I hope that you will be able to join me this upcoming Saturday for my annual Town Hall meeting with Senator Chap Petersen. We always look forward to sharing what is being debated in Richmond and to getting your input on the issues that are important to our community. The meeting will be held at Fairfax City Hall, 10455 Armstrong Street, City of Fairfax, from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m. Coffee and bagels will be served!
I am also excited that so many people have expressed interest in my first annual Constituent Day on February 18th. This is an opportunity to see the House of Delegates in action and to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the General Assembly Building and State Capitol. Click here for more information. I hope that you will be able to join me.
Cross-Over and My Bills Up This Week
Between now and next Tuesday is traditionally the busiest part of the session. Tuesday is cross-over, which is when the House and Senate must each act on their own bills. The surviving bills then go over to the other body for consideration.
Two of my bills made it through committee this week and will now be up for debate on the House floor. The first bill requires truck stops in Virginia to post the National Human Trafficking Hotline (HB2061). Last year, I sponsored a bill to require the hotline to be posted in strip clubs. The impact was incredible, with a 91% increase in tips to police on possible human trafficking. Unfortunately, traffickers have also targeted truck stops to do their business. Based on the success of last year's efforts, the Governor asked if I would carry this bill. While the truck stop industry was initially hesitant, they recognized the severity of the problem and we were able to come up with a measure that we could all support.
The second bill would add faculty representatives to the existing Virginia Commission on Higher Education Board Appointments (HB2230). The commission was established to help evaluate and provide recommendations on potential appointees to university boards of visitors (BOVs). The commission already sets aside three seats for former BOV members and former university executives. This bill helps to round out the voices at the table by providing for two faculty members.
Speaking of BOVs, the House took action this week on several measures designed to address the situation that occurred at the University of Virginia this past summer. The primary issue was not whether a BOV has the right to dismiss a university president, but rather the way that such an action should be conducted. In Virginia, we give very broad latitude to our BOVs to make policy and budget decisions. However, the current new member training process is voluntary. HB1952 makes this training mandatory so that BOV members understand conflict of interest and freedom of information requirements, budgeting and fiduciary responsibilities, and governance best practices.
Proposed Constitutional Amendments
In addition to a number of regular bills debated this week, we also considered potential amendments to Virginia's constitution. Unlike the federal constitution, amendments to Virginia's constitution are relatively frequent. For an amendment to be placed before the voters for approval, it must pass the General Assembly in two consecutive sessions, with an election in between. Since this is the first year of the amendment cycle, we are seeing a wide range of ideas. Some of these are very meritorious. For instance, one would allow a local government to exempt from real property taxes the surviving spouse of a member of the armed forces killed in action. Others make great fodder for campaign brochures but would make the process of governing very difficult. One example is a proposed amendment to limit the annual increase in the state budget to inflation and population growth except by a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly. Virginia already has a balanced budget requirement in our constitution and a very conservative budgeting process that has served us well. This amendment would basically impose the equivalent of the U.S. Senate's filibuster rule on the General Assembly and prevent us from effectively dealing with pressing issues such as funding for transportation. You can see all of the proposed amendments here.
I hope to see you this Saturday for my Town Hall.
In addition to transportation and education, other hot topics include uranium mining, restoration of rights for non-violent felons, texting while driving, redistricting, Medicaid expansion, and much, much more. It is also not too late to fill out my 2013 Constituent Survey
. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve!