Happy New Year! It is hard to believe that in one week I will be in Richmond for the opening of the 2016 General Assembly session. Many thanks to everyone who has written, called, or emailed me concerning issues we will likely be debating over the next two months.
I also appreciate those who have provided suggestions for legislation - both big and small. For instance, one of the bills I have introduced came out of a simple conversation at the Old Lee Hills Labor Day Picnic when an individual complained that his passport "card" was rejected as proof of identity by a notary. A passport card, issued by the U.S. Department of State, is no less legitimate than the more familiar passport book. However, after checking with the Secretary of Administration, it turns out that this is a common occurrence because of the wording in the Code of Virginia. The Secretary then asked if I could fix some other problems while I was at it. And so, HB189 was born. Another bill brought to me by a constituent is more complicated and deals with equitable distribution of assets during divorce proceedings. I'm looking forward to sharing all of my legislation with you during the next few weeks.
Annual Fairfax Delegation Public Hearing
Each January, the Fairfax Delegation to the General Assembly holds a public hearing to listen to concerns and suggestions about the upcoming legislative session. I am pleased to announce that this year's hearing will be held this Saturday, January 9th starting at 9:00 a.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center. The hearing will kick-off with remarks from the Chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and then each member of the public will have three minutes to speak. You can watch the event live on Fairfax County Government Channel 16 (which is livestreamed here for Fairfax City residents). Click here for more information if you are interested in signing up to speak as an individual or on behalf of an organization.
Plastic Microbeads - A Christmas Miracle in Congress!
Last year I introduced HB1697 to phase out the use of synthetic plastic microbeads that have become a ubiquitous ingredient in personal care products such as tooth paste and face scrubs. These are small plastic particles, generally between 1 and 300 microns in size, that give these products a gritty or pasty consistency. They can also be designed to become embedded in skin, which serves to optically blur wrinkles and make them look like they went away.
So what's the problem? As it turns out, the beads are so small that they are often not taken out during the wastewater treatment process. The beads are then consumed by organisms at the very base of the food chain. In addition to interfering with the food intake of these organisms, plastic absorbs pollutants such as PCBs, which then bioaccumulate. Scientists have begun to see impacts on all forms of aquatic life, including crabs, fish, and oysters. So while we are spending billions to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, we have created a whole new problem. Click here for a great presentation by the Virginia Institute for Marine Science.
To their credit several manufacturers, including Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson & Johnson, and Proctor & Gamble have independently taken steps to eliminate microbeads from their products. Many more companies, however, still utilize microbeads.
Although my bill didn't pass in 2015, it was referred to the Manufacturing Development Commission for further study. In addition, the Chesapeake Bay Program's Science and Technology Advisory Council agreed to study the impacts of microbeads specifically on the Chesapeake Bay. Meetings were held, fact sheets were developed, and I felt pretty good about the upcoming session.
And then the unthinkable happened - Congress acted. When H.R. 1321, the "Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015" was first introduced, I thought certainly there was no chance that this would pass. And yet, on December 28, 2015, the President signed H.R. 1321 with overwhelming bipartisan support. A good day for the Chesapeake Bay! And, don't worry, there are natural alternatives to those microbeads.
Save the Date - Constituent Day 2016
Every other year, I hold a Constituent Day in Richmond during session. I am pleased to announce that this year's event will be held on February 15th. The day will include a behind-the-scenes tour of the General Assembly Building and the Capitol as well as a chance to experience a House floor session from the gallery. Watch for additional details in future newsletters.
It is an honor to serve you in the House of Delegates. I am looking forward to hearing from you during the 2016 session.