Governor Bob McDonnell's 2012 legislative agenda received broad bipartisan support with 88 percent of his initiatives passing the General Assembly. The governor's 2012 agenda builds on the common-sense, results-oriented conservative agenda of the past two sessions and advances initiatives that center around the governor's top priority of spurring private-sector job creation and getting Virginia's economy back on track.
Governor McDonnell's legislative agenda as outlined in the State of the Commonwealth speech 60 days ago focused on nine core areas that impact the lives of all Virginians and the economic vitality of the Commonwealth: jobs and economic development, K-12 education, higher education, pension system reform, government reform, transportation, public safety, energy, and efforts to make Virginia the most veteran-friendly state in America. The following legislation was approved by the General Assembly:
"The Greatest Opportunity" jobs and economic development agenda to increase access to capital for small businesses and implement greater coordination among economic development entities, along with budget items increasing the support of job creation initiatives. Legislation improving the competitiveness and governance of the Port of Virginia and the commercial spaceport at Wallops Island will also help bolster these economic engines of the Commonwealth.
"Opportunity to Learn" K-12 education reform agenda focused on raising third grade reading standards for children, increasing incentives for schools and teachers, reducing mandates on local school divisions, expanding educational options like tuition tax credits, charter schools, and virtual schools for Virginia students, and funding for critical education and training programs
Higher education reform and investment to prepare Virginians for top jobs, boost job-creating research and innovation, make college degrees more affordable for students, and advance toward the governor's goal of having 100,000 more Virginians earn degrees in the next 15 years
"A More Efficient, Effective Government" reform measures that merge and eliminate certain state agencies, boards and commissions, cut costly organizational memberships, reduce agency spending, and reduce unfunded mandates on localities saving millions of dollars
Virginia Retirement System (VRS) initiatives to permanently and dramatically reform the long-term unfunded liabilities of the system, and a generally agreed to budget proposal to inject the largest employer contribution to VRS in history
Transportation measures that provide additional funding for Virginia's transportation infrastructure and continue the administration's efforts to ensure greater accountability and transparency in Virginia's transportation entities while delivering transportation projects more quickly and cost effectively, building off the 2011 reforms to put nearly $4 billion of new money to bid in the next three years
Public safety measures that provide tough new mandatory minimum sentences for repeat drug dealers and life sentences for sex offenders who prey on children, further protect victims of crime, streamline procedures for Virginia's asset forfeiture laws, reduce recidivism with successful prisoner re-entry programs and probation violation initiatives, and strengthen the response to emergencies
Energy initiatives encouraging development of renewable thermal energy and including landfill gas in the definition of renewable energy, improving the approval process for 138kv transmission lines, increasing energy efficiency programs by requiring the SCC to consider all four cost benefit tests, Creating the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Conversion Fund to assist in the conversion of the state fleet, encouraging research and development of renewable energy technologies
Veterans measures that improve absentee ballot access for overseas military, guarantee that unclaimed remains of veterans receive honorable burials and, providing a state hiring preference for members of the National Guard
Speaking about the 2012 General Assembly session, Governor McDonnell commented, "The focus of this session has been getting Virginians back to work, putting our economy back on track and enacting significant reforms. That is what the overwhelming majority of the bills considered by the General Assembly were about. It was the focus of my legislative agenda.
Virginians will be able to look back on this session as one in which we increased access to college, made government smaller and smarter, ensured a well educated workforce, and put in place the resources our job creators need to grow their operations and employ more of our citizens. It has been a bipartisan effort. It has made Virginia a better place. It has been a continuation of the efforts that began on our very first day in office. 88 percent of our legislation was approved by the General Assembly this year and I thank them for their support. It was approved because these were common-sense measures designed to improve the lives of all Virginians, in all regions. It is this bipartisan, innovative approach to responsible governance that is helping the Commonwealth emerge from an extremely difficult economic downturn. In our first full month in office, unemployment was 7.2 percent. Today it is down a full point at 6.2 percent. Our work in Richmond is helping employers create more work for Virginians. We are getting results and I am confident that these initiatives will continue to reduce unemployment and create new revenue for Virginia."
Governor McDonnell continued, "Our legislative agenda focused on the core areas of government. It started with our job creation agenda, which continues to promote investments in public policies that will help businesses start and grow in the Commonwealth. Through our K-12 education reforms, we will ensure that our children are receiving the high-quality education they must have to be ready for the top jobs of the 21st century. We are investing in higher education to increase access and affordability so that more Virginians can attend our world-class universities. By enacting dramatic long-term pension system reforms, and by making the largest investment into VRS in history, we have taken a great step toward ensuring the system's long-term solvency, so that the retirements of thousands of hard-working Virginians will be there in the future. Our successful transportation legislation ensures that we continue the path of reform and new funding so we have the infrastructure needed to move goods across the Commonwealth and get our citizens to work and home on time. We have continued to make government more efficient and effective for Virginia's taxpayers through legislation to streamline and eliminate certain state entities and reduce unfunded mandates on our localities. We have advanced initiatives to achieve our goal of having Virginia be the Energy Capital of the East Coast, by making it easier to develop and provide energy to our growing businesses and all residents of the Commonwealth. Finally, we are near our goal of being the most veteran-friendly state in America, by increasing job opportunities for members of the military who choose to make Virginia home. We have continued to keep our streets and communities safe through strong legislation that will make our citizens and communities more secure by new legislation targeting repeat drug dealers."
Government McDonnell concluded, "Job creation is the top priority of this administration. My team comes to work every day focused on helping the private sector create more work for our citizens. The unemployment rate is falling. We continue to have budget surpluses. More Virginians are working, but there are far too many Virginians out of work. That is unacceptable. It is imperative that state government be a partner our private-sector employers can depend upon, not a burden they are restricted by. Our successful, legislative agenda makes state government a partner. It will help the private sector create good jobs, better prepare our students for the workforce, and position Virginia for economic growth and success in the future."
Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling added, "During this year's legislative session, we had a great deal of success in advancing an aggressive agenda to create jobs in Virginia. I am pleased that the members of the General Assembly joined with us in supporting legislation to enhance our economic development infrastructure, increase access to capital for small businesses and support strategic economic sectors such as technology, manufacturing and agribusiness. During the past three years we have invested nearly $100 million in proven economic development and job creation programs, and these investments have made us more competitive in the global economic marketplace. It has propelled us to the top of the list of the most business-friendly state in the country according to CNBC and Pollina Research. As a result, we have helped to close more than 750 economic development deals, created 67,500 net new jobs and reduced our unemployment rate from 7.2 percent to 6.2 percent. While we still have a lot of work left to do, we can be pleased with the fact that our economy is now among the strongest in the nation."
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said, "I am delighted that after seven years of hard work, the resolution for a property rights constitutional amendment passed again this year and now goes to the voters for approval in November. The amendment will protect Virginia's families, farmers, and small businesses from governments who want to seize their land just to turn it over to private developers for private uses. Enshrining property rights in the Virginia Constitution will finally ensure this fundamental right of the people is protected. Additionally, the passage of the law authorizing the immediate release of death benefits for families of those killed in the line of duty will ease the financial burdens suffered by the families of fallen heroes. The last thing families need to worry about is how they are going to find the money to pay for funeral costs while they wait for benefits to be paid out. We need to honor the fallen by helping their families in their time of greatest need."
Speaker of the House William Howell said, "The 2012 Session not only has been busy but productive, and Governor McDonnell's bold reform agenda on job creation, education, public safety and many other public policies that people care about contributed so much to the success we have been able to achieve for all Virginians. Republicans have continued to lead a broad-based effort to transform state government in a forward-looking and fiscally responsible manner. This year, we adopted House Bill 1291 and Senate Bill 678, the most significant legislation to reorganize the executive branch of state government in a generation. Our goal is, and remains, to improve the delivery of government services, maximize the return on investment of limited taxpayer dollars, and minimize the costs of government wherever possible. The General Assembly also passed HB 1295 and SB 679 which eliminated various state mandates on local and regional governments. Streamlining the operations of government at all levels helps sharpen our competitive edge for attracting and retaining job-creating businesses. And, we passed landmark reform legislation that strengthens and puts Virginia's retirement system once and for all on a positive, long-term financial footing. I consider today's passage of HB 1130, which I patroned, and SB 497/498 to be one of the most important legislative achievements of my 25-year career. VRS reform also has been a high priority of the Governor for many years. Like so many, I commend Governor McDonnell's strong leadership which has helped lawmakers work cooperatively and in a bipartisan manner to enact common sense legislation on so many fronts."
Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment added, "Governor McDonnell's 'Greatest Opportunity' initiative to create jobs and grow our economy met with tremendous success this session. The governor's proposals to spur business growth and economic development won strong bipartisan support in both houses, and will build upon the substantial progress we've already made under his leadership. We will continue to expect good results from these investments."
Delegate Rosalyn Dance said, "I applaud the great work of my colleagues in the General Assembly and Governor McDonnell to advance important legislation in Virginia that will position Virginia for economic success now and in the future. Most importantly, we have increased access to a great education for children in every region of the Commonwealth. Getting a good education is the best building block we can give Virginia's children to be successful down the road. This legislation, and the many other 'kitchen table' bills that passed with bipartisan support this year, will truly make Virginia a great place to live, work and raise a family."
Below is a full breakdown of the governor's 2012 legislative agenda. Items with an asterisk (*) next to it are dependent on the FY 2013/2014 budget.