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Stanley’s bills aim to cut poverty rate

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories previewing the 2014 session of the Virginia General Assembly.

State Sen. Bill Stanley said there’s a theme among several of the bills he has pre-filed for the 2014 General Assembly session: “Help people out of poverty.”

“There are unacceptably high poverty rates in our area,” said Stanley, R-Glade Hill.

S.B. 266, among other things, would allow recipients of unemployment benefits to extend their benefits through completion of a financial literacy course, according to Stanley and the General Assembly website. This would empower them to help better manage their finances, Stanley said.

The bill also would allow recipients of unemployment benefits to extend their benefits through volunteer service at nonprofit organizations.

Another bill, S.B. 195, would direct the Department of Social Services to provide financial assistance to offset the cost of child care for people receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and others whose household incomes are less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level and who are employed or participating in job placement, job training or education, according to Stanley and the General Assembly website.

Stanley said currently, some low-income people make less money working, after paying for child care, than staying home with their children and drawing assistance.

He also pre-filed a bill that would increase funding for community action programs, which “are so important in helping families get out of poverty.” Community action programs, such as Support to Eliminate Poverty (STEP), include such services as housing, education, job training and day care, he said.

Several bills Stanley prefiled relate to jobs and economic development, and education.

S.B. 106 would establish “the Building Revitalization Grant Fund administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development to award grants of up to $100,000 to businesses that make a capital investment of $1 million in revitalizing or retrofitting existing buildings in the commonwealth to serve” as new places of business, according to the General Assembly website and Stanley.

S.B. 107 would give tax credits for donations to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs at public schools in Virginia with a performance grade of C or below or that are in a locality with a population of 200,000 or less, according to the General Assembly website.

S.B. 267 would provide that the Virginia Economic Development Partnership Authority develop a program by which local industrial parks may become certified by the commonwealth, considering planning, zoning, engineering, title ownership and general development readiness, according to the General Assembly website. It adds, “The program shall also certify developments in various categories of industry.”

The bill would provide “shovel-ready,” industry-specific certifications for industrial parks showing that building sites have had all the preliminary work done to expedite the construction process, Stanley said. “The state of Minnesota has done this with much success,” he added.

S.B. 110 would establish “a short-time compensation program that provides employers with the option of reducing the hours worked by employees, while permitting the employees whose hours are reduced to receive partial compensation for lost wages,” according to the General Assembly website. The reduction in hours of work would be “in lieu of a layoff of an equivalent percentage of employees and ... employees’ health and retirement benefits cannot be reduced or eliminated under the plan.”

Stanley said under this bill, instead of being laid off, workers whose hours were reduced would continue working, the difference in hours would be paid by the Virginia Employment Commission, and the commonwealth would not be paying the full price of unemployment benefits. That would be a savings to the commonwealth, he said.

S.J. 23 would create “a joint subcommittee to conduct a two-year study to promote the construction of proposed I-73 in Virginia.” The resolution says the general assemblies of North Carolina and South Carolina would be invited to appoint similar entities in their states to work cooperatively with the subcommittee in Virginia in promoting the construction of proposed I-73.

S.B. 168 would provide “a tax credit of $5,000 to teachers who relocate to schools with a performance grade of C or below or to a locality with a population of 200,000 or less,” according to the General Assembly website and Stanley.

According to Stanley and the General Assembly website, among other bills Stanley prefiled:

• S.B. 32 “requires the superintendent of state police to establish and maintain an animal cruelty registry for public access on the website of the Department of State Police. The registry shall include the names of persons convicted of certain felony animal cruelty offenses.”

• S.B. 31 “requires the Board of Health, in consultation with the Department of Environmental Quality and other entities, to establish a program certifying that a building that was previously a methamphetamine manufacturing site is safe for human occupancy and requires a person convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine to pay the cost of the certification. Current law requires the convicted person to pay cleanup costs.”

• S.B. 109 “Increases the monthly health insurance credit for retired local government employees, local officers, general registrars, employees of a general registrar and employees of local social services boards from $1.50 per year of creditable service with a cap of $45, to $4 per year of creditable service, with no cap.”

Stanley said he thinks a number of legislators will focus on ethics reform during this session of the legislature.


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