There is no place quite like Capitol Square when the weather calls for snow. Meetings get rescheduled to be held earlier than planned, others get postponed, and in the elevators and hallways the topic of choice becomes almost exclusively the anticipation of inches - and maybe even feet - of snow.
"What's the latest forecast?"
"Did you hear it may be as much as a foot?"
"They had someone on WRVA this morning saying we're going to hit hard."
"It's going to be worse south of here. What's up with that?"
Even though we're considering hundreds of bills and crafting a new two-year spending plan, the everyday concerns that come along with bad weather have a tendency to overtake many discussions here at Virginia's Capitol.
There's good reason for this phenomenon, especially when inclement weather is forecast for a weekend. Every corner of Virginia is represented here in the General Assembly. So, many of those at the Capitol during session are not Richmond residents. On most weekends, lawmakers and staff members try to get home to some of those far away corners of the commonwealth to see their families. And when there's snow in the forecast it means travel may be treacherous.
Just as the General Assembly does not take off for holidays when it session, it also does not cancel time for snow days.
STATE OF THE UNION
The House of Delegates Chamber where we meet for session was featured on national television this week. In fact, it could be seen on all the major broadcast networks, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC, C-SPAN and BET.
The House Chamber was the location of the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union Address. A few minutes after the President completed his remarks, Governor Bob McDonnell delivered the response from inside the House Chamber. Several of the commentators on television spoke positively about the Chamber, and gave good reviews to the Governor's remarks as well.
This wasn't the first time in recent years a Virginian has been honored with being selected by his party to deliver the response to the State of the Union. Former Governor Kaine delivered the Democratic response in 2006, right after his election, and Senator Webb delivered it in 2007, right after his election. In short, Virginia has been getting quite a bit of national attention over the last few years.
JOBS, JOBS, JOBS
Both President Obama and Governor McDonnell spent a lot of time talking about jobs during the State of the Union Address and the Republican Response. Jobs were topic one here at the General Assembly this week as well.
Flanked by legislators from both parties, Governor McDonnell unveiled the specifics of his "Jobs and Opportunity Agenda" legislative package this week. If approved, the plan would result in the creation of more than 29,000 new jobs over the biennium. Over five years, the package of legislative initiatives will lead to over $311 million in new revenues for Virginia's government.
The prospects of passage for this agenda are particularly strong, as employment and economic growth are key issues this year and the package enjoys strong bipartisan support.
PUBLIC HEALTH REMINDER
The VCU Pediatric Dental Clinic on Friday February 5 from 7:30am to 1pm, will be seeing any child that needs dental services! This event will be held at the VCU School of Dentistry, 3rd Floor, 521 N. 11th St, Richmond, Virginia. Departments.
Two years ago, I successfully passed a measure to streamline the process used by local school divisions to purchase textbooks. Working with the Secretary of Education and the state Department of Education, I introduced this legislation which will require publishers of Board approved textbooks in grades 6-12 to offer prices for hardcopy textbooks, hardcopy textbooks with electronic files and electronic textbooks that are separate and apart from hardcopy versions.
This legislation ensures that any school division contracts or purchase orders related to Board-approved textbooks allow for the sole purchase of electronic textbooks. By leveraging the authority to purchase only electronic textbooks local school districts will have more flexibility, resulting in a cost savings.
A number of states are encouraging the proliferation of digital textbooks; including California which recently passed legislation to require that all textbooks used at private and public institutions of higher education make electronic versions of textbooks available for students.
With the onset of e-book and digital media devices such as Kindle and iPad, we are seeing changes in the tools used by students to learn and teachers to teach. Through the use of digital media, students, parents and school divisions can save money, while embracing new technologies students are focused on using. McGraw-Hill has already stated they will make textbooks available for iPad.
There was a healthy stream of visitors to the General Assembly this week, and several smiling faces from home.
We were delighted to visit with Vaden Padgett of Richmond, Dr. Mark Vaughn, Frankie Minor of Dryden, Matt Faulconer, Anne Allen, Hannah Barnette of Mechanicsville, Tammy Snecker of Mechanicsville, Beth Sadler, Sarah Talley of Mechanicsville, Maria Grozadanov of Mechanicsville, Jonathan Delvecchio of Mechanicsville, David Nobles, Murphy Sprinkel of Glen Allen, Karen Cameron, David Hobbs of Mechanicsville, Mark Rehfuss of Virginia Beach, Wick Coleman of Ruther Glen, Linda Gray of Milford, William Lane of Millers Tavern, Robert Ellis, Sterling Schoonner, Bill Frazier of Ashland, Harry Whitt of King William, Scott Miller of Hanover, Zachary Schmiedeke of Fredericksburg, Gabriella Allen of Fredericksburg, Rosana Marzullo-Dove of Fredericksburg, Michael Plotkin of Henrico, Scott Harris, Tommy Blackwell of Tappahannock, Robert Hazelgrove of Mechanicsville, Lynn McAteer of Richmond, Millie Hampton of Urbanna, Kristen Nialong, Yohana Flores of Tappahannock, Sally Pearson of King William, Doris Morris of Little Plymouth, William Barber of King William, Charles Piersa of West Point, Ellis Walton, Henry and Nancy Barlow of Ruther Glen, Park and Sue Dodd of Hanover, Lynwood and Becky Broaddus of Caroline, Hunter Richardson of West Point, John Moyer of Quinton, Josh Silverman of Mechanicsville, Allen Broaddus, Kenneth Palmore of Mechanicsville, Gail Taylor of Mechanicsville, Fran Morris of Sandston, Christy Swanson of Quinton, Kristen Bolling Spotsylvania, Richard Brewer, Jonathan Williams, Bertha Rothe, Helen Nicholson, Michelle Cook of Highland Springs, Dr. Daphane Bryan, Eric Philipkosky of Roanoke, Maria Thalhimer of Richmond, Rebecca Rubino of King Queen, David Blanchard, Glen Birch of Ashland, Wayne Lauterbach of Studley, and Robert Houlihan of Henrico.
****Please forgive us if we have misspelled your name; some signatures in our guest book may be hard to decipher.
Make sure to stop by our office in Room 527 of the General Assembly Building if you visit Richmond between. You can contact me here by sending an e-mail to Delcpeace@house.virginia.gov or by sending a letter to me at PO Box 406, Richmond, VA 23218-0406. Or, if you just want me to know your opinion on a particular issue, you can call on the toll-free Constituent Viewpoint Hotline at 1.800.889.0229.
I hope you weren't snowed in, and that you stayed warm this week.