The first full week of the 2012 Session is now in the books, and we are starting to make our way through the myriad of house bills and resolutions that have been introduced for the sixty day "long" Session.
Most bills are still being debated in committees; however, there was significant progress on a number of important issues that I would like to bring your attention to in this week's newsletter.
This week, House Republicans pushed for the approval of House Bill 525, a bill that would increase Virginia's representation on the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) in accordance with federal law. The MWAA Board is currently making a number of important decisions regarding the $6 billion Dulles Metrorail expansion, and it is critical that Virginia have full representation on the board.
House Bill 525 had an emergency clause attached to the bill due to the pressing need of granting Virginia the increased representation. The addition of the emergency clause meant that four-fifths of the House had to approve the legislation in order for the bill to pass. Unfortunately, only two Democrats joined with sixty-seven Republicans and one Independent to vote for passage of the bill, and the bill failed to pass.
In response to the bill's failure to pass, Governor McDonnell issued the following statement:
"This move deprives Virginia of its proper representation on the board while MWAA continues making important decisions regarding the management of the $6 billion Metrorail expansion in Northern Virginia. The intent of implementing this new legislation with an emergency clause was to bring MWAA into compliance with federal law as quickly as possible. Congress voted to reform the authority. The President signed the bill. Based on that bipartisan legislation, Virginia should have a greater number of seats on the board now. It is the responsibility of our legislature to implement those reforms as soon as practical. The delay caused by the actions of the House Democrats today will reduce Virginia's rightful, and congressionally approved, influence on this vital board."
The House Democrats' decision to block this much-needed legislation prevents Virginia from having full representation while critical decisions regarding the Dulles Metrorail extension project are being made.
On Thursday, Governor McDonnell announced that he will not seek legislation to lift the moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia until a pending a comprehensive study of the issue is completed by a newly-created multi-agency state workgroup. Uranium mining has been a widely discussed topic over the past year, but more time is needed to ensure that the uranium can be mined safely. While uranium mining offers a potential positive economic impact for Southside and the entire state, the safety of all Virginians must come first. I applaud Governor McDonnell for continuing to gather information before asking for the ban to be lifted.
Local Mandates Task Force
On Monday, Governor McDonnell announced the findings of a task forced aimed at reducing mandates on localities. The task force has recommended the removal of twenty mandates, such as:
- Remove ability for a Circuit Court to mandate localities to construct a new courthouse
Community Service Boards
- Remove mandate that CSB contracts be for a maximum of one year and allows localities to contract with CSBs for more than a one-year term
- Remove mandate that proceeds from education surplus property go to capital improvements
- Clarify that state law does not mandate that notices be mailed to every parent on per pupil educational costs
- Remove mandates for various local education advisory committees
- Remove mandate for annual report on remediation programs
- Remove mandate for civics trainings for teachers
- Remove mandate that libraries send Internet policies to the Librarian of Virginia (the requirement that libraries continue to have policies that prohibit access to inappropriate Internet materials will remain)
- Remove mandate that local school boards must apply for a waiver from the state to start school before Labor Day
- The administration will also request that the Department of Education identify burdensome or unnecessary state statutory and federal data collection and reporting requirements and submit recommendations to the governor and General Assembly on ones to eliminate or consolidate with a goal of reducing reporting requirements by 15 percent
- Remove mandate for state inspections of erosion and sediment control programs where localities have inspections
FOIA & Public Notices
- Eliminate mandates to publish RFPs in newspapers
- Increase FOIA response times
- Remove mandates that prevent localities from creating their own procurement guidelines
- Raise the threshold for mandatory competitive negotiation of professional services contracted by localities
- Eliminate mandate for pre-sale requirements of local surplus property
- Eliminate mandate for localities to give first priority for vending contracts to the Department of Blind and Visually Impaired
- Increase threshold for mandatory due diligence on unclaimed property
Land Use and Transportation
- Eliminate mandate that requires Urban Development Area reports documents be submitted to the state Commission on Local Government
- Eliminate the mandate for state approval for leases on airport property
- Eliminate mandate that requires VDOT approval of the location of locally-placed red light camera
Many constituents and I, often decry the seemingly endless federal mandates that emanate from Washington that are forced upon states and localities. It is appropriate for us to look closely at the mandates that are placed on the localities to ensure they are necessary and to remove those that impose an undue burden.
Governor Unveils 2012 Public Safety Agenda
House Republicans understand the importance of keeping our families safe. A number of delegates are working with Governor McDonnell and fellow delegates on McDonnell's 2012 Public Safety Agenda. Highlights of the Governor's agenda include legislation to provide tough mandatory minimum sentences for repeat drug dealers, and life sentences for sex offenders who prey on children; further protect victims of crime; streamline procedures for Virginia's asset forfeiture laws; and, strengthen the response to emergencies and ensure maximum protection for victims.
On January 9th I hosted a telephone town hall and was able to connect with over 20, 000 households across the 97th District. The participants on the call asked great questions ranging from Sunday hunting to uranium mining. Through the use of the polling feature, I was able to get feedback on a number of bills I will likely be voting on later in the Session. I would like to thank everyone who participated and hope that you will be able to join us for our next telephone town hall.
It is always a pleasure to see familiar faces from home. I was delighted to be visited this week by Scott Harris, Hanover Commissioner of the Revenue, John and Sharon Phelps of New Kent, Jerry Benson, James Poole, and Lydia Danielson all of New Kent. We also saw Marc Adams of King William, Doug Schuler of New Kent, Bill Via of Mechanicsville, Richard Dawes and Dr. Bill Bennett of New Kent, Emily Clarke, former House Page from New Kent, Chuck Williamson and Herb Chittum of Mechanicsville, Parke West, Julie Bilodeau, Mary Devoy, Scott Wyatt, Hal Dalton, Chris Garthright, Barb Hancock-Henley, Jeff Oberg, Megan Wilson, Celinda Fickling, and Marshall Northington of Mechanicsville, and Stephen Cabiroy from Lanexa.
As always, my staff and I are here in Richmond to serve you. We want to hear what you think about the legislation pending before the House, or if there's anything we can do to help you in dealing with a state government agency. My office can be reached at (804) 698-1097 or via the Internet at Delcpeace@house.virginia.gov if you are planning to visit Richmond during Session, I encourage you to visit me in Room 527.
Thank you again for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.