|Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope that you will
join me and Senator Chap Petersen this Saturday, February 20th for
our re-scheduled Town Hall meeting at the Fairfax City Hall Council
Chambers from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. The
address is 10455 Armstrong Street in the City of Fairfax.
This is an opportunity to learn about what is happening in Richmond and to ask
questions about issues affecting our community.
Thank you to everyone who contacted me during the last
winter storm to identify areas in need of plowing, express concerns, and make
suggestions. You made a huge
difference. I want to assure everyone
that your comments and suggestions have been heard. Within the next few days, I will be sending a
formal request to our Secretary of Transportation, who oversees VDOT, asking
for a top-to-bottom review of our snow removal processes. While there were many heroes, including
citizens, VDOT employees, contractors, fire and rescue personnel, and the
Virginia National Guard, there were also many issues that need to be addressed
so that Virginia can better serve our citizens in the future. If
you have observations or recommendations, please let me know.
This week is "cross-over," which means that
the House and Senate had to act by Tuesday at midnight on all of their own
bills (except the budget) and send them over to the other body. On Monday, we voted on more than 240 bills
and resolutions. These included
everything from an attempt to repeal Virginia's
ban on radar detectors to the regulation of waste restaurant kitchen
grease. The former involved a vigorous
debate about the impact of radar detectors on speed and traffic flow. The bill was dealt a final blow when it was
discovered that it would also eliminate Virginia's
ban on radar jamming devices. I joined
the majority in voting no.
The very last bill debated on Tuesday was an ethics reform
bill (HB655) that was sparked by an unfortunate conflict of interest situation
involving a now former delegate from Hampton Roads. That incident also raised questions about our
ethics review process in the General Assembly.
HB655 makes key changes that will help make sure that our process is
open and accountable. While it is a very
important issue, it is also very important to get it right. After about 30 minutes of debate and
amendments, the measure finally passed 88Y-10N, with me voting in the
Governor McDonnell, in his inaugural address to the General
Assembly, made it clear that education reform would be a major thrust of his
administration. Last week, the Governor
sent the General Assembly three bills aimed at making changes to K-12
education, including the establishment of a Virtual Schools Program (HB1388),
College Partnership Laboratory Schools (HB1389), and a push for more charter
schools (HB1390). Since I sit on the
House Committee on Education, I will be on the front line of having to make
decisions about these proposals. Please consider this an open invitation to
let me know what you think! Click here and type in the bill number for more details.
For the past several years I have written about my attempts
to bring fairness to the way
transportation maintenance funds are distributed in Virginia. In 2007, the General Assembly did a very wise
thing by requiring VDOT to assess maintenance needs and to then set performance
standards and goals based on sound engineering principles. The only thing missing is that the actual
decisions by the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) aren't tied to this
powerful tool. This year, Delegate Dave
Albo took the lead, with me as a co-patron.
He used my language, but rather than making the link mandatory, HB276
says that the CTB must at least consider the information. Most importantly, however, the CTB must also
show the difference between how the funding should be distributed based on
objective measures versus how it is actually distributed. The bill passed on a 59Y to 37N vote with
both Delegate Albo and me speaking on its behalf. Score one for fairness!
Protecting Yoga from
Finally, for those of you who enjoy yoga, and I know many of
you do from the emails I received, you will be happy to know that my HB703 has
passed the House. Here is the back
story. This past summer, the State
Council for Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) informed yoga teacher training
programs that they would now be regulated as higher education in the same way
that they regulate institutions such as DeVry, Stratford, or ITT Technical
Institute - all of which are clearly vocational in nature.
Consumer protection is very important to me. However, this kind of overregulation is not
only unnecessary given Virginia's
existing consumer protection laws, but it also costs jobs. For many of these small businesses, the
increased cost of regulation (in the thousands of dollars) would be
overwhelming and result in having to close up shop.
In the end, both SCHEV and the House Education Committee
agreed. Thanks to the great work of
several local yoga studio owners, we changed the definition of "vocational" to
exclude these types of programs. Even
better, since this was a definition change, we also ensured that next year we
don't have to deal with the regulation of Pilates, karate, etc. A similar measure also passed the Senate.
Thanks for reading!
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have a question or concern
about legislation affecting our community.
I hope to see you this Saturday
at my Town Hall meeting.