legislative package for the 2021 General Assembly session today. Cox’s legislation will largely fall into five categories: increasing educational access, elections reform, executive authority, government reform, and veterans.
Speaking on the pieces of legislation he is carrying, Cox said “I am excited to be putting forward these legislative proposals during the 2021 session. Over the last several months, my constituents in the 66th district and people from across Virginia have expressed concern with the direction our state is heading. These bills will help increase educational access, ensure fair administration of elections, reign in executive power, and assist Virginia’s veterans.”
The READ Fund, established by House Bill 2090, will increase educational access for students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using federal CARES dollars, the READ Fund will assist parents in purchasing resources to pay for tutors, educational therapies, tuition or fees, transportation and consumable educational supplies. Virginia’s next generation are falling behind in virtual school settings, and efforts must be made to assist students and their families. A budget amendment for $9.8 million to fund the READ Fund will be carried by Cox.
House Bill 2088 will depoliticize the State Board of Elections and Department of Elections by transforming the Board into a six member entity with equal representation between Republican and Democratic members. Additionally, the legislation transfers the authority to appoint the Commissioner of Elections from the Governor to the six member Board. With a 2018 JLARC report noting a history of “political bias” in the Department, this legislation will help restore neutrality in election administration and ensure free and fair elections in the state.
House Bill 2087 will curb the Governor’s authority to declare long-lasting states of emergency without proper legislative oversight. Under this legislation, no emergency regulation can last more than 45 days without the General Assembly convening to approve the extension of such emergency declaration. Over the course of the pandemic, many Virginians have been dismayed over executive orders that have little to no basis in scientific study, including a curfew order. This bill’s 45-day mark preserves the use of states of emergency for natural disasters and allows for longer orders with proper legislative oversight.
House Bill 2089 will require the Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG) to release reports to General Assembly leadership concurrently to release the report to executive branch officials. Last fall, House and Senate leadership had to ask the state inspector general for unredacted copies reports relevant to a Parole Board investigation. This bill helps restore legislative oversight and ensure parity between executive and legislative leaders.
House Bill 1766 expands the disabled veteran’s passport program at Virginia State Parks, bringing the program in line with a recently expanded program for the National Park Service. Current law requires a veteran have a 100% rating from a service connected disability to qualify for the passport. The changes to state law would permit any veteran with a service connected disability to obtain the passport. A similar bill in 2010 had an estimated fiscal impact of less than $38,000/year.
In addition to the above bills introduced by Cox, he will also sponsor a budget amendment to freeze tuition at Virginia’s public colleges and universities. Tuition was last frozen during Cox’s tenure as Speaker and received bipartisan support. During a time when many Virginians continue to struggle financially, the legislature must act to ensure that college costs do not rise for the upcoming academic year.