Virginia House of Delegates 48th District!
As redrawn in 2011, Virginia’s 48th Delegate District includes the area in Northern Virginia covering north Arlington, as well as much of McLean from the Arlington border to the Beltway. It also runs along the Potomac from Chain Bridge to National Airport and Crystal City.
I’m proud to have represented the 48th District’s citizens in Richmond since 1998. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read about my background, the legislation I have championed in Richmond, and my stand on issues that matter to Northern Virginia and the Commonwealth.
I encourage you to visit my website often. Please contact me if you have any questions or if there’s an issue involving state government that I can help you resolve.
This week I was honored to receive the National Federation of the Blind – Virginia chapter’s Commonwealth Award for my efforts to fund special education teachers for blind and vision impaired students. With this funding, the school experience and life preparation of hundreds of visually impaired kids across Virginia will be improved.
Governor McDonnell deserves special credit for this achievement. Due to a historical anomaly, special education for the blind and visually impaired was the only disability category that was not funded through the standard SOQ formula in the state budget’s assistance to local school districts. The Governor recognized the inequity of the situation and at my urging included $4.9 million in the FY 2014 budget.
During the final weeks as bills were debated in the General Assembly and voted on, I spoke on the floor against one of the many measures which supposedly were aimed at combating voter fraud, but which actually would hinder citizens in exercising their right to vote.
The bill would link Virginia’s voter files to a federal database containing immigration and citizenship status information. This linkup supposedly would keep non-citizens from voting in Virginia, a virtually nonexistent problem. Worse, the timeliness and accuracy of this database is questionable. So with this bill, we risk imposing additional requirements on naturalized citizens who are trying to exercise the fundamental right to vote.
It’s wrong for us to do this. Just walk down the halls of any of our Northern Virginia high schools and you’ll see how new Americans are enriching the life of our region our state, and our nation. Making them second class citizens is the wrong way to go.
A little after 5 o’clock on Saturday afternoon, the General Assembly concluded its 46 days of legislative activity. During our final week, we had a forward-looking outcome on two main items of business.
Transportation funding: the House and Senate came to agreement on the first major transportation funding bill in a generation. The plan will provide almost $900 million annually to help the state’s highway and transit infrastructure. Two features of this transportation bill are particularly important to Northern Virginians:
- regional package to address the congestion that we experience on a daily basis with assurance that the taxes that are raised in this package will stay in this region.
- significant funding for mass transit, including 300 million dollars to help complete Metro out to Dulles airport and Loudoun County.
While I don’t like some elements of the transportation bill, this was our best chance to do something meaningful about transportation. The bill provides significant revenues for transportation and for the most part relies on appropriate and sustainable funding sources.
Budget: Again, this is a consensus document whose good features outweigh the not so good.
- Education: a 2 per cent raise for the state’s teachers, additional slots at our major public universities, along with $8.6 million in increased funding for financial aid.
- Health Care: a path to providing health care for hundreds of thousands of uninsured Virginians through the Medicaid program as part of federal health care reform. Through this process, we’ll be pursuing reforms in Medicaid in order to deal with the escalating costs of that program.
- State’s training centers for individuals with severe intellectual and physical disabilities: language in the budget requires the state to work with the residents’ families and with local Community Services Boards to make sure that individual medical, dental, rehabilitation, and other special needs can be met by community providers before those residents transition from the training centers to community residential settings.
While the 2013 session has wound down, work continues year-round for members of the General Assembly. In the next few weeks I’ll be meeting with various community groups on the highlights and low points of the 2013 session. I hope I’ll see you there. And I will keep you informed through my occasional newsletters and this blog. And as always if you have a question, please call (703-531-1048) or email my Arlington-McLean office.
Delegate Patrick Hope and I presented Members of the House commemorative coins marking the April 6 commissioning of the USS Arlington.
The ship’s name honors the location of one of the 9-11 attacks on U.S. soil. The USS Arlington is designed to carry Marines and their equipment on humanitarian missions and, if needed, to world hot-spots. It will be a sister ship to the USS New York and the future USS Somerset, which were named by the Navy to honor communities impacted by the terrorist attacks of 2001 and the first-responders who risked their lives to aid others.
In comments on the floor of the House I explained that “the entire Arlington community has joined together to make the commissioning of the USS Arlington an honor to those who served and sacrificed in the aftermath of the attack on the Pentagon, and to those”brave men and women who serve us day in and day out.”
This past Tuesday was the deadline for the House and Senate to complete consideration of their own bills and move them on to the other chamber.
Many of the most controversial issues that confronted us have been sidelined. One of the “sidelined” measures, unfortunately, was a bill I introduced to reinstate Virginia’s limitation on handgun purchases to one a month. This common-sense law was enacted on a bipartisan basis in 1993. But last year the General Assembly very unwisely repealed it. My reinstatement bill, and every other gun safety measure introduced in the House, fell by the wayside long before they ever got to the floor.
It’s not all bad news, though. We have taken some worthwhile steps on school safety. The Governor sent down a package of legislation on the topic that we’ll consider before the end of the session. Also, the budget we passed this week contains additional funding for public safety-related mental health needs. But until we do something about gun violence – both at the state and national level — we’re simply not fully facing up to issue of school safety.
After the long lines that voters encountered at the polls last November, you’d think that the General Assembly would have explored ways of making it easier to cast a ballot. But bill after bill to do this went down to defeat. In fact, the major election legislation still alive would make it even harder for some to vote, by limiting the kind of identification you can show at the polls. We’re going the wrong way on this topic – we should be making it easier, not harder, for eligible citizens to participate in the democratic process.
A major roadblock to our efforts to complete our remaining business by the February 23 deadline was removed this week. The Speaker of the House ruled that the Senate redistricting plan, which had been added to a housekeeping measure making technical adjustments to House districts, was out of order – in parliamentary terms, that it was not germane to the original bill.
We also had a breakthrough on the budget. A major sticking point had been whether Virginia should expand the Medicaid program to provide health care to hundreds of thousands of uninsured Virginians. The budgets passed by both bodies contain provisions putting Virginia on a path toward Medicaid expansion. I think the House and Senate budget conferees can come to an agreement on this issue before the end of the session.
We haven’t come to consensus on the other big ticket item on our agenda – transportation. This week the House passed the Governor’s transportation plan pretty much intact and sent it over to the Senate. I’ve already talked about my concerns with the bill, and I voted against it. Over on the Senate side, three separate transportation plans were voted down this week – so we’re still a long way from coming to grips with this issue. There’s still time to come up with a meaningful plan, but every day that passes brings us one day closer to the end of the session on February 23.