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Focus on Fairfax
September 2010
Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I will be holding the first of my annual coffees at Main Street Bagel in the City of Fairfax this Saturday morning from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m.  These are a great way for me to hear about the issues affecting our community first hand and to talk one-on-one with my constituents about what is happening in Richmond.  The format is completely informal.  If you are free, stop on by -- the coffee is on me! 

ABC Store Privatization 

With the start of the new school year, things are also starting to get busy on the legislative front.  At the forefront is the Governor's recently released plan for privatizing our ABC stores.  The current system was put in place in 1934, a year after Virginia citizens voted to repeal prohibition.  As mentioned previously, I am keeping an open mind about privatizing ABC stores.  However, I also think that there are good things about our current system.  As a result, any proposed change needs to be compelling - and I need to be convinced that this will be a good thing for Virginia in the long-term.  While the Governor's press release is one page long -- there is a great amount of detail behind the plan.  The presentation from the Secretary of Finance alone, which outlines the financial aspects of the plan, is 12 pages long.  The plan and supporting documents can be found by going to www.reform.virginia.gov and scrolling to the presentations from the September 8th meeting.
 
At this point there are probably more questions than answers.  For instance, are the 1,000 stores envisioned in the Governor's plan (which is triple the current number of stores) sustainable in the long-run from an economic standpoint.  And that is not even considering whether we want to triple the number of stores.  Another concern is that the plan only increases enforcement staff by 25% to oversee a vastly larger system.  Some aspects of the plan have already changed.  For instance, a 4% levy on mixed drinks at restaurants has been replaced by a 2.5% optional convenience fee.  The option is that a restaurant pays the fee if it wants the convenience of buying liquor directly from a wholesaler as opposed to a retailer.  As a result of the change, the plan falls short by about $20 million from its initial revenue goal. 

Based on several sources, it is likely that the Governor will call for a special session in November.  I want to hear what you think - both pro and con! 

Pickett Road Tank Farm 

Closer to home, on August 28th a tanker truck from the Pickett Road Tank Farm overturned and spilled more than 4,000 gallons of gasoline at the corner of Pickett Road and Main Street - within a stone throw from Woodson High School and Frost Middle School.  The driver was issued a summons for reckless driving.  This past February, a leak went undetected at the tank farm and resulted in an estimated 14,000 gallons of diesel fuel entering our local groundwater.  And these are just the most recent incidents. 

While I like to brag that my district has George Mason University and Fairfax Hospital, nothing would make me happier than to move the tank farm to a more appropriate location.  Of course, it isn't as simple as that.  The same laws that protect all private property rights also protect the tank farm.  However, changing the law to make the tank farm a better neighbor (whether they like it or not) is something that we can do in the short-term.  I am currently working with Senator Petersen and Supervisor Smyth, as well as officials at the Department of Environmental Quality, to look at ways to strengthen the regulations that govern the tank farm.  Also, as demonstrated by the tanker accident, not all of the problems are confined to the facility itself.  One of the ideas we are working on is to allow our local governments to establish "tanker truck safety zones" where fines would be increased significantly for speeding or reckless driving due to the proximity of residential areas or schools.  The concept is similar to what is already used for construction zones or school safety zones.  I'll keep everyone up-to-date as we progress - and I would certainly appreciate any suggestions. 

Virginia Crime Commission 

No parent ever wants to think about things like child prostitution or indecent liberties with children - but unfortunately these crimes are all too common in Virginia.  Over the past five years, 2,016 individuals were sentenced for violating Virginia's indecent liberties statutes.  When I was first elected, the City of Fairfax Commission for Women asked that I spearhead efforts to reduce these crimes and to fight human trafficking in Virginia.  As the father of an 11 year old daughter, I didn't require much convincing.  While I have introduced several bills over the last few years, a reoccurring concern of mine has been whether our justice system is using the full force of existing laws.  This past Wednesday, I attended a State Crime Commission meeting in Richmond to hear the results of a study resolution (HJ97) that I sponsored during the last session to help answer this question.  I was heartened by the results.  Compared to other crimes, those convicted of indecent liberties with children are much more likely to face a sentence that is above those established by the Criminal Sentencing Guidelines.  Moreover, a vast majority of those convicted see incarceration time -- 46% are sent to prison and 31% spend time in the local jail.  The only red flag was the small number of child prostitution cases in Virginia -- where the child is the victim.  I wish that the low numbers reflected the fact that this wasn't a problem in Virginia.  However, it is more likely because it is so difficult to track and punish those who engage in this type of criminal activity.  So our work continues. 

Save Energy and Save Money 

Finally, conserving energy is a great way for anyone to both help the environment and to save significant money.  To help Virginia meet a goal of reducing energy consumption by 10% over the next decade, the State Corporation Commission has launched a Virginia Energy Sense website that provides consumers with a great source of energy conservation and efficiency information.  The site can be found at www.VirginiaEnergySense.org.  I hope that you will check it out. 

As always, thank you for the opportunity to serve.  I hope to see you this Saturday morning for coffee and conversation.  If you already have plans, please mark your calendar for my next event on October 16th.
Sincerely,
 
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David Bulova
Delegate, 37th Virginia House District

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