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Focus on Fairfax Newsletter of Delegate David Bulova
February 2007

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Last Tuesday was cross-over, the traditional halfway point of the Session where the House and the Senate have to finish action on their own bills and send them over to the opposite body for consideration. The days leading to cross-over are a mad scramble as committees work late into the evening to deliberate on literally hundreds of bills. I am told that this year’s cross-over was relatively easy – finishing up around 8:00 p.m. with four hours to spare. In the past, it has sometimes been necessary to invoke a localized “power-outage” to keep the clock at 11:59 p.m.

The following is a summary of just a few of the bills that we tackled last week. Based on the survey responses, I know that the voters of the 37th District have a wide range of opinions on all of these. As always, I welcome your feedback and questions. You can find out more about individual bills by visiting

Transportation (HB3202): As expected, this Session has been dominated by transportation. The role of the House took on added urgency when the Senate plan was effectively killed the day before cross-over, meaning that the House plan was the only remaining vehicle for a solution this year. Unlike most of the bills that come before the House, which are narrowly tailored to a specific part of the Code, HB3202 is a wide-ranging bill that addresses everything from VDOT reform, to land use planning, to regional self-help plans, to authorization for transportation bonds. The bill has both good aspects and aspects that give me cause for concern. However, at the end of the day the question came down to whether HB3202 should be sent to the Senate so that we could continue with the deliberations and hopefully come up with a stronger plan. Along with 12 other Northern Virginian delegates, I voted yes. Delegate Ward Armstrong from Henry County once told me, “Sometimes you just have to swallow that toad if you are serious about getting something done.”

Indoor Smoking (HB2422): Last year, efforts to pass an indoor smoking ban met with defeat in the House Committee on General Laws. This year, a new bill has passed the House that would prohibit restaurants from allowing smoking unless they posted a conspicuous sign at the entrance informing customers that smoking is allowed. On first look, it sounded like a good consumer choice bill. But there was a catch. The bill also repealed the requirement for restaurants to have a non-smoking section. While non-smoking sections aren’t perfect, to me they provide a better alternative than not having them at all, especially in areas where your choice of restaurants is limited. As a member of the Committee on General Laws, I attempted to restore the non-smoking section requirement while keeping the new signage language. My motion failed, and ultimately the bill passed the House on 74Y/22N vote, with me voting no. It was a strange coalition that voted against this bill – and I suspect we weren’t all voting no for the same reason.

Illegal Immigration: Wow. Aside from transportation, this issue dominated most of the week. While I support efforts to better enforce immigration laws, I have also tried to make sure this is done in a way that doesn’t hurt children or those seeking emergency care. For example, I voted for measures to increase penalties on businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants (see HB2687 and HB2688) as well as measures that allow our State Police to enforce federal immigration laws when someone has been stopped or held for a criminal violation (see HB1618 and HB1970). On the other hand, HB2937 would eliminate State funding to any organization that provided even indirect support to illegal immigrants. The unintended consequence here would be that charities and non-profits that help children and those in dire need – such as Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army, and the Boys and Girls Clubs – would need to screen who they serve. This seemed to be a very tough burden and I voted against the measure.

Electric Utility Re-Regulation (HB3068): In the 1990s, Virginia experimented with de-regulation of our electric utility industry with the hope that competition would reduce consumer prices. Although it sounded good in concept, no meaningful competition ever developed. As a result, there has been enormous pressure to re-regulate the electric utilities before artificial rate caps expire in 2010. One of the flaws of the original regulatory structure was that it didn’t provide much of an incentive for electric utilities to maximize efficiencies. The new structure adopted by the House in HB3068 provides State oversight of utility rates, but also provides electric utilities with an incentive to streamline operations by allowing them to split savings between customers and the utility. I think that we are on the right track, but I also suspect that we will be revisiting the measure over the next few years to work out the bugs and kinks.

Eminent Domain (HB2954): A few years back, the Supreme Court, in Kelo v. New London, gave government sweeping authority to take private property through eminent domain. While abuse of eminent domain has not been a wide-spread problem in Virginia, the General Assembly has rightly decided to narrow what constitutes a “public use” under which eminent domain can be exercised. The sticking point has been the extent to which government can condemn a blighted area and then turn the property over to the private sector for redevelopment. HB2954 is a compromise bill that would allow the government to take blighted property and work with a private developer – while prohibiting the government from consolidating neighboring properties that aren’t blighted in order to make the redevelopment more profitable. While there are still outstanding issues, the compromise represents a good step forward and I voted for HB2954. However, I did not vote for the companion Constitutional amendment. Perhaps after a few years of practical application it might be ready for Constitutional prime-time.

The Budget: Two days after cross-over, the House also adopted amendments to the 2006-2007 budget. Compared to the transportation debate, the budget was easy. Despite some concerns with a significant reduction in funding for land conservation and open space – on which I spoke on the House floor – this was generally a positive budget for Northern Virginia. It is not often that this happens, but after the debate, the Budget passed 97Y-0N. The budget now goes into Conference Committee to work out differences with the Senate.

Finally, I want to thank everyone who attended my Town Hall meeting and/or has completed a survey. I have learned a lot, and some of the results were surprising. It is not too late to take the survey on-line at Also, congratulations to the 40 Bonnie Brae Elementary School artists whose artwork was selected for display on the 4th floor of the General Assembly Building. See here for details!


David Bulova

Delegate David Bulova

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Richmond, VA 23219
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