by Dick Hall-Sizemore
Although legislating through the budget, a practice that used to be frowned upon, is not new, this year’s budget conferees are taking the practice to a new dimension.
The amendments released by the budget conferees include the following new provisions in the “General Provisions” section. In most cases, the Code of Virginia is amended. The remaining cases involve just language in the Appropriation Act.
- Changes to the tax code. These have become a standard practice. This year there are provisions to increase the standard deduction, eliminate the state portion of the sales tax on groceries, increase income tax credits for military benefits, and make significant changes to the statutory language regarding housing opportunity credits.
- University housing. To the extent that institutions of higher education operate student housing during breaks, requires them to allow eligible foster students to stay in them free of charge.
- Casino referendum. Prevents the city of Richmond from having a second referendum on casinos until November 2023.
- Private school. Exempts a private school from licensing requirements. (The school was previously exempted until repeal of the applicable statutory provision in 2020.)
- Games of skill. Changes the definition of games of skill.
- Marijuana and hemp. Establishes a criminal penalty for possession of four ounces to one pound of marijuana. Changes requirements for labeling of products including industrial hemp. This is the first time that I remember the budget bill being used to amend the criminal code and impose a new criminal penalty.