eNews Archive

December 18, 2015

We are less than three weeks away from the start of the 2016 General Assembly Session. This year’s session will begin on Wednesday, January 13, 2014. It lasts 60 days and will require us to debate and pass the biennial budget for fiscal years 2016 – 2018.

It has been a couple of busy weeks attending many legislative briefings on a variety of topics to both finalize my legislative agenda and prepare for the 2016 session. It is exciting to be returning for my fourth term in the House of Delegates and I look forward to continuing to serve as your advocate on behalf of all the residents of the 41st District. 

Transportation Briefings

Last Thursday, I went to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission's (NVTC) and the Potomac River Transportation Commission's (PRTC) joint legislative briefing. I was particularly interested in the future plans for VRE, given that there are two stations in the 41st District. As a member of the House Committee on Transportation and the Joint Commission on Transportation Accountability, I am particularly focused on a way to improve our transportation system.

Inaugural Annual Capital Region Business Forum

Last week I enjoyed attending the Inaugural Annual Capital Region Business Forum. The panel featured Governor McAuliffe as well as Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and Maryland Senate President Mike Miller. The room was packed and the discussion was lively. As a member of the Virginia Commission on Intergovernmental Cooperation, I particularly appreciate the discussion of plans to work cooperatively to bolster the regional economy in an ever competitive global marketplace.

Anniversary of the Sandy Hook Tragedy

This past Monday marked the third anniversary of the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. As many of us will never forget, an unstable young man killed 20 children and 6 brave educators that awful day. Since then, guns have killed more than 90,000 people, including most recently in San Bernardino, CA and Colorado Springs, CO.

To remember the countless innocent victims of gun violence, I joined over 300 others for a vigil on Monday. I was honored to serve as master of ceremonies for this important event, and to speak alongside Congressman Gerry Connolly, Reverend Jim Atwood, Tucson shooting survivors Pat Maisch and Nancy Bowman, and Andy and Barbara Parker, whose daughter Alison was murdered this past August while reporting on live television.  Fighting for sensible gun safety legislation has been an important objective of mine long before I was elected to the House of Delegates. I was proud to have been a founding member of the Million Mom March, an organization dedicated to ending gun violence. My advocacy for a safer Commonwealth continues this General Assembly session.

Committee Meetings

I traveled to Richmond twice this week to participate in committee meetings. On Wednesday, I took part in the Joint Commerce and Labor Committee meeting. We were briefed on and discussed the role of the State Corporation Commission, Digital Currencies, Health Plan Management under the Affordable Care Act, Crowdfunding Legislation, Railroad Safety, and Cybersecurity. It was an informative session and I appreciate the SCC for hosting us. 

On Thursday, the Joint Money Committees met in Richmond to hear the Governor's presentation on the 2016-2018 budget. With its focus on economic development, K-12 education, veterans’ issues and workforce training it is clearly designed to take Virginia's economy to the next level.

I was especially pleased with the Governor's announcement of over $1 billion investment in K-12 education. This includes funding for roughly 2,500 new teaching positions, a 2% salary increase for teachers, non-teacher instructional positions, and support positions, credentialing for career and technical education, and  implementation grants and additional innovation grants in support of SOL Innovation Committee to enhance creativity and innovation in high school.

Click here to view the 2016-2018 budget.

Judge Interviews

On Wednesday, I joined my colleagues in the Fairfax County delegation to the General Assembly to select nominees to fill the vacancies on our General District Court bench, as well as for our Circuit Court bench. It is wonderful to interview so many talented candidates. As both a legislator and an attorney, I consider this one of the most important aspects of my job as a member of the House of Delegates.

Rotary Lunch

I enjoyed joining Barry Glenn, CEO of Jobs for Virginia Graduates (JVG) in speaking to the Rotary Club of Dunn Loring-Merrifield today about about this life-changing program. In addition to serving as a member of the House of Delegates, one of the most meaningful responsibilities I have undertaken is serving as Chair of JVG.  The students in the program all possess strong determination, and it never fails to impress me.

Season's Greetings!

My family joins me in wishing you a happy, healthy, safe and memorable holiday season.

 

December 4, 2015

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and had the chance to spend the day celebrating everything you have to be thankful for with those who mean the most to you.

Preparing for the 2016 General Assembly Session

With the General Assembly session beginning in  less than 6 weeks, I am continuing to finalize my legislative agenda for 2015, meeting with constituents, committees, homeowners' associations and other interested parties throughout the area, to begin addressing those issues of greatest concern to residents of the 41st District.  If you would like to speak with me about any issues that are important to you, please don’t hesitate to stop by my office hours on Saturday, December 12th from 3:30 to 5:00 at Peet’s Coffee & Tea on Burke Lake Road in Springfield. If you can’t make it to office hours, but still wish to share your thoughts on new legislative approaches for possible consideration in Richmond, please feel free to contact me through email or by phone.

Jobs for American Graduates

One of my most meaningful responsibilities is serving as Chair of Jobs for Virginia Graduates (JVG). This wonderful organization serves Virginia’s most disadvantaged and at-risk youth in graduating from high school and transitioning from school to work. I spent Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon attending the parent organization, Jobs for America's Graduates’ (JAG) National Leadership Awards in Washington, DC. I’m thrilled that Virginia has a strong presence on JAG’s National Board, with our Governor, Terry McAuliffe and Congressman Don Beyer both serving in this important role as board members.    

On Wednesday night, I was honored to be recognized as a recipient of JAG’s National Network Leadership Award.  The award is given to recognize recipients' leadership, support and contributions to JAG-affiliated programs.  It has been my privilege to serve on the board of Jobs for Virginia Graduates since 2009 and to chair the organization since 2012. It was particularly special for me to be introduced by Congressman Beyer, who preceded me as Chair of JVG. I was also honored by the presence of Senator Tim Kaine and Secretary of Education Anne Holton. The JAG Events continued on Thursday in Washington.  I attended the Jobs for American Graduates National Leadership Awards Luncheon with 900 others, including over 600 students from across the country.

Commissions and Boards

This past week, I was in Richmond for a meeting of the Health Insurance Reform Commission (HIRC). We had several presentations by the Bureau of Insurance and discussed six bills from the 2015 session. Immediately following the conclusion of that meeting, I attended the Virginia-Israel Advisory Board’s December meeting where we discussed economic development opportunities for the Commonwealth.

Shirley Gate Road

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation(FCDOT) will host a public information meeting that will address changes to the planned concept of extending Shirley Gate Road south of Braddock Road, connecting with the Fairfax County Parkway and Popes Head Road at a grade-separated interchange. There have already been a number of meetings with stakeholders from the Springfield and Braddock Districts between May and September of this year to develop a preferred concept for this planned project. The extension of Shirley Gate Road has been included on Fairfax County's Transportation Plan since 1991.     

The meeting will be held on Monday, December 7th at 7:00 p.m. in the Cafeteria of the Willow Springs Elementary School, 5400 Willow Springs School Road. While this project is not located within the 41st District, it is expected to increase traffic on Shirley Gate Road north of Braddock to Route 50.  For that reason, you may wish to attend Monday’s meeting to review and discuss the project with county staff.

Feeding the Hungry

There is still a great need for non-perishable food to be distributed within our community, especially at this time of year. Please consider donating to one of the many food pantries in Fairfax County. Click here to find a listing of the locations of many food pantries in the county.

Noise Ordinance

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recently passed a new noise ordinance. The rules will become law on February 17th, 2016. The code replaces the previous noise ordinance, along with interim rules passed while a more comprehensive set was crafted. Click here to find out the types of noises that are prohibited during certain hours.

 

November 18, 2015

 

Thank you for your support on Election Day!

Thank you to the voters in the 41st District for re-electing me to another two year term in the House of Delegates. I am truly grateful for your support and I look forward to continuing to represent you in Richmond. Thank you!

House Democratic Caucus Retreat

This past Saturday, the House Democratic Caucus had its post-election retreat in Richmond. We met to elect our caucus leadership. I was honored to be elected as Vice Chair for Outreach. I am grateful for the support of my colleagues and the trust they put in me.

Honoring our Veterans

Last Wednesday, November 11th, was Veterans Day. Let us always honor and celebrate all who serve or have served in our Military, putting their lives on the line for all of us, every single day. Thank you, Veterans, for your service!

I was honored to speak to students, parents and veterans at White Oaks Elementary School on Veterans Day at their "Bring Your Veteran to Breakfast" program. It gave me great pleasure to announce that as a result of the hard work of a many people, including the Governor, Virginia Secretary of Veterans & Defense Affairs and Department of Veterans Services staff, we have functionally ended veterans homelessness in Virginia. We are the first state in the nation to achieve this. No one who has served our country in times of war or peace, men or women, active duty or reserves, should ever be on the streets without shelter or services.

After my remarks, the assembled crowd was treated to a concert by the US Army Band, Downrange, who got their start by entertaining troops serving in Afghanistan in 2002.

On the road with Jobs for Virginia Graduates

Last week, I traveled with Barry Glenn, the CEO of Jobs for Virginia Graduates to Petersburg and Midlothian, as well as the western part of the Commonwealth. We had the opportunity to visit schools in Craig County, Roanoke, and Charlottesville. These smart and promising students have already overcome tremendous challenges in their young lives. They continue to impress me with their ability to remain positive and optimistic while achieving a bright future.

House Appropriations and Finance Committee Retreat

Earlier this week, I attended the House Appropriations and Finance Committee Joint Retreat in Chantilly, Virginia. We discussed a variety of issues important to the Commonwealth including: Northern Virginia's Economic Forecast, the Budget, Higher Education, the Workforce, and Healthcare & Retirement Benefits. I look forward to using the valuable information gleaned from this conference as I prepare for the 2016 General Assembly session.

The Roads of Fairfax County

It's great to be able to drive on so many newly paved roads in the 41st District. If you come across any potholes or roads needing maintenance, Fairfax County has an interactive map that can tell you who manages which road and how you can contact them to fix it. Click here to see the map.

Fall Foliage in the 41st

The fall foliage is so impressive throughout our community. In many nearby places in our district and around Fairfax County you can see the leaves changing and enjoy a walk, hike or bike ride in the crisp autumn air. Check out this link to see where best to view the foliage!

Football Playoff Season in the 41st District

Football playoffs continue for two of the high schools in the 41st District. Congratulations to Robinson and Lake Braddock for making it to the second round. Though your football seasons are over, thank you to Woodson and West Springfield for working hard on the field this fall. I wish the best of luck to both Robinson and Lake Braddock's teams and their fans.

Both teams will play again on November 20th:

Battlefield HS vs. Lake Braddock SS

(location to be determined)  7:00 PM

Robinson SS vs. Centreville HS

(Playing at Robinson) 7:00 PM

 

Theater Season

Several of our high schools have their fall theater productions taking place. Here are the upcoming dates for shows:

West Springfield HS- The Two Gentlemen of Verona

November 19-21 at 7:00 PM

Robinson- Noises Off

November 19th-21st at 7:00 PM

November 21st at 2:00 PM

Lake Braddock- Scrooged

November 19-20 at 7:30 PM

November 21 at 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates. As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District. Please feel free to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

October 23, 2015

As we are now entering the cooler months of the year, remember how important it is to get your flu shot. Influenza is a serious disease and every flu season brings a different strain of the virus. Each strain can have varied effects in different individuals, causing thousands of deaths each year particularly among children, seniors and those with chronic conditions.

Additionally, flu shots are free to eligible individuals—including all those on medicare—as most insurance plans cover flu shots as a preventive measure. You can read more important facts and answers to frequently asked questions from the CDC here.  
 

Online Form to Request an Absentee Ballot

The deadline to apply for a mailed absentee ballot is Tuesday, October 27, 2015. Requesting a ballot in now easier than ever, as Virginia has developed an online application to request an absentee ballot. Click here to request your ballot and be able to vote in the November 2015 elections.

Jobs for Virginia Graduates

On Wednesday, I had the honor of serving as the keynote speaker at the Jobs for Virginia Graduates' Student Leadership Conference in Richmond. I addressed the importance of improving the world, finding commitments beyond careers and college, and the values of perseverance and resilience.

As the Chair of JVG, it was wonderful to meet many smart and promising students who have already overcome tremendous challenges in their young lives and remain positive and hopeful for achieving a bright future.

DSNAV Buddy Walk

Last Saturday, I had the privilege of serving as Co-Grand Marshal of the Down Syndrome Association of Northern Virginia’s annual Buddy Walk, with 41st District resident Natalie Beck. Natalie is the daughter of Catherine and Stephen Beck, who were instrumental in getting the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act enacted into federal law.  Residents of Burke, they were passionate advocates on behalf of the ABLE Act in supporting Natalie who has Down Syndrome. Stephen Beck died in December before it was signed into law. Posthumously named after Stephen, and often referred to as the “Beck Bill,” it passed the full Congress and was signed into law in December of 2014.

I was honored to patron and help ensure the passage of Virginia’s version of the ABLE Act in the 2015 General Assembly session. The Commonwealth had the honor of being the first state to enact its own version of the ABLE Act after the federal passage of the law. This legislation will allow individuals with special needs and their families to set up tax-exempt 529-type accounts, permitting them to set aside adequate funds to cover such future living expenses as housing and transportation.

Scouts

One of my highlights in serving as a member of the House of Delegates is meeting future leaders of the 41st House District, including Eagle Scouts from the Boy Scouts and Gold Award recipients from the Girl Scouts. To achieve this recognition, these young men and women must demonstrate their commitment to the core goals of Scouting— citizenship training, character development and personal fitness. Just this past week, I had the chance to meet one such young man, Chris Margraf. He joins many other distinguished recipients of this distinct honor, including former Presidents, members of Congress, several NASA astronauts, world-class athletes, successful businessmen and women and many community leaders. I was honored to present Chris with a state flag that flew over the Richmond Capitol and a certificate for attaining the rank of Eagle Scout.

NVTC TechPac Endorsement

Last week, I was honored to receive the endorsement of the Northern Virginia Tech Council's TechPac. NVTC is a bipartisan organization that endorses candidates whom they believe will advance policies and investments focused on growing Virginia’s technology ecosystem, promote tech job creation and enhance the Commonwealth's standing as a global technology center. Supporting innovation and high tech growth throughout Virginia has always been a major priority of mine.

Spartan Fest

I hope to see you tomorrow, October 24th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Spartan Fest at West Springfield High School! The West Springfield PTSA is sponsoring a Silent Auction and Arts and Crafts Fair with over 70 vendors. There is truly something for everyone!

My Monthly Office Hours

Being available and accessible to my constituents has always been a top priority for me. This month, I will be holding office hours on Sunday, November 8th from 4:00-5:30 at Peet’s Coffee and Tea, located in the Kings Park Shopping Center, 8948 Burke Lake Rd, Springfield, VA 22151. I hope to see you there.

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates. As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District. Please feel free to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

 

October 9, 2015

Though we were most fortunate that Hurricane Joaquin's devastating winds missed us in Northern Virginia, the rain still pounded our region and the Commonwealth heavily the past week. While we did get soaked, we fared much better than other parts of the Commonwealth. Rising rivers washed out bridges in southwestern Virginia and a major storm surge in Hampton Roads not only flooded roads, but also caused public schools to close in some cities.

Registering to Vote

The last day to register to vote for the 2015 election is in less than a week—Tuesday, October 13.

Registering to vote is easy. For more information click here to go to the State Board of Elections website.

Voting Absentee

Whether you are in college, a caregiver for a family member, or have business that will take you away from your county on Election Day, you can vote absentee.

By Mail

The deadline to apply for a mailed absentee ballot is October 27, 2015. You can download and complete an absentee ballot application here.

In-Person

In-person absentee voting continues in Fairfax County and throughout the Commonwealth until October 31st. Locally, you can vote in person at the Fairfax County Government Center, Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and the West Springfield Government Center, Monday-Friday from 3:30-7:00 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Remember, please bring a photo ID when you vote!

Enacting Sensible Gun Safety Legislation

A few weeks ago, we witnessed another senseless tragedy in the recent shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. We cannot stand by and allow tragedies like the one in Oregon to happen time and time again without action! We must enact sensible gun safety legislation now. This past session, I introduced HB 2045, which would prohibit anyone who is subject to a protective order from possessing a firearm. While I was dismayed and terribly disappointed that this bill never made it out of committee, I will be reintroducing the bill in the 2016 General Assembly session. Check out this editorial from the Richmond Times-Dispatch and read why we must enact this example of sensible gun safety legislation.

Teleconference with Robinson Alum Kjell Lindgren and the International Space Station

I have had some remarkable opportunities in my capacity as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, but this was definitely one of the most exciting to date.  I joined several of my colleagues and many of the students and faculty of Robinson Secondary School in a teleconference via NASA with the International Space Station, last week. Our speaker, Astronaut Kjell Lindgren is a Robinson SS alum and a former constituent of the 41st House District. While at Robinson, Kjell was not only an incredible person but also the valedictorian of his class and a three-sport varsity athlete, excelling in track, football and wrestling.

Watching Kjell effortlessly flip and float in zero gravity while he spoke was pretty cool.  One of my favorite moments of the teleconference was when he pulled out a Robinson Wrestling shirt to show all of his fellow Rams watching him on the big screen at his alma mater. It’s clear that the sky is not the limit for graduates of Fairfax County Public Schools.

Northern Virginia Aging Network Breakfast

Last week, I attended the annual Northern Virginia Aging Network breakfast. Peggy Fox of WUSA Channel 9 did a good job of moderating the 16th Annual Legislative Breakfast on Aging.  It was great to hear David Broder, Jane King and Jackie Woodruff unveil NVAN’s 2016 legislative agenda, and it was a distinct pleasure to hear my good friend, Attorney General Mark Herring, give the keynote address.

In the 2015 General Assembly session, I was honored to introduce and pass HB 1413, the Virginia CARE Act, which will improve healthcare in Virginia and reduce preventable hospital visits by requiring hospitals to formally acknowledge a patient's family caregiver at the time of admission and provide critical home care instruction. I look forward to working with NVAN and other stakeholders in the upcoming 2016 session, to introduce and pass more legislation that will help one of our most vulnerable communities.

Candidate Forums

I had a great time attending various candidate forums with my colleagues and candidates this past week. On Saturday, I attended the Korean Coalition for Political Participation's Candidates night, then on Sunday I spoke at both the 3rd Annual Minority Chambers' candidate forum and the 27th annual Arab American Political Forum's Non-Partisan Candidates Night Dinner. It is great that so many organizations in Fairfax County offer elected officials the opportunity to connect with so many diverse groups that make up this wonderful community.

September 24, 2015

Since the beginning of school earlier this month, I have been enjoying meeting local families at various Back to School Nights across the 41st District. It is important to me to hear those issues that parents care about, so that we can ensure our schools provide the best education for all of our children.

Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act

It was an honor to be recognized and to speak at ServiceSource's panel on the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act this past week. I was introduced by Michael Morris, the Executive Director of the National Disability Institute, and was followed by an impressive panel of speakers from the National Down Syndrome Society, Autism Speaks, The Arc, Virginia 529 College Savings Plan, and Department of the Treasury.

One of my proudest legislative achievements was the passage of the ABLE Act this past session. The legislation will allow individuals with special needs and their families to set up tax-exempt accounts, like 529s, so they can save money for future living expenses like housing and transportation.  Virginia was the first state to pass the ABLE Act after the passage at the federal level.

In 2014, Congress authorized states to establish ABLE savings trust accounts to assist individuals and families in saving and paying for the education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology and personal support services, health, prevention and wellness, financial management and administrative services, and other expenses of individuals who were disabled or blind prior to the age of 26. Earnings on contributions to ABLE savings trust accounts are exempt from federal income tax.

Boards, Commissions and Roundtable Meetings

I’ve continued making the trip around Fairfax County and to Richmond and back over the past two weeks, preparing for next year’s General Assembly Session and tackling several issues facing the Commonwealth through the various Commissions and Roundtables on which I am proud to serve.

Joint Commission on Technology and Science

Last week, I attended a meeting of the Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS) Nanosatellites Advisory Committee as well as the full JCOTS Committee. The Nanosatellites Advisory Committee, continued our discussions, from previous meetings about establishing a Consortium of Space Science Education that would consist of universities, companies and other organizations in the field. The Consortium would advance research and development related to nanosatellites and cube satellites.

During the full JCOTS meeting, we discussed HB 1743, a bill from the last General Assembly session which provides a research and development expenses income tax credit. We heard major industry and stakeholders’ perspectives on the bill as well. This past session, the Finance Committee tabled HB 1743.

Student-Athlete Concussions

This past Tuesday, I participated in a roundtable on Student-Athlete Concussions with the Virginia Commission on Youth.  I was pleased to be included in the roundtable as my bill HB 1096 requiring the Board of Education to amend its guidelines for school division policies and procedures on concussions with Student-Athletes was discussed. From the presentations, to the small group discussions, it is my hope that we can continue to find best practices and continue to work on legislation next session. You can find coverage of the event here.

World Police and Fire Games Board of Directors Meeting

Last week, I attended the final board meeting of the 2015 World Police and Fire Games (WPFG). It was an honor and privilege to serve on the Board of Directors this year, as Fairfax hosted over 10,000 first responders from around the world competing in varied rescue-related events. Additionally, the games provided a $83.85 million economic impact for our region over a 10-day period! WPFG also presented to me a beautiful plaque that I look forward to hanging in my Richmond office. Most of all, I continue to be impressed by and grateful for our first responders in Fairfax County, who put their lives on the line for us every day.

Burke Centre Festival

One of my favorite events of the year is the Burke Centre Festival; not even the rain could keep the crowds away from this annual event! I particularly enjoyed joining the Burke Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the local Sons of the American Revolution chapter and the Boy Scouts at the opening ceremonies. From face painting to shopping to music and dance performances, there was something for everyone.

Fear 2 Freedom

Along with GMU President Angel Cabrera, Rosemary Trible and Judge Thomas Mann, I was proud to attend Fear 2 Freedom at George Mason University on Tuesday. I was honored to join so many students in assembling “Fear 2 Freedom” (F2F) after-care kits, an essential element of healing provided to those affected by sexual assault, child abuse, domestic violence, and sex trafficking. The F2F kits that were assembled at GMU will be distributed through GMU Student Health Services, Wellness, Alcohol and Violence Education Services, and local area hospitals in Fairfax and Prince William counties. Well done GMU! Thank you for including me.

Fairfax County Introduces Text to 9-1-1

This past week, Fairfax County introduced "Text to 9-1-1" which allows anyone with a cell phone in the county to send a text to 9-1-1. Our county is on the cutting edge; less than 5 percent of the United States has this program.

It is important to note that voice calls are still the preferred and best way to contact 9-1-1. Text to 9-1-1 is made for specific situations including:

  • For a person who is deaf or hard of hearing.
  • For someone who is in a situation where it is not safe to call 9-1-1
  • A medical emergency that renders the person incapable of speech (e.g. stroke)
  • If a person is unable to call 9-1-1 due to being in a remote location with limited voice network capability.

For more information on how to use "Text to 9-1-1," click here.

September 11, 2015

With school starting this past week, I want to wish good luck to all of the students, teachers, parents and administrators on a new school year! Thank you to all the incredible teachers and administrators who care for our children every day and encourage them to be the very best they can be.

Commission Meetings

I have had a busy time going to and from Richmond, preparing for next year’s General Assembly Session and tackling several issues facing the Commonwealth through the Committees and Commissions on which I am proud to serve.

Joint Money Committee Meeting

As a member of the Finance Committee, I was in Richmond recently to attend Governor McAuliffe's annual address to the Joint Money Committee, which is comprised of the House Finance Committee, House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.

At the meeting, the Governor and Finance Secretary Ric Brown discussed this past year’s revenue intake and next year’s budget projections. Of note from the Governor’s remarks is that we have maintained our triple-A bond rating, which is essential for funding needed projects and maintaining our good business climate. Also, we have improved our General Fund liquidity and the Governor has urged that there will be a commitment to increased investments in public education in the next budget, something I enthusiastically support and am eager to work on and make a reality.

Virginia Values Veterans

It was great to join the Governor, General Assembly colleagues, Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Adm. John C. Harvey and leaders from around the Commonwealth in celebrating the success of the Virginia Values Veterans (V3) Program. Since 2010, over 80,000 veterans have been added to Virginia’s labor force – more than all other states combined! The V3 program helps employers implement nationally recognized best practices in recruiting, hiring, and retaining veterans. Its success is a testament to making Virginia the most veteran friendly state in the country. 

Climate Change Resiliency Commission

I was also in Richmond last week for a meeting of the Governor's Climate Change and Resiliency Commission, on which I serve. At the meeting we discussed the draft report and the five recommendations the Commission will make to the Governor to ensure the Commonwealth is prepared for the future effects of climate change.

Among the Commission’s top five recommendations to the Governor were the creation of a special bank to help finance clean energy efforts, such as solar power projects, as well as resiliency projects, such as elevating homes in shoreline areas in anticipation of rising sea levels. In addition, the creation of a state clearinghouse for climate change information, probably through a website, and seeking federal dollars for programs to make communities in coastal, Southside and Southwest Virginia models for warding off the effects of climate change. Programs could include elevating houses in coastal Virginia, where sea levels are rising, and solar energy installation projects in other regions. You can read about all recommendations and the meeting here.

Health Insurance Reform Commission

Earlier this week I again headed down I-95 for a meeting of the Health Insurance Reform Commission, on which I also serve. We were able to discuss and consider several measures that arose during the past General Assembly Session regarding health insurance and coverage, as well as hearing presentations regarding the Affordable Care Act and ensuring that employers are fully prepared to implement all of its provisions.

Jobs for Virginia Graduates

One of my most valued roles over the past several years has been to serve as Chair of Jobs for Virginia Graduates (JVG). This great organization is making a difference in the Commonwealth by helping at-risk youth graduate from high school and find employment. JVG serves over 1,250 high school students per year and since 1998, they have helped over 12,000 Virginia students graduate and find employment, achieving a 98% graduation rate and 94% full-time placement rate. Recently, I was honored to join our JVG CEO, Barry Glenn as JVG received an ACECF grant for the incredible work they do every single day on behalf of so many. This grant will help JVG continue to help the next generation of Virginians find their own path to success.

FCPS Budget

Fairfax County Public Schools is currently seeking the public's input on how to address anticipated budget shortfalls for the 2016-2017 school year. You can lend your voice to the process; share ideas for cost savings, increased fees, or potential revenues here. This is a great opportunity to be part of the budget-shaping process for next year.

The Governor has already announced that the next budget will focus on public education funding and I will work in Richmond to ensure that the General Assembly is providing Fairfax County with their equal share in education funding.

I was proud to work this year with my colleagues to fight for a larger share of state funding for our schools. Through this effort, we were successful in allocating $9.9 million more than anticipated through the adopted state budget.

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates. As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District. Please feel free to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

 

Special Session Update

On Monday of this week, I returned to Richmond to join my colleagues for the 2015 Special Session of the General Assembly. The purpose of this Special Session was to address and revise the Virginia congressional redistricting map. As a result of the recent action by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Page v. Va. State Board of Elections, the General Assembly has been ordered to redraw the congressional districts in Virginia bySeptember 1, 2015.

The court ruled that the congressional redistricting following the 2010 census unfairly concentrated African-Americans into specific districts to suppress their influence. The court was focused on the 3rd congressional district which represents parts of Virginia Beach, Hampton Roads, the tidewater region, stretching to Richmond.

Redistricting, however, took a back to seat to the Governor’s Virginia Supreme Court nomination. You may recall that on July 27th I joined Governor Terry McAuliffe in Richmond to announce the Governor's appointment of Judge Jane Marum Roush to the Virginia Supreme Court.

Judge Roush has had a remarkable career and has earned a stellar reputation as a Fairfax Circuit Court Judge. This was an extremely well-deserved appointment that had bipartisan support from the General Assembly as well as enthusiastic support from bar associations, public safety professionals and many others.

The Supreme Court of Virginia empowers the Governor to fill vacancies on state courts when the General Assembly is not in session. When the Governor called for a Special Session in August, it was expected that we, the General Assembly would confirm the appointment as has been done in the past. However, Republican leadership in the House and Senate decided not to grant this well qualified jurist an interview and instead chose another nominee for the Supreme Court. It is worth noting that a sitting Supreme Court Justice has not been removed from his/her seat in the Commonwealth since 1901.

With most of the day dedicated to arguing the merits of each nominee, the final result was that the Republican nominee for Supreme Court did not have sufficient support to be confirmed in the Senate, leaving Justice Roush on the bench in an interim appointment until September, when the Governor can reappoint her.

I was proud to speak in favor of Justice Roush during the debate on the floor. It is unprecedented to remove a sitting Justice from the Supreme Court, especially with no cause and for someone who is as highly qualified as Justice Roush. You can watch the remarks I made about her on the House floorhere.

With debate on the Supreme Court captivating most of the attention Monday, redistricting was barely addressed. As a result, the courts will now redraw Virginia’s congressional districts to ensure they are constitutionally correct.

Shop with the Sheriff

Last week, Sheriff Stacey Kincaid and her deputy sheriffs came to the 41st District for the 23rd Annual "Shop with a Sheriff" program. This program places in-need children with a Sheriff during a two-hour shopping spree at the Burke Target to ensure they are properly prepared for the start of school. This is one of my favorite events of the year, with children given the opportunity to buy needed supplies such as clothing, notebooks, pencils and backpacks for school. Thanks are in order to our incredible Sheriff, Stacey Kincaid and her impressive deputies – all of whom volunteer their time and energy to give back to the community. Additionally, this program would not be possible without the support of Target located in the 41st District. They are a great corporate partner for our community.

JCOTS & JCTA

I was also recently in Richmond for meetings of the Joint Commission on Transportation Accountability (JCTA) and the Joint Commission on Transportation and Technology (JCOTS) on both of which I serve. During the JCTA meeting we heard an update on this year's Uber/Lyft legislation as well as a briefing from Secretary Aubrey Layne on upcoming transportation projects around the Commonwealth.

This week, at the JCOTS meeting we reviewed three bills that were sent to our Commission for further discussion during the 2015 General Assembly Session. Among the bills, was one from Delegate David Bulova regarding personal information sharing from ride share companies.

SOL Scores Improved! 

The Governor recently announced that SOL test scores have improved significantly since last year, following the new initiative to allow elementary and middle school students to retake a test if they fell short of passing by just a few points. I am pleased to see legislation I introduced and worked on over the past three years making an immediate impact on our schools. 

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates. As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District. Please feel free to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

 

July 17, 2015

Now that the Fourth of July has come and gone, the summer season is really in full swing. While you’re out at the beach or just in the sun walking around, please take the proper precautions to protect yourself from the harmful effects of extended UV exposure. July is National UV Safety Month and you can learn safety tips and information here.  

Best of Braddock

It was great to join friends from the Braddock District Council in honoring the Best of Braddock award recipients last week. Every year, the Braddock District Council awards individuals and groups in our community for their contributions to the neighborhood. This was another outstanding and deserving group of individuals, families and businesses that make Braddock such a great place to live! Thank you for all that you do and your dedication to the community! You can review this year’s winners on the left.

Health Insurance Reform Commission

Earlier this week, I was honored to have been appointed to the Health Insurance Reform Commission (HIRC) by Speaker Bill Howell. The HIRC monitors the work of appropriate federal and state agencies in implementing the provisions of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, including amendments and regulations under the ACA. The Commission prepares an executive summary of the interim activity and work of the Commission before the first day of the regular session of the General Assembly.

Just this week we had our first meeting following the 2015 General Assembly session to review bills referred to the Committee and updates to the ACA. I look forward to joining my colleagues on the Commission to ensure that Virginia is on top of state compliance with the ACA and health care services are being provided to our citizens in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Revenue Surplus

Governor Terry McAuliffe earlier this week announced a $553 million dollar revenue surplus for the Commonwealth - the largest on record. This means that state employees — including higher education faculty and judges will receive a 2-percent raise in their paychecks, and the state will also provide its share of a 1.5-percent raise for teachers. By Virginia law, the Revenue Stabilization Fund or the “Rainy Day” Fund and the Virginia Water Quality Fund will claim approximately $533 million or 96 percent of the total revenue surplus before any other allocations are made.

This good news is a testament to the Governor's vision of building a new Virginia economy and revitalizing revenue streams. Additionally, in the General Assembly this past session we made responsible decisions about how to allocate resources in the budget. While not every decision in that process was easy, we are now seeing positive signs for future budget action and the long term stability of our Rainy Day fund. 

Moving forward, we still need to be aware of federal sequestration, which continues to create uncertainty for our economy. I am committed to working with the Governor continue to diversify our economy, create positive revenue streams and invest in our core priorities of education, transportation, health care and public safety.

Braddock Nights Concert Series

The Braddock Nights Concert Series began last week and continues through August. This annual summer tradition is one of my favorite community events. The concerts are held on Fridays at Lake Accotink Park and Royal Lake Park. Each concert starts at 7:30 p.m. and there is no charge for admittance. Check out the link on the left for performers.

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates. As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District. Please feel free to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

 

July 6, 2015

I hope everyone enjoyed a fun-filled Fourth of July holiday weekend with friends and family! I once again participated in events around the 41st District, including the Orange Hunt Estates Parade. I always enjoy seeing so many familiar faces and meeting new friends. The sun even came out after all of the morning rain to make it a hot but nice day!

World Police & Fire Games

Since my last eNews, the 2015 World Police & Fire Games have come and gone. It was an extremely action-packed 10 days of events and festivities! I participated in several of the events, including the opening and closing ceremonies held at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. and Wolf Trap in Fairfax County.

I was able to experience many events that the games had to offer including one of my favorite new competitions – the Dragon Boat Races! It was a beautiful day last weekend at the National Harbor to watch all of the action. Among those in attendance were Fairfax County Chairman Sharon Bulova, Sheriff Stacey Kincaid, Virginia Homeland Security Secretary Brian Moran and WPFG CEO Bill Knight.

Additionally, I had the privilege of awarding the medals to first responders from around the world for the World Police & Fire Games boxing competition this past weekend. Most likely, the first and last time I will ever be in a boxing ring. 

On a sadder note, during the cycling portion of the games we lost one of our international competitors and first responders. Carlos Silva, a Brazilian police force investigator died from injuries during the competition. There was an incredibly moving vigil several days ago where his fellow countrymen, competitors and first responders from around the world, Fairfax County Officials and Chiefs and the general public came out to pay their respects and honor his life while showing support to his family, friends and teammates. There were several emotional speeches and prayers offered throughout the memorial. It was a sad and tragic accident and Officer Silva will be sorely missed.

As we gathered last night at the closing ceremonies at Wolf Trap, we heard stirring speeches, and witnessed the passing on of the flag and torch. The games were a tremendous success and a great tribute to first responders from around the world. It was my privilege to serve on the Board of Directors of the games. A special congratulations goes to the impressive WPFG leadership team and staff, the thousands of volunteers, our Fairfax County Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, our Sheriff, our Fire and Police Chiefs and Fairfax County as a whole for their tireless work in hosting the games over the last ten days. We were able to bring thousands of visitors to Fairfax County, creating a significant economic impact through hotel stays, transit use, shopping and tourism and highlighting the many assets that Fairfax County has to offer to visitors from around the world.

World Cup

In the spirit of these games, we also extend our sincere congratulations to the U.S. National Soccer team, and Coach Jill Ellis, a Robinson Secondary School alum, who last night did our country proud by winning the World Cup! 

New Laws in Virginia

On July 1, legislation that was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor McAuliffe this past session officially became law. You can check out this link to view legislation that is likely to affect the daily lives of Virginians.

Office Hours

Hope to see you tomorrow for my July office hours, Tuesday July 7 at Peet’s Coffee (8948 Burke Lake Rd, Springfield, VA 22151) from 4 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. – no appointment necessary, just come on by. I look forward to chatting with you!

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates. As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District. Please feel free to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

 

June 19

It has been a very busy time since my last enews update. I have been traveling across the district and county visiting with many constituents, organizations and groups, attending high school graduations, speaking to homeowners associations, holding office hours, visiting our schools and attending ribbon cuttings and ground breakings. A lot going on in the 41st District. 

The Hunting Ground Film Screening

Last week, over 100 members of our community filled the Johnson Center Cinema at George Mason University to watch the The Hunting Ground, film and participate in a robust discussion about campus safety. We had a thoughtful and engaging conversation with two amazing young women: the film's main subjects Annie Clark and Andrea Pino. In addition, Annie and Andrea are also the co-founders of End Rape on Campus, and have been bringing their incredible energy and activism across the country.

The issue of sexual assaults on college campuses is one in which I have worked diligently during my tenure in the House of Delegates. I remain totally committed to building on the success we achieved during this year's legislative session,with the objective of effectively addressing this widespread problem throughout the country's college community.

In addition to the film screening and discussion with Annie and Andrea, many in the audience generously donated to the Domestic Violence Action Center of Fairfax County in memory of a special young lady from our area, who was a champion advocate on this issue, Grace Mann.

SOL Bill Signing

It was great to be in Charlottesville with the Governor of Virginia and several of my colleagues a couple of weeks ago to celebrate the successful passage of education and SOL reform bills this year. Included in these bills was HB 1490 of which I was Chief Co-Patron and identical to my bill HB 1668, which I introduced and championed over the past few years. I was proud to share my thoughts at the bill signing about expanding SOL retake opportunties to students in grades 3-8. 

Dateline Special with 41st District Constituents

If you were watching NBC’s Dateline recently you might have recognized some familiar faces from our area. The Collins and Elder families from Fairfax County were featured in a story about their journey to legalize a specific form of medical marijuana that helps children with severe epilepsy. It has been an honor for me to work with these inspiring families over the past year along with my colleagues Senator Dave Marsden and Delegate Dave Albo. This year we successfully passed legislation to help families like the Collins’ and Elder's possess cannabinoid oil to help treat their children who suffer from frequent, and often debilitating, seizures. You can watch their incredible story on Dateline here.

Honoring those in our community

It has been a great two weeks for celebrating individuals that make our community so wonderful.

High Schools

Just this week I attended graduations for all four of our high schools in the 41st District –Lake Braddock Secondary School, Robinson Secondary School. W.T. Woodson High School and West Springfield High School. What an impressive group of young adults we had graduate this year, all of whom earned their degrees from one of our four statewide top-15-rated high schools in the 41st District!

Speaking of impressive high schoolers, we had students from Robinson Secondary School who won a "Cappie" award for their acclaimed performances in high school drama production this year! Andie Matten and Chris Mayhew won for Sound, Kyle Ronyecs, Analise Scrugg and Shannon Williams won for Lighting, and Alex Bulova, son of my colleague Delegate David Bulova, took home the award for best Comic Actor in a Play. In addition, "Neverwhere", from Robinson won the Best Play award! What a tremendous accomplishment for the Robinson Drama Department.

Chamber of Commerce

I recently attended the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce’s 90th Anniversary reception in honor of their 90 years of advocating for Fairfax businesses and the economic livelihood of our community. I was honored to co-patron a commending resolution passed by the House of Delegates in the Chamber's honor that was presented that night.

First Responders

This week we also honored the first responders of Springfield for their bravery, putting their lives on the line every day to protect and serve our community. At their 3rd Annual Above and Beyond Luncheon, the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce paid special homage to a select few officers who went above and beyond the call of duty during the past year. Congratulations to all of the honorees and thank you for all that you do for our community! It was a privilege to join you!

Food Truck Update

A brief update on a topic that many of you have been interested in and asked me about – Food Trucks! The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) took up the task of forming regulations to allow mobile food vending on certain state-maintained roads per direction from my legislation this year. I look forward to working with the CTB and stakeholders to get these regulations correct and finished in a timely fashion. You can review the CTB’s working papers and presentation on the topic here.

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates. As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District. Please feel free to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

 

May 27, 2015

I hope you were able to enjoy the weather, spend time with friends and family during the Memorial Day weekend and reflect on the true meaning of Memorial Day by honoring the men and women who have served and fallen defending our country. It is only because of them and their sacrifices that we can all enjoy the liberty and freedom we celebrate and cherish.

I had the honor of joining the Burke VFW at their annual Memorial Day observance at the Burke Center Conservancy in the 41st district. I always look forward to this moving ceremony and I truly appreciated the opportunity to address the crowd along with Captain Matthew Kosnar of the US Navy, my colleague Senator Dave Marsden and Supervisor John Cook. A special thank you to Boy Scout Troop 1345 for the presentation of the colors!

Bill Signings

We are rapidly approaching July 1, when all the bills that were passed and approved by the Governor from this year’s General Assembly Session become law. I have had the great privilege to join Governor McAuliffe for a number of ceremonial bill signings over the past couple of months. 

Food Truck Bill Signing

The first ceremonial bill signing over the past two weeks was for my bill, HB 2042. This legislation will require VDOT to implement regulations to begin allowing mobile vending on certain state maintained highways, but not residential roads. These creative, innovative and successful entrepreneurial endeavors are a great asset to our community, not only providing jobs and new businesses, but also high-quality meals. In fact, many talented chefs get the resources and experience they need to start brick-and-mortar restaurants after gaining valuable experience and expanding their brands on food trucks.

The signing took place in Tysons, where the bill’s idea originated after a dispute between food trucks, Fairfax County and VDOT over their right to vend at this location. It was a terrific event to celebrate the next step in mobile vending in the Commonwealth. In addition to the Governor, we were joined by Jim Corcoran, President & CEO of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, Chairman Sharon Bulova, Fairfax Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, 7 food trucks representing the VA-DC Food Trucks Association and the Meridian Group who own and are developing the location.

Check out this link from WJLA-7 about the event. 

Child Care Bill Signing

This week I joined the Governor, several of my colleagues and key stakeholders in Midlothian, Virginia to sign into law child care legislation approved during this year's General Assembly Session. For the past two years, I have been working on legislation to improve child care in the Commonwealth and I am pleased to see this important step forward in ensuring the safety of children while in the care of others. Last year, I introduced legislation that created a Task Force to determine steps should be taken and to develop specific proposals in moving ahead. I was pleased to serve on this Task Force and am glad that suggestions from this effort as well as new ideas were included in the omnibus bill, of which I was a Chief Co-Patron. While we still have additional work to do, this outcome clearly represents significant progress.

Watch a news clip about the signing here.

Campus Sexual Assault Bill Signing

Just yesterday I was in Richmond to observe several measures being signed into law from this year’s General Assembly Session, which strive to improve campus safety and reduce the incidence of campus sexual assault. One of these bills was HB 1785, of which I served as the Chief Co-Patron and included much of my original bill HB 1343. This bill will now require campus and local law enforcement to report any campus sexual assaults to the local Commonwealth's Attorney within 48 hours of the reported incident.  This legislation will expedite a formal investigation of each and every such reported case, ensuring that all immediate assistance is provided to the victim, legal due process is assured, and all necessary investigative steps are taken whenever a sexual assault is reported to campus law enforcement.

I have worked to address this problem and develop meaningful legislation since 2011 and am extremely pleased that we were able to take an important step forward this year. 

You can watch a clip of the bill signing here.

Clean Air Partners Annual Awards

This year, I had the honor of emceeing the Clean Air Partners 2015 Annual Celebration at the Torpedo Factory in Old Town Alexandria. It was great fun to play host with my co-emcee Howard Bernstein, meteorologist of WUSA 9. Clean Air Partners is a nonprofit organization chartered by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments to improve public health and the environment by working with businesses, organizations and individuals throughout the region to raise awareness and reduce air pollution through voluntary actions.

As a Board Member of Clean Air Partners, it was wonderful to celebrate the impressive students who were being awarded for their accomplishments in science, air quality improvements and slogan creation. We even had a student win from Lake Braddock Secondary School in the 41st District!

Top Virginia High Schools

Speaking of 41st District schools success – all four of our district’s high schools deserve special recognition for being ranked in the top 15 of U.S. News’ Top Virginia High Schools. This is a testament to the impressive FCPS leadership, teachers, faculty and students that comprise Lake Braddock Secondary School, James W. Robinson Secondary School, West Springfield High School and W.T. Woodson High School.

Free Screening of “The Hunting Ground”

I hope you will be able to join me and others from our community in viewing the acclaimed film “The Hunting Ground” on June 10th at 7 p.m. on the campus of George Mason University. This film examines the problem of sexual assaults on college campuses - an issue that I have been working on for several years in the General Assembly. The entire community is welcome to attend free of charge and after the screening we have invited a panel of experts to discuss this important issue. I look forward to seeing you there, and would ask that you please let me know if you will be able to attend by emailingeileen@eileenfillercorn.com

 

I cannot believe it is the middle of May already. I hope you all were able to enjoy the beautiful sunshine and low humidity the past couple of days. 

SOL Reform

During the last two years, we, in the General Assembly have spent much time studying and examining the way we test our students. In addition, the SOL Innovation Committee was established in 2014. They have been successful in reducing the number of tests, focusing on student growth measures and aligning SOLs with instruction.  

I was pleased to see the SOL Innovation Committee adopt an idea I have been working on for the past three years. This year, with bipartisan support, my bill HB 1668 was conformed to a similar measure (HB 1490) and signed into law by the Governor.

This new policy will allow for students in grades 3 – 8 who fail their SOL, with a score between 375 to 399, to retake the test during the current school year, rather than in the summer. While this option is currently offered to high school students, middle and elementary schools students have not been afforded this opportunity until now. If you want more information on how to sign your child up for expedited SOL retakes click here.

Father Richard Martin

On May 3rd, I was honored to have been invited to attend mass at the Church of the Nativity in Burke and present a memorial resolution to honor an outstanding member of our community and the 41st District. Father Richard Martin was a priest at Church of the Nativity for over 17 years. He was a tremendously compassionate individual who devoted his life to the support those most vulnerable in our community and around the world. His legacy of helping all those in need lives on through his Operation Starfishfoundation which helps to build homes in impoverished areas. The mass on May 3rd was held to honor and mark the one-year anniversary of his passing. I joined in remembering this remarkable man through the Memorial Resolution I introduced in the General Assembly this year. The resolution, which passed unanimously, was presented to his brother and sister and the entire parish family. You can view the resolution in Father Martin’s memory here and read an article about Father Martin and the day’s eventshere.

Ribbon Cuttings and Bill Signings

The past two weeks have been an exciting time across the 41st District as two major new projects were officially opened.

On May 4th I joined regional leaders at Royal Lake in the 41st District to celebrate work completed on the Pohick Watershed and for the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Royal Lake Dam. This project is critical to protecting our flood management infrastructure as there are six lakes in the watershed covering 23,000 acres in our area. This important environmental endeavor took years of planning and development and will be tremendous asset for our region.

Just last Friday, I had the opportunity to join the White Oaks Elementary School community in the 41st District at their annual picnic for the ribbon-cutting and grand opening of their brand new playground. This new playground is three times larger than the previous one and opened right on time to be enjoyed throughout the summer and for years to come by the school and community. There was a great sense of community and excitement in the air during the White Oaks annual picnic with snow cones, a mobile blood donation center and food trucks to enjoy.

Finally, this week I joined Governor Terry McAuliffe, Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne and several of my General Assembly colleagues for a ceremonial bill signing of HB 1887 which passed during this year's General Assembly Session. The ceremony was held at the George Mason University Center for Transportation's P3 Conference. HB 1887 improves the current transportation funding formula and also provides critical funding for area transit including the Fairfax Connector. I was proud to support this measure through the Transportation Committee in the House, on which I serve, where we had a robust debate about the current funding formula and how the changes brought forth by this bill would ensure that the most important projects for the Commonwealth receive the necessary funding.   

World Police and Fire Games

At our last World Police and Fire Games Board of Directors meeting we learned that there are now over 8,000 public safety athletes from 60 countries who have signed up to participate in the 2015 Games! With 6 weeks remaining until the start of the Games, excitement is growing as the Opening Ceremony at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. draws near. There is still plenty of time to sign up to volunteer. Click here to find out how you can help!

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates. As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District. Please feel free to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

 

Transportation Update

In 2013, when the General Assembly debated the landmark transportation package that ultimately passed and was signed into law, I mentioned that this was going to allow us to move forward in alleviating congestion, repairing deteriorated pavement conditions and constructing needed new roadways. I am happy to report that we are already beginning to see that new money in our area.

Rolling Road will be receiving an additional $5 million in funding from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to widen a portion of the road near the Franconia-Springfield Parkway. This is a huge asset for residents of the 41st District who commute in this direction and I am delighted that the 2013 transportation package is beginning to provide benefits to our community.

Out and About in the 41st District

The last two weeks have been busy as I met with constituents and attended many events in and around the district.

Mason Drive Opening

I was pleased to be able to join several of my colleagues, George Mason University officials and community members to officially open the newly constructed Mason Drive on GMU’s campus. The project, built with $15 million in state funds, will connect the east and west portions of the campus and includes a traffic and pedestrian underpass at Ox Road. The opening culminated four years of planning and construction and was built with the goal of improving safety and relieving traffic congestion when leaving campus.

It was a beautiful day for a ribbon cutting. I am pleased to see this partnership between the state, GMU and the community produce a great result.

Burke School’s 75th Anniversary

The Burke School in the 41st District celebrated their 75th anniversary last week. I was pleased to attend this special event. This school site at the corner of Burke Lake and Lee Chapel Roads has been located at the center of our community since 1940. Today the school is a special education center, serving some 130 6th, 7th and 8th grade students, as well as 30 elementary-age students in an Alternative Learning Center. Congratulations!

World Police and Fire Games

With the addition of over 951 new athletes registered last week, more than 7,800 public safety athletes from 57 countries have signed up to participate in the 2015 World Police and Fire Games! With 56 days remaining until the start of the Games, excitement is growing as the Opening Ceremony at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. draws near. There is still plenty of time to sign up to volunteer. Clickhere for all volunteer opportunities.

Father Richard Martin Commemoration

This Sunday, I invite you to join me at a very special commemoration in the 41st District. During the 11 a.m. Mass at the Church of the Nativity in Burke, I will formally present the Memorial Resolution I introduced this year in the General Assembly honoring Father Richard Martin. Sunday is the one-year anniversary of his passing.  It is such an honor for me to be able to join Father Martin's family, his parish and the extended 41st District community in remembering this remarkable individual. Please join me and so many others at mass honoring Father Martin at Church of the Nativity (6400 Nativity Ln, Burke, VA) at 11 a.m. You can read the resolution I introducedhere.

Upcoming events this weekend in the District

Robert Frost Middle School is having a 5k and Open House this Saturday at 8 a.m. to celebrate their 50th Anniversary. Come get some exercise and walk down memory lane!

Both W.T. Woodson and Robinson Secondary School have their spring drama performances beginning tonight through this weekend.

You can get details about Woodson’s “The Waiting” here and Lake Braddock’s “Rumors”here.

Robinson Secondary School’s wrestling program is sponsoring their 4th Annual Stand Up for our Warriors 5k Run on Sunday at 8 a.m. to benefit the Travis Manion Foundation. Get race details here.

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates. As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District. Please feel free to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

 

April 17, 2015

The last two weeks have been filled with many great events around the community and a busy reconvene session in Richmond. As the warm weather finally seems to be here, and the Cherry Blossoms bloom many of us will start to enjoy the outdoors and beautiful spring air. Click here for some great tips to avoid allergies while outdoors in the coming weeks.

Reconvene Session

On Wednesday, the House of Delegates and State Senate reconvened in Richmond for the 2015 Reconvene Session where we reviewed and considered each of the Governor’s vetoes and amendment recommendations. It was a long day on the House floor, which began atnoon and did not finish until 9:35 p.m.

The Governor returned 84 of the 803 bills passed this year, 17 with a veto and 67 with a recommended amendment. On Wednesday, all 17 of the Governor’s vetoes were sustained, meaning those measures will not become law this year. A two-thirds majority by both the House and Senate is required to override a Governor’s veto. You can review the vetoed bills here.

Of the 67 measures that contained amendments, several had technical fixes that required no debate. The other remaining measures underwent robust debate, many of the amendments were agreed upon and others not.   

The most contentious of the amendments considered were to the new ethics bill passed this year. The Governor had several amendments that would strengthen the bill, but there were technical errors in both the original version and the Governor's suggestions and the measure was delayed action until today. It is critical that this language is absolutely correct so that the guidelines we intend are clear. This afternoon, we reconvened to discuss the new corrected versions, which include changing the $100 per gift limit to a $100 aggregate limit of gifts per year for elected officials. I was happy to support this needed change. 

ABLE Act Ceremonial Signing

On Tuesday, as part of the National Down Syndrome Society's (NDSS) Annual Conference, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed my bill HB 2306, the Virginia ABLE Act. I was so honored to have 41st District residents Catherine Beck and John Ariale there alongside myself and many stakeholders for this historic and meaningful bill signing. This bill has special roots in the 41st District, as Catherine and Stephen Beck of Burke first developed the idea at their kitchen table nearly 10 years ago. John Ariale of Springfield authored the federal bill while working on Capitol Hill, and Virginia was the very first state to enact the ABLE Act after federal passage. It has been a true collaboration of so many that all started right in our community!!

Additionally, at the conference I was able to speak with NDSS members about state advocacy best practices and tips for getting the ABLE Act passed in other states across the country. The NDSS also presented me with their award for dedication and devotion to individuals with disabilities. It was a very touching honor for which I am very grateful.   

Watch this news clip of the event!

JCTA & JCOTS

To make a busy week in Richmond even busier, I attended the first meeting of both the Joint Commission on Transportation Accountability (JCTA) and the Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS). I am proud to serve on both of these Commissions. JCTA examines transportation policy and projects outside of the General Assembly Session and this week we heard from Deputy Secretary Nick Donohue on the progress of future projects. JCOTS studies policy proposals on a yearlong basis that affect many sectors of the technology and science fields. Often these proposals are complex and need more time for review than the General Assembly allows. I look forward to the important work that both of the Commissions will do throughout the year.

Virginia Education Association

I am proud to announce that I have been endorsed by the Virginia Education Association for reelection to the House of Delegates. Since my first election, education has been and always will remain a top priority. I am dedicated to ensuring our schools are fully funded. I look forward to continue working with the many education champions in our community.

Around the Community

These past two weeks also gave me the opportunity to attend several wonderful annual events in our area. I was able to throw out the first pitch at the opening day of Fairfax Little League, always a fun event. Additionally, I attended the Lake Braddock Secondary School Pyramid’s Annual Art Show, where so many talented student artists from all grades displayed their work. As Chair of the Virginia General Assembly Arts Caucus, I know the important role the arts play in the development of our youth. And finally, I attended the always inspiring Shelter House Breakfast to provide resources for the homeless and victims of domestic abuse. The Shelter House does exceptional work in our community and I am proud to support them.

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates. As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District. Please feel free to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

Sincerely yours, 

 

Since returning from Richmond after the General Assembly Session adjourned Sine Die on February 27th, I have been staying busy meeting with many constituents, home owners' associations and local organizations dedicated to great causes. 

Please let me know if you are interested in having me join a group you are associated with to discuss all that transpired throughout our short but extremely productive 45 day session.

The General Assembly will gather again onApril 15th for the reconvene session where we will consider and deliberate on any action the Governor has taken on measures passed during the General Assembly.

Bill Signings

The Governor has until March 29th to review all legislation that was passed during this year's General Assembly Session. He can either sign the bill, amend it or veto it all together.

I am happy to report that the Governor has signed into law several initiatives I worked on this year, including:. HB 1413HB 1490HB 1741HB 2038 and HB 2047 and HB 2306. These measures will go into effect on July 1st

HB 1413 will require hospitals to formally acknowledge a patient's family caregiver at the time of admission and provide critical home care instruction. It is my hope that this measure will improve healthcare in Virginia and reduce preventable hospital visits.  

HB 2038 was an important piece of legislation for the Commonwealth to help secure $34 million of federal funding for next year and $68 million each year after. Additionally, it will secure Virginia's ability to issue 219,000 commercial driver licenses. This bill will put the Commonwealth in compliance with new federal regulations and continue to keep Virginians at work.

HB 2047 will allow individuals to voluntarily donate all or part of their state income tax refunds to the Federation of Food Banks in Virginia. I am proud to have received support for this bill from First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe to help with her initiative to fight childhood hunger in the Commonwealth.

Connection Story on ABLE Act

In case you missed it, the Connection Newspaper ran an article regarding the passage of my bill, HB 2306, the ABLE Act on the cover of last week’s Fairfax Station edition. The story highlights the legislative process this measure underwent as well as the history the ABLE Act has with the 41st District. I was honored to have Catherine Beck visit Richmond during session to honor her late husband Stephen Beck and his tremendous effort toward passing the federal ABLE Act. You can read the story here.

Mission of Mercy Project

I was pleased to again visit the NoVA Dental Society’s annual Mission of Mercy (M.O.M) Project at the impressive NOVA Community College Medical Education Campus this past Friday. I visited with several doctors and dentists who generously donated their time and efforts to perform desperately needed dental work. During the two-day clinic, these dental professionals served nearly 1,000 patients. For many throughout the Commonwealth this is the only dental treatment they have ever received.

World Police and Fire Games Update

There are now 57 countries and over 5,400 public safety athletes who have signed up to participate in the 2015 World Police and Fire Games! This year is significant for both the Games and Fairfax County in that it marks both the 30th anniversary of the Games and the 75th anniversary of the Fairfax County Police Department. Last week I joined fellow WPFG board members and sponsors for a “sports draft party” to pair sponsors up with individual sports. I look forward to continuing to work with stakeholders and the business community to ensure a successful event!

Transportation

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) is hosting a public hearing on March 25th to discuss its proposed highway and transit projects for FY 2015 – 2016. This list of projects is a direct result of the transportation package the General Assembly passed in 2013. If you are interested in seeing the proposed projects, including Rolling Road widening and VRE improvements you can click here. The hearing will begin with an open house at 6:00 p.m. followed by a presentation at 7 p.m.and then public comment. To register to speak click here.

Express Lanes

Tomorrow, March 21st all tolls collected from the 495 and 95 Express Lanes will be donated to the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, the Prince William County Fire and Rescue and the Stafford County Fire and Rescue Departments. This is a great opportunity to give back to those who protect and serve us every day. All you have to do is drive on the Express Lanes with your E-ZPass!

Office Hours

Please join me on Sunday, March 29th at Panera Bread (6230 Rolling Rd, Springfield, VA 22152) from 10 – 11:30 a.m. for my monthly office hours. I look forward to seeing you, answering any questions you might have and providing an update on what transpired this past session in Richmond. I hope to see you there!

 

 

 

WEEK 7 SINE DIE

 

Yesterday was Sine Die Day (Latin for "without day"), signifying the final day of the 2015 General Assembly Legislative Session.  The every-other-year 45-day session always passes quickly, and this year was no different – we even finished a day early! This session was very successful on many levels as we passed significant legislation to improve the everyday lives of Virginians. I was proud to be a part of many of the “big” issues this year and enjoyed working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make a significant impact.

 

Update on My Legislation

 

ABLE Act

 

My bill HB 2306, creating 529 ABLE accounts for individuals with disabilities was reported out of our Conference Committee this week and will now head to the Governor for his signature. The end result will be 529-like accounts for individuals with disabilities, helping them to save and prepare for the future.

 

Additionally, it was a pleasure to have 41st District resident, Catherine Beck join me in Richmond on Tuesday to remember and honor her late husband Stephen Beck for his advocacy and tenacity and long journey to pass the federal ABLE Act. He is a true hero for so many and his legacy will live on through these ABLE Accounts. You can watch my remarks here

 

Also joining Catherine to honor Stephen were Traci, Steve and Nicholas LeGanke on behalf of the National Down Syndrome Society. Traci and Nicholas came to Richmond to lobby for the ABLE Act several times over the last two months.

 

Preventing Campus Sexual Assaults

 

My bill HB 1343, which is now HB 1785 concerning campus sexual assaults and the reporting of incidents to the local Commonwealth’s Attorney, is also headed to the Governor for his signature. As many of you know, I have spent years working on legislation to help victims of campus sexual assault. I am very proud that this bill will become law.

 

Military Mental Health

 

Earlier this Session, I introduced legislation aimed at helping to provide better mental health services for our veterans. My bill HB 2305 would have required Community Service Boards (CSBs) in Virginia to have a dedicated liaison to VA Hospitals on staff. While this measure did not pass, the Chairman of the Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee, Bobby Orrock, wrote a letter on my behalf, to the Commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services reiterating the importance of this legislation and hoping for progress moving forward. You can view that letterhere.

 

Update on Other Legislation

 

Below are descriptions of several other important pieces of legislation that were introduced and passed this year. I was pleased to support these measures.

 

Veterans Care Centers

 

This year, by virtue of a tremendous bipartisan effort, of which I was a part, the General Assembly approved construction of two brand new, state of the art veterans care facilities. One of the new centers will be located in Northern Virginia, creating a place for area veterans to receive high quality, comprehensive care including x-rays, physical therapy, laboratory work and much more.

 

The Budget

 

On Thursday of this week, we finalized and approved the bipartisan “caboose” budget bill for the remainder of the 2014 – 2016 biennium. The bill passed 95 – 5.

 

The budget provides for increased salaries for teachers, state police and state employees. The new budget replaces $42 million in funding for higher education, including $10 million for financial aid and support for George Mason University to develop a plan for a comprehensive online course offering in Virginia. Reducing the costs of college and associated materials has been a goal I have consistently supported in the General Assembly and I am happy to see GMU in our area become a leader in this field.

 

I am also gratified that the Governor’s Opportunity Fund was fully funded at $20.7 million to help provide the Governor with the necessary tools to attract new businesses and development to the Commonwealth. He has had great success so far in this area and this will continue to grow the new Virginia economy.

 

Additionally, the budget included nearly $130 million returned to the Rainy Day Fund, which was drawn down extensively over the last year to help address revenue short-falls. These funds are critical when the Commonwealth faces a less than favorable revenue stream. My budget amendment to revert money back to the Virginia Railway Express that was removed in 2011 was also included in the Conference report. This will help VRE pay for operation-related expenses.

 

Most importantly, funding was included in this budget to provide for an increase in K-12 per pupil funding from the original budget. One of my concerns with the House version of the budget bill was the elimination of funding for Virginia’s Preschool Initiative. While the agreed upon budget does not fully restore that funding, it does return over half of the funds that had been cut, something that many of us expressed concern about.  

 

While this version still did not include the Governor's request for Medicaid expansion to help nearly 400,000 Virginians in desperate need of health care, I remain steadfast in supporting expansion and will continue to push for closing the coverage gap.  

 

Arts/Military Caucus

 

This week, my friend and former member of the House of Delegates, Margi Vanderhye presented before a joint meeting of the Arts Caucus which I chair and the Military and Veterans Caucus chaired by Delegate Rich Anderson. Margi is now Executive Director of the Virginia Commission for the Arts and spoke about the important work VCA is doing for our military community with art therapy programs for wounded warriors and cultural opportunities for military families. I look forward to working on this important initiative.

 

We adjourned Sine Die last night at 9:10 p.m.. We will return to Richmond in April to review any action by the Governor on legislation passed this year. I am pleased to be back home in the 41st District. I look forward to many opportunities to report on all that we accomplished this year during the 2015 General Assembly Session. 

 

As always, I want to thank you all again for giving me the privilege to serve in the House of Delegates on your behalf and help address the issues that face our district and all of Virginia. I look forward to seeing you all out and about in the 41st District. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need any assistance from my office.

 

 

 

 

Week 6 Update

 

It’s a bitter cold end to the week here in Richmond, as well as the 41st District, as temperatures drop near zero. As you continue to dig out from this week’s snow in Fairfax and stay warm in the cold, be aware that the forecast is calling for additional snow and winter weather this weekend. During these times of inclement weather it is important to have emergency contacts and information easily accessible. Please take a second to print out the winter weather tips posted on my website to have handy in case of a power outage. And as always, don't forget to check on friends and neighbors, especially those who live alone or are elderly during this stretch of frigid temperatures.

 

Update on My Legislation

 

ABLE Act

 

My bill HB 2306 creating 529 ABLE accounts for individuals with disabilities passed the Senate unanimously this week and was placed into a Conference Committee, of which I am a member, to work out some technical differences between the House and Senate versions. The end result will be 529-like accounts for individuals with disabilities, helping them to save and prepare for the future.

 

CARE Act

 

The Virginia CARE Act or HB 1413 has passed both the House and Senate and now awaits the Governor’s signature before becoming law. This measure will now begin to improve healthcare in Virginia and reduce preventable hospital visits by requiring hospitals to formally acknowledge a patient's family caregiver at the time of admission and provide critical home care instruction.

 

Preventing Campus Sexual Assaults

 

My HB 1343, which is now HB 1785 concerning campus sexual assaults and the reporting of incidents to the local Commonwealth’s Attorney, passed the Senate Courts of Justice Committee this week and will now be considered by the full Senate. This bill has gone through several important legislative changes to get the intent and language correct, closely working with victims, law enforcement and university officials. I look forward to continuing to work on the measure until it is finalized.

 

Food Trucks

 

My bill, HB 2042 to allow food trucks on certain state roads passed the Senate Transportation Committee this week and will head to the full Senate for consideration and hopefully passage early next week. I am excited to start the process of allowing these creative, innovative entrepreneurial endeavors join our region.

 

Update on other Legislation

 

Important Transportation Measures

 

This year, as part of the House Transportation Committee, we considered several critical pieces of legislation to improve transportation in the Commonwealth. I have been proud to serve on the Transportation Committee since 2011, working on behalf of my constituents to develop real transportation solutions.

 

  • HB 1886 – This measure makes changes to the Public Private Transportation Act, which regulates all public private transportation projects such as the new 95 Express Lanes, to add additional transparency and public notice to the procurement process. This measure passed the House of Delegates unanimously and should likely pass the Senate next week.

 

  • HB 1887 was the Governor’s omnibus transportation initiative this session and will make necessary and important updates to the bipartisan transportation package passed in 2013. Transit funding, such as VRE and the Fairfax Connector, which could have lost millions in funding, will see funding restored in this measure, providing stability to these important modes of transportation for our region. This measure passed the House of Delegates and should likely pass the Senate next week.

 

  • Finally, HB 1915/SB 1314 are measures that revise the Northern Virginia regional transportation plan to make congestion reduction the primary objective when considering project funding in the future. This will ensure that any new transportation projects in Northern Virginia have the goal of reducing traffic and unclogging our roads. Both of these bills will likely pass their counter chamber next week and head to the Governor for signature.

 

Marker Unveiling in the 41st Distrist
Dedication ceremony celebrating Burke's
African-American Civil War heroes

 

This past weekend I was pleased to join many community leaders in the 41st District and Fairfax County for a special event to honor and dedicate a historical marker to the African-American wood choppers and teamsters of Burke. This group of individuals were vital to production of the Union Army's supplies during the Civil War. They were stationed at the old "Burke's Station", where the Burke Volunteer and Fire & Rescue Department currently stands. Stop by and see this brand new Civil War Trails plaque and learn about these history makers from Burke.

 

Final week of the 2015 General Assembly

 

As we head into the final week of the 2015 General Assembly Session, we still have many bills to consider, none more important than the budget. It is my hope that we will have a balanced budget ready for the Governor’s review on time this year. I look forward to wrapping up business next week and heading home to the 41st District to report on this year’s business.

 

As always, I want to thank you all again for giving me the privilege to serve in the House of Delegates on your behalf and help address the issues that face our district and all of Virginia. I look forward to hearing from you or seeing you in Richmond this last week and out and about in the 41st District.  Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need any assistance from my office.

 

 

 

Week 5 Update

As we end week five here in Richmond today, we have moved past Crossover Day and will now only consider bills in the House that were introduced in the Senate. On Monday, we spent over eight hours on the House floor debating over 250 pieces of legislation to ensure everything was acted on in time for the Crossover deadline. These days are long and full of important pieces of legislation that affect the Commonwealth. During this time, I am again reminded of how much I value the opportunity to represent my community in the House of Delegates.

Quick Update on my Legislation

Following up on last week’s update, several of my bills have passed the House of Delegates and are now being considered by the Senate. My bill HB 2306 creating 529 ABLE accounts for individuals with disabilities passed the House 85-15. HB 1343, which is now HB 1785 concerning campus sexual assaults passed the House 100-0. My child care initiatives incorporated in HB 1570 passed the House 69-30. HB 2042 to allow food trucks on certain state roads passed the House 100-0 and HB 1445 to allow for the possession of cannabinoid oil for treating epilepsy passed 98-0. It was a very successful week for my priorities of protecting our families, improving our quality of life in Virginia and helping our small businesses compete. I look forward to working on these measures in the Senate over the final two weeks of the Session. 

Update on other legislation

Ethics Reform

This week the House of Delegates passed an ethics reform package that I supported. The new omnibus bill incorporates several different proposals that were introduced this year. While this bill is not a perfect solution, it is a step forward toward ensuring that Virginia’s elected officials are acting ethically and in good faith with the public. This year’s bill included lowering the gift cap from $250 to $100, while also including intangible gifts such as tickets and airfare.

School Start Times

The House of Delegates again passed several measures related to school year calendars. These measures would allow localities, such as Fairfax, to set their own school year calendar to the times they feel best accommodate their local community’s students. Currently, schools without permission to do this are required to start school after the Labor Day holiday weekend. I have consistently supported these measures to give our local school board greater flexibility in determining when the school day should start during the year. Unfortunately, these measures usually do not pass the Senate, where they are under consideration.

The Budget

Crafting and finalizing the Commonwealth’s budget remains one of the most important responsibilities we as elected officials have in the General Assembly. The budget shapes the Commonwealth’s priorities and funds critically important services across the state. This week, the House of Delegates acted on its proposed budget amendments to the Governor’s introduced “caboose” budget for the remainder of the 2014-2016 biennium. While the released House version of the budget had some areas where it fell short, there were many positive elements of the bill and therefore I voted for it, as it passed the House, yesterday, 81-18.  

The budget provides for an increase in salaries for teachers, state police and state employees. The House budget also put back in $26 million for higher education funding that had been removed because of lower revenue projections. It also included $20 million to boost student enrollment and a per student incentive to encourage schools with low graduation rates to accept transfer students. In addition, the First Lady’s school breakfast initiative was also partially funded by the House budget, helping to ensure that no Virginia child goes hungry by providing students with a free breakfast and lunch. As you can see, there are many good things in this budget. However, I would have liked to have seen more attention to funding for public schools. I am also disappointed that this version reduces Pre-K funding and did not include the Governor's request for closing the coverage gap with Medicaid expansion to help nearly 400,000 Virginians in desperate need of health care. 

It is my hope that through the budget conference committee additional improvements will be made prior to the final budget. The Senate acted on their budget this week as well and a conference committee will be formed to work out the differences between the two chambers. There are always tough decisions we have to make as elected officials. I believe that voting for this budget shows my dedication to increasing teacher pay, K-12 and higher education funding while continuing with Virginia’s constitutional requirement to pass a balanced budget.

Military and Veterans Caucus

This week the General Assembly Military and Veterans Caucus was joined by Governor Terry McAuliffe and Lt. Governor Ralph Northam. I was pleased to hear about the Governor's initiative to end homelessness for our veterans here in the Commonwealth. In just 100 days since his initiative kicked off, 462 veterans have a home of their own or are in the process of receiving permanent housing in Virginia. This is amazing work on behalf of those who are so deserving and have sacrificed so much to protect our freedom.

Judges

This afternoon the Fairfax County delegation met with potential judicial candidates as we seek to fill a vacancy on the Fairfax County General District Court. We are so lucky to have such incredibly talented candidates. 

Shortly, I will hit the road and head back to the 41st district! I wanted to thank you all again for giving me the privilege to serve in the House of Delegates on your behalf and help address the issues that face our district and all of Virginia.  I look forward to hearing from you or seeing you in Richmond and out and about in the 41st District.  Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need any assistance from my office.

 

Week 4 Update 

This week was the last full week before “Crossover Day” in the General Assembly. Crossover Day, which will be Wednesday February 11th, is an important legislative procedure day. On this day, work on each piece of introduced legislation must be completed in the chamber that it originated in.  For example, a bill introduced at the beginning of session in the House of Delegates can no longer be considered by the House after Crossover Day in its original form. The bill must have either been voted out of the House and referred to the Senate, tabled or passed by until next year. This allows us in the House to consider all of the passed legislation from the Senate and vice versa. These last few days leading up to Crossover Day tend to be the longest floor sessions we have while in Richmond to ensure all business is done in a timely fashion.

Update on my Legislation

A quick update about two bills that I mentioned last week. My SOL Reform bill, originally HB 1668 and incorporated into HB 1490 and the CARE Act, HB 1413 were passed out of the House of Delegates unanimously this week. They will now be considered by the Senate in the coming weeks.

Child Care Safety

Yesterday, I presented my bills HB 1552 and HB 2046 which will help prevent needless deaths and ensure that all children are in the safest care possible by requiring fingerprint background checks for child care providers and tightening the requirements for becoming a licensed child care facility by the state. Elements of both of these bills were incorporated into one omnibus child care bill that is patroned by the Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee Chairman, Delegate Bobby Orrock and Chief Co-Patroned by myself. I have been happy to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to develop solutions to keep our children safe throughout the Commonwealth. While this omnibus bill isn’t perfect, it takes a very important step forward in the process and provides a foundation on which to build. You can read exactly what is in the new omnibus billhere.

Food Trucks

This year I have been working with the Virginia Department of Transportation, Fairfax County and the Food Truck Association to develop legislation that will begin to allow food trucks to operate on certain state maintained roads, not residential roads. These creative, innovative and successful entrepreneurial endeavors are a great asset to our community and not only provide jobs and new businesses, but also provide top quality meals. In fact, many talented chefs get the resources and experience they need to start brick-and-mortar restaurants from food trucks. I’m pleased to report that my bill, HB 2042 passed the Transportation Committee yesterday and will now head to the full House of Delegates for consideration. 

Securing Federal Funding and Saving Jobs

I am happy to report that my bill, HB 2038 passed the full House of Delegates unanimously just today. This is an important piece of legislation for the Commonwealth. It will help secure $34 million dollars of federal funding for next year and $68 million each year after as well as securing Virginia's ability to issue 219,000 commercial driver licenses. This bill will put the Commonwealth in compliance with new federal regulations and continue to keep Virginians at work. It was a pleasure to work closely with the Department of Motor Vehicles on this bill. I look forward to working on it further as it moves through the Senate.

ABLE Act

On Wednesday, my bill creating the Virginia ABLE Act was passed out of the House Finance Committee. This was a special day for the disabled community, as it continues progress on the first major legislation for disabled Virginians since 1990. HB 2306 will establish Virginia ABLE accounts which will enable families with disabled children to set up 529-like accounts so they can save for living expenses and the future security of their loved ones. My bill will allow Virginians the chance at capitalizing on these special accounts that were given authority by the federal government in December. It has been an honor to have families like Traci LaGanke and her son Nicholas, who has Down syndrome speak about the importance of this bill to the future of their family. A special acknowledgement also goes out to the family of Steven Beck, a 41st District resident who unfortunately recently passed away but fought for years to get this type of legislation passed at the federal level. I know the important impact that this legislation will have here in the Commonwealth and I am proud to have championed it for so many deserving families.

Preventing Campus Sexual Assaults

On Tuesday, my bill HB 1343, was heard before the Higher Education Subcommittee. HB 1343, which would require local or campus law enforcement to report investigations of campus sexual assault to the local Commonwealth’s Attorney within 48 hours, was incorporated into a new bill and passed out of both the House Education and House Courts Committees. The new bill number is HB 1785 which is patroned by Delegate Jimmie Massie and Chief Co-Patroned by myself. The bill will be up for consideration by the full House of Delegates next week and it is my hope that it will pass. As many of you know, the hard work that went into this measure was seen in full this week as so many stakeholders came together to support and push for its passage in Committee.

Medical Cannabis

Yesterday, Senator Dave Marsden's bill, SB 1235 to permit the use of cannabis oil to treat severe cases of epilepsy passed the full Senate. This bill, on which I am a co-patron, has been the product of exremely hard work by Senator Marsden, myself and 41st District residents Beth and Jennifer Collins. I am thrilled that we can move forward and be closer to providing these families an option to treat their loved ones so they may experience a normal, pain-free healthy life. On the House side, Delegate Albo's bill, HB 1445, on which I am also the Chief Co-Patron has passed the full Courts Committee in the House and will be considered next week before the full House of Delegates. 

Visitors to Richmond!

This was another week of friends, constituents and groups stopping by my office in Richmond.On Wednesday, Rabbi Jennifer Weiner from Congregation Adat Reyim in the 41st District gave the opening invocation before our floor session. It's always an honor for me to be able to include constituents in our process here in Richmond. I was also able to speak with members of the Medical Society of Virginia, Jewish Community Relations Council, United Methodist Church, Equality Virginia, The Virginia Aerospace and Aviation Associations and Virginia Tech among others. I can’t wait to see who will stop by next week!

This was a long, hectic, but productive week. I am glad it is Friday and I look forward to seeing my family. I want to thank you all again for giving me the privilege to serve in the House of Delegates on your behalf and help address the issues that face our district and all of Virginia.  I look forward to hearing from you or seeing you in Richmond and out and about back home.  Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need any assistance from my office.

 

Week 3 Update

It’s hard to believe we have less than 30 days left here in Richmond for the 2015 General Assembly Session but the weeks are jam-packed and full of work while we are here. This week was no different as I had several bills heard and accompanying committee hearings to ensure that all bills filed are heard in time.

Update on my bills

SOL Reform

I am happy to report that my SOL Retakes bill (now HB 1490) was passed out of the Education and the Appropriations Committee this week. The measure will now head to the full House of Delegates for a vote. This bill would allow students in elementary and middle school to have an expedited retake of an SOL exam.

Business - Technology

Yesterday, my bill to extend Virginia’s capital gains tax exemption for investments in technology, life sciences and energy businesses passed the full House of Delegates 98-0. This exemption is a boost to the formation of businesses with high potential by providing an incentive for founders and investors in qualified Virginia startups. The bill number is now HB 1741.

Feeding Virginia

Also yesterday, HB 2041, my bill to allow individuals to voluntarily donate all or part of their state income tax refunds to the Federation of Food Banks in Virginia was passed unanimously by the House of Delegates. I am proud to have received support of this measure from the First Lady to help with her initiative to fight childhood hunger in the Commonwealth.

CARE Act

The Virginia CARE Act or HB 1413, looks to improve healthcare and reduce preventable hospital visits by requiring hospitals to formally acknowledge a patient’s family caregiver at the time of admission and provide critical home care instruction. This bill passed the Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee unanimously yesterday and will now be considered by the full House of Delegates. I very much appreciate the collaboration and work of all stakeholders that went into making this a good bill for Virginians.

Workforce Development

My workforce development bill to help bridge the gap between available jobs and the unemployed through enhanced promotion and outreach was rolled into an omnibus workforce development bill, of which I am now a co-patron. This new bill, HB 1986, was passed by the full Commerce and Labor Committee on Thursday as well. I am pleased to be a part of this workforce development package that is supported by the Governor and will be an asset to creating the new Virginia economy.

Child Care Safety

On Monday, I joined my colleague Delegate Rich Anderson, advocates from Child Care Aware and parents and grandparents of children who tragically lost their children while in the care of unlicensed day care facilities at a press conference to urge the passage of my bills, HB 1552 and HB 2046. These common-sense bills will help prevent needless deaths and ensure that all children are in the safest care possible. You can read coverage of the press conferencehere and here. Also you can watch a floor speech I gave on Monday talking about the need to strengthen our child care laws.

Connection/Office Hours Article

The Connection published a story last week about my monthly office hours and the chance it provides for me to be out in the community and hear directly from constituents. Some of my best ideas for new bills come directly from these meetings. I hope to see you on February 15th(10 - 11:30 a.m.) at Chesapeake Bagel for my next office hours!

Visitors to Richmond

This was another week of many actively involved visitors to my Richmond office. I was able to speak with constituents from the Fairfax Education Association, the Retired Teachers Association, NOVA Labor Federation, George Mason University, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Virginia Catholic Conference, Fairfax Area Agency on Aging, The ARC of Virginia and many more.

Winter Weather

Be prepared as the forecast this weekend calls for more winter weather. One important website to be aware of is the Fairfax County Emergency Information website which provides constant updates on the weather forecast and conditions.  The Commonwealth also has their winter weather preparedness website available here. The VDOT plows website can be used to track plowing in your neighborhood. You can also get all relevant emergency contacts from mywebsite.

Later this afternoon, I will hit the road as I hop on I-95 N and head back to the 41st district! I wanted to thank you all again for giving me the privilege to serve in the House of Delegates on your behalf and help address the issues that face our district and all of Virginia.  I look forward to hearing from you or seeing you in Richmond and out and about in the 41st District.  Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need any assistance from my office.

 

 

General Assembly Week 2

Today marks the end of the first full week here in the General Assembly. Things are moving quickly in Richmond and we have just 35 days left to complete all of this year’s legislative work. This week began with a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and remembering his message as we work through this legislative Session.

Update on my bills

Yesterday, I completed my legislative agenda by introducing two bills, totaling 15 for this year now under consideration. In odd years, members of the House of Delegates are only allowed to introduce 15 pieces of legislation because of the short session and the nearly 3,000 bills we must consider in that brief period of time.

HB 2305

This measure would improve coordination between private hospitals and VA hospitals, and support crisis response clinicians in collaborating with veterans to meet their needs by establishing a “point person” at each Community Service Board in Virginia to coordinate with the VA hospitals.

HB 2306

The Virginia ABLE Act - this measure will conform Virginia’s code to new federal code creating 529-like accounts for families of disabled children. The new accounts will allow parents to contribute money to an account tax-free for use in caring for their disabled child. This relates to a measure I introduced at the state level in 2011.

SOL Reform

This week, my bill HB 1668 was heard in the Education Committee. I have been working on this bill for several years now. This bill would allow students in middle school to have an expedited retake of an SOL exam. I am pleased to report that my bill was combined with a similar bill and passed unanimously out of the Education Committee and onto the Appropriations Committee for a review of its fiscal impact. This is a great first step toward signing this bill into law and continuing to reform our SOL system. The new bill number is HB 1490.

Campus Sexual Assault Reform

You may have seen the momentum for my bill to combat campus sexual assaults, HB 1343. The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star ran an editorial adding their name to the growing list of supporters for this common sense measure to help protect students on campus. You can read their editorial here. In addition, there were several local news reports on the bill that you can watch here or here.

Visitors to Richmond

It’s always a treat to see so many dedicated groups here in Richmond advocating for their causes. This week I saw friends from the Fairfax County Professional Fire Fighters & Paramedics; the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce; Linda Sullivan, President of the Fairfax County Arts Council and Jay Dick from the Commission for the Arts who were in town for the Virginians for Arts lobby day. Also stopping by were representatives of the VCU Massey Cancer Center, the Virginia Federation for the Blind, the Virginia Young Democrats and my friend Cristy Gallagher from the National Alliance for Mental Illness.

Yesterday, I also joined constituents of the 41st District, Beth, Patrick and Jennifer Collins, to advocate for legislation to permit the use of Cannabis oil to treat cases of severe epilepsy and other conditions that cause daily seizures. It has been a collective effort by myself, Senator Dave Marsden, Delegate Dave Albo and Delegate Ken Plum to try to find a way forward so that children like Jennifer can experience a normal, pain-free and healthy life. The Collins family has an incredible story that I hope can inspire change and I am grateful that they were able to come to Richmond to share their journey. Both Delegate Albo’s bill and Senator Marsden’s bill, both of which I am a Co-Patron, will be heard later during the General Assembly Session.

Office Hours

I hope to see you for my January/General Assembly office hours tomorrow (January 24) from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. at Peet’s Coffee & Tea (8948 Burke Lake Road, Springfield, VA 22151) – no appointment necessary, just come on by. I look forward to chatting with you!

It is my privilege to serve in the House of Delegates on your behalf and address the issues that face the 41st District and the Commonwealth as a whole.  I look forward to hearing from you or seeing you in Richmond and out and about in the 41st District during the weekends. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need any assistance from my office.

 

General Assembly Week 1

We have hit the ground running here in Richmond as we conclude the first week of the 2015 General Assembly Session. The first three days of Session were busy, with Committee assignments, introduction of legislation and many groups and individuals stopping by for meetings. Below you can find information about my legislative agenda. I look forward to keeping you up to date on what transpires this Session. 

HB 1343 Press Conference

On Tuesday, before the 2015 Session officially began, I was joined by many supporters of my bill, HB 1343 in Richmond for a stakeholders meeting followed by a press conference communicating support for the bill's passage. HB 1343 would require campus and local police to report any campus sexual assault to the local Commonwealth's Attorney within 48 hours, after the victim contacts the campus police or local law enforcement. I was honored to have the families of Morgan Harrington and Alexis Murphy stand with me, along with a Commonwealth's Attorney, representatives of law enforcement and victims' advocates. With bipartisan support from my colleagues in the General Assembly and strong advocates behind this bill, we will work hard this session towards passage of HB 1343.

General Assembly Legislative Update

Described below are a number of the legislative bills I have introduced for consideration by the 2015 General Assembly. 

Among my legislative priorities are education, public and campus safety, workforce development, child care safety, creating the new Virginia economy and looking out for our seniors. I have filed bills which reform the Standards of Learning exams, protect our students on college campuses and our children in child care, help make Election Day easier for seniors and the disabled, expand workforce development opportunities and help technology startups get off the ground. 

As always, I introduced legislative proposals that will make a difference for the residents of the 41st District as well as citizens across the Commonwealth. It is my priority to reflect the views of my constituents and address issues that affect all of Virginia’s diverse communities.

For the 2015 General Assembly Session, I was officially reappointed by Speaker William Howell to membership on the House Transportation Committee and House Finance Committee. In addition, I was honored to have been appointed to the Commerce and Labor Committee. This Committee, which is responsible for all business, economic development, workforce development and employee rights-related legislation. This Committee is vitally important to the long term economic success of the Commonwealth and I look forward to working with my colleagues to help create and advance the new Virginia economy.

Among the bills I have introduced are:

Education

o   HB 1668 - SOL Retakes - Would give students in all grades the opportunity to be given an expedited re-take of the Standards of Learning (SOL) examination, in the event they fail to pass.

o   HB 2041 - OER Textbooks Council - This legislation would create the Open Education Resources Advisory Council to gather the brightest in the Commonwealth to recommend a way forward to implementing and growing the use of OER textbooks in Virginia. This Council will help shape the way we use textbooks for the next generation.

Campus and Public Safety

o   HB 1343 - Campus Sexual Assault Reporting - This bill would require campus and/or local law enforcement to report any instances of campus sexual assaults to the local Commonwealth's Attorney within 48 hours of being reported by the victim.

Child Care Safety

o   HB 1552 - Fingerprint Background Checks - This bill would require licensed child care providers to go through an extensive background investigation which includes a fingerprint check to ensure that these providers are fully vetted and are who they say they are.

o   HB 2046 - Child Care Safety – Currently, child providers that care for 6 or fewer unrelated children are exempt from state safety regulations; this bill would close that threshold gap to ensure that all children are safe while in the hands of child care providers.

Workforce Development – Economic Development

o   HB 1421 - Workforce Development Enhancements - This legislation would ensure that the Governor’s Workforce Development Advisor develops and implements a plan for promotion and outreach of already existing workplace development training programs and activities. This legislation looks to bridge the gap between available jobs and the unemployed through enhanced promotion and outreach.

Business - Technology

o   HB 2044 - This bill would extend Virginia’s capital gains tax exemption for investments in technology, life sciences and energy businesses. This exemption is a boost to the formation of businesses with high potential by providing an incentive for founders and investors in qualified Virginia startups. 

Senior Citizens

o   HB 1327 - Head of the Line bill - This bill would permit individuals 75 years or older or those with a disability to go to the head of the line on Election Day, or when voting absentee between the hours of 9:30 to 4:30 when lines tend to be shorter.

Health Care

o   HB 1413 - CARE Act - The CARE Act looks to improve healthcare and reduce preventable hospital visits by requiring hospitals to formally acknowledge a patient’s family caregiver at the time of admission and providing critical at-home care instruction.

The above-noted bills represent a partial list of my proposed legislation. Details on all of these bills, and others that are submitted, along with budgetary amendments I introduced this week, and their status in the legislative process can be found here.

It is my privilege to serve in the House of Delegates on your behalf and address the issues that face the 41st District and the Commonwealth as a whole.  I look forward to hearing from you or seeing you in Richmond and out and about in the 41st District during the weekends. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need any assistance from my office.

 

Off to Richmond!

Back to Richmond I go to begin the 2015 Virginia General Assembly Session!  This year’s session is set to last 45 days, with many issues important to our community up for debate including: continuing work on the caboose bill of the biennial budget, education reform, transportation updates, public safety and ethics reform.

Later this week I will provide an update and synopsis on my legislative agenda for the 2015 Session and a legislative survey to find out what issues are most important to you. I have spent the past year listening and meeting with constituents to develop and introduce legislation that I believe will help better the lives of residents of the 41st District and throughout the Commonwealth.

During this year’s Session, I will once again provide you with weekly updates through my eNews about the important topics that arise during the week as well as any action on the legislation I introduce. I encourage you to visit the Virginia General Assembly’s website here. This website is a great tool to track legislation you are interested in, follow Committee meetings and contact my office or your Senator’s office.  You can also watch each day’s House of Delegates session live, starting Wednesday here. In addition, please visit my website here, follow me on Facebook here and twitter @efillercorn for breaking updates and issue briefs during the Session. 

If you are interested in visiting Richmond during the Legislative Session, please contact me at eileen@eileenfillercorn.com. My Legislative Assistant, Garrett McGuire, and I would be happy to help you set up a tour of the Capitol, reserve seating for a House of Delegates floor session and offer recommendations of other places to visit while in Richmond. 

It is my privilege to serve in the House of Delegates on your behalf and address the issues that face the 41st District and the Commonwealth as a whole. I look forward to hearing from you or seeing you in Richmond over the next 45 days, and out and about in the 41st District during the weekends and for my office hours. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need any assistance from my office. 

 

 

 

December 12, 2014

With less than five weeks remaining before the 2015 General Assembly Session convenes, I have been busy traveling between the 41st District and Richmond for end-of-the-year meetings as well as working to finalize my 2015 legislative agenda.  

Combating Sexual Assaults on Virginia's College Campuses

Last week, I introduced HB 1343 for debate and consideration in the upcoming 2015 Legislative Session of the General Assembly.  If this bill is approved, HB 1343 will require campus and local law enforcement to report any campus sexual assaults to the local Commonwealth's Attorney within 48 hours of the reported incident.  This legislation will expedite a formal investigation of each and every such reported case, ensuring that all immediate assistance is provided to the victim, legal due process is assured, and all necessary investigative steps are taken whenever a sexual assault is reported to campus law enforcement.

As the mother of two college-aged students, I share the worry and concern of all parents regarding the safety of our children when they leave home to pursue campus life.  And like all parents in the Commonwealth, I have been broken-hearted and upset by reports that sexual assaults are not being appropriately pursued on our university campuses.  It is clear that decisive legislative action is needed to address this serious and growing problem.  My bill is designed to ensure that a thorough investigation is initiated without delay, and to promote essential information-sharing between educational institutions in Virginia to prevent identified sexual predators from simply transferring from one campus to another.

I have long been actively working on this vital issue. First in 2011 with then-Delegate Paula Miller then in 2012 when a similar bill I introduced was defeated. I am gratified to be able to renew this effort and hopefully achieve meaningful change.  In just the last two weeks, I have received active support from a growing number of concerned stakeholders, several Commonwealth's Attorneys from across Virginia, organizations that provide support to victims of sexual assault as well as law enforcement officials have come out in support of HB 1343.  I look forward to working diligently to ensure passage of this legislation in 2015, and I promise to keep you apprised of the latest developments and action.  You can read a full press release here

Commission and Committee Meetings

Last week, the Governor's Commission on Climate Change Resiliency, on which I serve, held a meeting that coincided with the Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic at William & Mary's Conference on Adaptive Planning for Flooding and Coastal Change in Virginia.  During this meeting, I was honored to be appointed to the Public Education Work Group of the Commission.  This Work Group will develop educational efforts directed toward the public on the question of climate change impacts and appropriate legislative responses.  This issue has the potential to seriously impact the Commonwealth, and I look forward to collaborating with my fellow Work Group and Commission members on educating the public and developing meaningful solutions to future problems. 

During the last two weeks, I traveled to Richmond for a meeting of the Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS) and to reconvene the Governor-elect’s Transition Council on Transportation Policy, on both of which I serve. 

JCOTS met for the last time in 2014 to wrap up business and make recommendations to the General Assembly.

The Governor-elect’s Transition Council on Transportation Policy was formed when Governor McAuliffe first came into office, to advise him on all transportation issues, while helping to establish a set of goals, challenges and opportunities that should be addressed over his four-year term in office.  While in Richmond last week, this group reconvened to discuss their first year of work and hear the latest updates from Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne.  Solutions to our many existing transportation problems are vital to the continuing growth of Fairfax and Northern Virginia.  I look forward to continuing my work on the Transportation Committee during the new General Assembly Session.

I-95 Express Lanes

On Wednesday, I was honored to join Governor McAuliffe, Senator Mark Warner, Senator Tim Kaine, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, Chairman Sharon Bulova, Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne, many of my General Assembly colleagues and many other stakeholders for the official ribbon-cutting and opening of the new I-95 Express Lanes.

The new express lanes will open this Sunday, December 14, for a two-week, toll-free trial period.  Please be aware that you will need an E-Z Flex-Pass to travel in the lanes from December 28 on.  Toll-free travel for vehicles with three or more passengers will require an EZPass Flex set to HOV mode. 

It is exciting to see the culmination of this long-anticipated project as we experience these lanes for the first time this weekend.  I am hopeful that many residents of the 41st District, Fairfax County and Northern Virginia will benefit from this important transportation project through reduced commuting and travel times.

Toys for Tots in the 41st District

This year the Burke Fire Station (9501 Old Burke Lake Road) in the 41st District is a drop-off location for "Toys for Tots".  This annual campaign is designed to bring holiday joy and deliver a message of hope to deserving children.  The drop-off box is in the front lobby, and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Donations are accepted through December 22.  The campaign only accepts new, unwrapped toys.  Share the holiday spirit with children from needy families in our area.

 

November 17, 2014

This last Tuesday was Veterans Day. Let us always honor and celebrate all who serve or have served in our Military, putting their lives on the line for all of us, every single day. Thank you for your service!!

Special Session Update

We were back in Richmond last week to again convene for the 2014 Special Session. This time around we were considering important technical amendments to the new appropriations act and approving new judicial appointments for the Commonwealth. A special congratulations goes out to our new Circuit Court Judge for Fairfax County, Daniel Ortiz, who was confirmed on Monday.

Around the District

Last Tuesday, I was able to attend Lake Braddock Secondary School in the 41st District with Senator Dave Marsden for “Take Your Legislator to School Day”. It was a great program organized by Lake Braddock. First, we were able to address JROTC students on Veterans Day to learn about the impressive leadership skills and training they acquire through this program. We also met with several government classes to share our experiences in public service and the General Assembly. I look forward to returning for this special event next year!

I also recently attended a special event with George Mason President Dr. Angel Cabrera to honor and celebrate the past Board of Visitors of George Mason. There were many in attendance who have helped make George Mason one of the finest public institutions in Virginia and the country. Mason has experienced incredible growth over the last several decades and these past Board members deserve tremendous recognition for their vision. I look forward to continuing to work with George Mason leadership, faculty and students.

I-95 Express Lanes

The long awaited opening of the I-95 express lanes is quickly approaching. The construction crews along I-95 are putting the finishing touches on the new lanes and working to convert the existing HOV system to an Express Lane system.

The Lanes are expected to open in December and will encompass 29 miles of high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes spanning from Edsall Road in Fairfax County to Garrisonville Road in Stafford County.  While the new lanes will bring benefits to commuters and carpoolers, please be alert to accompanying changes.

Important information to know about the new Express Lanes:

  • To travel in the new Express Lanes you will need an E-ZPass
  • To travel toll-free on the 95 Express Lanes, you need three or more people in your vehicle and an E-ZPass Flex set to HOV mode
  • You can obtain an E-ZPass Flex onlineand at the following locations: 
     
  • AAA Mid-Atlantic locations
  • Select DMV, Giant and Wegmans locations in Northern Virginia
  • E-ZPass Customer Service Centers
  • By calling E-ZPass at 877-762-7824
     
  • If you already have an E-ZPass and want to swap it for a Flex, just follow the instructions here.
  • For additional information about the new Lanes you can click here.

2015 World Police and Fire Games

The 2015 World Police and Fire Games will be held in Fairfax County next summer. As a member of the WPFG Board of Directors, I know the significance that these games bring and the tremendous economic impact they will have on Fairfax County. I am excited to continue working over to ensure the games are a success.

You can become involved and help ensure this success as well! The WPFG is looking for volunteers to help facilitate the 61 different individual, team and tactical events spread across 53 venues over ten days. To achieve this objective, Fairfax 2015, the non-profit organization established to manage the Games, has formally launched its volunteer drive. Volunteer opportunities exist in multiple areas of interest including games ambassadors, special events, venues and competition, PR and marketing, operations and more. To volunteer please contact Kim Palmese here or click here.

 

 

October 27, 2014 

Budget Update

Last week, the Governor announced that for the first time since calendar year 2013, revenues have increased three months in a row. While this is good news, there is still the need to be cautious and prudent in the decisions we make moving forward regarding planning and spending. As we have seen, unexpected revenue declines can happen without warning.

In addition to the cuts already announced that I have shared with you before ($92.4 million in FY15 and $100 million in FY16 from executive branch agencies, $45 million each year from higher education and $102 million in unobligated balances in FY15 and $262 million in FY16), additional measures were announced by the Governor for Fiscal year 2015. These include closing a correctional facility, a community corrections residential facility, a diversion center and delaying the opening of a women’s correctional facility. This equates to $4 million in savings for FY 15. For the state police, they will be selling one airplane and only filling 27 of the 68 vacant trooper positions.  In addition, the state police will find an additional $4 million in operational efficiencies. Finally, the ABC will be increasing the product mark-up on distilled spirits resulting in $2.5 million in additional revenue. 

Making any budgetary reductions is always difficult, because of the impact any action will have on residents of the Commonwealth. The Governor has made sensible decisions that will hopefully address the needed reductions. Moving forward, I hope that the slowly recovering state economy will boost our budget projections and reverse these reductions, so that we can direct more resources toward the critical needs of Virginians.

Around the Commonwealth

This week I was in Richmond for a meeting of the Joint Commissions on Technology and Science (JCOTS), on which I am proud to serve. We had another informative meeting. High school students from Deep Run High School in Henrico County and Thomas Jefferson High School in Richmond, presented on the importance of statewide STEM initiatives and their personal experiences with their high school robotics teams. We also heard from Secretary of Technology Karen Jackson who provided an informative update on the latest regarding technology and innovation in the Commonwealth. Additionally, the Commonwealth's Chief Information Officer, Sam Nixon, provided an annual report on IT services through the Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA). 

Around the District

Springfield Town Center

Exciting news for Springfield and Fairfax! The new Springfield Town Center held its Grand Opening last week in front of a packed crowd of enthusiastic patrons. It was great to be in attendance for the ribbon cutting to celebrate this long planned project to revitalize the shopping mall and surrounding area. There are many new shops and restaurants to experience, and I encourage everyone to come out and see what this impressive new addition to our area has to offer.

MVLE Annual Dinner

Last week I attended the annual MVLE dinner recognizing the many accomplishments that MVLE has made in our community. This impressive organization helps find employment and provides support services for individuals with disabilities so that they can have a brighter future. This past year they have also focused on helping wounded warriors and Veterans as they return home. I am proud to support this noble organization and look forward to working with them in the future. You can learn more about MVLE at their website here.

Flu Season

My daughter and I got our flu shots last weekend. I respectfully encourage you to do the same. Influenza is a serious disease and every flu season brings a different strain of the virus. Each season’s strain can have varied effects in different individuals, particularly children, seniors and those with chronic conditions.

Additionally, Flu shots are free for many because most insurance plans cover flu shots as a preventive service. You can read more important facts and answers to frequently asked questions from the CDC here.

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates. As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District. Please feel free to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

 

October 10

The leaves are turning and the air is cooling as we approach the heart of fall. The 2015 General Assembly Session will be here before we know it and I will be back in Richmond advocating for the 41st District. If you have any ideas for legislation as the 2015 Legislative Session draws near please do not hesitate to contact me. 

Governor’s Ethics Panel

Since my last update, Governor McAuliffe announced the formation of the Commission to Ensure Integrity and Public Confidence in State Government. This Commission will be chaired by former Congressman Rick Boucher and former Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling. The Commission will focus on a wide range of issues regarding our current ethics laws. During this past General Assembly Session we began to address the need for reforms by putting a cap on tangible gifts and including family members, but we still have work to do.

The commission will be comprised of 10 members, from both parties, and will develop suggested guidelines for future action. Among the topics that will be considered are: a cap on campaign contributions, enforcement of disclosure requirements, selecting judges and a cap or ban on gifts, including intangible gifts. You can read more about the commission’s work and review its membership here. I look forward to their suggestions and hope that we can again address this critical issue in the upcoming General Assembly Session.

Around the Commonwealth

There were several important stories and decisions affecting the Commonwealth that developed since my last update.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia has ordered the General Assembly to draw new congressional maps during the next General Assembly session. The court ruled that the current congressional map is unconstitutional and unfairly groups minorities into targeted districts. It is important to note that this decision does not affect November’s election. 

On October 6th, the U.S. Supreme court decided not to hear the appeals case in several states, including Virginia, that have had their same sex marriage ban overturned by Circuit Courts. With this ruling, marriage equality is now a reality in the Commonwealth and is another step toward equality for all.  

Around the District

As always, I participate in many events and meetings around the District daily.

Northern Virginia Aging Network

On October 1, I attended the 15th annual Northern Virginia Aging Network Legislative Breakfast. As always it was well attended with 175 advocates, providers and elected officials from both parties joining together to discuss issues vital to older adults, including Medicaid Expansion, Liveable Homes and a Quality LTC Workforce. I was also pleased to visit with my former colleague and the keynote speaker for the breakfast, Bob Brink in his new role as Deputy Commissioner for Aging Services. 

Kaiser Permanente Tour

On September 30th, I toured the Kaiser Permanente facility in Tysons Corner with their Physician-in-Chief. This facility is only 2 years old and provides important healthcare services for Fairfax County. It was great to hear about the work being done at their hub as well as at their facility in the 41st District in Burke.  

Chiropractic Health Week

I had the pleasure of joining 41st District business owner, Dr. David Dolberg at his office for the kickoff of Chiropractic Health Week in Virginia. It was good to join my colleagues and see many participants in the district. 

Retiring Principal Jeff Yost

On September 26, I was pleased to join my colleague Senator Chap Petersen, to honor retiring W.T. Woodson High School Principal Jeff Yost at Woodson’s most recent home football game. Senator Petersen and I presented a joint resolution passed in the General Assembly honoring Principal Yost's long career and celebrating his much deserved retirement. Principal Yost will be missed by the Woodson community, and we wish him the very best as he embarks on the next chapter in his life.

Virginia Energy Star Sales Tax Holiday 

This weekend is the Virginia Energy Star and WaterSense Tax Holiday. Purchases of certain Energy Star and WaterSense qualified products starting today, Friday October 10 - Monday, October 13 will be exempt from state sales tax. Exempt items include: any dishwasher, clothes washer, air conditioner, ceiling fan, compact fluorescent light bulb, dehumidifier or refrigerator. In order to be eligible for sales tax holiday, products must cost $2,500 or less per item and be purchased for noncommercial home or personal use. If you are in the market for a new energy efficient home appliance now is the time! Learn more here

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates. As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District. Please feel free to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

 

 

September 24 - Special Session Update

I hope everyone has been enjoying the terrific weather we have recently been experiencing as the start of Fall officially begins this week. I know I have enjoyed the nice cool nights while out seeing so many new and old faces as I greet parents during Fairfax County Public School’s Back to Schools Nights. It has been a busy time in Virginia and there is much to update since my last newsletter!

Special Session Update

Last Thursday, we reconvened in Richmond for the continuation of the Special Sessionthat has been ongoing since March. This time, we were in Richmond to debateexpanding healthcare coverage to 400,000 Virginians. Delegate Tom Rust of Herndon introduced one proposal, which was debated by the full House. This bill blended features of different plans that other states have approved to help close their own coverage gaps. It would work to continue reforms to Medicaid, while giving Virginians without coverage the opportunity to obtain health insurance. While no plan is perfect, this represented another compromise and a worthy proposal to help cover those Virginians without health insurance. Unfortunately, this measure was not given the opportunity of an actual vote as it was defeated through procedural action on the floor of the House.

During the Special Session, we also worked to approve new judges for many areas of the Commonwealth that have experienced higher caseloads. A special congratulations goes out to our new Circuit Court Judge for Fairfax County, Grace Burke Carroll, who was confirmed last Thursday.

Budget Update

Last week, before the start of the Special Session, Governor McAuliffe and House and Senate leaders announced that they had reached a compromise to help cover the budget shortfall currently facing Virginia. The agreement will address the $346 million shortfall this fiscal year and begin to cover the anticipated $536 million gap for Fiscal Year 2016.

The agreement includes using resources available from the Revenue Stabilization Fund (Rainy Day Fund), along with budget reductions for state agencies, higher education and local governments. Another $272 million in cuts yet to be determined in FY 2016 will be announced by the Governor in December. While budget cuts are always difficult and negatively impact one sector more than others, I was gratified that funding for K-12 education remained fully intact. 

Around the District and Commonwealth

I was recently privileged to attend the Northern Virginia Community College Education Foundation’s 18th Annual Recognition Dinner. During the dinner, longtime NVCC President, Robert G. Templin Jr. was honored and announced his retirement next year. During his tenure enrollment has increased by 18,000 while the graduation rate has risen by 120 percent. Bob Templin has been a remarkable asset to the Northern Virginia region and his leadership will be missed.

Nanosatellite Advisory Committee

Last week, I attended the first Nanosatellites Advisory Committee meeting. This Advisory Committee is part of the full Joint Commission on Technology and Science Committee (JCOTS) on which I am proud to serve. This Advisory Committee is studying whether or not to establish a consortium on space science education to advance nanosatellite and cube satellite technology in Virginia's colleges and universities. It is exciting work that will have an important place in Virginia’s future.

Climate Change Resiliency Commission

I also participated in the first meeting of the Climate Change Resiliency Update Commission. The meeting brought together the Commission's appointees, which include businesspeople, environmental experts, university representatives and lawmakers to begin the discussion of how to help better prepare Virginia for future natural disasters and climate change effects. The coastline of Virginia has seen particularly devastating effects, marked by recent flooding and a change in sea levels.    

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates. As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District. Please feel free to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

 

 

 September 10 - New School Start Times and Road Paving!

I hope all the students and teachers enjoyed a great first week back in the classroom. One of my favorite 41st District events was held this weekend.  It was wonderful to see so many old friends, as well as new faces at the Burke Centre Festival. 

Special Session Update

This past week, we received notification that we will officially be going into session on September 18th at 12:00 p.m. to begin consideration of the vital issue of Medicaid expansion. We are eagerly waiting to receive the rules of this Special Session to see the procedures that will ensure a full and robust debate on expanding healthcare coverage to 400,000 Virginians.

Around the District

Last week, I had the opportunity to tour the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) in Lorton. It was a truly unique experience to see the impressive behind-the-scenes work of this organization in combating hunger for children and seniors in Fairfax and the Northern Virginia region. The CAFB served over 3 million meals to Fairfax County individuals in 2012 alone. Incredible work!

FCPS School Start Times

Earlier this summer, I reported on the interest expressed by Fairfax County Public Schools in exploring possible later start times for high school students. After adopting the original resolution to consider this matter, in March 2013 the School Board voted to award a contract to Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC) to develop a proposal to achieve the goal.

Four options were presented by CNMC consultants at community meetings held around the County. After analyzing the feedback, CNMC made a final recommendation to the School Board at its work session on July 14.

The Fairfax County School Board discussed two hybrid options and the costs associated with the Blueprint for Change preferred option at a work session last night. The School Board announced their preferred choice is for high school to start between8:00 and 8:10 a.m. next year. The final vote on the plan is scheduled for October 23. You can read the option and information about yesterday’s meeting here.  

Old Keene Mill Road Paving

Many of you may have noticed that VDOT began repaving Old Keene Mill Road this weekend.  The work will take place five nights a week, Sundaythrough Thursday from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. for the next three months, weather permitting. Drivers are asked to consider taking alternate routes during the 3.5-mile repaving operation. When completed, this will be a very welcome improvement for our residents.

Additionally, VDOT has also created a new interactive search engine called Virginia Roads that provides the public with information and data on VDOT projects. This important tool will allow anyone to access interactive maps showing current and planned construction projects, pavement conditions and resurfacing projects. You can access Virginia Roads here.

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates. As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District. Please feel free to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

August 25, 2014

The end of summer is quickly approaching and the start of school will be here next week! I would like to remind families with children in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) elementary schools that this past Spring, FCPS approved and implemented full length school days Monday through Friday in elementary schools. This means that there will be no more early release on Monday afternoons for our elementary school students. You can view the upcoming school calendar and all relevant information here.  

September Special Session Update

Under the authorities provided to him in House Resolution 502, Speaker Howell intends to issue a formal call after Labor Day to reconvene Special Session I on Thursday September 18, 2014 at 12:00 noon to begin considering and debating legislation regarding Medicaid expansion. The Speaker has indicated that he is still in the process of developing the applicable rules and should also have them available for us to consider after Labor Day. My sincere hope is that these procedures allow us/members of the General Assembly to conduct a comprehensive, legitimate and public debate during our time in Richmond all towards expanding healthcare coverage to 400,000 Virginians. With the result being expanding healthcare coverage to 400,000 working Virginians. 

Commonwealth Budget Update

As a member of the House Finance Committee, I recently attended Governor McAuliffe’s annual address to the Joint Money Committee in Richmond, outlining the latest revenue and budget projections. The Joint Money Committee is comprised of the House Budget and Finance Committees and the Senate Finance Committee.

The Governor announced that Virginia will face challenging budget decisions in the upcoming years as the revenue shortfall over the next three years is estimated to be nearly $2.4 billion. All major sources of revenue except for the insurance premiums tax and individual income tax refunds contributed to the deficit however, collections of individual non-withholding accounted for most of the shortfall. These payments are historically tied to non-wage income sources such as the financial market.  Despite record breaking increases in the stock market, it appears that the uncertainty of the federal fiscal cliff in December 2012 and January 2013 shifted more realized capital gains from 2013 into 2012 – compared to the budget projections.

Tough cuts will have to be made in the upcoming General Assembly Session. As I have done before, I will hold steadfast to make sure that our community does not see funding taken away from core services such as education, transportation and public safety. Virginia has always been among the very best states in which to do business, and one of the best managed. Accordingly, I am confident that careful fiscal planning and innovative proposals will enable the Commonwealth to outpace current projections.

Legislation for 2015 Session

This is the time of year for me to meet with groups and individuals around the district discussing potential legislation for the next General Assembly session. If you have any thoughts or information on a possible legislative idea please contact me to discuss. 

Around the District

Last week, I had the incredible opportunity to welcome Sheriff Stacey Kincaid, several other elected officials and more than 40 Deputies and children to the 41st district for the 23rd Annual Shop with a Sheriff program. This program pairs homeless children with Deputies during a two hour back to school shopping trip at Target in Burke. It was heartwarming to see the excitement in the kids' eyes as they were given the opportunity to select and shop for the preparation of the start of school. Thank you to the Sheriff and the Deputies for yet again giving back to our community!

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates. As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District. Please feel free to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

 

August 8th

I hope this email finds you well and the nice summer weather has given you a chance to get out and enjoy some great outdoor activities.

I have continued a busy schedule around the district and Commonwealth over the past two weeks. Below you can find an update on my most recent activity.

Special Session Update

We are scheduled to return to Richmond for a Special Session on September 18th to continue debate on Medicaid Expansion. We are still foregoing nearly $5 million dollars every day, over $1 billion to date, without closing the coverage gap for some 400,000 fellow Virginians. I hope the September session will result in real compromise and action.

I wanted to make you aware of a recent editorial authored by our Secretary of Health and Human Resources, Dr. Bill Hazel. Secretary Hazel wrote in the Roanoke Times about his compelling free medical work around Virginia and the desperate need for consistent care that he sees around all corners of the state. I encourage you to read his perspective on the coverage gap debate. You can access the article here.

Around the District

Last week, I had the honor of joining a large crowd in the 41st district at a special ribbon cutting in Burke. Community Residences (CR), an organization which offers individuals with disabilities supporter housing and services made a significant investment to open a new home in Burke. I was pleased to join many others for the ribbon cutting of this brand new home, which will help those in our community that need support and care on a daily basis.

On Tuesday of this week, one of my favorite summer time events, National Night Out, took place around the district, the rest of Virginia and across the country. The idea behind National Night Out is to promote involvement in crime prevention activities, police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie. I stopped by several events throughout the night and saw all of these ideals exemplified to the fullest! Thank you to everyone that welcomed me into their homes and neighborhoods. I enjoyed meeting and reconnecting with so many of you!

If you haven’t been recently, the Burke Farmer’s Market runs every Saturday untilNovember 22 at the Burke VRE Station from 8 a.m. – noon. Stop by for some great local produce and the opportunity to meet farmers and others in the community.

A special good luck to all of our local student athletes getting back out on the field this week for tryouts and practice. Stay safe and good luck to all of our Bruins, Rams, Spartans and Cavaliers!

Around the Commonwealth

This week I attended a meeting for the Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS) in Richmond. It is a privilege to be part of this Commission which studies science and technology legislative proposals that need additional consideration outside of the General Assembly Session. I also serve on the Joint Commission for Transportation Accountability (JCTA) which serves a similar purpose for transportation related items. 

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates. As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District. Please feel free to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

 

July 28, 2014

Did you know that July 30th is the 395th Birthday of the Virginia House of Delegates?  That makes it the oldest, continually-serving representative assembly in the New World.  The original 20 members convened for the first time on July 30th, 1619 in the Jamestown Church as the House of Burgesses. It is an incredible honor to be part of this historic legislative body.   

Special Session Update

Speaker William Howell announced that the House of Delegates will reconvene the Special Session on September 18 to continue debate on Medicaid Expansion. 

We are still foregoing nearly $5 million dollars every day, over $1 billion to date, without closing the coverage gap for some 400,000 fellow Virginians. I hope the September session will result in real compromise and action.

Around the District

Since my last update, I had the great opportunity to spend time with Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement’s (VISTA) Elementary Science Institute (ESI) at George Mason University.

VISTA is a statewide partnership between more than 60 Virginia school districts, 6 Virginia universities and the Virginia Department of Education.  Its' major goal is to implement research-based best teaching practices in science education for the benefit of students at all levels. 

The workshop focused on not only teaching students about science, but also training educators in the best methods of teaching science. It was great to see teachers and students engaged in STEM field activities and instruction. STEM degrees will produce the jobs of the future and these young students are off to a great start! You can read an article about the workshop from the Connection here.

On Saturday, I joined many elected officials, area leaders and Fairfax residents for the official grand opening of the Metro Silver Line. We all know this project has been a long time in the making and it was very exciting to see the platforms open and trains running through Fairfax County. I have long been a supporter of transit options and multimodal transportation projects. This completed line and the addition of Phase 2 in a few years are great additions to Fairfax County and the Northern Virginia region. You can get all of the information you may need about riding the Silver Line here

Upcoming Events

This weekend (Aug 1- 3) is the Virginia State Sales Tax Holiday for student school supplies and clothing. Purchases of certain school supplies, clothing and footwear will be exempt from the Virginia sales tax during these 3 days. You can click here for the guidelines and list of eligible items. I have been proud to support the creation and continuation of these tax holidays in the House of Delegates. I hope everyone can take advantage of saving while preparing for the next school year - which is right around the corner!

Also, this week the mobile DMV 2 Go will be at the Fairfax County Government Center (12000 Government Center Parkway) from 9:00 a.m - 4:00 p.m. The mobile office provides all transactions that a normal DMV offers. Stop by if you’re in the area and need quick service.

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates. As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District. Please feel free to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

 

July 11, 2014

As we enter into the full swing of summer, please remember the high temperatures our area often experiences and make sure you are taking the proper precautions to stay cool during periods of extreme heat. Also find helpful tips here and remember how important it is to check in on friends and neighbors.

Special Session Update

This week, Speaker William Howell announced that the House of Delegates will reconvene the Special Session in September to begin a debate on Medicaid Expansion. While I am pleased to hear that both sides will be coming to the table to debate this crucial issue, waiting until September means that tens of millions of dollars will go unclaimed by the Commonwealth. We are losing nearly $5 million dollars every day without closing the coverage gap for some 400,000 fellow Virginians. I hope the September session will result in real compromise and action, instead of what we have seen with the previous Medicaid debates.

Around the District

I was honored to march in two local Independence Day parades--in Fairfax City and Orange Hunt/Hunt Valley. The Fairfax City parade is one of the largest annual July 4th events in our community, with tremendous crowds and a great sense of patriotic pride. I also joined the Orange Hunt – Hunt Valley parade, which is always fun and provides a wonderful opportunity to visit with neighbors, friends, teachers and community leaders. A highlight is always enjoying ice cream at the conclusion of the parade in the parking lot of Orange Hunt Elementary school. Thank you to everyone who marched, watched and participated in all of the Fourth of July events!

This week, the Braddock District Council held their annual "Best of Braddock" awards ceremony and picnic. It was an honor to attend and recognize the many award-winning individuals who demonstrate so much dedication to help make Braddock such a very special place in which to live, work and raise a family. I always look forward to this annual event, and my congratulations go to all the deserving winners this year.

Around the Commonwealth

Last week I did a lot of traveling around the Commonwealth. In Richmond, I attended the first meeting of the Child Care Provider - Background Check work group, which resulted from legislation I introduced during the General Assembly session. I'm looking forward to working with this impressive group of stakeholders on the best way forward to make our child care system safer for both parents and children.

Also last week, I was pleased to join the Governor, other elected officials, business leaders, environmental advocates, faith leaders and industry representatives in Virginia Beach to celebrate the creation of the Climate Change and Resiliency Update Commission. It is an honor to have been chosen to serve on this important Commission and I look forward to serving with the rest of the members to determine the best methods and practices to prepare the Commonwealth for the anticipated effects of climate change.  

I then returned to Richmond to meet with the Training Center work group created during the General Assembly Session. This group brings together stakeholders from all over the Commonwealth to examine the current state of the Commonwealth’s Training Center facilities and the future of the residents at these centers. The first meeting was a good start and I look forward to continuing our discussions.

Earlier this week, I attended Virginia Day at the White House with other elected officials, leaders and activists from across all of the Commonwealth. This important event was attended by our two great U.S. Senators and some of Virginia’s impressive Members of Congress. Top officials from the White House led informative discussions about several important policy areas. I was honored to attend Virginia Day as we all strive to move the Commonwealth forward.

Office Hours

Hope to see you for my July office hours, Monday July 14 from 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. at Panera Bread (6230 Rolling Rd, Springfield, VA 22152) – no appointment necessary, just come on by. I look forward to chatting with you!

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates. As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District. Please feel free to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

 

June 30, 2014

School has officially ended for the summer, a bit later due to the snowy winter we experienced.  Congratulations to all students and teachers for a good 2013-2014 school year. I hope you all have a relaxing, rewarding, fun, safe and worthwhile summer vacation!

Over the past few weeks it was my pleasure to attend the graduations at all four of our 41st District High Schools - Lake Braddock Secondary School, Robinson Secondary School, West Springfield High School, W.T. Woodson High School.  A special congratulations to all of the graduates, teachers and administrators! Good luck students in your next endeavor and enjoy your summer!

Special Session Update

This past Monday, the Virginia General Assembly finalized the 2014 - 2016 biennial budget with consideration of the Governor's eight suggested vetoes. Six of the eight vetoes from the Governor were sustained, meaning approved for removal from the budget. One of those sustained was dismemberment of the Medicaid Reform and Innovation Commission (MIRC). However, two vetoes were ruled out of order by the Speaker of the House. This ruling, which has been widely debated since the decision, will likely be challenged in court. The ruling refers to the Governor’s ability to “line-item veto” sections of the budget. It was the Speaker’s ruling that two of the Governor’s vetoes did not fall within the purview of his power. The two contested vetoes include the Governor's veto of language barring any form of Medicaid expansion unless approved by the full General Assembly. You can view all of the vetoes and action here.

As for moving forward, a budget is now in place for the 2014 – 2016 biennial period. As I mentioned in my last eNews, I could not support the final budget with so many vital programs slashed, as well as not expanding medical care for the neediest citizens of the Commonwealth, especially at a time when Virginia could so benefit from the economic boost the funding would provide. The Governor has indicated that he will seek new options outside of General Assembly approval for closing the coverage gap. The plan for moving forward will be developed in the coming months and will coincide with court decisions pertaining to the Speaker’s ruling on Monday.

Around the District

I was honored to join the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce at their 2nd Annual Above and Beyond Luncheon honoring the first responders of Greater Springfield. The honorees included Officer Paul Stracke of the Fairfax County Police Department who is stationed at the West Springfield station in the 41st District. It was also great to see Chamber Board Member Karen Fountain, owner of Flowers 'n' Ferns in the 41st district. This event was a great way to pay tribute to the terrific men and women who spend every day protecting and caring for our community. Thank you for your service!

Office hours

I hope to see you tomorrow for my “office hours”, from 10:00 - 11:30 p.m. at Chesapeake Bagel Bakery (5719 Burke Centre Pkwy, Burke, VA 22015) – no appointment necessary, just come on by.  

New laws set to take place

Next Tuesday, July 1st, hundreds of new bills passed by the General Assembly during the 2014 session will become current law. You can read "In Due Course", an annual guide put together by the Division of Legislative Services highlighting important changes that will take place on July 1st.

Fourth of July

If you are looking for something fun to do thisJuly 4th — the annual City of Fairfax 4th of July Parade will be taking place! This is one of the largest local parades in our area and attracts so many residents from the Fairfax community to celebrate our nation’s independence. The parade begins at 10:00 a.m. in downtown Fairfax City. Hope to see you there!

VRE riders will be happy to know that for the first time VRE will be offering service on the 4th of July. The “Firecracker Special” will be available on both the Fredericksburg and Manassas Lines to downtown Washington, DC for the 2014 Fourth of July Fireworks. Trains will come inbound in the afternoon and will return outbound approximately an hour after the fireworks end. Tickets will be on sale online today and also by calling the VRE office at(703) 684-1001. You can get all of the details and purchase tickets here.

Have you heard of Tony Deblois?

On Sunday night, June 29, 2014, I invite you to join me at the Artisphere in Arlington for “All Keyed Up in Virginia”. From 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm you will be able to take in the amazingly talented Tony Deblois perform requests and songs from all genres and eras. I highly suggest you take a minute to learn about Tony and his incredible story and journey to stardom. For tickets and Tony’s story click here.

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent the 41st District in the Virginia House of Delegates. As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about the 41st. Please do not hesitate to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

June 16, 2014

Special Session Mid-June Update

Last week, we returned to Richmond to continue the Special Session on the budget. Because of Senator Phillip Puckett’s resignation last week, the Senate majority shifted from Democratic to Republican control. In doing so, the Republican leadership in the Senate passed a version of the budget first passed by the House of Delegates in March. 

In the last few days, budget projections that had originally called for increased state revenues have been reevaluated. Because of a significant decrease in collections of several taxes, total revenue collections are behind the annual forecast of once percent growth. The new forecast now shows for a potential budget shortfall of around $1.5 billion for the next two year budget cycle.

Because of the new forecast, the Senate Finance Committee and House Republicans agreed on a budget which cuts nearly $900 million of new spending from the original 2014 – 2016 proposal and uses around $700 million from the rainy day fund to fill in the other short falls.

The cuts from this proposed budget are drastic. Gone are the teacher and state employee pay raises we initially approved, $199 million was cut from higher education funding, $124 million in discretionary spending to K-12 funding. Also cut down were the increases in ID and DD waivers for the most vulnerable, $8 million from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund was removed, and also stripped was the money included for hospitals facing shortfalls from Medicaid reimbursements because of not closing the coverage gap. And of course, this budget also does not include increasing health care coverage for more than 400,000 Virginians, even though the federal government is committed to paying 100% of the costs for the next two years and no less than 90% thereafter.

Late Thursday night, a backdoor amendment was passed by Senate and House Republicans which aims to prevent any form of Medicaid expansion without a confirmation vote by the entire General Assembly. This budget amendment also prevents the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission from completing their goals and working towards closing the coverage gap, boosting revenue, creating jobs and driving our economy. Because of this backdoor 11th hour amendment, the nature in which it was passed and the dire cuts listed above, I could not support the final budget passed by the Senate and House. It was appalling to for me to see so many vital programs slashed, while also not expanding medical care for the neediest citizens of the Commonwealth, especially at a time when Virginia could so benefit from the economic boost the funding would have provided. 
Nonetheless, I will continue to fight to close the coverage gap. 

Around the District

Last weekend I was able to participate in one of my favorite early summer events – the Mantua Citizens Association Parade and Picnic. This yearly event brings together the Mantua community of the 41st District marking the beginning of summer for many of the residents and introducing new neighbors to the community. It was a great event with perfect weather!

Last week, two important meetings were held at West Springfield High School regarding future changes to school facilities and schedules. The first meeting focused on the new plans for renovating West Springfield High School. The need for a face lift for this school building has long been discussed, and the revised configuration of this facility is very impressive.  The entrance to the building will be moved to one side, creating a readily identifiable entryway. In addition, significant upgrades will be made to the parking lot, athletic field complex and classrooms, greatly facilitating traffic flow. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2016 at the earliest.

The second community meeting discussed proposed changes being considered in school starting times. Currently, FCPS is evaluating four options for initiating later high school start times based on School Board discussions held in April 2012, considering both the feasibility of such a step and potential benefits for our teenage students. The Children's National Medical Center was hired to consult on the clinical importance of ensuring adequate sleep and the effects on learning performance of later wake up times for teenagers during this crucial phase of their physical development. You can read about their research findingshere. The four alternative start time scenarios were addressed at length during this meeting, and in October 2014 the School Board will vote to select a specific option for recommendation. If you were unable to attend the community meetings, you can submit your opinions and read about the options being considered here.

Around the Commonwealth

It has been a busy week traveling around the Commonwealth! This past Wednesday, I had the opportunity to visit and speak to the Virginia Commission for the Arts in Richmond. The VCA is the state agency that supports artistic excellence and encourages growth in artistic quality for the benefit of all Virginians. As Co-Chair of the Arts Caucus in the General Assembly, it was great to visit with this group who is making a tremendous difference in the Commonwealth through the influence of Arts.

On Thursday, I was in Norfolk with Governor McAuliffe and other members of the General Assembly for the official signing into law of legislation passed during this year's Legislative Session to help members of the military and their families. My bill was one of the new laws introduced. HB 1247 would ease the burden on military spouses moving to Virginia by enabling them to obtain equivalent professional licenses and thus resume their own careers without undue delay. I was honored to participate during the ceremony and visit with Adm. John C. Harvey, Virginia's Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs.

 

May 30th, 2014

I hope you enjoyed a wonderful Memorial Day weekend. The weather was perfect for a great weekend spending time with friends and family, as we reflect on the true meaning of Memorial Day - the men and women who have served and fallen defending the many freedoms of our country.

This Memorial Day weekend, I found myself thinking of one of our local fallen heroes - 1st Lieutenant Robert “RJ” Hess, who was killed in action last April in Afghanistan. RJ graduated from Robinson Secondary School in 2005. I was incredibly privileged this year to speak on the floor of the House of Delegates about RJ, and this past Friday, I was again honored to join RJ’s parents, friends and family at Robinson Secondary School to dedicate a memorial plaque and present his parents with a formal House of Delegates resolution in honor of their son, RJ, a true hero.

I was also honored to attend the annual Memorial Day remembrance ceremony held by the Burke VFW Post 5412 at the Burke Centre Conservancy on Memorial Day. I joined Fairfax County Chairman Sharon Bulova, Braddock Supervisor John Cook and Senator Dave Marsden to honor our fallen soldiers. This event is always a very special one for me each year, as I listen to each impressive designated speaker and hear Amazing Grace on the bagpipes and Taps by the bugler, as we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Special Session Update

There still has not been much news regarding the continuing 2014 Special Session since my last update. House and Senate negotiators have met with the Governor twice over the past two weeks, with the main point of contention still being closing the healthcare coverage gap. The options for moving forward remain unclear. There are many unknowns but with the next fiscal year rapidly approaching, negotiations will certainly begin to intensify to reach an agreement on a budget that is in the best interests of the Commonwealth.

Bill Signing of HB 412

Last Wednesday, we had a special visitor to the 41st District. Governor Terry McAuliffe came to Kiddie Country in Burke for the ceremonial bill signing of HB 412, which will create a working group to look at expanding background checks to include a fingerprint check for childcare workers in Virginia. It was my privilege to work diligently on this bill with the various stakeholders throughout the General Assembly Session. Elly Lafkin, who testified during the Committee hearing this January, attended the bill signing to share her personal tragic story of losing her infant child while in a childcare setting in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Thank you Kiddie Country for hosting us and thank you Governor McAuliffe for your commitment to ensuring the safety of all children if the Commonwealth. You can read an article in the Connection about the event here.

World Police and Fire Games in Fairfax

Last week, I was proud to be in attendance as the Governor and Fairfax County Chairman Sharon Bulova announced the one-year countdown to the World Police and Fire Games, to be held right here in Fairfax County. The games, which will take place in 2015 from June 26 to July 5, will promote fitness and readiness, and provide a sense of family and community for public safety personnel. They will bring to our county 12,000 police and fire fighter athletes from 70 countries, more athletes than the 2012 London Olympics. The games will also result in $60 - $80 million in regional economic impact by attracting an estimated 30,000 visitors to our region. I was pleased to be selected to serve on the Games' Board of Directors over the next year. I look forward to working with regional stakeholders and the business community to ensure a successful event.

Relay for Life of Springfield and Burke

Also this past week, I was able to attend one of my favorite events of the spring season, the Relay for Life of Springfield and Burke. The Relay for Life Foundation does incredible work all across the country, bringing together communities to honor cancer survivors, remembering loved ones lost and fighting back against this dreaded disease. I was so pleased to once again join everyone for the local relay right here in the 41st district. The funds raised last week will truly go a long way in helping those currently fighting this disease as well as those who will be diagnosed in the future.  

Thank you to everyone who came out to participate and donate to cancer research raising nearly $120,000! Cancer is a disease that affects so many of us – by bringing research money, increasing preventative care and making new information available to patients, we will continue to save lives now and in the future.

Local High Schools Update

What a successful spring season our local High Schools have had on the playing field! Congrats to all Conference champions and good luck in the regional and state tournaments!

Lake Braddock Girls Soccer – Patriot District Champs
Lake Braddock Softball – Patriot District Champs
Lake Braddock Boys Tennis – Patriot District Doubles and Singles Champs
Lake Braddock Girls Track – Patriot District Champs
Robinson Boys Lacrosse – Concorde District Champs
Robinson Girls Track – Concorde District Champs 
West Springfield Baseball – Patriot District Champs 
W.T. Woodson Girls Lacrosse – Patriot District Champs

 

May 16, 2014

I hope everyone remains safe after experiencing the heavy rain and flooding over the past two days. Below you can read about the busy schedule I have kept in the 41st district between the end of reconvene session and the continuing uncertainty of the Special Session on the budget. 

Special Session Update

There has not been much news regarding the continuing 2014 Special Session since my last update. The House and Senate are still in negotiations over the budget, with the main point of contention being closing the healthcare coverage gap. The options for moving forward remain unclear. There are many unknowns but with the next fiscal year starting on July 1, both sides will soon have to begin discussions in order to reach an agreement on a budget that is in the best interests of the Commonwealth.

Bill Signing Ceremonies

I was honored to join Governor McAuliffe, my colleague Delegate Scott Surovell and Virginia State Police Captain Robert Chappell for a ceremonial signing of my bill HB 543, which helps parents protect their children against the threat of identity theft. Special thanks go to Captain Chappell - an expert in child identity theft and one of Virginia's finest, who came and testified during the Committee hearing. This legislation represents a major step forward in combating identity theft.

The Governor also held a special bill-signing ceremony for my "return to learn" concussion legislation that passed this year. I was proud to join him and many key stakeholders commemorating this bill's passage. Thank you, Governor McAuliffe!

Meetings around the District

It was a pleasure for me to spend time with Scout Troop 698 of Burke during their monthly meeting a couple of weeks ago. It was fun to discuss civics, government and the importance of service with these impressive young men. We also enjoyed a great game of Virginia General Assembly Jeopardy! You can read a short article about this visit in the Connection here.

Recently, two area neighbors were honored for their work in the Fairfax community. The Fairfax County Federation of Citizens' Associations held their 64th Annual Awards Ceremony in which Jan Hedetneimi, from Braddock was selected as the 2013 Fairfax County Citizen of the Year and 41st district resident Tena Bluhm, who I had the pleasure of working with during the 2014 General Assembly Session, was presented with a citation of merit. Congratulations on the well deserved recognition ladies!

At the beginning of the month, I had the honor of joining with Senator Dave Marsden to celebrate the promotion of 41st District resident, BJ Hershey to the rank of Eagle Scout. BJ, a very impressive young man, dedicated his Eagle Scout project to helping a school for autistic children. Congrats again to BJ and all of those who have recently attained the rank of Eagle Scout.

I had a great time visiting with friends at the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors office last week. I appreciated the opportunity to speak with their new Chairman, Mario Rubio. I also attended the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce’s new office opening – an impressive new space, and it is always fun to visit with my business friends. Last week, I joined many in celebrating the 90th Anniversary of Northern Virginia Family Service. NVFS is a vital resource for those in our community looking to find a new path toward a brighter future. Congrats on 90 years of great work! Tonight, I am looking forward to visiting with my friends from the Brain Injury Services to celebrate their 25th anniversary. There are so many terrific organizations and people making a difference in Fairfax County! We are certainly lucky to live in this community!

Virginia Commission on Intergovernmental Cooperation

On a personal note, I was honored to be appointed by the Speaker of the House to the Virginia Commission on Intergovernmental Cooperation. This Commission promotes and represents the Commonwealth in encouraging statewide cooperation and addressing economic development policies.  I am excited to use my background in inter-governmental relations in many states, to continue making Virginia the best managed state and the best in which to do business.

Potholes and Transportation

The Virginia Department of Transportation recently announced that they have repaired over 146,000 potholes throughout the Commonwealth in the past two months, caused by this winter’s harsh weather. If you still have potholes caused by the weather this winter on your roads please let me know or call VDOT’s 24/7 live operator at 1-800-FOR-ROAD (367-7623) to report anything to VDOT.

Additionally, I attended VDOT’s NOVA meeting regarding the next six-year plan for transportation projects. To tell VDOT directly what projects you would like to see funded over the next six years, you can e-mail comments to six-yearprogram@vdot.virginia.gov. To view proposed projects in the 41st District in the draft six-year plan click here.

On Monday, I was pleased to participate in Senator Tim Kaine's transportation roundtable, focusing on the economic benefits and the necessity of transportation investment. In attendance were transportation experts as well as local, state and federal elected officials all sharing thoughts on the future of transportation funding and project implementation in Northern Virginia. The new federal transportation reauthorization proposal was released this week. This is extremely important to the Commonwealth, as, like other states, we receive a significant portion of our transportation funding from the federal government.

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates. As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District. Please feel free to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

 

 

Special Session Update - March 28th 

Tomorrow marks three weeks since we adjourned the 2014 General Assembly Session. However, just after we left Richmond and headed back home, Governor Terry McAuliffe called us back for a Special Session, which began this past Monday. The Special Session was called because we did not pass a budget for the 2014–2016 biennial period.

The Special Session is similar to a regular session in that we have rules, we are called to Richmond and we vote. However, most Special Sessions only allow for certain legislation to be introduced and considered. This year, the House of Delegates rules allowed for only budget-related bills to be introduced and considered. This means that we are considering three bills during the Special Session:

House Bill 5001

House Bill 5001 (or the “Caboose Bill”) is the budget bill which funds the government through June 30th of this year. These are often called “Caboose Bills” because they come at the end of the previous biennial cycle to meet any budgetary adjustments or changes that have occurred during the last two years. We passed this part of the budget 82–13 on Monday the 24th with the Senate also passing it that day.

House Bill 5003

House Bill 5003 is Governor McAuliffe’s Special Session budget proposal for 2014–2016. This budget includes a number of very significant investments – notably, a 2 percent salary increase for our K-12 teachers and support personnel, state employees, college and university faculty, constitutional officers and state-supported local employees$17 million for the Line of Duty Act - helping our fire, police and first responders as well as $5.4 million for cost to compete funding, which helps Northern Virginia schools compete for teachers. In addition, this proposal includes a pilot project for closing the healthcare coverage gap, though the implementation of a two-year program to help cover individuals in need of healthcare. After two years, Virginia could end the pilot without incurring any penalty from the federal government, should the legislature decide. This budget will generate $225 million in General Fund savings that would go toward the investments I mentioned above. HB 5003 was originally defeated in the House Appropriations Committee on Monday. It was then introduced as a substitute budget on the House floor on Tuesday the 25th, but was defeated 68–31 on largely a party line vote. It will, however, be taken up by the Senate next week. I was proud to vote for the Governor’s budget and speak in support on the floor, which you can view by clicking on the link to your left. 

House Bill 5002

House Bill 5002 is the House of Delegates budget proposal for the 2014–2016 biennial. This bill reflects HB 30, which we debated and voted on in the regular session this year. While this budget does include a number of good initiatives, it still DOES NOT provide health care coverage for 400,000 Virginians, does not create 30,000 jobs throughout the Commonwealth, and it does not fully protect our hospitals from closing. For these reasons, I could not support HB 5002. On Tuesday, March 25th, House Bill 5002 was passed 68–31 largely on a party line vote during our Special Session.

The House adjourned Wednesday night after HB 5002 was voted on as the vehicle for the budget from the House of Delegates. The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to convene in early April with the full Senate back in Richmond the week of April 7th to consider their passed budget. It is my hope that the Senate will pass the Governor’s budget bill. If so, we will end up with a House budget and a Senate budget which will then be sent to a Conference Committee, where the conferees will work together to finalize the next biennial budget.

A Washington Post editorial on Wednesday provided a good summary on closing the coverage gap. You can read that editorial here.

During the two weeks between the end of the General Session and start of the Special Session, I was pleased to take my annual tour of the NoVA Dental Society’s Mission of Mercy Project at the NOVA Community College Medical Education Campus. I visited with several doctors and dentists who generously donated their time and service to over 1,000 patients to perform desperately needed dental work.

It was also great to visit with my friends from Mantua at their monthly civic association meeting. We were able to catch up on what transpired this year in the General Assembly and discuss the issues most important to the community. If you would like me to come visit with your homeowners association or local organization please let me know!

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates. As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District. Please feel free to contact me directly at 
(571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

 

The House of Delegates adjourned on Monday, March 24th for the 2014 Special Session and have recessed until a later date on Tuesday, March 25th at 9:30 p.m.

 

Friday - March 7th

Here were are again with another snowy week behind us and approaching the end of the 2014 General Assembly Session. Tomorrow marks what is usually Sine Die day (Latin for without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing) in the Virginia General Assembly. However this year we are in the midst of an unresolved difference over whether or not to make health insurance available to 400,000 uninsured Virginians. It is my hope that the House of Delegates and Senate can agree on a path forward and a compromise to this critical debate. Just last year we saw both parties come together to pass a landmark transportation package that will have a tremendous impact on the Commonwealth for years to come. We have the opportunity to have that same impact this year with health insurance.

2014 Session

We have already accomplished many of the goals we set this session, including SOL reform, strengthening our ethics regulations and improving our mental health system. We have made progress in these areas due to our working across party lines and alongside many stakeholders, all coming together to move the Commonwealth forward.

I am hopeful that we can finalize a budget that includes funding for our schools, increased ID and DD waivers for our most vulnerable citizens and a path for needy Virginians to access health care. This will help create jobs, keep our hospitals open and functional and most importantly, save lives. 

When the General Assembly has unfinished business upon Sine Die day, we have a few options. We can either pass a resolution to continue the current session past the 60 day limit or end the current session on the regular Sine Die day and call a Special Session in order to reintroduce any measures that were left unfinished. Special Sessions have often been used in the past for contentious issues that needed further debate, as has been the case with closing the coverage gap. We will likely learn tomorrow exactly how we will move forward. 

Update on my legislation

As I mentioned last week, I am very pleased that eight of my introduced bills have passed both the House of Delegates and Senate before Sine Die and await the Governor’s signature to become law. 

As always, you can find a complete list of my bills and their status here.

Update on our Schools

More congratulations are in order for our great 41st District schools.

First, congratulations to the W.T. Woodson Cavaliers boys’ basketball team for claiming the 6A North Region Championship this past weekend. A great accomplishment and the second year in a row they have claimed this championship! The Cavaliers are in action tomorrow as they advanced to the 6A state tournament to compete for a state title vs Landstowne High School starting at 3:30 p.m. at Robinson Secondary School. Go Cavs!

Additionally, the boys’ basketball team at Lake Braddock also advanced to the 6A state tournament to compete for a state title. They take on Clifton Forge tonight in Richmond at 8:30 p.m. Go Bruins!

Last night the West Springfield girls basketball team faced off against Cosby in the 6A state semifinals right here in Richmond. I was happy to step away from the Capitol to stop in and see the girls play. Although I wish the outcome was different, I am incredibly proud of the girls. Congratulations Spartans on a great season!

Finally, the West Springfield High School One-Act Play competition team heads off to the State Finals for a second year in a row. The drama team won the Northern Regional championship in February with their play Nerdicus (My Brother With Autism). Senior Austin Morrison was honored by judges as the Outstanding Male Actor for the entire Northern Region.

Nerdicus will play at 5:10 p.m. at the Dickinson Performing Arts Center at Piedmont Valley Community College just outside of Charlottesville, on a festival slate that begins at 4:15 p.m. and ends at 7:10 p.m. Additionally, there will be an encore performance at West Springfield’s auditorium stage on Wednesday night, March 19 at 7:00 p.m.  

After tomorrow’s floor session, I will hop on I-95 N and head back to the 41st and my family. I will continue to send out eNews updates and am always available for one on one meetings. I enjoy and regularly accept invitations to attend and address many association meetings in the District. So please feel free to keep me posted on when your groups are meeting. You can also follow me on twitter @efillercorn or like my Facebook page here.

I want to thank you again for giving me the privilege to serve in the House of Delegates on your behalf and help address the issues that face our district and all of Virginia.  I look forward to hearing from you or seeing you out and about in the 41st District.  Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need any assistance.

 

 

February 28, 2014

As this year’s General Assembly Session begins to wind down here in Richmond, the budget remains the top issue left to be resolved. We have one more week until Sine Die and the end of our 60-day legislative session. This week all bills that had a revenue impact were required to be finished, while the budget bills from the House of Delegates and Senate were sent to conference to begin discussing the differences and work towards a compromise for funding the Commonwealth through 2016. 

Update on my legislation

I am pleased to report that my bill HB 543, which will allow parents, guardians or authorized legal representatives to freeze the credit score of a minor or incapacitated adult in the event of a breach in personal information or potential identity theft, passed the Senate this week. Having passed the House on February 5th, it now heads to the Governor for his signature.

Also, HB 1247, which is designed to help our military service members when they relocate to the Commonwealth by expediting the process for their spouses to receive certain required professional licenses upon moving to Virginia, passed the Senate this week (it passed the House on February 11th) and also heads to the Governor for his signature. 

I am pleased to report eight of my introduced bills have passed both the House of Delegates and Senate before Sine Die and await the Governor’s signature to become law. 

As always, you can find a complete list of my bills and their status here.

Other bills from the 2014 Session

Mental Health Reform

Throughout Session, several pieces of legislation have been proposed relating to mental health, which will hopefully lead to dramatic improvements in the implementation of care and services. 

First, two separate bills have passed the House and Senate that reform the time limit for custody orders placed on individuals in need of a hospital bed. Currently, individuals are required to be held for 6 hours while searching for a bed. The bill that passed the House would extend this period to 8 hours, while the bill approved by the Senate would extend it to a 24-hour period. This difference will be addressed by a  Conference Committee of both houses to reach a final decision. 

Also included in the reforms was a requirement that state facilities accept those who have been placed on a temporary detention order (TDO) if no private facility can be located. This helps ensure that an individual in need of a bed is not released because one could not be located. 

Additionally, a web-based psychiatric bed registry will be established, giving providers across the Commonwealth instant access to the location of available beds. 

Finally, improvement of the mental health system is a major issue in the pending two-year state budget.  The House has proposed an investment of $48 million and the Senate nearly $60 million.  This funding will go towards this already passed legislation as well as for community-based mental health services. It will provide for 17 new crisis intervention drop-off centers, and funding to increase outpatient services for youth aged 17 to 24. 

Military Dependents

HB 576, a bill I co-patroned passed the House and Senate this Session, and will make certain surviving dependents of military service members eligible for the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program if the service member through whom they claim eligibility meets certain new Virginia residency requirements.  The newly eligible dependents were not afforded this option previously. 

Senior Tax Relief

Another measure I co-patroned, HB 1000, passed both the House and Senate this session.  This bill will benefit seniors by making real estate that is held in trust eligible for local real property tax relief, as well as provide that income of owners’ relatives that live in the house and provide bona fide caregiving services would be excluded from the income calculation that determines eligibility for tax relief. These are two important provisions for seniors and their tax obligation.   

Solar Tax Credits

I co-patroned HB 1239, which exempts from real and personal property tax solar energy equipment, facilities, or devices that are collecting, generating, transferring, or storing thermal or electric energy, is also headed to the Governor for final approval. This bill will help spur investment in, and installation of, solar projects throughout the Commonwealth, creating jobs and boosting the economy. 

Underground Power Lines

Finally, HB 848, which I co-patroned and will be signed into law, allows for power companies to begin the process of putting above-ground power lines underground. This will be a significant infrastructure improvement project for the Commonwealth, reducing the risk of homes losing power during storms.

Our Schools

Congrats to the Robinson Rams for winning the state championship in wrestling this year. Their second state title in a row! Great job!

Also, a huge congrats goes out to the Lake Braddock Bruins boy’s basketball team for winning the Patriot Division basketball championship last weekend.

Congrats also to the W.T. Woodson boy's basketball team on moving their way through the 6A playoffs.

You can catch both Lake Braddock and Woodson in action tonight at Robinson Secondary School. Woodson tips off at 6:00 p.m. versus Herndon High School and Lake Braddock takes on South Lakes High School after the conclusion of that game. Go Bruins and Cavs!

This afternoon, I will hop on I-95 N and head back to the 41st and my family before the last week of the 2014 General Assembly Session. I wanted to thank you all again for giving me the privilege to serve in the House of Delegates on your behalf and help address the issues that face our district and all of Virginia.  I look forward to hearing from you or seeing you in Richmond and out and about in the 41st District.  Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need any assistance.

Sincerely yours,
Eileen  

 

Week 7 Update - February 21, 2014

After crossover day last week, we have begun to somewhat moderate our legislative pace here in Richmond, but we are still moving quickly toward Sine Die (latin for without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing) in 2 weeks.  The primary focus during the remaining days of this year's General Assembly Session will be passing our biennial budget to fund state government through the period 2014-2016.

Update on my legislation

I am pleased to report that my bills HB 412, HB 550 and HB 948 were passed out of the Senate and will head to the Governor's desk for his final signature.

HB 957 passed the Senate Transportation Committee, and HB 1096 and HB 1268 passed the Senate Education and Health Committee, and all 3 will be voted on by the full Senate next week.  

I have been proud to work with constituents, organizations and colleagues on all of these bills, and it is very rewarding to watch their continuing passage on the path toward becoming law.

As always, you can find a complete list of my bills and their status here.

Budget

Yesterday, we spent 6 hours debating the budget proposal for the 2014-2016 budget years in the Commonwealth.  Following an extensive and comprehensive debate, the House budget was passed.

The House budget proposal included a number of good initiatives, however, I was unable to support it at this time in its passed form for one principal reason--the absence of a way forward to close the healthcare coverage gap in Virginia.  The budget that emerged from the House Appropriations Committee earlier this week failed to include any provision aimed at closing this serious statewide coverage gap.  However, an amendment was introduced during the budget debate that mirrored a proposal put forth by the Senate budget.

This bipartisan proposal, called "Marketplace Virginia", is similar to Medicaid expansion but in a form that has been used in some other states.  This would allocate the federal dollars that Virginia taxpayers are sending to Washington, and provide them to working individuals and families in desperate need of healthcare services.  Instead of providing them with traditional Medicaid health insurance, they will then be able to purchase private insurance with the subsidy they would receive.  This approach could therefore help cover 400,000 Virginians in need, create 23,000 jobs throughout the Commonwealth, and help keep some hospitals in danger of closing open by increasing hospital reimbursements.  This bipartisan compromise takes some aspects of other states' expansion efforts, while assuring its workability with Virginia standards and expectations.

Unfortunately, the budget amendment that would have included this proposal was defeated 67-32.  It was for this reason that I was unable to support the overall House approved budget.

It is my hope that the Conference Committee representing both the House and Senate will find a way to include a form of this proposal for closing the coverage gap in our final budget, which I would then wholeheartedly support. I also hope that the final approved budget will include many items important to our community including “cost to compete” funding, in-state tuition opportunities and additional ID/DD waiver slots for those in the Commonwealth who desperately need assistance in getting through each day. 

Other Updates

The Burke Connection published a report on my office hours sessions held throughout the 41st District over the past few weeks and the topics raised by constituents in attendance. You can read the article in its entirety here

News from our schools

A special good luck wish goes out to the Robinson Rams wrestling team, who compete for the state championship this weekend after winning the 6A Northern Region title last weekend.

This week, I was again fortunate to be visited by many 41st District constituents and old friends while in Richmond, including Nicole Brown who visited with the Virginia Registered Dieticians; Dr. David Dolberg, with the Virginia Chiropractors; and Fairfax resident Naila Alam, with the Asian Pacific advocacy group.  Many other great groups stopped by as well, and I enjoyed my time with all of them. 

It will be nice to hop on I-95 N in the absence of snow and head back to the 41st and my family! I wanted to thank you all again for giving me the privilege of serving in the House of Delegates on your behalf, addressing the issues that face our district and all of Virginia.  I look forward to hearing from you or seeing you in Richmond and out and about in the 41st District.  Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need any assistance.

 

Friday, February 14

It seems like every week that I sit down to write these updates we are in the midst of another winter storm.  I hope everyone has stayed safe and warm during this week’s latest accumulation.  If your friends and neighbors are not receiving my eNews with important winter weather advisory information and contacts let them know to sign up today here!  If you would like to see any important weather contacts again you can visit my website here for all the relevant information.

Crossover Day

This past Tuesday, February 11th, was Crossover Day in the General Assembly.  Crossover Day is an important legislative procedure day.  On this day, work on each piece of introduced legislation must be completed in the chamber that it originated in.  For example, a bill introduced at the beginning of session in the House of Delegates can no longer be considered by the House after Crossover Day.  The bill must have either been voted out of the House and referred to the Senate, tabled or passed by until next year.  This allows for us in the House to consider all of the passed legislation from the Senate and vice versa.  Crossover day is traditionally one of the longer legislative days we experience but this year we finished surprisingly quickly. 

Update on My Legislation

I am pleased to announce that eight of my introduced pieces of legislation passed the House of Delegates this year before Crossover Day and will now be considered by the Senate.  My passed legislation includes, HB 543, HB 550, HB 948, HB 957, HB 1096, HB 1247, HB 552 (now HB 412) and HB 544 (now HB 1268). My priority is to introduce legislation that will make a difference for the residents of the 41st District as well as citizens across the Commonwealth.

You can find a complete list of my 2014 legislative agenda and any relevant results here.

SOL Reform

This week I was proud to join a bipartisan effort in passing SOL reforms in the House of Delegates.  There was wide consensus coming into this year’s General Assembly Session that we needed to begin improving our SOL assessment process. 

The passed legislation (HB 930) has three main components to begin reforming the SOL system.  The first component is a reduction in tests for grades 3 – 8 from 22 down to 17.  This 23 percent reduction in standardized tests will free up valuable classroom time for teachers to move away from “teaching to the test”.

The second part provides increased flexibility to local school boards through the use of authentic performance assessments.  This will allow Fairfax, and other local school boards, to administer alternative assessments in grades 3 – 8 where an SOL test was not given.  The alternative assessments must be authentic project-based, meeting criteria established by the Board of Education.  Alternative assessments, which are used in different states across the country, allow for a more comprehensive, accurate review of a student’s understanding of a specific lesson.  They also allow teachers greater creativity and flexibility in the classroom, while still holding students accountable.  Alternative assessments are an important step away from the memorization teaching pattern that we have seen in preparing for SOLs. 

Finally, HB 930 creates a Standards of Learning Innovation Committee, to begin a process of improving testing and assessment methods in the Commonwealth by continually monitoring, reviewing and suggesting changes to the current system.  The members of the Committee to be appointed by the Secretary of Education for two-year terms will include parents, teachers, curriculum specialists, school board members, principals, business representatives and a member from the Board of Education. 

As you can see, there are many substantial changes being made to our current testing and assessment system.  I have been proud to work with my colleagues on this important legislation and look forward to continuing to review its process and develop future additional reforms. 

Ethics Reform

This week the House of Delegates also passed another bipartisan measure concerning ethics reform.  After a tumultuous year, it has become evident that we must examine our current ethics laws and enact stronger restrictions in order to ensure the public’s trust in our elected officials.  The new ethics package puts a $250 per-item cap on gifts from lobbyists and others who have business before the state.  All gifts of more than $50 in value must be disclosed.  Additionally, it mandates the disclosure of gifts above the $50 threshold to immediate family members, spouses and cohabitants who share an economic responsibility.  Also, the filing of economic disclosure forms will now be required twice a year. 

A vital piece of this legislation was the creation of a new Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council.  This 15-member council will review disclosure forms filed by lobbyists, government officials and legislators; maintain a searchable electronic, online database of disclosure forms; provide guidelines; conduct training seminars; and review any legislative disciplinary actions. This council will help ensure that everyone is fully aware and knowledgeable of its provisions.  While this measure does not address every concern that has been raised, it begins the essential process of providing greater accountability, clarity and regulation.  I am proud to support this measure and look forward to working with my colleagues to further address remaining concerns. 

Other Updates

I hope you got a chance to see this great update on my bill HB 543 in the Burke Patch last week.  This is an important piece of consumer protection legislation for the Commonwealth. 

This week, many more actively involved groups visited Richmond.  I was honored to speak before the Virginia Association of Family and Consumer Sciences and receive recognition from them for my work on HB 543 and consumer protection – thanks! Among others visiting this week (while braving the weather) were members of the Medical Society of Virginia, including my friend and Burke physician Stuart Henochowicz, farmers representing the Farm Bureau and friends from vaACCSES advocating for the disabled.  

Finally, don’t forget my next scheduled office hours session.  I will be at Einstein Bagel Bros (9490 Main Street Fairfax, Virginia 22031) on Saturday, February 15th from 2:30 p.m. - 4:00  p.m. (note this is a new time). Look forward to seeing you there.

This afternoon, I will once again brave the winter road conditions on I-95 N and head back to the 41st and my family! I wanted to thank you all again for giving me the privilege to serve in the House of Delegates on your behalf and help address the issues that face our district and all of Virginia.  I look forward to hearing from you or seeing you in Richmond and out and about in the 41st District.  Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need any assistance.

 

Week 5 Update, February 7th 2014

The time just continues to fly down here in Richmond.  Today marks the end of week 5 in the General Assembly.  Unfortunately, the groundhog saw his shadow this past weekend, meaning the cold weather is here to stay and our children in Fairfax County are continuing to check for School Board Member Ryan McElveen’s latest twitter updates about school delays!

Last weekend, while back home in the 41st District, I had the opportunity to do two things I enjoy the most about serving in the House of Delegates. First, I held office hours on Saturday, which lets me connect with my constituents and hear first hand your own thoughts. Again this weekend, I will be holding office hours on Sunday, February 9th from 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. at Caribou Coffee (8948 Burke Lake Road Springfield, VA). Hope to see you there!

I also attended West Springfield High School's one-act performance on Friday night.  It was an inspiring performance of "Nerdicus (My Brother with Autism)" which was written and directed by WSHS drama teacher, Bernie Deleo, father to an Autistic son.  Congratulations to Lake Braddock SS who won first place with their play “Extremities” and another shout-out to West Springfield HS for their second-place finish at the VHSL Patriot District One-Act performances.  

Update on My Legislation This Past Week                

HB 543

My bill, HB 543, which will allow parents, guardians or authorized legal representatives to freeze the credit score of a minor or incapacitated adult in the event of a breach in personal information or potential identity theft,passed the full House of Delegates this week. It will now head over to the Senate for consideration there.

HB 544 – New Assigned Bill Number, HB 1268

HB 544, which would encourage higher education faculty and staff to report threatening or aberrant behavior that may pose a threat to an individual or the campus community at large, passed the full House of Delegates this week and will now move to the Senate for consideration. I was proud to work with The Angel Fund, George Mason University, the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech on this important legislation that will continue to address concerns regarding students’safety and mental illness on our campuses.  The new bill number for this bill is HB 1268.  It will be considered by the Senate. 

HB 1096

I am pleased to report that my bill addressing school concussion guidelines passed the House of Delegates this week.  Current guidelines include specific protocols for affected students to "return to play", but in line with the results of more recent medical studies, my bill incorporates a "return to learn" protocol as well.  I hope that this bill will help enlighten parents and also help school staff address concerns regarding identifiable signs and symptoms when allowing students to return to the classroom post-concussion. It will now be considered by the Senate

HB 957

Just today my bill HB 957, which will extend the enactment date of legislation passed last year concerning Virginia Railway Express' voting board membership, passed the House of Delegates.  I have been proud to work closely with VRE to help optimize their operations and ensure continued growth. 

HB 1247

My bill, HB 1247, which passed the full General Laws Committee yesterday, is designed to help our military service members who have already sacrificed so much for their country, when they are required to relocate to the Commonwealth. Many of their spouses, who are often forced to leave behind successful careers, face excessive red tape preventing them from resettling in their chosen profession upon relocating. This bill aims to ease that burden by shortening the waiting period for a military spouse to receive a temporary license equivalent to the one he/she already holds in another state. It will be considered by the full House of Delegates next week

Other Updates

During the full House of Delegates session this week, I rose for a point of personal privilege to speak on a subject that I feel strongly about – the opportunity for Virginia to move forward and provide healthcare for individuals earning up to 138 percent of the poverty line.  My remarks focused on the human impact that the availability of health insurance would have for 400,000 of our citizens (including 84,000 children and 33,000 veterans) with inadequate income.  As you may already have heard, this expansion would ensure that lower-paid workers would, often for the first time ever, have access to healthcare insurance. This will dramatically impact our state’s economy, businesses, hospitals, and most importantly, our citizens.  Moreover, the full cost of this expanded program will be covered by the federal government for the first three years, and no less than 90% funded thereafter.  A recent report estimated $1 billion in savings to the Commonwealth over the next 8 years.  This is an opportunity that is simply too great to ignore and will benefit those who are now in desperate need. You can read an article about my speech here and view it in its entirety here

I continue to meet with many incredible groups from across the Commonwealth and the 41st District throughout this Session. This week I was thrilled to meet with a variety of groups that included the Association of People Supporting Employment First, NASA, Jewish Community Relations Council, Brain Injury Services, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Decoding Dyslexia in Virginia, James Madison University, Radford University, Fairfax Sheriff Stacey Kincaid and of course – Smokey the Bear!

Later this afternoon, I will once again hop on I-95 N and head back to the 41st and my family! I wanted to thank you all again for giving me the privilege to serve in the House of Delegates on your behalf and help address the issues that face our district and all of Virginia.  I look forward to hearing from you or seeing you in Richmond and out and about in the 41st District.  Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need any assistance.

Sincerely yours,
Eileen  

 

January 31, 2014

This week, the cold Polar Vortex continued to blow through Richmond, with blustery winds and snow filling the air, but the General Assembly never slowed down!  It is hard to believe that we just completed our fourth week of this year's Session. The time always goes by quickly in Mr. Jefferson's Capitol.

Update on Legislation

This week I presented several of my bills before various committees.

HB 1096

I am pleased to report that my bill addressing school concussion guidelines passed the full Education Committee and will head to the House of Delegates floor for a vote by the full House next week.  I have worked on concussion legislation over the past two years, and I am very proud that this bill has been so well received and supported by parents, school officials and my legislative colleagues.  HB 1096 places important relevant language into the Virginia Board of Education guidelines for student athletes who have suffered concussions and are not yet ready to return to the classroom.

Current guidelines include specific protocols for affected students to "return to play", but in line with the results of more recent medical studies, my bill incorporates a "return to learn" protocol as well.  I hope that this bill will help enlighten parents and school staff regarding the signs and symptoms to look for and address when allowing students to return to the classroom post-concussion.

HB 548

Another bill that I have worked on over the past two years, HB 548, would give students in all grades the opportunity to be given an expedited re-take of the Standards of Learning (SOL) examination, in the event they fail to pass the initial test within 25 points.  Students may fail SOL exams for a number of reasons that do not include inadequate knowledge of the material.  This will allow all of our students statewide an opportunity at redemption, which can so greatly boost their self-confidence.

I presented this bill before the Education Reform Committee this past week, and I am hopeful that this proposed change will be incorporated as part of a broader SOL reform bill making numerous revisions in the current system.  It has been an honor to work with so many concerned groups on this legislation, including the Virginia Superintendents Association, Fairfax County Public Schools, Virginia Association for Early Childhood Education, Virginia Association of Secondary Schools, and the Virginia Education Association.

HB 957

Yesterday, I also presented HB 957, which will extend the enactment date of legislation passed last year concerning Virginia Railway Express' voting board membership.  My bill was the result of negotiations between VRE, DRPT and the Secretary of Transportation.  It will give the interested parties extended time to discuss this proposal.  VRE is a transit operation that is vital for 41st District commuters, and I have been proud to work closely with them in past sessions to help optimize their operations and ensure continued growth.  This bill passed the Subcommittee unanimously and will be taken up by the full Transportation Committee next week.

HB 948

This bill, which is designed to assist VDOT in the effective management of their essential transportation construction projects, unanimously passed the General Laws Subcommittee on Public Procurement and will come before the full General Laws Committee next week.

HB 543

HB 543, which will allow parents, guardians or authorized legal representatives to freeze the credit score of a minor or incapacitated adult in the event of a breach in personal information or potential identity theft passed the full House Commerce and Labor Committee.  It will be up for a vote before the full House of Delegates next week.

Visitors Update

A number of impressive constituent and advocacy groups visited my office this week.  It has been wonderful to see so many dedicated 41st District residents attending their organizations' advocacy day this year in Richmond.  It is so fulfilling to know that so many are passionate about their groups' legislative objectives, and take the opportunity to visit Richmond.

I was able to introduce the Leadership Fairfax Institute on the House floor yesterday, which was an honor for me as an 2001 LFI graduate.  Additionally, this week I met with friends from AARP, the Sierra Club. Northern Virginia Labor, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Virginia Education Association, Virginia Treasurer's Association, ENDependence Center of NOVA, the VCU Massey Center for Cancer, and a student lobbying group from George Mason University.  And this is just a partial list!  If you have a group interested in coming down to Richmond, please contact me to set up a meeting-- I would love to see you!

Office Hours

Hope to see you tomorrow for my “office hours”, February 1st, from 4:00 - 5:00 p.m. at Panera Bread (6230 Rolling Rd, Springfield, VA 22152) – no appointment necessary, just come on by. I have also scheduled "office hours" next Sunday, February 9th at Caribou Coffee (8948 Burke Lake Rd, Springfield, VA 22151) from10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.. Look forward to chatting with you, answering your questions and letting you know what has been transpiring in Richmond.  

Later this afternoon, I will hit the road as I hop on I-95 N and head back to the 41st and my family! I wanted to thank you all again for giving me the privilege to serve in the House of Delegates on your behalf and help address the issues that face our district and all of Virginia.  I look forward to hearing from you or seeing you in Richmond and out and about in the 41st District.  Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need any assistance from my office.

 

Week 3 Update - January 24th

What a busy week!  Even though this year is the "longer", 60-day Session, time continues to fly by.  While back home in the 41st, Fairfax was being hit with a snow and ice storm, giving some happy kids unexpected time off from school, in Richmond the General Assembly kept trekking through the elements without missing a beat.  Of course, the week began with our annual remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose many contributions to American society not only still echo today, but will forever continue to have a positive impact on this great country of ours.

Update on My Legislation

I am proud to report that my bill HB 550 passed the full House of Delegates unanimously (97-0).  This legislation will allow local, self-managed Homeowners' Associations up to 10 business days to respond to a written request for association documents rather than the current 5-day requirement.  It was wonderful to see this common-sense bill receive such complete support from my colleagues.

Just yesterday, I presented several bills before Committee hearings.  My bill HB 543, which will allow parents, guardians or authorized legal representatives to freeze the credit score of a minor or incapacitated adult in the event of a breach in personal information or potential identity theft, was unanimously passed out of the Commerce and Labor Subcommittee #2.  Captain Robert Chappell of the Virginia State Police provided important testimony on the merits and intended outcomes of this legislation.  A renowned expert on child identity theft, Captain Chappell has authored the book, Child Identity Theft: What Every Parent Needs to Know.  His support, along with that of the Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, helped move this bill through the Subcommittee unanimously.  This measure will be considered by the full House of Delegates next week, and I look forward to continue working with Captain Chappell throughout the legislative process and on future issues of importance to our children and vulnerable adults.

Yesterday, I also presented, HB 552, which I introduced this year addressing child protection.  This bill originally required child care providers to undergo a comprehensive background check, including fingerprinting, to ensure their fitness for caring for and assuring the safety of children.  Coincidentally, Delegate Rich Anderson of Prince William County introduced similar legislation this year.  After working closely with the Virginia State Police, Department of Social Services, child care providers and others, we concluded that the best way forward with this legislation was to create a "working group" comprised of all relevant stakeholders, to develop a course of action for implementing a fingerprint system and ensuring that Virginia is fully prepared for federal legislation that will take effect in 2016.

Elly Lafkin, a young mother who lost a newborn child in the hands of a child care center that failed to implement such a background check, provided emotional testimony addressing the need for this study and future legislation.  The Committee has now incorporated this new legislative language into my bill, which was then merged into Del. Anderson's bill, which I am now a Chief Co-Patron on.  The resulting legislation was unanimously passed out of the Health, Welfare and Institutions Subcommittee #2, and will be brought up for a vote before the full House of Delegates next week.

This week, I also presented two of my budget amendments before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education.  The first of these, 130 #4h, concerns the need to reform our current Standards of Learning exams (SOLs).  You may remember from last week's eNews, my bill HB 548, which will allow students in grades 3-8 to be given an expedited retake of a closely failed SOL exam, an opportunity currently afforded only to high school students.  This complementary budget amendment is needed to accompany this proposed policy reform.  As reforming the SOLs is a top priority of mine, I am pleased to be part of a bipartisan group working toward such real achievements to further improve our educational system for the benefit of all of our kids.

My second budget amendment, 135 #17h, increases funding for the Jobs for Virginia Graduates program.  JVG is a statewide program for at-risk youth who seek to complete their high school education through graduation, and pursue career and/or post-educational interests.  JVG is a true public/private partnership that currently helps more than 12,000 disadvantaged students throughout the Commonwealth to graduate from high school and successfully enter the workforce, with an enviable graduation rate of 96%.

I have several additional budget amendments to come before the Appropriations Subcommittee in the next several weeks.

This week I also presented, HB 948, which would allow a fee exemption for the Virginia Department of Transportation and Department of Rail and Public Transit when entering into and securing public/private partnerships.  I worked closely with VDOT on this bill to address an unintended consequence of legislation approved last year, in order to help VDOT better manage their transportation construction operations.

I have several other bills and budget amendments that I will introduce next week that also reflect the issues that I care most about, and that matter most to 41st District residents--education, transportation and public safety.

Meetings and Other Updates

In addition to presenting legislation this week, I also met with several important groups from Fairfax County and the Commonwealth.  This week, the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce was in Richmond advocating for a strong business community.  I enjoyed visiting with my friends from the Chamber.  Yesterday, my friend, and former 41st District Delegate Jim Dillard, made an appearance on behalf of the Fairfax Education Association of Retired Teachers.  I greatly value Delegate Dillard's friendship and advice on many issues, especially education and SOL reform.  It is always good to see him back in Richmond.  Other groups with whom I met included The Arc of Northern Virginia, Humane Society, Fraternal Order of Police, and the National Alliance for Mental Illness.  I always welcome these organizations' valuable thoughts and ideas, and greatly appreciate their presence at the General Assembly Session.

In case you missed it, the Burke Connection reported this week on my first 1 1/2 weeks in Session.  I kept a running diary of my daily activities to give readers a firsthand glimpse into the life of a Delegate during the General Assembly Session.  You can find a link to that story here.

We are now more than 2 full weeks into Session, with a great deal having been accomplished but much left to do.  I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to find paths forward on the important outstanding issues, such as the expansion of health care services for all Virginians, reforming our ethics laws so that all voters will continue to have complete faith in the honesty and integrity of your elected officials and SOL reform. 

Later this afternoon, I will hit the road as I hop on I-95 N and head back to the 41st, I wanted to thank you all again for giving me the privilege to serve in the House of Delegates on your behalf and help address the issues that face our district and all of Virginia.  I look forward to hearing from you or seeing you in Richmond and out and about in the 41st District.  Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need any assistance from my office.

 

 

Week 2 Session Update - January 17th

As this first week of the 2014 General Assembly Session comes to a close, I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on several developments in Richmond.  In addition to being reappointed to the House Transportation, House Finance and House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committees, this week I was also appointed to membership on one Subcommittee of each.

In the Finance Committee, we heard from Finance Secretary Ric Brown on his vision for this key position over the next four years.  Having served the Commonwealth as Finance Secretary in the cabinets of both Governors Kaine and McDonnell before being reappointed by Governor McAuliffe, Secretary Brown has amassed a wealth of experience that will be invaluable to House members on both sides of the aisle.  In the Transportation Committee, Aubrey Lane, the new Secretary-designate of Transportation spoke about his qualifications to become the next Secretary of Transportation.  Secretary-designate Lane brings experience in statewide transportation planning and in the private sector that gives him valuable perspective in transportation planning, construction and maintenance.  And just today in Militia, Police and Public Safety, we heard from my friend, former delegate and new Secretary of Public Safety-designate Brian Moran on the initiatives he plans to pursue as the Commonwealth's chief safety officer and from new Secretary of Veteran Affairs-designate, Adm. John C. Harvey, who has amassed an exceptional background, having served our nation with distinction and honor.  He brings leadership and knowledge of both veterans affairs and emergency preparedness to the position.  

Three of my bills were up for consideration this week before their respective Committees. HB 545, which was designed to give Virginians an additional hour to cast their ballots on Election Day, was reviewed by the Campaign Finance Subcommittee on Wednesday.  Those of us, particularly in Northern Virginia, who regularly experience the harsh realities of commuting delays, know that extending voting hours until8:00 PM would relieve the burden of rushing to the polls in the case of traffic congestion.  Unfortunately, once again the subcommittee decided to table this bill.  However, I remain steadfast in my goal to help ensure that all qualified voters are able to participate in this essential exercise of our constitutional democracy.  I will therefore continue to seek appropriate legislative remedies to maximize active voter participation.

On Tuesday, I was joined by fellow 41st District resident Tena Bluhm, who traveled to Richmond to testify before the General Laws Subcommittee on Housing about my bill, HB 550.  The objective of this bill is to help local, self-managed Homeowners' Associations by allowing them up to 10 business days to respond to a written request for association documents rather than the currently required 5 days.  Often, in a self-managed association, such documents may be kept in the homes of community volunteers and thus not be immediately available on request.  This bill would therefore provide a more reasonable period of time to fulfill a request for association documents.  The bill passed the full General Laws Committee on Thursday and will be up for full review by the House of Delegates next week.

I was joined by another 41st District resident on Monday, who testified on behalf of my bill HB 551.  Richard Golden, of Burke, provided valuable informational support to the Courts of Justice Subcommittee on Civil Law, on the reasoning for having two different options for the filing of wills or codicils.  While this bill was tabled, the discussion sparked very insightful debate and opened the door for possible reconsideration in the future.

The willingness of these involved constituents to travel to Richmond to advocate for legislation they support is very reassuring to me as an elected official.  I so appreciate the time and effort they made to participate in our democratic process, and I hope that they found this experience to be worthwhile!

Yesterday, the proposed amendments to the next biennial budget were released through the Commonwealth's budget website.  You can visit the full list of budget amendments here and a list of the items that I have submitted here.  I am proud to continue my dedication to bringing open-source, digital textbooks to our college students.  Accordingly, I proposed a budget amendment to provide funding for the Virginia Community College System to make open educational resources available at our impressive community colleges throughout the Commonwealth. Often those in greatest need of financial assistance begin their post-secondary education at a community college to reduce the overall cost of their higher education.  This amendment would give students the opportunity to access quality, digital textbooks at little or no cost.

I have also submitted a budget amendment to provide additional funding to Jobs for Virginia Graduates to expand their highly successful program providing assistance and guidance to high school students at high risk of dropping out before graduating.  JVG has an enviable record of 94% success in helping young adults graduate from high school and enter the workforce.  The requested financial support can help this worthy organization to extend its reach to at-risk young students throughout Virginia who are most likely to benefit from such mentoring efforts.

As many of you may have seen in The Washington Post this week, several ideas have been discussed by the General Assembly to reform the Standards of Learning exams (SOLs).  That article can be accessed here.  Again this year, I am proud to be working with the Virginia Association of School Superintendents by reintroducing HB 548, supplemented with budget amendment 130 #4h.  This bill will allow students in grades 3-8 to be given an expedited retake of an SOL exam, an opportunity currently afforded only to high school students.  This will enable students who barely miss passing the chance to retake it while the information is still fresh in their minds.  Reforming the SOLs is a top priority of mine and I am glad to be part of a bipartisan group working toward real achievements to better our educational system for the benefit of our kids.

This week, I have also been meeting with many different advocacy groups from across the Commonwealth.  Visitors have included the Fairfax representatives of Virginia Professional Fire Fighters, Virginia Health Care Foundation, Alexandria Neighborhood Health Services, George Mason University, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Military Officers of America Association and the Virginia Dental Society. 

Earlier this week, I was able to visit the Virginia Math & Science Coalition's STEM display, and see all the many ongoing research programs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) across Virginia.  I was pleased to see another 41st District resident, Diana Schmiesing, at Providence Elementary School's STEM display!  I look forward to meeting with many more advocacy groups in the coming weeks!

With the first week now behind us, we can look forward to continuing to discuss and examine new meaningful legislative proposals that have the potential to further enhance the quality of life for all of our citizens in the 41st District and throughout the Commonwealth.  I am excited about what this General Assembly Session will bring and look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, both in Committee and on the full floor, to help Virginia grow and continue to ensure that we always remain one of the very best states in which to live, work, raise a family and do business.

As I get ready to hit the road and head back to the 41st, I wanted to thank you all again for giving me the privilege to serve in the House of Delegates on your behalf and help address the issues that face our district and all of Virginia.  I look forward to hearing from you or seeing you in Richmond and out and about in the 41st District.  Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need any assistance from my office.

Sincerely yours,
Eileen

 

General Assembly Legislative Update - January 13

Described below are a number of the legislative bills I have introduced for consideration by the 2014 General Assembly. 

Among my legislative priorities are improving education, transportation, public safety and strengthening our economy.  I have filed bills which reform the Standards of Learning exams, expand voting hours on election day, protect our children and address outstanding issues in our mental health system. 

As always, I introduced legislative proposals that will make a difference for the residents of the 41st District as well as citizens across the Commonwealth. It is my priority to reflect the views of my constituents and address issues that affect all of our state’s diverse communities.

For the 2014 General Assembly Session, I was officially reappointed by Speaker William Howell to membership on the House Transportation Committee, House Finance Committee and House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee.  I look forward to working closely with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to develop solutions to challenges we currently face.

Among the bills I have introduced are:

· HB 543 Would allow parents, guardians or authorized legal representatives to freeze the credit score of a minor or incapacitated adult and protect our children and seniors from the harms of identity theft. 

· HB 544 Would encourage higher education faculty and staff to report threatening or aberrant behavior that may pose a threat to an individual or the campus community at large.

· HB 545 Would extend voting hours to 8 p.m.from the current closing time of 7:00 p.m., making voting more convenient for individuals who spend significant time commuting, especially here in Northern Virginia.

· HB 548 Would give students in all grades the opportunity to be given an expedited re-take of the Standards of Learning (SOL) examination, in the event of their failure to pass the initial test.

· HB 550 Would help alleviate the current burden on self-managed homeowners’ associations by allowing ten business days to respond to written requests rather than the present five days.

· HB 552 Would require child care providers to undergo a comprehensive background check including fingerprinting to ensure their fitness in caring for and assuring the safety of children.

· HB 1096 Would add protocols to the Virginia Board of Education’s concussion guidelines for students returning to the classroom after having suffered a concussion.

The above-noted bills represent a partial list of my proposed legislation. Details on all of these bills, as well as the others along with budgetary amendments I introduced this week, and their status in the legislative process can be found at lis.virginia.gov under my name.

It is my privilege to serve in the House of Delegates on your behalf and address the issues that face the 41st District and the Commonwealth as a whole.  I look forward to hearing from you or seeing you in Richmond and out and about in the 41st District during the weekends.  Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need any assistance from my office.

 

January 7th

Today I head down to Richmond to begin the 2014 Virginia General Assembly Session!  This year’s session is set to last 60 days, with many issues important to our community up for debate including: the new biennial budget, education reform, medicaid expansion, public safety and ethics reform.

Later this week I will provide an update and synopsis on my legislative agenda for the 2014 Session. I have spent the past year listening and meeting with constituents to develop and introduce legislation that I believe will help better the lives of 41st District residents and Virginians throughout the Commonwealth.

During this year’s Session, I will once again provide you with weekly updates through my eNews about the important topics that arise during the week as well as any action on the legislation I plan to introduce.  I encourage you to visit the Virginia General Assembly’s website here.  This website is a great tool to track legislation you are interested in, follow Committee meetings and contact my office or your Senator’s office.  You can also watch each day’s House of Delegates session live starting tomorrow here. In addition, please visit my website here, follow me on facebook here and twitter @efillercorn for breaking updates and issue briefs during the Session. 

If you are interested in visiting Richmond during the Legislative Session, please contact me at eileen@eileenfillercorn.com.  My Legislative Assistant, Garrett McGuire, and I would be happy to help you set up a tour of the Capitol, reserve seating for the House of Delegates floor session and offer recommendations of other places to visit while in Richmond. 

It is my privilege to serve in the House of Delegates on your behalf and address the issues that face the 41st District and the Commonwealth as a whole.  I look forward to hearing from you or seeing you in Richmond over the next 60 days, and out and about in the 41st District during the weekends.  Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need any assistance from my office. 

 

 

Thanksgiving Update

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

November has continued to be an extremely busy month.  I wanted to take this opportunity to check in with you and provide an update of important developments around the district and throughout the Commonwealth.

This past month, I have spent considerable time meeting with my colleagues in the General Assembly in preparation for the 2014 Legislative Session in Richmond, ensuring that we are appropriately prepared to tackle the important issues we will face during this year's 60-day session.  The House Appropriations and Finance Committees converged for a two-day work session this month as we began preparing for development of the next biennial state budget.  As a member of the House Finance Committee, I look forward to being actively involved in this process.

This week, I also attended the last 2013 meeting of the Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS), where we finalized policy recommendations for the 2014 General Assembly Session.  JCOTS is charged with reviewing and considering proposed legislation that may have been too complex to consider during the previous legislative session.  One of the bills we discussed in JCOTS this year was a bill I introduced in the 2013 Session, HB 1777. This bill would create an open resource, online textbook council in the Commonwealth. Towards this end, on December 3rd, I am cohosting a forum that will bring together stakeholders from higher education, textbook publishers, K-12 education and policy makers on the future of open resource textbooks in Virginia. This diverse group will play a pivotal role deciding how open resource, digital textbooks will be implemented in the Commonwealth.  The work of JCOTS is vitally important to the legislative process of the General Assembly, to ensure that more complex issues receive appropriate attention.  I am very proud to be a member of this important committee.

Next week, I will be attending a joint meeting of the House and Senate Transportation Committees to discuss the important transportation issues facing us during the upcoming session.  Topics of discussion will include the implementation and impact of the new statewide transportation package passed this year, as well as upcoming transportation improvement projects now planned for Northern Virginia.

With the General Assembly beginning in less than 6 weeks, I am working to finalize my legislative agenda for 2014. I will continue to meet with constituents, committees and other interested parties throughout the area, to address those issues of greatest concern to residents of the 41st District.  If you were unable to attend one of my recent Office Hours sessions, but still wish to raise specific thoughts on new legislative approaches for possible consideration in Richmond, please feel free to contact me through email or by phone.

Our Incredible Schools

I hope that many of you were able to get out and enjoy the great artistic performances by our 41st District high schools.  Lake Braddock, Robinson, West Springfield and Woodson all presented impressive and enjoyable plays during the last month.  

The 41st District schools also continue to excel on the athletic field. A special congratulations to West Springfield’s Caroline Alcorta who won the Virginia 6A girls’ individual title with a course-record setting performance. Additionally, Lake Braddock's football team continues their run through the playoffs when they face Westfield High School tomorrow at 1:30 PM--Go Bruins!  We have some incredibly talented students in our community!

VDOT and Snow

Recently, VDOT held a briefing for the upcoming winter weather and discussed its new interactive website that allows you to track the progress of snow plowing in our area.  You can do so by entering your street address and checking the actual schedule of plowing in your own neighborhood.  VDOT's stated goal is to clear all roads within 24 hours following a 2 to 4 inch accumulation of snow.  You can visithttp://www.vdotplows.org to check it out today and bookmark it for the upcoming winter season!

Governor-Elect Transition Team

I was honored to be named to Governor-Elect Terry McAuliffe's transition committee, designated the "Non-Partisan Common Ground for Virginia Committee".  The committee membership reflects the Governor-Elect's commitment to consider a wide range of views on important issues that he will face in governing the Commonwealth over the next 4 years.  Representing all regions of Virginia, the Transition Committee is charged with the responsibility of helping build the foundation for an effective and innovative administration that will be ready to "hit the ground running" after Inauguration Day. If you have any thoughts about transition please contact me and if you are interested in applying for a job in the new Administration you can click here.

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates.  As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District.  Please do not hesitate to contact me directly at(571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

 

 

 

Post Election Update

On November 5th, I was honored to be re-elected to my third term as your representative in the Virginia House of Delegates.  I would like to express my deepest appreciation to you for your support during the campaign, and I look forward to continuing to serve as your 41st District Delegate and help move our Commonwealth forward.

In only two months, the 2014 General Assembly Session will convene in Richmond.  Building on the bipartisan successes of the 2013 Session, it is critically important that we all recognize the necessity for pragmatic deliberation and meaningful results to once again become the norm in Richmond.  As always, I remain fully committed to collaborating with my legislative colleagues as we continue our important work in the State Capitol.

The 2014 General Assembly Session will be 60 days in length, and will feature development of the 2014-2016 biennial budget.  The budget process will include a debate on funding for our schools, expansion of the Medicaid program, strengthening the state retirement system, and determining how to best allocate newly raised transportation funds.

During 60-day Sessions, members of both the House of Delegates and State Senate are able to introduce an unlimited number of proposed bills for consideration.  As I prepare to set my legislative agenda, I would like to hear from as many constituents as possible in order to incorporate your own ideas in submitting new legislative approaches that will address your concerns and help improve the quality of life for all of our citizens.

If you have any thoughts about potential legislation, please contact me ateileen@eileenfillercorn.com, or by phone at (571) 249-3453.  Additionally, I will be holding the following pre-session Office Hours to meet personally with anyone who wishes to discuss their views on new legislation for the 2014 Session:

Sunday, November 17, 2013
3:00 – 4:30 PM at Caribou Coffee (8938 Burke Lake Road, Kings Park Shopping Center)

Saturday, November 23, 2013
9:00 - 10:30 AM at Chesapeake Bagel Bakery (5719 Burke Centre Parkway, Burke, VA 22015)

Sunday, November 24, 2013 
10:00 - 11:30 AM at Einstein Bros Bagel (9490 Main Street, Fairfax, VA)

Again, many thanks to the voters of the 41st District; it is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates.  As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District.  Please do not hesitate to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

The weather is cooling down and the leaves are starting to fall, which means Election Day must be near! 4 days left - Election Day is Tuesday, November 5th.  As you likely know, I am running for reelection to continue serving the 41st District in the Virginia House of Delegates. I truly enjoy meeting so many new people and reconnecting with old friends while out knocking doors and making phone calls throughout the district. The best and most rewarding part of running for public office is the chance to connect with the community. Thank you to the thousands of individuals and families who have taken time out of their busy schedules to discuss the issues affecting us all. Another special thank you goes out to so many of you who have hosted events and meet and greets throughout the 41st District. A campaign cannot be successful without the grassroots organizing and connection with voters.

 

 

Election Day eNews

With just days remaining I wanted to provide a quick update on the campaign and some exciting news. On October 25th, I was honored to receive the endorsement of The Washington Post for my reelection to the House of Delegates. You can read the endorsement here. A full list of the endorsements that I have been proud to receive can be seen on my campaign website or through this link. In addition, our former Governor and current U.S. Senator Mark Warner endorsed my campaign. Senator Warner said “Eileen is smart, honest, and hard-working. She is a Delegate who delivers for the people of Fairfax County. I counted on her as a member of my administration and I know you can count on her too.” I am thankful for Senator Warner’s kind words and friendship. In addition to many other prominent elected officials, I am honored to have the support of former Republican Delegate Jim Dillard who said “Eileen Filler-Corn is exactly the kind of strong, moderate leader, Fairfax County needs right now”.

If you are interested in volunteering over the next few days or know of a High School student in need of service hours please contact me at eileen@eileenfillercorn.com or Garrett at garrett@eileenfillercorn.com  for details.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 5, 2013- Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. You MUST be in line by 7 p.m. in order to vote. 

Not sure what district you reside in? Click here and enter your address

Need to know where to vote? Click here to find your polling place.

Need a ride to the polls? Call my office at (571) 249-3453

As always, I continue to be busy visiting schools in the 41st District, speaking with students and attending meetings of various groups and organizations. I had a wonderful opportunity to present Certificates of Commendation from the House of Delegates to three West Springfield High School students receiving the Achievement Award in Writing from the National Council of Teachers of English. These students wrote outstanding pieces and were very deserving of these awards. I also recently attended legislative gatherings for the Virginia Bankers Association, Virginia Credit Unions, the Northern Virginia Realtors Association and the Virginia Dental Society.

One of my favorite events over the last couple of weeks was the Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Foundation Outstanding Educator Awards Luncheon. The MLK Jr. Cultural Foundation was established to promote multi-cultural activities and serve as a mechanism through which concerned individuals can support enhanced social, educational, health, and wellness services within the community. Honored at the lunch was Danielle Blunt, a graduate from one of the outstanding high schools in the 41st District. Danielle graduated from Robinson Secondary School. She founded the group “GIRL” which stands for Girls Inspired and Ready to Lead. GIRL is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to mentor and empower teenage girls to lead extraordinary lives by excelling in academics, developing leadership skills, engaging in community service, and developing a positive self–image. Congratulations to Danielle!

I have also truly enjoyed being out under the Friday night lights to catch our great 41st District schools’ football games. Go Bruins, Rams, Spartans and Cavaliers! Hard to believe high school football season is almost over.

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates. As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District. Please do not hesitate to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

 

 

 

October Update

The first few weeks of fall have certainly been eventful. For the first time since early 1996, the Federal Government has been shut down, leaving many in our area furloughed from their jobs and understandably frustrated.  This has occurred on top of the effects of sequestration that have already affected many locally.

I strongly share the frustration of so many at the bitter partisan politics that have led to this outcome in Washington. In Richmond, while we do not uniformly agree on all issues, we often come together as Virginians and compromise on important measures (such as this year's landmark transportation bill), for the ultimate betterment of the Commonwealth. Our government works best when we collaborate in a bipartisan manner to accomplish meaningful legislative goals.  A governmental shutdown can never be an acceptable option, especially when it affects the lives of countless individuals, many of whom live right here in our region.

At the same time, however, a very important opportunity occurred that some may have overlooked.  On October 1, open enrollment officially opened for the new health insurance marketplace, as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Virginians who do not have health insurance can now begin to compare and select from a number of different plans, with varying provisions and costs.  You can visit the federally run website www.healthinsurance.gov to begin looking, but some patience may be required as many millions of other Americans are accessing it as well.  In addition, the site www.enroll-virginia.com is also open now, serving as a navigator site for those looking for guidance and assistance in selecting an insurance plan that will best meet their needs.  Remember that the open enrollment period will remain in place for the next 6 months, with an official opening date of January 1, 2014 to begin coverage for those who sign up prior to December 15th.

In addition, public comments are now being accepted by the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission (MIRC), on the proposed expansion of Medicaid in Virginia.  This Commission was established by the General Assembly for the purpose of determining whether the Commonwealth should expand Medicaid services to the neediest of Virginians, including 84,000 children and nearly 30,000 veterans.  You can submit any comments you may have here, with a deadline for submission of 5:00 PM on October 16.  It is important that all Virginians take advantage of this powerful advocacy opportunity to raise concerns about access to mental health care and urge the MIRC to expand Medicaid services to those in greatest need.

In addition to knocking on doors in the district and meeting with many of you personally, I have also been busy attending neighborhood events such as the 8th Annual ARTS by George fundraising event, celebrating the arts at George Mason and supporting student scholarships to attend GMU.  The GMU Center for the Arts, a part of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, creates an academic environment for exploring artistic expression in all of its many forms.  As Co-Chair of the General Assembly Arts Caucus, promoting and ensuring adequate resources for our arts programs has been a particular focus of mine in the Virginia House of Delegates.  I know the value and power that exposing our students to any number of different art forms can have on their development and future success.

I continue to see many familiar faces at Back to School Nights in the 41st District.  We are all justifiably proud of the fact that our district is home to many of Virginia's best public schools, as reflected in the participation of so many parents at Back to School Night events. Providing the necessary resources and making sure our public schools are the very best they can be has always been one of my top priorities in Richmond, and I promise you that I will continue to place my primary focus on our children's education.

Remember, Election Day--November 5-- is just a month away, but it is not too early to start voting.  In-person absentee voting, for qualified voters, is now available at the Fairfax County Government Center, and at seven satellite locations throughout the county. You can find the nearest satellite voting location here. Saturday in-person absentee voting is also available through November 2nd.  To obtain an absentee ballot by mail, the deadline for submitting a completed application is Tuesday, October 29 at 5 PM.  If you would like information on mail-in absentee voting, please visit this site or contact me directly.

If you have moved recently, or know someone who needs to register to vote, the deadline for updating addresses and registering is Tuesday,
October 15, and registrations can be processed online here.  Remember, any teenager who will turn 18 by November 5 is eligible to vote this year, but they must be registered by October 15.

This weekend is the Virginia Energy Star and WaterSense Tax Holiday.  Purchases of certain Energy Star or WaterSense products from Friday, October 11 – Monday, October 14 will be exempt from state sales tax.  Exempt items include: any dishwasher, clothes washer, air conditioner, ceiling fan, compact fluorescent light bulb, dehumidifier or refrigerator.  Energy efficiency is designated by U.S. Department of Energy as meeting or exceeding requirements under the Energy Star program. The exemption is also available for WaterSense qualified products containing a WaterSense label. In order to be eligible for the Energy Star or WaterSense sales tax holiday exemptions, products must cost $2,500 or less per item and be purchased for noncommercial home or personal use.  If you are in the market for a new energy efficient home appliance – now is the time!

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates.  As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District.  Please do not hesitate to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

 

 

Beginning of Fall Update

As we look forward to the ongoing change of seasons, with all its colored foliage and brisk temperatures, I must begin this update with a statement of condolence about yet another senseless act of violence.  A week after the 12th anniversary of the devastating September 11 attacks, we have again suffered a tragic event of the deaths of innocent employees at the Washington Navy Yard.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those who have lost loved ones and victims who are recovering from their injuries.  At the same time, however, we once again witnessed the bravery of the dedicated first responders who immediately acted to contain the shooter, thereby saving many other lives.  It is indeed comforting to know that these dedicated first responders, public safety officials and hospital personnel are always there for us.  I hope we can continue to heal from this latest tragedy and find some meaningful solutions to such mindless acts in the future.

A lot has happened around the Commonwealth and in the 41st District since my last update.  The 7th Annual Burke Centre Festival attracted large crowds to celebrate this special community event.  It was wonderful to see so many of you out and about during the festival, enjoying the spectacular weather, local crafts and small businesses, and celebrating the Burke community.  This festival has long been one of my favorite events each year.  Congratulations to all those who worked hard to organize such a successful festival.  And thank you to everyone who stopped by my booth to say hello!

At the beginning of September, Back to School Nights around Fairfax County and in our district began to take place. I enjoy attending these nights and visiting with everyone, while recognizing that the 41st District is the home of some of the best public schools anywhere in the state and indeed across our great country.  One of the most important investments we will ever make is in public education, and continuing to support our superb educational system remains one of my top priorities as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.  Our public schools are one of our community's greatest assets, and we can never afford to compromise the resources we devote to them.

This week, I returned to Richmond to take part in a Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS) meeting of the Broadband and Education Subcommittee.  In addition to serving as a member of this subcommittee, I am also the patron of a bill currently under consideration after being referred by the 2013 General Assembly Session for further discussion.  This bill, HB 1777, would create an open-source digital library where college students can access online versions of college course textbooks at no charge, covering up to 50 of the most popular courses.  This bill would help students save money while attending our public colleges and universities.  I plan on working to bring together stakeholders to determine if we can identify a way forward toward its early implementation.  I plan to continue meeting with concerned groups as well as the Broadband and Education Subcommittee over the next few weeks to pursue this important proposal further.

The Fifth Annual Vendor Forum, Fairfax County's annual small business conference, will take place on Thursday, September 26 from 8 AM to 1 PM at the Fairfax County Government Center.  This will be a great opportunity for small business owners as the conference is geared toward the many challenges faced by the small business community everyday.  You can visit this site to learn all of the details and register.

While Election Day, November 5, is still more than 6 weeks away, it is not too early to start voting.  In-person absentee voting, for qualified voters, begins today at the Fairfax County Government Center, and at seven satellite locations throughout the county on September 28.  You can find a satellite location nearest you hereSaturday in-person absentee voting will be available from September 28 through November 2nd. In addition, absentee ballots will begin to be mailed from the Office of Elections on September 20 to those whose applications have been received; absentee ballots will then be mailed on a daily basis.  The deadline for submitting an application to receive an absentee ballot by mail is Tuesday, October 29 at 5 PM.  If you would like information on mail-in absentee voting please visit this site or please contact me.

If you have moved recently or know someone who needs to register to vote, the deadline to update addresses and register is Tuesday, October 15th and registration can be processed online here. Remember - if you have a teenager that will turn 18 by November 5th they are eligible to vote this year, but they must register by the 15th. 

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates.  As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District.  Please do not hesitate to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

 

Back to School Update

I hope everyone had a wonderful Labor Day holiday. It is now back to school time!  As we send our kids back in search of knowledge, I wanted to provide you with some links that you might find useful during this hectic period.  The first link here provides extensive details and reference information about the Fairfax County Public School System, and its programs, services and important contacts.  The second link here contains comprehensive information about our local Back to School Nights.

A special word of appreciation goes out to all of the teachers, administrators and staff who help mold our children, keep them safe, and ensure that they are receiving the high-quality education they deserve.  Also, as each of the 41st District High Schools begin their fall sports schedules, please join me in wishing good luck to the Bruins, Rams, Spartans and Cavaliers as they face their opponents on the field!

Just before school began again, I joined the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce for their 3rd Annual Char-a-oke to benefit Fairfax County Public Schools.  It was inspiring to meet with so many business leaders from our area that helped raise needed funds for the upcoming generation of the business community of tomorrow.

Last week, I was also able to attend an important event at the Fairfax County Fire Station 14 on Old Burke Lake Road, which honored a group of civic heroes in our community-- the Local 2068 Fairfax Chapter of the Virginia Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics-- for their tremendous fund-raising support of the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).  Last year alone, Local 2068 raised $568,000 for the MDA, thanks to the generous support of our 41st District community and many others!  This year's "fill the boot" effort kicked off on August 28, so please be sure to look out for your local fire fighters, helping to make a difference.

I am extremely proud to have received endorsements for my re-election from both the VA Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics, and the Police Benevolent Association.  It is indeed a singular honor to be recognized in this way by these brave first responders, as the men and women of our fire and police departments serve our communities every day to safeguard us all.  It is my privilege to be able to advocate on their behalf in the Virginia General Assembly.

In August, I was pleased to join the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC), to support the launch of the Veterans Employment Initiative. Incredible program! This effort is designed to accelerate veterans' transition to civilian life, by providing better employment opportunities across Virginia.  This initiative will connect veterans to suitable job openings available at the state's technology companies.  Through this program, NVTC will provide the necessary tools and resources to match veterans with jobs, internships, mentorships and certifications, while also supporting member companies in their efforts to hire, train and retain qualified veterans in their employee ranks.  If you are interested in learning more or becoming involved in this unique initiative, you can visit NVTC's site here.

As you may have heard last month, it was announced that the Commonwealth's budget had a surplus of $585 million this year.  As a member of the House Finance Committee, I joined my legislative colleagues for this announcement in Richmond during a meeting of the Joint Money Committees, comprised of the House Finance and Budget Committees and the Senate Finance Committee.  The budget surplus consists of $264.3 million in state revenues that exceeded projections, plus $320.7 million in budgeted savings.  As a member of the House Finance Committee, I am committed to ensuring that we continue responsible oversight during these challenging economic times.  It is imperative that we use our limited state resources responsibly and effectively throughout the next biennial budget process as well, which begins during the 2014 General Assembly Session.

Just last week we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington.  Many thousands of our fellow citizens from across the country converged on the nation's capital, to commemorate and celebrate this major event of the civil rights movement in 1963.  Last week, we remembered Martin Luther King, Jr.'s stirring words-- "A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus"-- reminding us that we have all come a long way over the past half-century, but there is still so much more to be accomplished.

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates.  As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District.  Please do not hesitate to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

Sincerely yours,

Eileen

 

Mid August Update

As we quickly move through August and the rest of the summer, I wanted to take this opportunity to touch base with you.  The new school year is fast approaching, as we were all reminded by the recent annual sales tax holiday for back-to-school items.  I hope everyone was able to benefit from the tax-free weekend while purchasing necessary supplies and clothing for the beginning of school.

A great volunteer opportunity will be available next week for those interested in helping others prepare for returning to school.  Volunteers are needed on August 19, 20 and 21 for the Annandale Back to School Resource Fair, which helps support students in preparing for their return to school in September.  This event is being hosted by Annandale High School, and will include the distribution of free school supply kits for students in need, a clothing boutique where families can shop for new and gently used school clothes, vision and hearing screenings, and a fair featuring nearly 40 community and county organizations.  Volunteers are needed on the 19th and 20th to help with preparations for this event, as well as on the fair date of the 21st.  You can sign uphere or contact Sherry Noud at smnoud@fcps.edu with any questions.

As I do each year, I was pleased to be able to spend National Night Out with many residents of the 41st District.  It was great to see so many neighborhoods participating in this national event, which began in 1984 to promote involvement in crime-prevention activities, police/community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie.  Thank you to everyone who joined us for this fast-growing fun event!

For all of the aspiring chefs out there, a great new opportunity is coming to your local farmer's market.  In a program sponsored by Fairfax County and the Virginia Cooperative Extension, Master Food Volunteers will be demonstrating cooking techniques for shoppers at farmer's markets. The demonstrations will focus on teaching shoppers how to create healthier meals from their purchases.  The "Chef at Market" program also has recipe cards available following the demonstrations. The first such event will take place at the Burke Farmer's Market on August 17th between 10:30 and 11:30 AM, and future programs will be announced at a later date.  This will be a great opportunity to learn some new recipes using fresh, locally-grown produce.

My thanks to everyone who came out to my office hours session last week, and to those who continue to take the time to speak with me while I am out knocking on doors.  I truly appreciate being able to meet personally with all of our district residents, to get first-hand input regarding thoughts and ideas for making our community even better.  Stay tuned for future office hours and I hope to see you at your door one of these days!

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates.  As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District.  Please do not hesitate to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

Sincerely yours, 

Eileen

 

Beginning of August Update

Did you know that July 30th was the 394th Birthday of the Virginia General Assembly?  That makes it the oldest, continually-serving representative Assembly in the New World.  The original 20 members convened for the first time on July 30th, 1619 in the Jamestown Church. It is an incredible honor to be part of this historic legislative body.    

I have been busy the last two weeks with multiple meetings concerned with transportation.  I serve on the Joint Committee on Transportation Accountability (JCTA), which met in both Richmond and Northern Virginia during the latter weeks of July.  In Richmond, I participated in both the Vehicle and Tolling Subcommittees of the JCTA to discuss bills introduced during the 2013 session that required further review and more discussion from stakeholders.  The Tolling Subcommittee discussed the future of tolling, E-Z Passes and the impact of clean special fuel vehicles in HOV lanes.  During the Vehicle Subcommittee, we further discussed license plates for non-conventional vehicles such as mopeds, as well as new towing definitions and bike safety provisions. 

In Northern Virginia, I joined the full JCTA for a special meeting in Fairfax. We were able to provide an overview of the new transportation package passed this year in Richmond, which is in the beginning stages of state implementation, while focusing on the rail and transit funding aspect of the legislation as well. Further, the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority approved 33 transportation projects for our area. These projects will include road construction, maintenance and expanding transit. Specific projects include the widening of Route 28 in Fairfax County, additional VRE cars and WMATA buses, power upgrades on Metro's Orange line and an Innovation Center Metro Station. As an enthusiastic supporter of the new transportation legislation, I am most gratified that this long-overdue initiative is already showing its importance by creating these opportunities for Northern Virginia. 

A couple of new services and announcements have come across my desk since my last update that I though you would be interested to know. 

The State Board of Elections (SBE), in partnership with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), launched online voter registration as a result of legislation passed during the 2013 General Assembly Session. Eligible citizens of the Commonwealth will now be able to submit a voter registration application or update their registration information online. In order to complete the application process online, citizens must provide their Virginia DMV customer identifier number.  Those who do not have a Virginia DMV customer identifier may still fill out the registration application online, but will be required to print and return the completed application to the appropriate local voter registration office. If you or anyone you know needs to register to vote, visit the new site here.

The new DMV 2 GO Mobile unit that I shared with you recently will also be in Northern Virginia twice during the first part of August.  If you need to make a quick visit to the DMV these locations might be a great opportunity to check out the full service Mobile station. Check out the table on the left for times and location.    

Also, for consistent travelers of I-95 and I-395, some important news you might want to be aware of - beginning August 5th, the reversible high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on northbound I-395/95 will close during the week at 10 a.m. rather than 11 a.m., and the southbound HOV lanes will open at noon rather than 1 p.m.  According to the Virginia Department of Transportation, the change is in effect until mid-October to help ease southbound congestion during construction of the 95 Express Lanes, the 95 Shoulder Lane project in Prince William County, and BRAC related work in the I-395/Seminary Road area along with routine summer road maintenance.  Please plan your trips accordingly and be aware of this temporary change.   

Lastly, two key implementation dates for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are on the horizon.  Starting on October 1, 2013, many Virginians will be able to compare and purchase insurance through the Federally Facilitated Marketplace (FFM), better known as the federal health exchange.  Coverage through the exchange is set to begin on January 1, 2014.  In addition, the Virginia Medicaid program will implement several changes on October 1st. These include a new national standard for calculating financial eligibility for Medicaid and a new electronic enrollment and eligibility system, as well as a call center to answer questions about who is eligible for Medicaid. It is my hope that the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission will continue to work towards finalizing the three requirements that the Department of Medical Assistance Services must meet before the full implementation of Medicaid can go forward. 

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates.  As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District.  Please do not hesitate to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

Sincerely yours,

Eileen  

 

Mid July Update

Now that the Fourth of July has come and gone, the summer vacation season is really in full swing.

I wanted to take this opportunity to give you a quick update on recent community activities occurring in and around the 41st District. I was happy to march in two local Independence Day parades--in Fairfax City and Orange Hunt/Hunt Valley.  The Fairfax City parade, pictured on the left, has grown into one of the truly special annual July 4th events in the area, with tremendous crowds and great patriotic enthusiasm.  I was fortunate to be joined on this march by some very energetic volunteers, who braved the heat to hold signs and pass out lollipops to the kids.  Every year, this parade brings out even more of our neighbors, giving us all a wonderful chance to celebrate the birthday of this marvelous country. The Orange Hunt parade is always fun, and provides a wonderful opportunity to visit with neighbors, friends, teachers and community leaders. The highlight is always enjoying ice cream at the conclusion of the parade in the parking lot of Orange Hunt Elementary school.

As always, I am spending a lot of time out and about in the 41st District knocking regularly on neighborhood doors, meeting new friends and reacquainting myself with old friends throughout the district.  I thoroughly enjoy having the opportunity to speak personally with community residents, and hear first hand of those issues and concerns that I can resolve and/or bring back and address with my colleagues in the Virginia House of Delegates. I look forward to meeting many more of you in your homes, and sincerely appreciate all of those who take the time to chat with me and have even offered me cold water on these hot days!

Last week, the Braddock District Council held their annual "Best of Braddock" awards ceremony and picnic, with over 100 members of our community in attendance.  It was an honor to attend and recognize the many award-winning individuals and businesses who have shown so much dedication to helping make Braddock such a very special place in which to live, work and raise a family. My congratulations go to all the deserving winners this year. I always look forward to that annual event.

On a personal note, I was recently appointed by the Speaker of the House of Delegates to serve as a member of the Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS).  This permanent legislative agency was established in 1997 to encourage, promote and assist in the development of sound technology and science policy throughout the Commonwealth.  Like the Joint Commission on Transportation Accountability, on which I serve as well, the JCOTS panel is comprised of members of both the House of Delegates and State Senate. Our objective is to more fully examine new proposed legislation and concepts that may not have received sufficient attention during the rather short General Assembly Session each year. As legislators, both of these Commissions are designed to help us bring together interested stakeholders, to develop the most effective policies for the Commonwealth in these important fields of endeavor. I am greatly honored to be appointed to JCOTS, and I look forward to working closely with my colleagues on new developments brought before the Commission.

It is my distinct honor and privilege to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates.  As always, I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you out and about in the 41st District.  Please do not hesitate to contact me directly at (571) 249-3453 if I can be of assistance to you at any time.

 

 

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