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Focus on Fairfax Newsletter of Delegate David Bulova
January 2010

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Much to my dismay, the Town Hall meeting scheduled for this Saturday is cancelled due to the impending winter weather.  The event will be rescheduled, so please watch for details.  In the meanwhile, the work of the General Assembly grinds on!  Please give me your feedback by taking a few minutes to complete my 2010 constituent survey online at www.davidbulova. com.

As we finish the third full week of the General Assembly, the committee work is starting to slow down and the full House sessions are beginning to heat up.  On Monday and Tuesday, we debated at least a dozen controversial bills.

Debating the 5th Amendment

Early in the week, we debated a bill (HB14) that gets at the heart of our form of government  and the Bill of Rights so passionately espoused by great Virginians like James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and George Mason.  Often times, the 5th Amendment is invoked when questions of infidelity are raised during a case involving spousal support, custody, or visitation.  While invoking the right is proper, what HB14 proposes to do is allow a judge to draw an adverse inference against the individual  that is, assign guilt based on a refusal to answer a question.  Regardless of the reason for invoking the 5th Amendment, allowing a judge to assign guilt struck me as undercutting the purpose of the right. Notwithstanding my no vote, the bill advanced on a very close 49Y to 48N.

The Kings Dominion Law

For many years, Virginia has had a law prohibiting local schools from opening before Labor Day.  The prohibition has been vigorously defended by the tourism industry (including Kings Dominion, hence the name), since Labor Day weekend is when many families go away on vacation.  On the other side, schools and educators have argued that this is a decision best left to our locally elected school boards.  Ironically, because of exceptions to the prohibition, a majority of school systems in Virginia now actually start before Labor Day.  Therefore, Fairfax County and the City of Fairfax are part of a minority of school systems that are still required to open after Labor Day.  The bill in question (HB565) would not overturn the law, but would allow a new exception during years when Labor Day starts later than the 5th of September.  When school starts this late, it creates problems both with testing and by pushing graduation dates past when most universities begin orientation.  For instance, International Baccalaureate testing is done at a specific time of year regardless of when school starts.  As a result, when schools in Fairfax start late, our students have fewer weeks to prepare.  One of the reasons we have elected school boards is to make these kinds of informed decisions, which is why I voted for passage.  While the bill reported out of committee on a 13Y to 8N vote, a procedural move was used to re-refer the bill to the Appropriations Committee, where it will likely die for the year.

Consumer Protection and Water Quality Bills

This week, two of my bills passed out of the House and are now awaiting action in the Senate.  The first bill (HB699) addresses a situation where a business installed defective cabinets and then charged the consumer for the cost of re-installation.  The business claimed that the cost of re-installation was a consequential damage, and that consequential damages can be excluded under the Code of Virginia.  Consequential damages are typically defined as damages not directly related to a defective product or breach of contract.  Examples include time off from work or lost productivity.  Most reasonable people would agree that the cost to re-install a defective product is a direct cost.  However, because the Code is not specific on this issue, and these types of cases are not enforced by any state agency, one would need to take the business to court. HB699 clears up that ambiguity and will hopefully prevent this kind of abuse from occurring in the future. 

The second bill (HB1221) provides localities with access to the Virginia Water Facilities Revolving Loan Fund for stormwater management projects designed to reduce pollution to local streams and the Chesapeake Bay. While there has been some controversy over new regulations designed to reduce pollution from new development, both the development and conservation communities agree that the real challenge to restoring the Chesapeake Bay will be to control pollution from already developed areas.  In fact, almost 75% of Northern Virginia was built prior to stormwater quality management requirements enacted in the early 1990s.  In the same way that the Revolving Loan fund has helped localities to deal with the challenge of upgrading wastewater treatment facilities and drinking water facilities in the past, this bill will give our local governments a new tool to meet our stormwater management challenges in the future.

Enjoy the weekend and please stay safe!  As always, dont hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance or if you have a question or concern about an issue affecting our community.


David Bulova

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