Legislative Update

That’s a wrap.


The General Assembly finished its business and adjourned Saturday evening. We finished on a high note: the House and Senate came together and passed a historic budget that reflects our Democratic values. I’ll get to more on the budget later.

The session is only “almost” done because I’ll have to head back to Richmond in a little over a month (April 17) for what is called the reconvene session, when we deal with Governor Youngkin’s vetoes or any amendments to legislation that he might propose. I expect a LOT of vetoes, because not only did we send the Governor a large number of bills that will force him to finally take positions on issues ranging from assault weapons to voting rights to the minimum wage, but the Governor not-so-subtly hinted at retribution in response to our budget failing to include money for his coveted arena project in Alexandria.

The arena deal is dead, though for the Princess Bride fans reading this it is actually only mostly dead. It could be resurrected as negotiations on the budget resume, or the Governor could call us back into a special session to consider the issue separately. But while the Governor has the power to call a special session, he cannot dictate or control what the General Assembly does in a special session. Some of you may recall the special session Governor Northam called in the wake of the Virginia Beach shooting, imploring the General Assembly to come back and consider the long list of gun safety bills the Republican-controlled General Assembly had ignored during the just-concluded session. The Republicans did call us back to Richmond, and then adjourned the session after 45 minutes, without ever considering a single bill.

Overall, I am pleased with the results of the session. Out of the 29 bills and 4 substantive resolutions I introduced, 17 bills and all 4 resolutions passed both chambers. Two already have been signed into law. HB115 clarifies the guardianship process in Virginia as it pertains to court procedures with local departments of social services, and HB120  addresses how nursing licensure issues are reported relating to license suspensions or disciplinary actions.

I am disappointed– though not particularly surprised– that Governor Youngkin has already vetoed my HB110 , which would have eliminated outdated provisions in our surrogacy laws and made the path to parenthood easier for Virginia couples trying to start or grow their families using a surrogate. For a Governor who professes to be pro-family, and in an atmosphere in which IVF (required when using a surrogate) has become a political flashpoint, I would have hoped he wouldn’t fall under the spell of groups like the ultra-conservative Family Foundation, which labeled my bill “Anti-Family,” fought it every step of the way, and organized a campaign to convince the Governor to veto the bill, falsely (and ridiculously) claiming the bill would lead to “commodification of human embryos” and the “creation of a rent-a-womb industry.” See here.

You can see my presentation of the bill in the House and Senate Committees here and here

I’ll have to try again next year.

Several of my bills will, in my view, be very consequential. HB106 and HB108 will expand the availability of shared solar in Virginia. HB459 will provide localities new tools–and I surely hope Fairfax will use this new authority–to encourage home builders to conserve mature trees, rather than clear-cutting lots and replacing well-established tree canopy with new, small replacement trees that are years away from significantly contributing to our tree canopy. In fact, it was a good year for tree legislation more broadly–you can read a Virginia Mercury article on the progress we made on trees by clicking here.

One of my bills that stayed under the radar but is particularly timely is HB111, which will finally make it the law that a Presidential Elector cannot change his or her vote in a Presidential election. Assuming the Governor signs it, there will be no question about Virginia’s votes in the Electoral College in this or any other presidential election year.

I passed a bill (HB122) which will speed court decisions on any challenges to a renewable energy permit, so that we can accelerate our build-out of renewable energy as we continue to implement the Virginia Clean Economy Act and drive toward 100% clean energy by 2045.

And we passed my HB637, which requires the Department of Criminal Justice Services to create a Substantial Risk Order Training Program. The red flag law (which my HB674 created in 2020) is saving lives all across Virginia, but not enough members of the law enforcement community–or for that matter, not enough Virginians generally–even know it exists, let alone know how to use it. HB637 mandates a concerted educational effort on our red flag law for law enforcement and the public more broadly, including mental health professionals, emergency healthcare providers, public elementary and secondary school personnel, and threat assessment teams at public institutions of higher


The Governor’s veto of one gun safety bill already (SB47)–which would keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers–does not augur well for the other gun safety bills on his desk, but this is one I remain hopeful he’ll sign. The red flag law is here to stay. It is working. It is a bipartisan law in states other than Virginia. I hope the Governor will focus on keeping Virginians safe and have the courage to sign this bill.

Perhaps the most important piece of energy/environmental legislation I passed this year is HJ30 –which by the way requires no Gubernatorial signature. It tasks the State Corporation Commission and the Department of Energy with conducting an in-depth study of potential performance-based utility regulation methods we could implement in Virginia, which would incentivize our utilities to build energy generation more efficiently and less expensively, and be rewarded for selling less rather than more electricity–all while, of course, maintaining a secure and reliable grid. Other states are making such regulatory reforms, and Virginia ought to take a close look at modernizing the incentives in our regulatory structure, which currently reward our utilities only for building more costly generation and selling more electricity.

I am also pleased to report that a number of bills for which I served as Chief Co-Patron also passed both chambers. HB971, for instance, lowers from 5 to 3 years the amount of full-time clinical experience required before a Nurse Practitioner can practice. NP’s are an important part of the solution to many of the challenges our health care system faces. We ought to be encouraging NP’s to stay and practice in Virginia, rather than driving them to surrounding states that have more accepting laws and regulations for advanced practice nurses. This is a bill I and others have been working on for many years. I am thrilled to see it pass and hope the Governor does the right thing and signs the bill.

HB746 — also known as the “SAVE Act”– will take the progress we have made in energy efficiency through the Virginia Clean Economy Act to the next level, and sets in motion an analysis by the State Corporation Commission for setting new energy efficiency targets for Virginia beyond what is currently set out in the VCEA, and requires that by September 30, 2025, the SCC promulgate regulations establishing a single, consistent cost-effectiveness test for use in evaluating proposed energy efficiency programs. I have been working on energy efficiency issues since I got to the General Assembly ten years ago. HB746 is a very exciting and important new step.

You can see the entire list of my legislation here.

I am disappointed to report that HB107, a bill to establish an Electric Vehicle Rural Infrastructure Program (meaning installation of charging stations), did not make it to the finish line. The bill went into conference to work out differences between the Senate and House versions, but we were unable to get to an agreement. Those differences came down to money. The House had included $2 million in its budget, but the money for the program was removed in the final budget package. A big disappointment. I believe it is vital that we install electric vehicle charging infrastructure throughout the Commonwealth—not just along the highways and in urban areas. EV’s are coming (whether some like it or not) and we need all Virginians to be able to participate in the transition. I have been working on this bill for three years……..I can go for a fourth!

Click here and here to read articles from the Virginia Mercury and Cardinal News outlining what happened to HB107

The Budget

The final action before we adjourned was to vote on the budget conference report, meaning the compromise reached by the House and Senate on amendments to the Governor’s introduced budget. And as I explained last week, the Governor’s budget needed A LOT of amending. The photo below went viral, taken as the Governor held a press conference complaining about the budget that we fixed, while Senators Louise Lucas and Mamie Locke watched him from atop the steps of the Capitol. He has called our budget “backward.” Quite the contrary:  the budget takes Virginia forward. 

The budget we adopted speaks to the needs and concerns of the people of the Commonwealth. Among many other things, the budget includes pay raises for people who need them, improves K-12 education and makes education more affordable for people in Virginia. The budget includes: 


– 3% salary increase each year in the biennium for our public school teachers

– $2.5 billion in additional funding for K-12 public education

– $527.8 million over the biennium to support early childhood education

– $371.3 million over the biennium to implement several JLARC recommendations

– $72.1 million to provide support for ELL students

– $205.4 million over the biennium to increase access, affordability and degree production for public colleges and universities. This works to limit in-state undergraduate tuition increases and includes $40 million in support for HBCUs

Economy/Working Families

– $79.5 million over the biennium to support increasing the state’s minimum wage to $15/hr. by January 2026

– 3% salary increase each year of the biennium for state-supported employees

– $175 million for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund to support the creation or preservation of affordable housing

– $40 million over the biennium for the Virginia Business Ready Sites Program

– $243.1 million over the biennium to backfill revenue lost from the removal of the grocery sales tax

Health/Mental Health

– $30.5 million over the biennium to combat the opioid epidemic in our Commonwealth, including…

– $11 million for the Virginia Department of Health to purchase opioid reversal agents and test kits

– $400,000 for the Virginia Department of Health to conduct a waster water demonstration project to test for fentanyl and norfentanyl

– $100,000 to equip public schools with naloxone to combat the deadly opioid epidemic

– $191.4 million to add additional DD waiver slots and a 3% rate increase each year of the biennium for DD services

– $126 million over the biennium in additional mental health services

– $6.2 million over the biennium to fully fund community health workers in local health departments

– $40 million over the biennium to incentivize higher staffing for nursing homes

Public Safety

– $75.1 million over the biennium for community violence intervention initiatives,


– $18 million over the biennium for the Community Violence Intervention and

Prevention Program

– $10 million for the Operation Ceasefire Grant Program

– $7 million over the biennium to add Roanoke to the Safer Communities program

– $6 million in additional support over the biennium for youth community violence programs

– $21.3 million over the biennium to backfill and maintain funding for the VOCA Victims Services Grant Program and maintains funding for the Victim Witness, Sexual Assault, and Domestic Violence Victim and Victim Services grant programs

Natural Resources/Infrastructure

– The budget directs the Governor to reenter the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

– $149.5 million over the biennium to improve our transportation system and ease the burden of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)

– $100 million for the Community Flood Preparedness Fund

– $400 million to meet Chesapeake Bay improvement goals

–  $750,000 from the non-general fund to implement Substantial Risk Order training due to my HB637

All of this remains open to the Governor’s veto pen, and he is likely to try to amend what we’ve done–particularly since we did not include the billion-dollar tax cut he wants to give the wealthiest Virginias. I will continue to keep you updated as post-session events unfold.

A few weeks ago, I was pleased to attend the Scouts BSA Troop 128 Centennial Celebration. The oldest Scout troop in Mclean, Scouts BSA Troop 128 has provided opportunities for outdoor recreation, leadership development, and community service to generations of local young people. I was delighted to present them with a Virginia flag that had flown over the Capitol, and to introduce HJR272, a resolution Commending Scouts BSA Troop 128 for its many years of service and achievements. The resolution passed unanimously in the House and the Senate. I look forward to presenting the HJR272 to Scouts BSA Troop 128 in the near future.

Finally, with the adjournment of the General Assembly, election season begins. I look forward to seeing you all in the months ahead, talking with you about your concerns, and asking for your help to keep Joe Biden in the White House, to return Tim Kaine to the Senate, and to put Abigail Spanberger in the Governor’s Mansion in 2025.

Virginia House Democratic Caucus 2024-


Rip Sullivan

Delegate, 6th District 

C: 571-210-5876