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Focus on Fairfax Newsletter of Delegate David Bulova
February 2009

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

This Monday and Tuesday are the two busiest days of the session as we wrap up action on all bills originating in the House. Then we start all over again with a fresh batch of bills coming over from the Senate.

Last week ended with a major surprise – an announcement by the Governor and the Speaker of the House on a compromise bill to ban smoking in restaurants except under very limited conditions. I have publicly supported this in the past, but honestly didn’t imagine that any such bill would have a chance of emerging from subcommittee. But within a few hours after the announced compromise, the General Laws Committee, of which I am a member, met and overwhelmingly passed the bill – sending it on to the full House. It will come up for its first vote on Monday. For the full text, click here.

While we will literally vote on hundreds of bills over the next two days, I am particularly pleased that the House is taking action to re-enact Virginia’s anti-spam law after it was declared unconstitutional by the Virginia Supreme Court. Virginia was one of the very first states to pass a law banning unsolicited, anonymous bulk email. In what I thought was an absurd decision, the Supreme Court found that Virginia’s law was overly broad because it included both commercial and non-commercial email – therefore impinging on the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. From my perspective, if the email is unsolicited and anonymous, then it is spam. It shouldn’t matter whether the content is commercial, political, or otherwise. But unfortunately that is not for me to say. HB 1796 amends the definition of spam to include only commercial advertisements and promotions; therefore making the Code enforceable again.

Also on the docket are two of my bills that came out of committee this past week. These will be up for a final vote in the House on Tuesday.

Holding Absentee Landlords Accountable (HB 2653) – Speaking from experience, it can be enormously frustrating for a neighborhood to deal with a rental property where the occupants consistently break local noise and other breach of the peace ordinances. This session, I introduced legislation that will allow localities to use their zoning ordinance to hold a landlord responsible for such behavior if the landlord has been notified in writing and has failed to take measures to address the issue. The bill passed unanimously out of the Committee on Counties, Cities, and Towns.

Promoting Renewable Energy (HB 1994) – Increasing the use of renewable sources of energy is not only good for the environment, it is also key to solving some of our most vexing national security concerns. In 2007, the General Assembly implemented an incentive-based system to increase the use of renewable energy by public utilities with a target of having 12% of our energy coming from renewable sources by 2022. While there is ongoing debate over a mandatory versus incentive-based system, the Governor’s Commission on Climate Change recommended increasing the target to 15% by 2025. I am pleased to sponsor the measure, which is part of a larger package of bills aimed at encouraging energy efficiency and investment in renewable energy. The bill passed unanimously out of the Committee on Commerce and Labor.

Finally, this Sunday evening Chairman of the Appropriations Committee Lacy Putney presented amendments to the biennial budget to deal with the Commonwealth’s $3 billion revenue shortfall. Virginia, unlike the federal government, must have a balanced budget under our constitution. I will have more on the specific cuts next week.

Thanks to everyone who has filled out a survey and to those who have taken the time to write or stop by during the session. Your feedback is always welcome!


David Bulova

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