After a week packed with inaugural activities, the real work of the General Assembly has begun in earnest. This past Thursday I had four of my bills up before various subcommittees in addition to my regular committee meetings.
Thank you to everyone who has taken my 2014 Constituent Survey to-date. It is not too late to let your voice be heard! Also, be sure to mark your calendar for my Town Hall meeting on February 1st from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m. at Fairfax City Hall.
Would you be willing to pay a little more each month to increase the reliability of electric power in Virginia? I'd love to hear your feedback on a proposal we will be voting on next week.
One only needs to look across the Potomac River to appreciate that we have a relatively reliable system here in Virginia. The 37th District is primarily served by Dominion Virginia Power, with some areas served by the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (west of Route 28 and areas between Shirley Gate Road and the Fairfax County Parkway). While service is generally very good, there are some areas that experience power outages more frequently and for longer durations - especially after major storms.
Dominion Power has proposed legislation (HB848) that would authorize them to engage in a major initiative to underground about 4,000 miles of overhead lines that have been identified as particularly vulnerable. By doing so, Dominion estimates that total restoration time after major storms would be reduced by as much as 50%.
Of course, additional reliability comes at a cost. The legislation would allow Dominion to spend up to $175 million per year to place about 350 miles of line underground annually. Funds for the project would come from a special fee placed on the utility bill - starting at approximately 60 cents per month but getting larger over time (potentially to a few dollars per month) as the project expands. The State Corporation Commission would provide oversight to ensure that funds are being used efficiently.
This year I am carrying 13 bills and two budget amendments. Many of my bills are a direct result of constituent emails and conversations at the doors. Here is a quick summary of just a few of my initiatives:
HB271/Ethics Reform - This bill significantly increases transparency for reporting gifts received by legislators. Currently, gifts are only reported annually after an election. This legislation would synchronize reporting for campaign contributions and gifts, which would increase the number of disclosures to eight times during a campaign year. As noted in my last newsletter, we are also considering a comprehensive bi-partisan ethics reform package.
HB1072/Driver's License Scanning - Many businesses now require a customer to "swipe" a driver's license using a card reading device to prove age or identity. While this is legitimate, some companies store and sell the data without the customer's knowledge. The information contained in the bar code of a license is the same as found on the front of the card, including DMV customer number, address, date of birth, whether you are an organ donor, etc. This bill would have Virginia join several states in prohibiting this practice.
Budget/Classroom Readiness for Kindergarten - Each year Fairfax County and the City of Fairfax leave more than $3.5 million of state money on the table that is supposed to go to pre-school for disadvantaged children. The primary reasons for this are the high local match requirements and a lack of classroom capacity. As a consequence, many of these children do not enter kindergarten with basic classroom readiness skills. In response, Fairfax County and City of Fairfax schools have initiated a three-week classroom readiness program for disadvantaged children who have not otherwise had a preschool experience. These programs, including one at Daniel's Run Elementary, have been very successful. My budget amendment would allow the County and the City to expand this program using any left-over pre-school money.
HB767/Human Trafficking - This bill adds human trafficking to other crimes where law enforcement may seize property used in connection with the commission of a crime. Human trafficking is a rapidly growing problem in Virginia and it is important to take away any profit motive. Plus, to me it is poetic justice for the seized assets of these criminals to be used to enhance the ability of our law enforcement to identify and prosecute other traffickers.
HB270/ABC Rules - This bill was brought to me by a local business and allows a wine wholesaler to come to a restaurant and provide educational information about their wines. What! This requires a law? In Virginia, manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers are not allowed to intermingle unless explicitly authorized by law. As you may know, it has become popular for many restaurants to host dinners or events where an individual will talk about the wines that the patron is sampling. Very often the educator is the wine wholesaler. About a year ago, local restaurants were informed by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board that this practice is illegal. Note that the economic impact is significant. One local restaurant reported losing more than $100,000 in the year since they had to stop having these events. As I like to say, this is a jobs bill and pro-education bill wrapped up into one.
Budget/Chesapeake Bay Restoration - The Chesapeake Bay is one of Virginia's natural treasures. This amendment would establish a cost-share program to allow local governments to work with private property owners to voluntarily implement practices that will reduce pollution.
You can find all of my legislation by clicking here.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve! Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance.