Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Wow, the first full week of session went by fast! I enjoyed being visited by several constituents who came down to Richmond to advocate for issues before the General Assembly. Visit my Facebook page for a photo collage.
As a reminder, I hope to see many of you at my annual Town Hall with Senator Chap Petersen on Saturday, January 31st. The forum will take place from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m. at the Fairfax City Hall, 10455 Armstrong Street, Fairfax. We will start with a brief presentation and then open the floor for questions and comments.
My 2015 Legislation
This year I am carrying 15 bills. Here is a quick summary of just a few of my initiatives:
Infant Safe Sleep Education (HB1515) - This bill is a recommendation of the State Child Fatality Review Team and requires hospitals to provide new parents with information on safe sleeping environments. There are over 100 sleep-related infant deaths each year, which is the second leading cause of death among infants. Tragically, the State Child Fatality Review Team found that 95% of these deaths were preventable. I was pleased to go into the committee hearing with the support of the Medical Society of Virginia, the American Association of Pediatrics, INOVA Health System, and many others. The bill passed the House Committee on Health, Welfare, and Institutions this past Thursday and will come up for a vote in the full House next week.
HOA Declarations (HB1632) - Over the past few years, the General Assembly has struggled with how to help HOAs that have inherited problematic declarations. My bill requires the Common Interest Community Board to develop best practices for the content of HOA declarations. The goal is to create more consistency and to provide a tool for local governments to identify potential problems during the review process. While this doesn't solve existing problems, I am hopeful that the measure will help to stop new ones from being created. This bill passed the House General Laws Committee and is also up for a vote in the full House next week.
Ethics Reform (HB 1667) - Like many of my colleagues, I am committed to strengthening the ethics rules that apply to elected officials, including the acceptance of gifts. This bill imposes a $100 cap on all gifts, including so-called "intangible gifts" like meals and entertainment that were exempted from last year's reform package. The bill allows the Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council to grant exceptions on an individual basis for educational trips that provide a public benefit and do not raise the appearance of impropriety.
Solar Power Development Authority (HB1725) - I am proud to be working with the Governor on a bill to establish a Virginia Solar Power Development Authority, which would be patterned after the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority. The authority would look for opportunities to grow solar energy development in Virginia and remove barriers to private investment. The authority is a recommendation of the Virginia Energy Plan.
Plastic Microbeads (HB1697) - I was surprised to learn this summer that small beads of plastic have become a common ingredient in many toothpastes and cosmetics. While there are consumer protection issues at stake (many products don't mention this as an ingredient), there are also serious environmental ramifications. According to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and other scientific organizations, microbeads are often not removed during the wastewater treatment process. Rather, they are flushed to Potomac River, Chesapeake Bay, and Atlantic Ocean where they bioaccumulate in aquatic organisms. My bill would phase out the use of non-biodegradable microbeads in consumer products by 2019. What is interesting is that I have been visited by a number of industry groups - all of which acknowledge the environmental problem but have different ideas on how to approach the phase out. More to come when my bill comes up for debate in subcommittee next week.
Principal Training for Struggling Schools (HB1872) - This bill establishes a training program aimed at developing leadership skills for principals who take on struggling schools. Administrative and teacher turnover at these schools is very high, which contributes to the problem. In exchange the bill gives these principals additional flexibility to implement innovative approaches to learning. Special thanks to City of Fairfax Schools Superintendent Peter Noonan for his insights and assistance with the bill.
Protecting Personal Information (HB2037) - In November, many of you may have read an article about an Uber executive threatening retaliation against a journalist who had published unflattering articles. That issue helped to expose the fact that there are very few restrictions on the use of information collected by transportation companies like Uber or even traditional taxis. Information collected includes details about route and pickup and drop off locations. My bill ensures that this information cannot be used for any purpose other than to provide the requested service.
Finally, I have bills to promote Virginia's growing wine industry, provide the City of Fairfax with new tools to promote affordable housing, and protect Virginia's groundwater supplies, just to name a few. You can view all of my bills here.
Please don't hesitate to contact me with your thoughts and ideas. Have a great weekend!