Normal Meeting laws will increase appropriations to public universities, develop voting entry – The Cavalier Day by day

The Virginia General Assembly closed its term on March 1 with some of the proposed bills and budget changes that added more money to public higher education institutions and expanded access to voting. The Student Council’s Legislative Affairs Committee advocated several of the initiatives adopted. Governor Ralph Northam has until March 31 to propose new changes, so the budget impact on tuition fees for the next two fiscal years is uncertain.

Of the three initiatives used by the Student Council Legislative Committee to pass the General Assembly to increase access to voting, two were adopted. The student council also asked the state to increase funding for the university, which was also approved by the Virginia House and the Senate.

The General Assembly passed SB 1097, which no longer requires witness signatures in Virginia [a] declared state of emergency in connection with a communicable disease that threatens public health. “The bill also instructs the Electoral Ministry to find an alternative to witness signatures to verify the legitimacy of the ballot papers. The student council campaigned for this draft law to expand access to voting.

A Virginia court previously ruled that the November 3, 2020 general election did not require the signatures of absentee witnesses, and over 2.6 million Virginians voted in the 2020 general election, compared to just 566,948 in 2016.

The Student Council also called on the General Assembly to pass constitutional amendment SJ 272, which would allow convicted offenders to vote again after their release from prison. Currently, approximately 366,000 people in Virginia are ineligible to vote due to a crime conviction.

If the law were to be signed, SJ 272 would also allow those previously classified as “mentally incompetent” to vote. The Virginia Constitution currently states: “[n]o A person convicted of a crime is eligible to vote unless the governor or other competent authority has restored his or her civil rights. “

The General Assembly also passed SB 1331, with which the electoral barriers for the visually impaired or pressure-impaired are to be dismantled. When the law is signed, voters can vote using electronic ballot papers activated with screen reader assist technology.

“Upon receipt of a postal vote request from an applicant who states they need assistance due to a visual impairment or a pressure disability, the general registrar must offer the applicant to provide the ballot marking tool with screen reader assistive technology,” the bill said.

In an email statement to The Cavalier Daily, Hannah Koizumi, chair of the Student Council’s Legislative Affairs Committee, said the Student Council asked state lawmakers to support two bills to increase state funding for the university, both of which were passed .

The Uniform Higher Education Change will provide $ 60 million in fiscal 2021 and $ 73.5 million in fiscal 2022 to Virginia public universities “to provide operational support to improve financial aid or combat the effects of COVID- 19 pandemic “. As part of this change, the university will be allocated $ 3 million to provide affordable access in both fiscal year 2021 and fiscal year 2022.

Of the $ 60 million scheduled to be made available in fiscal 2021, $ 34,524,000 will come from federal funding and will help cover the cost of university COVID-19 testing. Unused funds are carried over to the next year.

Of the funds allocated to the university under the Higher Education Unified Amendment in fiscal 2021, $ 2.25 million will be used to cover COVID-19 testing costs. In the last six months of 2020, the university’s academic department spent $ 55,472,590 on its COVID-19 response, which included the cost of testing, isolation and quarantine, personal protective equipment and technology. The university received $ 31,349,462 in federal funding to cover these costs, but funding for the remaining $ 24,123,128 has yet to be determined.

$ 40 million of the 2022 FY2022 change will “address affordability issues” “due to inevitable increases in costs and required expenditures,” of which $ 3.5 million will go to university.

The proposed revised budget also provides an additional $ 2.5 million in cancer research at the university.

Northam’s proposed fiscal year 2021-22 budget will provide the university with more than $ 1.7 billion, an increase of more than $ 100 million over the previous two fiscal years and as of July 1 in Force will occur.

The Student Council also called on the General Assembly to “step in and remove the derogation that allows faith-based organizations to discriminate based on their sexual orientation and gender identity” after a Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship leader was told to resign because he was announced that he was a friend. The General Assembly did not pursue this initiative at this meeting.

Koizumi said the student council is talking to officials about repealing State Code 23.1-400, which prohibits the state from discriminating against any student religious or political organization that is exercising its right to regulate the organization’s internal affairs, its leaders and Select members of the organization or define the tenets of the organization. State law does not allow discrimination based on the political or religious affiliation of members of organizations.

In addition, the Student Council campaigned for the General Assembly to pass a law to end unpaid prison labor as the university bought face masks and furniture made by unpaid inmates during the pandemic.

The House of Representatives also passed a law requiring public colleges and universities to teach free of charge the descendants of enslaved workers who built and maintained these facilities. The bill will be considered by the Virginia Senate during the special session.

At this meeting, too, the General Assembly did not present a draft law to end this practice. Koizumi said this year’s meeting was shorter than previous years and the offices could only introduce seven pieces of legislation, so there was less opportunity to do so.

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