Weekly Column: Budget Tweaks, Execution Secrecy and Ethics
The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of March 2, 2015.
Budget Tweaks, Execution Secrecy and Ethics
In the last week of the recent General Assembly session, we passed a budget and some of the most contentious legislation of the session. We actually adjourned one day early on Friday, the first session in the six regular sessions in which I have served that has finished early.
Here's a quick rundown on several bills:
Four of my bills passed both houses and are with the Governor for his action. I described them in my column last week. I hope they will be signed into law without any amendments.
We approved amendments to our biennial budget that includes money to fund the state’s share of a 1.5% raise for teachers, a 2% raise for state employees and a 2% raise for college faculty. Many of these employees have shad only one raise in the last seven years.
The budget also endorses Governor McAuliffe’s new plan to provide mental health services to 21,600 Virginians with serious mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders who are at 60% of federal poverty level.
We prepaid $129 million for a constitutionally-required Rainy Day Fund deposit and restored about $41.5 million to higher education that was cut earlier in the year because of the economic downturn. We also provided $106 million for construction for new buildings at various colleges, including James Madison University, Virginia Tech, Longwood University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Radford University and funds to restore the historic rotunda at the University of Virginia.
The budget also makes a $129 million one-time payment to the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) to reduce our unfunded liability. This will also reduce required contributions from local governments that are largely funded by real estate property taxes.
The budget also includes my proposal to restore one General District Court Judgeship to Fairfax County, a position that is desperately needed.
The legislature did not expand Medicaid as authorized by the Affordable Care Act. To me, this omission is legislative malpractice. As of today, Virginia has left $1.8 billion in federal funds on the table. By next year, this will be the equivalent of $40 million in the 44th Delegate District alone or about 500 per constituent or about $2,000 for each four-person family I represent. We have lost about 400 jobs in the 44th District and health care coverage for about 5,000 people.
In addition, this budget fails to adequately fund education or address our unfair education funding formula, despite my efforts. Virginia also still has a $15 billion unfunded liability in the Virginia Retirement System (VRS). The legislature also failed to repeal or correct dozens of ineffective tax credits and tax preferences for things like coal, yachts and private schools. Virginia also still has $100 billion transportation capital shortfall over the next 20 years. These are some of the reasons that I voted “no.”
This year, the Department of Corrections pressed legislation to exempt the entire execution process from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). I fought this effort and killed the legislation in a bipartisan coalition of 33 Democrats, 27 Republicans and one independent. Execution is the last thing that should be shrouded in secrecy.
Finally, on the last day, the legislature sent “ethics” legislation to the Governor. I voted “yes” on the final bill, but I was anything but happy with it. The bill did include my proposal to limit gifts and political contributions during the Governor’s Opportunity Fund process, but it is riddled with problems.
First, although the bill lowered Virginia’s gift cap to $100, it deleted the $250 aggregate gift cap, so now elected officials can accept an unlimited number of gifts under $100 from the same donor.
The also bill lacks a real enforcement mechanism. There are no mandatory audits. There is no independent ethics commission and the new ethics committee has no subpoena power. Stronger ethics laws are essentially meaningless if they cannot be enforced.
You can see my floor speeches on ethics, death penalty secrecy and the state budget on my You Tube channel. Thank you for all of your feedback and suggestions. It is an honor to serve as your delegate. I hope you will continue to be in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Begging for Education Technolgy in Fairfax County
Ensuring every public school student has access to technology has been a goal of mine for the last three years. Electronic textbooks are here and the learning resources that are now online are critical resources for our children to access.
Kids get it. Watch this news story by Peggy Fox featuring my Janetzy Marisco where she lays it out.
However, most school systems, including Fairfax County, have failed to prioritize funding technology purchases. Obviously, some blame for this lies with a lack of state funding, but in jurisdictions like Fairfax County where the state only provides 20% of the school budget, waiting for the state to show up is not a plausible excuse.
Several large Virginia jurisdictions are already purchasing computing devices for all of their students - Henrico, Albemarle, Arlington, Alexandria, and Chesterfield. Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun Counties continue to lag behind
Teachers are becoming increasingly desperate. A constituent recently forwarded this email from a French teacher.
I have recently written a grant on DonorsChoose.org for funding to buy iPod touches for my students to use in my classroom to do research, record their voices, Skype other French students, and many other activities that would improve their skills in the French language and in using technology.
To read an explanation of my project and to donate, click the link below;
Technology: An Engaging Journey Toward a Successful FutureIf you donate to my project in the next week (by March 2, 2015) and enter the code SPARK on the payment page, your donation be matched dollar for dollar (up to $100) thanks to DonorsChoose.org.
If I reach my goal and the project is funded, all those who donate will receive photos of my students benefitting from the project and our heartfelt thanks. Merci beaucoup!
P.S. If you know anyone who may want to help my classroom, please pass this along!
Please see the attached flyer for more information: DonorsChoose flyer.docx
One of the ten wealthiest counties in the United States resorting to self-funding to purchase iPod's. Requiring computing devices for every public school student in the Commonwealth needs to be an education objective as soon as possible.
Weekly Column: Ninja Weapons, Shotguns and State-run Local Schools Struck
The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of February 24, 2015.
Ninja Weapons, Shotguns and State-run Local Schools Struck
In the fifth week of the General Assembly session, several of my bills moved toward passage and a few controversial bills are being debated.
Surovell Legislation Moving
First, my legislation to protect Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit proceeds, plus child support and spousal support arrearages from creditors, passed the full Senate Courts Committee and should clear the full Senate on Monday as I write this column. Second, my legislation to simplify the process of continuing lawsuits when parties pass away cleared the Senate last week and was sent to the Governor.
Third, my bill to waive Standards of Learning tests for elementary and secondary students with high scores on Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests was added to another bill to grant greater flexibility to school systems to waive Standards of Learning tests. That legislation will likely pass the Senate as well.
Fourth, Republican Delegate Manoli Loupassi and I crafted legislation providing new remedies for people whose criminal charges are publicized by private data companies after the individuals are found not guilty and the charges have been expunged from their record. We also proposed to create a remedy against companies who post criminal conviction information on websites and will only remove the information after extorting a payment of money. These companies have been popping up around the world and republishing information from Fairfax County.
The Senate modified our bill to remove the expungement cause of action, and we will continue to refine the legislation. The legislation creating an action for extortion passed the Senate Courts Committee and will move through both bodies as modified this week.
Ninja Weapons and Shotguns
On Tuesday, the House of Delegates passed legislation legalizing the sale of switchblades, ballistic darts and throwing stars. After a public outcry, the House reconsidered the bill the following day and killed it.
That same day, the House, on a 62-34 vote, approved legislation allowing individuals who hold concealed weapon permits to carry loaded shotguns in vehicles even if local ordinances ban this conduct. I led the floor debate against this legislation, arguing that the last thing Virginia needs is loaded shotguns in Northern Virginia traffic. I highlighted numerous road rage incidents involving shotguns, including one that took place just 20 hours before we debated the bill.
Also, all of Virginia’s hunter education courses specifically teach hunters notto transport loaded shotguns and all shotgun manufacturers specifically advise shotgun owners to never transport loaded shotguns. We heard testimony about a Virginia state trooper who was killed when a vehicle was rolled over and the shotgun went off.
I discovered that Fairfax, Arlington, Prince William and Loudoun Counties have not taken advantage of their authority to enact local bans on transporting loaded shotguns. Supervisor Gerry Hyland has started work on a Fairfax County ordinance.
“Tim Tebow” Bill Advances
Each year, we debate legislation to allow home-schooled athletes to participate in public school sports programs. I routinely vote against this because I feel that it is unfair to public school athletes who must meet grade and conduct standards when it is impossible to enforce the same standards with home-schooled students. Also, public education cannot be a la carte or the entire system will become dysfunctional. this legislation normally dies in the Senate, but this year, it was amended to allow the policy to become a local option instead of a state mandate. The bill is heading for a likely veto.
Repeal of McDonnell Education Measures
Both houses voted to repeal A through F grading of public schools and former Governor McDonnell’s “Opportunity Education Institute” (OEI), an effort to allow state takeover of local schools. In hindsight, school grading was seen as potentially destructive of communities and the OEI was held to be unconstitutional.
The Last Week
We should conclude writing the budget this week and complete work on all legislation in joint conference committees. We appear to be heading for an on-time conclusion, which has been a rarity since I have been in office.
Please continue emailing me your feedback at email@example.com. It is an honor to serve as your state delegate.
Weekly Column: Ethics, Electricity Bills and Budget Negotiations
The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of February 17, 2015.
Ethics, Electricity Bills and Budget Negotiations
The General Assembly is now in its fifth week of the 45-day session and starting budget negotiations. Four of my bills are moving through the legislative process. The Senate will consider two this week.
This past weekend about 75 people shared their views at my town hall meeting with Senators Toddy Puller and Adam Ebbin at the Mount Vernon Government Center. We appreciate the interest and the feedback.
Each body passed ethics bills last week. The legislation creates a new overall gift cap of $100 for all local and state elected officials in Virginia . It allows an exception for educational travel approved in advance by an Ethics Advisory Council. It also contains an exception for “widely attended events,” such as the banquets in our area for local charities, and the bill incorporates a proposal I made last session to prohibit the Governor from accepting a gift or contribution from an entity seeking a Governor’s Opportunity Fund grant.
I was one of seven out of 140 legislators to vote “no.” You can watch my full remarks on my You Tube Channel, but for me the bottom line was that this “reform” was toothless. Virginia needs an independent body to enforce its ethics laws, not an “advisory council.” We need an independent body with subpoena power and a requirement to complete a minimum number of audits each year. The proposed system will continue to run on the assumption that all 2,000+ elected officials in Virginia are honest in their campaign and financial filings and problems will only be exposed by whistleblowers or ancillary investigations. Virginians deserve better.
Keeping Electricity Affordable
Both chambers have passed legislation significantly rewriting the laws regulating investor-owned utilities. I voted “no.” In 2007, Virginia re-regulated electric utilities by creating a process under which the incumbent monopoly (in our area, Dominion Power) is reviewed every two years by the State Corporation Commission to determine if the company is earning an excess profit. If so, excess profits are refunded or electricity rates are cut. The legislation passed abolishes these biennial reviews for five years and freezes rates.
While the legislation does provide consumers some protection from possible coal plant closure costs and requires some investments in solar, I am concerned we are getting shortchanged. Two days before we voted, UBS Financial Services issued a very optimistic review of Dominion’s earning potential because our legislation “remove[d] one of the largest single risks” to Dominion’s earnings. My priority is making home electric bills affordable, not enhancing shareholder value.
On proposed budgets, the good news is that state revenue projections have partially recovered, which has allowed both bodies to propose long overdue raises for teachers (1.5%), state employees (1.5%-3.0%), college faculty (2%) and law enforcement personnel. Many of these individuals have only seen one raise in seven years.
I voted against the proposed budget for several reasons. First, the budget deleted Governor Terry McAuliffe’s proposed Medicaid expansion. Expansion would provide health insurance to 5,000 working adults in the 44th District and 400,000 statewide, bring $1.5 billion of Virginians’ federal taxpayer dollars home per year, create 30,000 jobs and free up $180 million of Virginia state taxpayer dollars for other priorities. The 44th District has the second largest current Medicaid population of all delegates in Fairfax County, Arlington County, Loudoun County and Alexandria.
The House budget also cuts pre-kindergarten by $6 million and funds higher education $30 million less than the Senate budget. It contains language that would prohibit taxpayer funding for abortions and language that would prohibit Governor McAuliffe from rolling back regulations designed to shut down most abortion clinics in Virginia. It also contains language purporting to allow any of the 140 members of the House or Senate to bring a taxpayer-funded lawsuit against the Governor if a legislator or any agency interprets a state law contrary to the legislators’ opinion. That's the Attorney General's job.
In these last two weeks, conference committees will conduct intense negotiations over the budget and some of the most contentious bills.
I appreciate the hundreds of emails you have sent me. Please continue to share your views at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your state delegate.
February, 2015 Winter Storm Information
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning, from 4 p.m. Monday February 16th to noon on February 17th for Northern Virginia. They expect the storm to dump 4 or more inches of snow and sleet on the Mount Vernon area. Snowfall is expected to begin on Monday afternoon and could become heavy at times.I have cut and pasted an excerpt from the Weather Underground's forecast as of 10:20 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 15 on the right. You can click on it to enlarge.Although I am in Richmond for the General Assembly Session and we will remain in session during the storm, my staff will be available to deal with problems and I will continue to post updates about outages and other information as it is available.
|Weather Underground Forecast as of 10:20 p.m.|
The following information should help you prepare for the storm:
Dominion Resources Power Outage Line
Dominion Resources Storm Center
Road crews are currently treating interstates and primary roads with salt brine or anti-icing chemicals. Crews will be working overnight and through the duration of the storm treating icy roads and plowing snow.
VDOT Street Problem Number
1 (800) FOR-ROAD
During the storm, please avoid driving on roads. Automobile accidents account for about 70 percent of fatalities related to ice and snow.
Winter weather driving tips and other preparations:
- Monitor your local news sources for the latest weather conditions
- Prepare your car for winter driving conditions including having an emergency kit in your vehicle
- Prepare your home for winter weather conditions in case of power outages
- Before getting behind the wheel, call 511, go to www.511virginia.org or download the 511 mobile app to get the latest road condition information
- You may also call 800-FOR-ROAD (800-637-7623) to report road hazards or ask road-related questions at VDOT's 24-hour Customer Service Center
- When driving, give yourself extra time to reach your destination, leave plenty of driving room between you and the vehicle ahead and slow down
Road priorities and neighborhood snowplow tracker:
VDOT's goal is to have all state-maintained roads passable within 48 hours after a winter storm ends
Crews first begin clearing roads with the highest traffic volumes - interstates and primary roads - and then major secondary roads, followed by subdivision streets.
A statewide network of 77 weather sensors in roadways and bridges, plus 16 mobile video platforms, allows crews to quickly identify when and where road surfaces might be freezing.
VDOT has activated a web-based neighborhood tracking map that monitors the status of plowing in Northern Virginia neighborhoods if there is more than two inches of snow. It is available at www.vdotplows.org. VDOT will be testing the tracker concept in other parts of the state this year to determine which regions are best suited for the wireless technology required for the system.
Emergencies, Reporting Outages & Traffic Issues:
Contact information for reporting utility outages and traffic problems follow:
Washington GasPolice non-emergency numbers are:Fairfax County:Prince William County:
Please prepare and be safe during the storm
Weekly Column: Bills on Protecting Child Support, SOL Flexibility, and Consumer Protection Pass
The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of February 10, 2015.
Bills on Protecting Child Support, SOL Flexibility, and Consumer Protect Pass
The third week of the “short” session of the General Assembly brings us to “Crossover.” “Crossover” is the midpoint of the session when both houses must complete work on their own bills and begin work on bills from the other chambers.
Several of my bills have moved forward. First, last year, one of my Amundson Fellows from West Potomac High School, Colleen O’Grady, suggested that I introduce legislation allowing school systems to waive Standards of Learning (SOL) testing for students who achieved a certain score on an Advanced Placement test in the same subject. My bill was rolled into legislation proposed by another member granting local systems more flexibility to waive SOL tests and passed the House of Delegates unanimously.
Second, several attorney’s advised me that U.S. Bankruptcy Trustees were seizing child support and spousal support arrearages along with refunds of low income families’ tax refunds attributable to the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. None of these assets should be available to creditors so I introduced legislation adding them to the list of assets that could be exempt from creditor collections. Frequently, a child support or spousal support payor’s failure to meet their court-ordered obligations puts people into bankruptcy. My legislation passed unanimously.
Third, I partnered with a Republican Senator to carry legislation simplifying the process for appointing a person to represent the interests of an individual who dies during or before litigation is commenced in their name. This legislation passed both houses unanimously.
Fourth, for the last three years, I have been pressing legislation to enhance consumer remedies with data providers sell or publish information relating to a criminal charge that has been expunged. Today, consumers only have remedies if incorrect information is put out in connection with an employment application or landlord-tenant application. The industry is pushing back very hard and I will continue to fight to push this bill through.
Unfortunately, my legislation to remove the requirement that a voter provide a social security number during voter registration from the Constitution of Virginia died by one vote in committee. If it had made it to the floor, it would have passed. Requiring all nine digits of a social security number is no longer necessary.
My legislation to prohibit predatory lenders from evading consumer protections by lending money through unregulated “subsidiaries” in the same storefront died in committee. However, one Republican member offered to help me push the bill through next year. In the meantime, low income Virginians will continue to be victimized by 200% loans.
We have also passed some other major legislation. We passed legislation allowing companies like Uber to operate. While Uber does provide a very attractive product and is an innovative company, I voted against the legislation for several reasons. First, the company is providing insurance for vehicles that is 50% of what Fairfax County currently mandates for taxicabs. Also, if an Uber driver takes cash for a ride, then their driver is not covered at all so if they collide with a completely innocent vehicle or pedestrian, there is no insurance.
Additionally, Uber does not provide wheelchair lift vehicles which is required of most taxicab companies. If Uber puts taxicab companies out of business, this service will become a taxpayer function. The filing fee for new companies is also $100,000. This effectively bars new startup companies from entering the market, especially in smaller jurisdictions.
In response to the Hannah Graham case, we passed legislation expanding DNA collections for several misdemeanors associated with a higher incidence of sexual violence and also passed legislation attempting to increase responsiveness to sexual assault on college campuses. It will continue to change as it goes through the system.
This coming week will bring debate over the budget and some very controversial bills involving utility regulation and the death penalty. Please continue to provide me with your feedback at email@example.com.
It is an honor to serve as your state delegate.
Weekly Column: Gerry Hyland, the Epitome of Public Service
The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of February 3, 2015. Gerry Hyland, the Epitome of Public Service
At Saturday’s town hall meeting, we learned that we are losing another 28-years of public policy wisdom, seniority and experience.
In 1987, Mount Vernon was a different place. In 1987, we had just emerged from a divisive high school merger battle driven by a decline in the number of students. Mount Vernon had seen a tsunami of homes built between 1955 and 1970 and about ten years after the construction stopped, the area found itself with thousands of aging empty nesters, fewer children and vacant schools.
U.S. 1 was blighted by over a dozen old motels, a reputation for its hard knocks and crime, two strip clubs and curiosities like Northern Virginia’s last duck pin bowling alley and the Thieves’ Market. Lorton was known for its prison, from which inmates escaped periodically, a landfill and not much else.
In 1987 when I got my driver’s license, Mount Vernon elected a local PTA activist, former President of United Community Ministries, 30-year Air Force officer, farmer and lawyer to the Board of Supervisors on a campaign focused on nourishing schools and closing prisons, landfills, and incinerators and bringing our area a better quality of life. That was Gerry Hyland.
I was part of West Potomac High School’s inaugural freshman class and graduated in 1989. I mainly remember two things about graduation: Channel 4’s Jim Vance’s stirring commencement address and Supervisor Hyland (with hair) getting out of his chair to shake my hand as I walked across the dais. That stirring memory is the main reason I try to attend every high school graduation in my district and shake the hand of as many kids as I can. You only graduate from high school once and Gerry Hyland understands that that’s a big step in life. Today, West Potomac High School is a community institution.
Over the last 28, most of the notorious “no-tell motels” are gone. Crime on U.S. 1 is down. Lorton Prison closed in 2001, Laurel Hill is springing up and South County has never looked back.
Population and jobs on Fort Belvoir have probably tripled since Gerry took office. The Fairfax County Parkway now bisects the base and provides access to the west. Belvoir boasts a state-of-the-art, billion dollar hospital and has become the largest employer in the County.
Gerry has addressed New Alexandria and Belleview’s flooding, secured a $30 million floodwall to save Huntington, mediated dozens of complaints about infill housing stimulated by the desirability of our community, endured dog park battles and relentlessly protected Mason Neck’s unique bucolic character.
When rumors started building that Mount Vernon Hospital was in danger of closing, Gerry led the charge to save the facility. Today, INOVA has just completed the first of five planned expansions including a 30,000 square foot emergency room scheduled for construction in a few months. Having hospital service closer to Mount Vernon than Alexandria or Fairfax saves lives.
He has been the leading voice on the Board of Supervisors for funding education and he has had the courage to propose new revenue sources. Every year, he has pressed his colleagues to fund Fairfax County’s schools at a level deserving of our community.
Recognizing the need for affordable housing and building on his early charity work, Gerry has fought to fully fund a safety net and pick up where the state and federal governments fail to meet their responsibility.
Our schools are bursting at the seams the Mount Vernon’s population has matured, diversified and young families flock to our community. Population south of Fort Belvoir has quadrupled and it’s hard to find a house in the 22079 zip code for less than $500,000. South County High School is a focal point of community activity and sits astride a nationally recognized public golf course. West Potomac High School stands as one of Fairfax County’s oldest schools; Mount Vernon High School, as a community institution.
Gerry has skillfully steered Mount Vernon through a generational transition and helped us set the stage for bringing rail and the next 30 years of responsible growth and change in Mount Vernon.
Thank you, Gerry, for your 28-plus years of public service and best wishes on a well-deserved retirement.
FCC Changes Broadband Definition
Access to broadband is an issue in nearly every corner of the Commonwealth.
In some areas, affordability is an issue. In others, older buildings present problems providing access. In rural areas, geographic and low population densities create challenges.
As the internet continues to expand and more people use it for more functions such as watching movies, the definition of broadband has been pressured as well.
This week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) changed its definition of broadband from 4Mbps/1Mbps to 25Mbps/3Mbps (Mbps = Megabits per second and download/upload speeds).
Nationwide 17% of Americans or 55 million people lack access to broadband service. in Virginia, 30% of our localities do not have access to broadband and 45% or 62 counties are underserved.
You can see how this plays out on the map on the left.
Broadband access is also an issue in Northern Virginia. While fiber optic service might be available to each address, it is not available in every community or every building.
Broadband is just as essential today as electricity, water and sewer service, and is a critical component of creating jobs, education, and ensuring quality of life. The FCC's decision to change the definition of broadband further underscores how long we have to go in Virginia.
Cable Reports: Sexting Education, Electronic Textbooks, and U.S. 1
This morning, I was able to appear on Cable Reports with my colleagues, Delegate David Bulova and Delegate Kaye Kory, to talk about this session and a little bit about my legislative agenda with Woody Hayes. You can watch below.
Thank you Cox Communications for making this service available so our constituents can learn more about what's going on in Richmond!
Weekly Column: The First Ten Days: Sunshine, Pregnancy Discrimination and Firearms Safety
The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of January 26, 2015. The First Ten Days: Sunshine, Pregnancy Discrimination and Firearms Safety
The first ten days of the General Assembly session are usually slow, but were full of surprises this year.
First, while on my way to Governor Terry McAuliffe’s State of the Commonwealth Address, I learned that Senator Toddy Puller had announced her retirement. After digesting the shock and speaking to Toddy, I walked into the House of Delegates chamber to hear the governor’s address.
Most of the first week was focused on organizing committees, passing non-controversial bills developed over the summer and putting the finishing touches on our own bills.
I introduced several bills that I did not cover in my prior columns. First, I introduced legislation prohibiting a Virginia employer with more than 15 employees from either discriminating against or firing a woman because she is pregnant. This issue, as it is addressed in federal law, is currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. However, Maryland adopted similar legislation last year and nothing prohibits Virginia from strengthening its own laws.
Second, I introduced a bill to bring some “sunlight” to the State Corporation Commission (SCC), a state agency with broad regulatory power over many industries. Recently, the SCC issued comments criticizing President Barack Obama’s proposed carbon dioxide, greenhouse gas regulations. The SCC is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) so no one can learn from the public record the information, people and other influences that led to the SCC’s conclusions. I introduced legislation requiring the SCC to provide complete disclosure of records and communications any time they issue agency comments on public policy matters.
Third, a fellow attorney told me about his client who had been involuntarily committed for mental health treatment. The client owned large stockpiles of ammunition. State law prohibits people who have been ordered into mental health treatment from possessing a firearm, but they are still allowed to possess unlimited amounts of ammunition. My bill would prohibit that.
I also introduced a study resolution requesting Virginia’s non-partisan government auditor to conduct a study addressing methods to stabilize and improve our transportation revenue sources. We actually collect less in gas taxes today than we did in 2007 due to more energy-efficient, higher-mileage cars, shorter commutes, fewer drivers and less travel. Gas tax revenue is declining. Virginia is still at least $100 billion short in transportation funds over the next 20 years and projects like the Yellow Line Metro extension will not be cheap. My bill was tabled mainly because committee members said we were not ready for more transportation funding discussions.
I also presented three constitutional amendments. One would repeal the ban on marriage equality. The second amendment would allow a two-term governor – that is only common sense.
The third amendment would remove the requirement that voters provide a social security number when registering to vote. The General Assembly could still require the number or the last four digits by statute, but this requirement does not belong in the Constitution. The entire social security number is no longer necessary and having a database of six million social security numbers at the State Board of Elections presents an excellent computer hacker target. All three of my amendments were taken under advisement until all amendments are heard.
On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the gun rights lobby came to Richmond along with firearm safety advocates. I gave a floor speech that pointed out that signs on sticks, vuvuzellas, sirens, and even helium balloons are prohibited inside the General Assembly Building, while Bushmaster Assault Rifles, AK-47’s and semi-automatic pistols are allowed – even in the balcony of the House of Delegates chamber if you have a concealed weapon permit. You can watch my speech on my You Tube channel. This needs to change.
Finally, I wrote about Senator Puller’s retirement last week. She has been my mentor and partner for six sessions. Mount Vernon, Lee and Virginia’s veterans could not ask for a more ardent advocate. After talking with my family and business partners, I announced last week that I will be running to replace her in the State Senate. I hope I can count on the community’s support as I embark on a new challenge.
Thank you for the honor of serving you.