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Focus on Fairfax Newsletter of Delegate David Bulova
February 2006

First, I am pleased to announce that we now have a Fairfax District office! You can find my Legislative Assistant, Andrea Loewenwarter, at 9900 Main Street, Plaza Suite 102, Fairfax Square in the City of Fairfax. Office hours are from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, or any time by appointment.

While most people celebrated Valentine?s Day on February 14th, the General Assembly also celebrated a milestone known as Cross-Over Day. This is the day where each body (House and Senate) must complete work on non-budget related bills and send them over to the opposite body for consideration. As a result, in the days leading to cross-over, it is not uncommon for meetings to last well into the evening. The entire process came to a crescendo this Tuesday, as we voted on over 200 bills.

While many of these bills are technical, others have significant impacts and were vigorously debated. Some of these bills I supported, some of them I didn?t. But in almost every instance there were very legitimate perspectives on both sides. Below are just a few highlights. Sorry for the length ? I?ve highlighted the topics so that you can scan to the most interesting bills.

Clean Smokestacks Act. HB1055, which was defeated in committee last year, was unanimously passed this year by the full House. This measure reduces emissions of mercury, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide from power plants in Virginia. The bill goes above and beyond federal regulations by accelerating compliance deadlines and limiting the use of ?trading? to meet mercury reduction requirements. The latter issue was a major sticking point between those who wanted to allow trading throughout the United States (that is, a plant in Virginia could buy credits from a plant in California) versus those who wanted to ban trading altogether. HB1055 represented a compromise between the power industry and several environmental groups. Because almost identical legislation has passed in the Senate, the measure is nearly assured approval.

Repeal of the Triggerman Rule. HB 782 repeals the ?triggerman rule.? This rule requires that to be eligible for capital punishment, a person must actually be the one who committed the murder. Repeal of this rule was prompted by the sniper case, where Lee Malvo pulled the trigger, but was under the direction of John Mohammed. Ultimately, it was a new State anti-terrorism provision that allowed for the capital conviction of Mohammed. However, this change makes it possible to seek a capital conviction even when there are no terrorist-like circumstances. Proponents argued that sometimes an individual will coerce another into performing the crime knowing full well the outcome and therefore should be prosecuted accordingly. Opponents argued against expansion of capital punishment or were concerned that it would be too easy for the person committing the crime to place blame on a lesser participant. Not an easy one.

Eminent Domain. Last summer, the Supreme Court in Kelo v. New London decided that government could take private property by eminent domain for the purpose of increasing tax revenues. It was no surprise then that the General Assembly moved to limit eminent domain to its more historical use (a move that I strongly support). Delegate Terrie Suit worked with a number of affected parties to arrive at HB94, which I thought was a pretty good piece of legislation. However, that bill, after about 20 minutes of debate, was replaced on the House floor by a vote of 45 to 51 with language limiting the ability of government to use eminent domain beyond what Virginia has traditionally done. Given that we needed to pass a bill to deal with the issue, it moved on to the Senate, but I think there will be a lot of work to do to make this a better bill.

Traffic Abuser Fees. The idea behind abuser fees is to increase revenue for transportation by raising penalties for aggressive drivers, those convicted of DWI, and other offenders. Abuser fees are part of the House transportation plan (HB527) and the Governor?s transportation plan. They are not part of the Senate?s transportation plan. (Yes, there are three State-wide plans and at least one regional plan.) The big differences between the House version and the Governor?s version are the dollar amount of the fees and how many points it takes for the fees to kick-in.

Self Defense/Deadly Force. Currently, nothing in the Code of Virginia actually defines when it is OK to use deadly force when someone breaks into your home and threatens you with physical harm. HB829, if approved by the Senate, will change that.

Hiring Illegal Immigrants. Two bills strengthen penalties against employers that hire illegal immigrants, but using two different approaches. HB1048 increases criminal penalties for employing illegal immigrants. HB1067 creates a new provision that subjects those who hire illegal immigrants to significant civil fees. The real benefit of a civil action is that it shifts the burden of proof and makes it easier to act against violators.

Transportation Bond Act. HB 1257 redirects existing funding from the insurance license tax and the recordation tax to a special fund for use in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. There was little agreement on this bill except that it sets up a mechanism to focus funding in these two regions. It will now be up to the Senate whether additional revenue will be added, or whether the idea of a regional mechanism will be scraped.

Clean Fuel Vehicle Use of HOV Lanes. I?ve received lots of different perspectives about whether clean fuel vehicles should be able to continue to use HOV lanes. Under current law, the use of HOV lanes by clean fuel vehicles would sunset in July 2006. As originally written HB1248 would have extended the sunset provision until July 2007. However, an interesting compromise occurred on the House floor. Basically, after July 2006, the clean fuel plates will be changed, and only those with the old plates will be allowed to continue using HOV lanes on I-95/395. The idea, as expressed by Delegate McQuigg of Prince William, is to allow those who already invested in these vehicles to continue to do so, but to draw the line now so that HOV lanes don?t become overwhelmed. It is also notable that the cost of a clean fuel plate will go up by $25 annually to go towards enhanced HOV enforcement.

Sexual Predators. Several bills strengthen laws against sexual predators. HB846 strengthens penalties against sexual predators, while HB984 allows electronic notification to residents when a sexual predator has moved into an area. Both bills contain several other provisions as well.

These are just a few of the issues that will now go before the Senate. Of note, coming over from the Senate to the House is a proposal to ban smoking in bars, restaurants, and other indoor areas. This bill (SB648) has been sent to the Committee on General Laws where I serve. I would appreciate your feedback!

On the lighter side, efforts to designate the Shenandoah salamander as the State amphibian failed. An effort to have the song ?Oh Shenandoah? designated as the interim State song passed the Senate and has been sent over to the House. With all due respect to our friends in the Valley, while a beautiful song, it doesn?t really lend itself well to group singing and contains references to the ?wide Missouri.? Hmmm.

If you got this far ? congratulations and thank you! It is a pleasure to represent you in the General Assembly. Please contact my office if I can be of any assistance or if you have an opinion that you would like to share.

Sincerely,

David's 
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  • Town Hall Meeting
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  • 2006 Constituent Survey

    Please take a moment to share your views on some of the issues that will be coming before the 2006 General Assembly. Please fill out our survey online.


    Town Hall Meeting
    David Bulova

    Delegate Bulova is hosting a town hall meeting at
    Bonnie Brae Elementary
    Saturday,
    February 25, 2006
    9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
    5420 Sideburn Road
    Fairfax, VA 22032 | Map

    Special Guest,
    Bill Leighty,
    Chief of Staff for Governor Kaine

    For more information, please contact
    Andrea Loewenwarter
    at 703-310-6752,
    or email
    [email protected] .com

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