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Focus on Fairfax Newsletter of Delegate David Bulova
April 2006

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Greetings! I hope that everyone had a wonderful Earth Day weekend. A week ago Wednesday was the Veto Session. Of the 931 bills passed by the General Assembly (not including resolutions), the Governor vetoed only seven of them. Most of the major papers covered the vetoes. However, what kept the day more interesting were the amendments that the Governor made to 123 bills ? about two inches worth of paper! As a result, I thought that I would highlight some of the more important amendments.

The tricky thing about amendments is that sometimes they simply improve a bill that I didn?t vote for in the first place. In these cases, I voted for the amendment, since given the choice, I?d rather have the bill with the amendment than without.

Here?s how the process works. If the Governor vetoes a bill, that decision can only be overridden with a two-thirds vote of both houses. Amendments, however, are accepted or rejected on a simple majority vote. Again, both houses must agree. Most amendments are technical and are readily accepted by the patron. If the amendment is rejected by one or both houses, the original bill goes back to the Governor. Depending on how strong the Governor feels, he has the option of signing it or vetoing it. But if both houses feel very strongly about passing the original version, and someone moves for it to become law not withstanding the Governor?s objections, then the bill automatically becomes law with a two-thirds vote of both houses.

So with that, on to the highlights!

The Energy Bill (SB262): As energy costs continue to rise, it is no surprise that an energy bill was introduced. I was concerned that the original SB262 did not do enough to encourage conservation. Further, the bill requested the federal government to lift the moratorium on drilling for oil and natural gas offshore of Virginia. The Governor amended the bill to limit it to only exploring the potential for natural gas, while also exploring the use of offshore wind power. In addition, the bill was amended to include incentives for energy efficient appliances. The amendments enjoyed the support of the energy industry and the conservation community ? which is a real testimony to both groups for being willing to come together. The only controversial change was a provision allowing for the gradual ramping up of Dominion Power?s fuel cost recovery. As many of you may recall, a condition of electric utility deregulation was a cap on the consumer cost for electricity. When price controls expire, the dramatically increased cost of fuel to make electricity could result in a spike in energy costs. The purpose of the amendment is to (hopefully) avoid the same jump now being experienced in Maryland. All amendments were adopted by the General Assembly.

Water Rights (HB1185): I?ll admit that I struggled with how to describe this issue in under two pages. But the basic gist is that HB1185 would have tipped the scales of water rights in Virginia in favor of agricultural users. I truly believe that agriculture is not just our heritage, but it is a big part of Virginia?s future. However, I also believe that we need to manage our water resources comprehensively. The Governor?s amendments tried to help agriculture by streamlining the regulatory process for small withdrawals, but also reiterated the need to consider all water users. I spoke in favor of the amendments, and while they were rejected, we did get enough votes to allow the Governor to veto the bill.

DMV and Voter Registration (HB170): As originally passed, this bill would require that before the DMV offers a voter registration application, that the person is asked whether he/she is a U.S. citizen. If not, then the application is not offered. In addition, the list of those who are not citizens is sent to the State Board of Elections in order to cross-check the rolls for mistakes. This seemed to be a reasonable requirement and I was surprised that the question wasn?t asked. The Governor?s amendment removed DMV?s role in asking about citizenship and placed the responsibility back solely with the SBE. While I understood the Governor?s concerns, I thought the original bill was stronger. The amendment was rejected on a 25Y to 73N margin.

Foster Care and Drug Convictions (HB1534): HB1534 as originally passed would allow a child-placing agency to approve as an adoptive or foster parent a person convicted of felony drug possession or distribution provided that 10 years or more elapsed since the conviction and the person?s civil rights were restored by the Governor. Governor Kaine kept the provisions regarding drug possession, but eliminated the ability of those convicted of distribution to adopt or become a foster parent. I agreed with the Governor, and so did a majority of both houses.

Clean Smokestacks (HB1055): The Clean Smokestacks Act strengthens Virginia?s air quality requirements for mercury as well as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. While HB1055 limited the ability of Dominion Power and Appalachian Power to trade mercury reductions out of state (making sure that the benefits are felt locally), it did not address one of our region?s sources of mercury ? the Mirant power plant in Alexandria. The Governor amended the bill to make sure that Mirant could not trade mercury credits outside of the Washington DC metropolitan area. The amendment passed both houses.

Budget and Transportation: After the Veto Session, we took a 10 minute break and then reconvened our Special Session to deal with the budget and transportation. It took the House only about 10 minutes to almost unanimously pass the ?caboose bill,? which is the bill used to make adjustments in the final couple of months of the current biennium. The bill is now under consideration by the Senate. This Thursday, we will reconvene back in Richmond to begin debating again on the 2006-2008 budget.

In honor of Earth Day, I wanted to highlight an organization that until a few weeks ago I didn?t know existed. Thanks to Debra Black for bringing the Freecycle Network to my attention. This is a nonprofit organization that promotes the reuse of household items by allowing members to email each other about items that they want to get rid of but that might be useful to someone else. The Fairfax Chapter has over 840 members. I hope that you will check them out at www.freecycle.org. As always, please do not hesitate to provide your feedback or contact me on issues that are important to you.

Sincerely,

David's 
Signature
David Bulova

Delegate David Bulova
David Bulova

Please contact Delegate Bulova at ...

Fairfax Office
Legislative Assistant: Andrea Loewenwarter
9900 Main Street,
Plaza 102
Fairfax, Virginia 22031
(703) 310-6752
[email protected] .com

Richmond Office (During General Assembly Session)
Legislative Assistant: Rama Van Pelt
Capitol Square, General Assembly Building
Room 405
Richmond, Virginia 23219
(804) 698-1037
deldbulo [email protected]

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