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House Will Work to Repay Money Borrowed During Recession

The House and Senate will unveil their budgets on Sunday (2/21). Though senior negotiators say we’ve had several years of surplus revenues, they’re still working to undo the damage done by the great recession.

The House of Delegates hopes to begin fully funding the state’s retirement system this year, as well as accelerating a $189 million dollar plus interest repayment to the pension plan.

They’ll also put potential surplus dollars toward outstanding bonds for construction projects across the Commonwealth.

Assembly 2016: Airbnb Bills Advance Despite Concerns from Localities and Hotels

The House and Senate have passed bills that allow limited residential lodging service websites such as Airbnb and FlipKey to do business in Virginia, though localities and the hotel industry have concerns.

The bill’s house patron, Republican Delegate Chris Peace of Hanover says the sites will create jobs, grow Virginia’s travel industry, allow homeowners to earn income, and create millions of dollars in new revenue for cash strapped local governments.

Senate Passes Limited Airbnb Regulations

The Senate narrowly passed a bill 20-19 that would create a limited regulatory structure for websites like Airbnb that rent homes or rooms like hotels, though the hospitality industry says it doesn’t enforce tax collection.

The legislation would prevent localities from banning the use of Airbnb and would allow homeowners to pay taxes for their rentals but would not require them to do so. Republican Senator Jill Vogel of Faquier is the bill’s patron.

House Passes Religious Freedom Bill

On the day of the crossover deadline, the House of Delegates has passed a contentious religious freedom bill.

Patrons of HB 773 like Delegate Todd Gilbert say the bill is meant to prevent discrimination against those who define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Delegate Mark Sickles, who is openly gay, says the bill empowers discrimination against those with different beliefs.

The bill passed 56 to 41. Governor McAuliffe has previously vowed to veto legislation that targets same-sex marriage.

Senate Defeats Charter School Constitutional Amendment, House Passes It

The state Senate has defeated a bill that would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would make it easier to open charter schools.

Most of the GOP voted in favor of the bill, which they say gives students enrolled in failing schools more learning options.

Though 2 Republicans voted with the Democrats, many of whom have long complained that charters drain funds from traditional k-12 schools.

Democratic Senator Mamie Locke of Hampton says other options are available.

COPN Reform and Repeal Bills Pass House

The House of Delegates passed two bills today (2/15) that would make significant changes to the state system for approving health care construction projects.

Hospitals say Certificate of Public Need Program or COPN gives them the ability to provide access to critical healthcare services to low income patients that otherwise would not be profitable.

Republicans say the program gives hospitals a monopoly to provide other more profitable services, prohibiting outpatient care centers from offering the same services.

Senate Approves a Fresh Look at Food to Liquor Sales Ratio for Restaurants

A bill that would establish a pilot program to determine the appropriate balance between food and liquor sales at restaurants has passed the Senate.

Virginia has long resisted allowing traditional bars to operate in the Commonwealth, requiring that no more than 45% of a restaurants’ sales come from hard liquor.

The pilot program in the proposed bill would allow restaurant owners to meet that percentage based on the wholesale cost instead of the price charged to the consumer.

Republican Senator Frank Wagner spoke in favor of the bill.

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