eNews Archive-2013

December Update

We are now less than three weeks away from the opening of the 2014 General Assembly Session in Richmond, on Wednesday, January 8.  It is exciting to be returning for my third term as your representative in the Virginia House of Delegates, and I look forward to continuing to advocate on behalf of all 41st District residents.

This year's General Assembly Session comprises 60 days in length, and will feature extensive debate on, and ultimate passage of, the biennial budget for fiscal years 2014 through 2016.  Just this week, I returned to Richmond to attend Governor Bob McDonnell's address to the Joint Money Committees; consisting of the House Finance Committee, on which I serve, the House Appropriations Committee, and the Senate Finance Committee.  These three individual committees of the House and Senate are responsible for all fiscal legislation.

During this address, Governor McDonnell introduced his 2014-2016 budget proposal to the Committees and outlined some of the key initiatives he would like to accomplish.  This proposal totaled $96 billion, which represents a $10 billion increase over the biennial budget currently in effect.  During the upcoming General Assembly Session, I look forward to working with my House colleagues and Governor-Elect McAuliffe to fully debate and approve a final budget that is fiscally responsible, balanced and provides adequate financial resources to address the needs of the Commonwealth.

I was also in Richmond recently to participate in the Joint Transportation Committee meeting.  This important event brings together the House Transportation Committee (of which I am a member) and the Senate Transportation Committee, to discuss ongoing studies, current planning and specific transportation issues that may have arisen throughout the year.  Key issues discussed included optimal allocation of public transportation funding across Virginia, and a number of specific ongoing and upcoming projects taking place within Northern Virginia.

On December 2, I co-hosted a forum that brought together stakeholders representing higher education, textbook publishers, K-12 education and policy-makers, to discuss the future of open resource textbooks. This concept, as envisioned in my bill HB 1777 proposed in 2013, has the potential to dramatically reduce student costs associated with the purchase of study materials by making some of them online. This forum was a great success, opening up the dialogue and discussion between these varied interest groups relative to open resource educational materials.  An informative summary by The Burke Patch on this event can be seen here.

Just this week, I also had a most memorable 
opportunity to meet United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg when she addressed the Northern Virginia Technology Council breakfast.  Justice Ginsburg's awe-inspiring speaking style gracefully displays an incredibly keen mind and a vibrant personality.  It was a very special treat for me to be able to join NVTC on this momentous occasion.

If you are interested in coming down to Richmond during the General Assembly Session this year, please do not hesitate to contact our office to ask for any help we can provide.  In particular, if you have not had the opportunity to visit our state capitol, I can highly recommend it as a vibrant and imposing structure that is full of the history that has helped to shape the Commonwealth and our wonderful country.

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.

End of May Update

Wow – our first glimpse of summer came this past week!  With high temperatures here and increasing throughout the summer remember to take the proper precautions.  You can visit Fairfax County’s tips here.  In addition, don't forget to check on friends and neighbors, especially those who live alone or are elderly.  

Memorial Day

This year on Memorial Day, I again joined area leaders and the Burke VFW to reflect on the many sacrifices made by the men and women in our armed services who have ensured our freedom.  While Memorial Day is a great way to kick-off the summer, the true meaning of the day is to remember and recognize those that made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Nice to see our area Boy Scouts participating as well at this annual event. 

Medicaid Expansion

Great news for Medicaid expansion was released last week.  Part of the Medicaid expansion agreement reached this year in the General Assembly was the creation of the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission to examine a set of three requirements that the Department of Medical Assistance Services would have to meet before the full implementation of expansion could go forward.  One requirement for the expansion was to move forward with the creation of Commonwealth Coordinated Care. This new program will launch in 2014 and better coordinate the care of individuals who receive both Medicare and Medicaid. It will serve nearly 78,000 Virginians and will save $11.3 million in 2014 and $22.6 million in 2015. This is an important and crucial step in the right direction for the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission to give final approval to Medicaid expansion.  

Transportation

I recently attended two important meetings regarding the implementation of the new transportation package.  The Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance's Forum discussed how NOVA can best utilize the new transportation funds.  In attendance were severl of my colleagues from the General Assembly, local leaders from surrounding counties and business leaders to start this important discussion.  I was also able to join the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority for their monthly meeting.  I joined board members comprised of General Assembly members, local leaders and Governor’s appointees in discussing project implementation, organization, public outreach and the financial and legal aspects of the transportation package.  These meetings are critical as we begin to discuss how the new influx of transportation dollars will be spent in our region.  During the General Assembly session I fought for a Northern Virginia regional component and I am happy to be involved in the future of this funding.  This money will help improve our quality of life and business.      

Our impressive students and schools

Our area students have shown over and over that they are among the brightest and most talented in the country.  Recently students from Robinson, West Springfield and Woodson were recognized by the National Council of Teachers of English for superior writing.  The NCTE 2013 Achievement Awards is an annual competition that requires nominated students to submit two pieces of writing for judging. Very impressive that only 155 students across the country were selected to receive this recognition and 9 were from Virginia and 6 from schools in the 41st District! An amazing accomplishment!

And I’m not done yet!  Students from all 4 high schools in the 41st district: Lake Braddock, Robinson, West Springfield and Woodson all received nominations for theater awards this year.  The Critics and Awards Program give away annual “Cappie” Awards.  After seeing the performances this year it is no surprise that these students were nominated. Congrats to these students and all of those throughout the Commonwealth who were nominated. 

Cicadas

A quick update from my last eNews, if you have yet to see cicadas in your area, chances are you won’t! You can view a map here that shows were this batch of 17-year cicadas will appear.  Some areas in our region will be spared from our buzzing friends.  

May Update

I hope your spring is going well--despite the ever-changing weather!  With spring here and summer right around the corner, we can expect our buzzing friends the cicadas to be making their once every 17-year appearance soon.

Additionally, as the warm weather returns, be sure to check the Center for Disease Control's website for helpful tips in being on the lookout for ticks on children and pets and preventing Lyme disease.  This year in the General Assembly, we passed HB 1933 to help provide information to patients being tested for Lyme disease, as this debilitating infectious condition continues to spread in our area.  All too often, the blood test results for Lyme disease may come back as a false negative.  This new legislation will alert the entire community of this possibility, and help ensure that our families, friends and neighbors take the appropriate steps in correctly diagnosing this disease and initiating treatment when needed.

Just last week I joined my House and Senate colleagues in Richmond for the Governor's ceremonial signing of the landmark transportation package we passed this year.  This bi-partisan effort truly showed what we can accomplish in Virginia when members of both political parties work together to move the Commonwealth forward.  The approval of this comprehensive bill has been hailed by the business community as a positive step toward permitting the Commonwealth to once again be recognized as the #1 state in which to do business.  

Recently, I was pleased to spend time with local Boy Scout Troop 1533 of the Mantua neighborhood.  It is always so gratifying to see our youth actively engaged in civic pursuits and helping support our communities. This impressive Troop clearly represents the very best of the next generation, who will become the leaders of tomorrow.  

In 2011, I introduced legislation to help move along a local park restoration project.  This legislation became law in 2011 and last week I was able to join local officials for the official opening of Rabbit Branch Park in the 41st District.  This park is on land formerly managed by the Kings Park West Swim Club.  When Swim Club Board Members tried to determine a way to renovate the land they were faced with the possibility of being liable for disposal costs.  My legislation provided immunity to the former Board Members from civil liability, already given to directors and other officers of tax exempt organizations, in the event of the dissolution of the organization.  I was happy to be a part of the process and a part of the opening.  Please go enjoy this new park and the 9 new acres of forestry added to the 41st District and Fairfax County. 

This past Saturday was National Armed Forces Day.  I was proud to join local veterans and service members at the Springfield American Legion to speak and be the official starter for the 4th National Armed Forces Day FreedomRide. Thousands of riders in over 30 states joined together in remembrance of all our Armed Services past and present in their own local FreedomRides.  The event was a tremendous success and was sponsored by Able Forces, a locally run organization that specializes in providing professional, career-oriented employment exclusively to wounded warriors and disabled veterans.  Thank you to all of those who serve and have served! 

I always enjoy speaking to local organizations about the Virginia House of Delegates and community issues, so please reach out to me if you would like me to meet with your group at any time.

As the school year winds down, I want to wish all of our students the best of luck in preparing for their Standards of Learning (SOL) exams.  

End of March Update

Wow, what a beginning to spring we have had! The warm weather is right around the corner though and we can finally begin to enjoy the outdoor weather.  One of the great activities in our region is the Cherry Blossom Festival.  The Festival runs through April 14 this year.  You can find all the information you need here.  If you have never been down to see these national treasures, I recommend it.

Monday, March 25th was the deadline for the Governor to amend or veto any legislation that was passed during this year’s General Assembly Session, as noted below.  

Transportation

The Governor's amendments to the transportation package include a decrease in the annual tax for Alternative Fuel Vehicles.  I was disappointed that this tax was not removed completely as I had expressed my concern to the Governor in person and in a letter.  The new tax will reduce the originally proposed $100 a year tax to $64 a year.  

In addition, the Governor also offered the following amendments:

·New vehicle titling tax would drop from proposed 4.3 percent to 4.15 percent.

·The real estate transaction fee would be reduced from $0.25/$100 to $0.15/$100.

·The Transient Occupancy Tax in Northern Virginia will be 2 percent instead of 3 percent to stay competitive with surrounding out-of-state jurisdictions.  

·Language was inserted to ensure constitutionality of the regional tax components.

·Language was added that would effectively end the legislation should any of the dedicated funds be used for anything but transportation.

Other Amendments and Legislation Signed

Medicaid

Part of the Medicaid expansion agreement reached by the General Assembly in February was the creation of the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission.  This Commission is made up of Members from both the House of Delegates and Senate to review reforms to the Medicaid program to correlate with the expanded coverage of Medicaid to nearly 400,000 additional Virginians.  The Governor’s proposed amendments center on the list of specific reforms the Commission must adhere to when reviewing Medicaid expansion.  The amendments provide for more specific reforms and qualifications before Medicaid can be expanded.  It is my hope that these amendments will not delay the expansion of Medicaid in Virginia. 

Federal Health Exchange Amendments

Since Virginia declined the opportunity to set up its own health exchange program on the Governor’s initiative, the federal government was given responsibility for organizing and operating Virginia’s exchange.  Under the ACA, people who do not have private or employer-sponsored health insurance will be able to choose among policies and providers in this exchange.  However, with this amendment, insurance policies that cover abortions could not be provided through this exchange.  Additionally, plans will not be able to provide separate abortion coverage.  Not only does this amendment deny private insurance companies the ability to provide comprehensive health care, it negates the woman’s right to make decisions regarding her health and pregnancy with her doctor, and purchase insurance coverage with their own funds.  

Photo ID

The Governor signed into law legislation that requires a photo ID to vote.  This provision will become law for the 2014 elections.  Instead of enacting laws that would make the voting process easier and more citizen-friendly such as legislation I introduced to extend voting hours which would enable more citizens to vote, this bill makes voter participation more difficult.  While it is important to prevent any cases of fraud in the voting process, this discriminatory approach is not the way to achieve this objective. 

Many individuals in Virginia, especially seniors and non-drivers, lack a photo ID.  While a free voter ID card will be issued to those who request one, individuals will have to bear the costs of obtaining official documentation, such as an original copy of his/her birth certificate.  They will also have to find transportation to get to a DMV location, which in many parts of the Commonwealth is not easily accessible.  

This will also have a financial impact on the state, by having to issue new photo ID cards just after Virginia spent $2 million on new voter ID cards for the 2012 elections.  I believe we need to start enacting voting reforms that will reduce long lines, provide flexibility and not exclude selected, but qualified, voters.  

Additional Legislative News

I am pleased to report that the Governor signed into law two pieces of legislation I introduced.  HB 1778 notifies women with dense breast tissue of the dangerous link between this condition and cancer. Many of the procedures that women will undergo following a medical consultation and notification of their mammogram results can be lifesaving. 

HB 2041 allows the Recreational Access Fund to utilize guidelines instead of regulations for rulemaking. This will help streamline the Recreational Access Fund’s administration and improve and expedite government services, which may occasionally be burdensome.  Both of these bills passed the House and Senate unanimously and will become law on July 1. 

Additionally, three other important measures I introduced are still under consideration.  Two were referred to Study Commissions to further examine how to move forward with these proposals.  My bill, HB 1777, would create an open source digital library where college students can access online versions of college course textbooks at no charge.  It has been referred to the Joint Commission on Technology and Science where it will bring together stakeholders to continue development.  HB 1782 would protect our children from the dangers of concussions by requiring third-party organizations using our public parks and schools for sporting events to adopt concussion guidelines in accordance with Virginia requirements or from the locality where the event is being held.  This bill was sent to the Joint Commission on Health Care to review current policies in place and determine how we can move forward.  Also, my bill HB 2201, which requires new public school construction and renovations to include installation of carbon monoxide detectors, was referred to the Department of Community and Housing Development to be implemented in their regulatory procedures for construction of public schools.

The General Assembly will reconvene this Wednesday, April 3, for a one-day session to consider all of the Governor’s amendments. 

Out and About in the 41st District

Last month, I was able to join members of the Northern Virginia Dental Society, who donated their time and professional service to their annual Mission of Mercy (MOM) Project.  This excellent program provides dental services to over 1,000 patients living below the poverty line.  For many Virginians, the Dental Society’s free Mission of Mercy Project is the only dental treatment they ever receive.  This was a most successful and inspirational event.

I was also able to tour the Northern Virginia Community College Springfield Medical Campus.  The Medical Education Campus (MEC) prepares and educates future nurses and allied health professionals.  More than 3,500 students attend MED with the goal of entering the health care field.  The campus is truly state of the art and a great asset for our community. 

It was an honor to join my colleague, Delegate David Bulova, in presenting a Commending Resolution to retiring Robinson Secondary School Principal Dan Meier. After nearly 35 years in public education as a teacher, guidance counselor, coach, mentor, Assistant Principal and Principal, Dan’s contributions to student education and development are many. Robinson Secondary School and Fairfax County will miss the great leadership Dan has provided to our kids and our community as a whole.  

After Session Update

It has been three weeks since I returned from Richmond following the 2013 General Assembly Session, and I wanted to provide you with an update on some issues and events going around our district and the Commonwealth. 

It seems hard to believe that we will be back in Richmond in just 2 weeks for the “reconvene session”.  This one-or two-day period is when the General Assembly gathers to review any changes or vetoes the Governor has made to the legislation that was passed during the General Assembly Session and submitted for his signature.  

After the historic session this year, considerable discussion has evolved over the transportation funding package.  As you likely read in my last eNews, I joined with 59 of my House colleagues to help pass a comprehensive transportation package that will allow us to move forward in alleviating congestion, repairing deteriorated pavement conditions, and constructing needed new roadways.  This was the first time in 27 years that the General Assembly was able to pass real transportation reform.  The bill does have aspects that are troubling to me.  Shortly after the end the Session in Richmond, I had the opportunity to speak with the Governor and also send him a letter about the $100 tax on hybrid vehicles in the transportation package, with which I disagree.  It is my hope that the Governor will take my request into consideration and send a message to the 91,000 Virginians that drive these vehicles, including many in my district, that we applaud their effort to help sustain our environment while reducing our dependence on foreign fuel.

Recently I was delighted to join Connection Newspaper reporter Victoria Ross for a question and answer series the Connection conducts with local elected officials.  We were able to discuss many issues and general topics during our time together and it was well reflected in the story that was published.  You can find the full story here

We also recently saw the coming and going of another Superstorm.  While the forecast was much more daunting than the actual accumulation we saw in our area it is still always important to adequately prepare for such an event.  During such times, I routinely send out emails as well as status updates on Facebook with the latest information from the Department of Emergency Management, Fairfax County and the Commonwealth. 

On March 12th I was able to attend the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce’s 34th Annual Valor Awards.  This banquet is always inspirational.  The Valor Awards honor the heroic actions of our public safety officials in Fairfax County.  These police officers, firefighters and EMTs risk their lives every day to protect our community and make Fairfax one of the nation’s safest places to raise a family.  You can find a short bio and story of all of this year’s award recipients here.  Attending this event is a small way to say thank you to our own heroes here in Fairfax County.     

I spend a lot of time meeting with constituents and speaking with groups. I truly enjoy these opportunities to share my experiences, discussing what transpired in Richmond and the 2013 General Assembly Session in general and listening and learning about what is important to you. If you are interested in having me meet with your group please feel free to contact me at any time.

End of Session Recap

 

Saturday was Sine Die Day (Latin for "without day"), signifying the final day of the 2013 General Assembly Legislative Session.  The every-other-year 45-day session always passes quickly, and this year was no different.  The last day was a historic one for the Commonwealth, as the two most significant issues of the session--a new transportation package and Medicaid expansion-- were decided.  Both of these measures underwent considerable revision and compromise throughout the nearly seven weeks of extensive debate and consideration.

Transportation

For the past 27 years, Virginia has faced the continuing question of how to properly fund, construct and maintain our road system to alleviate the many troubling transportation issues facing the Commonwealth. Since 1986, when our gas tax was last raised to 17.5 cents per gallon, 47 states have increased their own gas tax to reflect the impact of inflation.  Without finding sources of additional revenue, Virginia's funding for transportation-related projects is expected to virtually disappear by 2017. 

Again this year, our region was ranked as having the worst traffic congestion in the entire country, and the situation is becoming worse every year.  To face this challenge directly, I joined with 59 of my House colleagues (35 Republicans and 24 Democrats) to help pass a comprehensive transportation package that will allow us to move forward in alleviating congestion, repairing deteriorated pavement conditions, and constructing needed new roadways.

This bill dedicates $880 million yearly to transportation in Virginia, replacing the flat 17.5-cent per gallon gasoline tax at the pump with a 3.5 percent tax at the wholesale level.  While the Governor's original bill was designed to eliminate the gas tax completely, I and many other legislators considered it essential for us to ensure that out-of-state drivers, especially those using our two main regional corridors, I-81 and I-95, continue to contribute their share of revenue toward our road maintenance expenditures through gasoline purchases.

Another major change in the transportation package originally proposed by the Governor was to reduce the anticipated proportion of General Fund revenue being directed to transportation, while increasing the revenue allocated to education funding.  Currently, the General Fund directs .5 percent of funds to transportation, the Governor had proposed to increase this to .75 percent, which was too substantial of an increase for me to originally support.  The new package reduces this increase to .675 percent.  To generate the new revenue needed for transportation the sales tax will now be increased from 5 percent to 5.3 percent statewide and .125 percent of that will go towards education funding.  Additionally, should the Marketplace Equity Act not be enacted by Congress by 2015, the amount of General Fund spending towards transportation will decrease from $200 million to $60 million.  The retail tax on gas would then rise 1.7 percent to make up for the lost revenue.

Most importantly, however, the creation of a dedicated regional funding component that will support Northern Virginia transportation projects has been included, without which I would not have been able to vote for the bill.  For too long, our region has shouldered the responsibility for transportation funding without an equal share of dedicated funding for our own local roadway projects, which will no longer be the case.  The Governor’s original package did not include this regional component.  Nor did that package include funding for transit and the Dulles Metro Silver Line.  Now, $300 million will go towards completion of the Silver Line and provide another alternate commute option. 

I was disappointed in the $100 fee that was included for hybrid vehicles, a provision that I opposed.  In addition, I fully recognize that the increased sales tax rate does represent an added financial burden, particularly for those struggling on low incomes, which is why I was pleased to see additional dedicated money for passenger transit rail.  This new funding will go towards the creation of addtional affordable transit options that serve so many in our region.  

Unfortunately we were not allowed to vote on the individual components of this package, it was an up or down vote and amendments were not allowed.  As with any legislative compromise, I feel strongly that the benefits represented by this comprehensive transportation package successfully fulfill my long-standing commitment to addressing the need for Northern Virginia to shed the label of "the nation's worst traffic congestion".  I am now optomistic that we can focus our efforts on creating new jobs, expanding economic development and furthering our reputation as one of the best states in which to raise a family and establish a business.

Budget and Medicaid Expansion

On the final day of this year's legislative session, the House of Delegates and State Senate approved the Budget bill, by passing amendments to the biennial budget.  It was truly a historic moment in the Virginia General Assembly, as we agreed on a way forward to expand Medicaid coverage to nearly an additional 400,000 Virginians desperately in need of adequate health care options.  Included among the approved budget amendments was a commitment to allow Virginia to opt into the federal Medicaid expansion program once it is determined that appropriate reforms are in place.  The Governor agreed to give the final decision on expanded Medicaid coverage to the General Assembly, and I was proud to be able to cast my vote in favor of this forward-looking budget bill.

Included among the 400,000 Virginians (and the estimated 30,000 Fairfax County residents) who will meet the increased eligible federal poverty level for Medicaid coverage will be 84,000 children.  Moreover, this expansion is expected to create as many as 30,000 new jobs while saving the Commonwealth approximately $300 million between 2014 and 2018, as the federal government will fully fund the expanded Medicaid program for the first three years.

The House budget also included important provisions that would restore "cost to compete" funding for Fairfax County Public Schools.  This significant measure reflects the higher cost of living in Northern Virginia.  The budget report also provides funding for the state’s share of a 2 percent pay raise for teachers and support staff.  State supported local employees and college faculty will also receive a 1 percent raise in salary, which will bring the total salary increase in 2014 to 3 percent.

Language was also included that will benefit residents of the Northern Virginia Training Center and their families.  This requires the Governor and Department of Health to ensure that each family is adequately prepared to move into a community-based program that is equipped to handle the specific needs of each individual resident before the Training Center can be closed.  I am committed to closely following any and all developments, as we must continue to provide the desperately needed care for these residents and their loving families.

Finally, the budget included funding for an additional 200 MR (mental retardation) slots as well as 50 additional DD (developmental disability) slots to help alleviate the long waiting list for these services.

Other Bills Considered During the 2013 Session

A proposal that I opposed, to lift the existing ban on uranium mining in Virginia, failed to advance during this session.  This measure would have lifted the 30-year moratorium on the mining of this highly radioactive material in Southside, a rural part of the state near the North Carolina border.  Many serious environmental concerns were raised during debate on this bill, and I was gratified that it was not approved.

An important step in ensuring that background checks would be performed for anyone wishing to purchase a weapon-- closing the so-called gun show loophole--was not approved in this session.  This significant measure would have required all vendors at gun shows, including private sellers, to conduct criminal background checks on buyers.  Currently, only federally licensed gun dealers must perform such checks.

Part of Governor McDonnell's education reform plan to create schools with letter grades, and creating a statewide entity to take over schools designated as failing, was approved by the General Assembly without my support.

Unfortunately, a number of bills were passed that will make voting more difficult rather than easier for voters.  Legislation was passed that requires photo identification in order to vote, which will negatively impact on voters who do not have a driver's license and will force voter registrars to purchase costly equipment to provide a substitute ID for those who request it.  Another measure that passed requires the use of a federal scanning database to remove non-citizens from the voting rolls, even though this database has proven faulty and prevented some naturalized citizens from exercising their right to cast a ballot. A constitutional amendment proposed by the Governor, that would restore voting rights to ex-felons who have completed their sentences and thus paid their debt to society, was not approved.  Other proposed useful measures failed, including my bill HB 1774 which would have extended voting from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. for the benefit of commuters; no-excuse absentee voting; increasing the number of voting machines at precincts; and easier access for senior citizens to vote.

An effort to change the presidential voting process in Virginia, awarding electors by congressional district rather than by statewide popular vote, did not advance.  Only two other states use this alternative procedure.  I was opposed to this attempt. 

Among the many nominations we voted on this session two stood out.  I opposed the reappointment of Helen Dragas to UVA's Governing Board following her failed attempt to remove UVA President Teresa Sullivan last summer.  Her reappointment was approved.  I was pleased to support Tracy Thorne-Begland, Virginia's first openly gay judge, who was appointed by the General Assembly to a full six-year term on the Richmond General District Court.

Week 6 Update

 

Another busy week in Richmond, and only 7 days remain of this short 45-day session.  I would like to take this opportunity to provide you with an update of what transpired during this past week.  

Budget

Last week the House passed its Budget bill, which provides amendments to the biennial budget.  It was disappointing to see that the House version did not include Medicaid expansion, although the Senate’s version did.  It is my hope that the two Chambers will be able to adopt a final version through a Conference Committee that includes Medicaid expansion.  Virginia cannot afford to let this opportunity pass.  The extension of Medicaid will provide nearly 400,000 Virginians – including 30,000 in Fairfax County alone - with extended healthcare options.  In addition it will also create an estimated 30,000 jobs and save Virginia more than $300 million between 2014 and 2018.  

The House budget included important provisions that would restore "cost to compete" funding for Fairfax County Public Schools.  This is additional fudning in the budget to account for the fact that it is more expensive to live in Northern Virginia.  Additionally, the House budget included critical language for residents and families associated with the Northern Virginia Training Center.  This language requires the Governor and Department of Health to ensure that every family is adequately prepared to move into a community- based program that is equipped to handle the specific needs of each individual before the Training Center can close.  I believe we must avoid any temporary or premature moves by ensuring sufficient time for local residential services to be developed for Training Center residents prior to closure.  It is my hope to have a budget come out of conference that includes Medicaid expansion, cost to compete funding and language which protects the most vulnerable in our society. 

Update on Legislation and Resolutions

I am happy to report that my bills, HB 1778 and HB 2041, passed the Senate unanimously and now head to the Governor for signature.  As you may recall, HB 1778 requires doctors to include information of the increased risk of breast cancer due to dense breast tissue on a mammogram.  Please see attached article on its passage here.  HB 2041 allows the Recreation Access Fund to utilize guidelines instead of regulations to fund access roads and bikeways to public recreational areas and historical sites. 

I was pleased to have been assigned by the Speaker to the Conference Committee on HB 1336, which provides tax credits for employees who telework a minimum of 20 hours per week during at least 45 weeks of the year. There were differences in the House and Senate versions and now the 3 House and 3 Senate members who were appointed to the Conference Committee will come together to resolve these remaining issues.  

This week I also presented a commending resolution, HJ 844, recognizing Israel's 65th Anniversary of Statehood.  I was joined by representatives from the Embassy of Israel, Virginia Israel Advisory Board and Jewish Community Relations Council as well as my fellow colleagues in the House of Delegates and Senate for a center aisle presentation before the full House. It was inspiring to be joined by so many in recognizing the important relationship between our two great democracies. 

In addition, two bills that I Co-Patroned have passed the House and Senate.  HB 2101 directed the Board of Education to develop guidelines for the establishment of High School to Work Partnerships, working with the guidance counselor office of high schools to partner with local businesses in creating apprenticeships, internships, and job shadow programs in a variety of trades and skilled labor positions.  HB 1871 defines the term “bullying” and requires schools to establish a prohibition against such behavior and adopt policies to create a bully-free environment.  Both of these bills now await the Governor's signature.  

Transportation Update

On February 13, the Senate passed an amended version of the House’s transportation funding package.  The Senate version:

  • Raises the gas tax by 5 cents per gallon, and indexes it to the Producer Price
  • Imposes a 1% ad valorem tax on gasoline at the wholesale level
  • Increases the vehicle registration fee by $15
  • Redirects .05% of the existing 5% sales tax from the General Fund to transportation
  • Includes a regional transportation option for Northern Virginia 
  • Eliminates proposed I-95 tolls
  • Eliminates $100 tax on hybrid vehicles

It has been nearly 25 years since the Commonwealth has passed significant legislation that invests in our transportation infrastructure.  The Senate version, which I supported in the House of Delegates, provides this desperately needed investment, including over $300 million a year in funds generated in Northern Virginia that will remain in our area.  Just recently, the traffic in the D.C. region was designated the worst in the entire country.  We now have the opportunity to pass a comprehensive plan that will allow Northern Virginia to shed this dubious distinction and instead focus on economic development, new jobs and our well-deserved reputation as one of the best states in which to raise a family and run a business. 

The Senate and House bills will now go to a Conference Committee where the remaining issues will be debated and a compromise bill will be produced.   It is my hope a bill which includes the Senate provisions listed above will be adopted and that 2013 will be the year that the General Assembly agrees on a plan that will finally begin to address the transportation needs facing Northern Virginia and the Commonwealth. 

Week 5 Update

 

This week marked the official halfway point of the 2013 General Assembly session known as “crossover day” - when the House and Senate must each finish work on their own bills so they can cross over to the other chamber.  Additionally both the House and Senate began consideration of their respective budget amendments this week. 

HB 2297 - Virginia Railway Express

Last week I presented my bill, HB 2297 to the House Transportation Committee. HB 2297 was an effort to codify language to restore the once dedicated funding VRE received to pay their track fees to Amtrak, Norfolk Southern, CSX and the National Railroad Passenger Corporation for use of their railways. This past summer Congress passed a new surface transportation authorization act that removed this once dedicated funding from the code. Currently, a budget amendment is now necessary for VRE to receive this crucial funding. Unfortunately, my bill to restore the original language was defeated by a 1-vote margin, 11-10, in the Transportation Committee.

VRE service is important to so many in our community for their daily commute and alleviating traffic on our roads.  And just last week VRE recorded their second highest ridership ever.  I will continue to fight for this growing and needed service in the next session, and it is my hope we will be able to remove the uncertainty VRE now faces with regard to their track-fee funding. 

Survey

As we move forward, hearing what issues are of greatest concern to you is important to me. Please take a few minutes and complete my issues survey that you can find here.

Office Hours

I would also like to invite you to visit me during two "office hours" sessions I will be holding this weekend.  I will be at Panera Bread in West Springfield (6230 Rolling Road) on Saturday, February 9 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and at the Chesapeake Bagel Bakery (5719 Burke Centre Pkwy) on Sunday, February 10 from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Finally, many of you have communicated with me and my office about many issues. Proposed bills on the following topics have been defeated during this legislative session:

Uranium mining: Called for lifting the state’s 30-year moratorium on the mining of this radioactive material in Southside, a rural part of Virginia near the North Carolina border.

Gun show loophole: Would have required all gun show vendors, including private sellers, to conduct criminal background checks on buyers. Currently, only federally licensed dealers must perform such checks.

Armed teachers: Would have required schools to designate at least one teacher or other staffer to carry a concealed weapon on campus to protect against potentially armed intruders.

Electoral College changes: Would have made Virginia one of the very few states to switch to a system of selecting a presidential winner by congressional district rather than by not popular vote.

Proposed bills on these issues listed below have passed at least one chamber and are awaiting further action:  

Transportation: Calls for revamping the way Virginia pays for road construction and repairs, as well as mass transit.

Budget: Annual budget amendments to the biennial budget have passed each chamber and await final negotiations and compromise. 

Education: Governor McDonnell’s education reform plan extends the probationary period for new teachers and ties their annual evaluations to students’ academic progress. Another measure rates schools with letter grades and creates a statewide entity to take over failing schools.

Felon voting rights: This constitutional amendment would restore voting rights to ex-felons who have completed their sentences and thereby paid their debt to society.

UVA reappointment: Reappointment to the school's Governing Board of Helen E. Dragas, the University of Virginia rector who led an unsuccessful bid to remove President Teresa Sullivan.

Week 4 Update

 

It’s hard to believe we are already nearly half-way through the 2013 General Assembly Session.  I wanted to take this opportunity to provide you with an update of my legislation. 

I am happy to report that my bill, HB 1778, which requires doctors to include information of the increased risk of breast cancer due to dense breast tissue on a mammogram, passed the House of Delegates unanimously.  This bill builds on legislation that was signed into law last year and is an important step forward for women’s health.  The medical procedures that many women will undergo following a consultation and notification from their mammogram about dense breast tissue can be life-saving.  This bill will now go to the Senate for their consideration.

Additionally, my bill HB 2041 also passed the House of Delegates unanimously.  This bill replaces language in Virginia Code that requires the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) to adopt regulations for administrating the Recreational Access Fund, with language authorizing the CTB to utilize guidelines instead. This would help streamline the Recreational Access Fund’s administration and improve government services to Virginians.  This bill will also move on to the Senate for their consideration. 

Two other important measures I have introduced were referred to Study Commissions to further examine how to move forward with these proposals.  My bill, HB 1777, would create an open source digital library where college students can access online versions of college course textbooks at no charge.  It has been referred to the Joint Commission on Technology and Science where it will bring together stakeholders to continue development.  HB 1782 would protect our children from the dangers of concussions by requiring third-party organizations using our public parks and schools for sporting events to adopt concussion guidelines in accordance with Virginia requirements or from the locality where the event is being held.  This bill was sent to the Joint Commission on Health Care to review current policies in place and determine how we can move forward. 

I was pleased to have Girl Scout Troops 1911 and 173 join me in Richmond this past Tuesday.  The girls are in the process of earning their electioneering badge, and I was able to help them do so by meeting with them in the district in December and by having them come to Richmond and sit before the House of Delegates and tour the Capitol.   I was happy to introduce them before my colleagues, who responded with a resounding applause from the members and the Speaker of the House.   

The Virginia Coalition for the Arts was in Richmond this week.  As current Co-Chair of the General Assembly Arts Caucus,  I was able to meet with the group on their advocacy day and address them on the importance of the Arts in Virginia.  This year I was Co-Patron of a budget amendment that provided an additional $400,000 in funding for the Virginians for the Arts coalition.  This funding would help increase the arts in the state of Virginia by increasing public awareness of the important contributions the arts make to the life, culture, and economy of the state.

Yesterday I had the privilege to introduce Barry Glenn before the House of Delegates.  Barry is the President and CEO of Jobs for Virginia Graduates (JVG), for which I currently serve as the Chair of their Board of Directors.  This vital organization works with disadvantaged students who are most at risk in Virginia high schools, supporting them through graduation to their transition to higher education and into the working world. 

Earlier this week the Governor's transportation package was before the Finance Committee.  I voted against the bill as it was presented. I feel that with elimination of the gas tax in tandem with an increase in the sales tax, this proposal would take too much funding from our schools in order to pay for our transportation needs. Additionally, the plan did NOT include a Northern Virginia regional package.  I truly look forward to being a part of a bipartisan effort to adequately fund transportation as the plan is negotiated in the full House and with the State Senate and am hopeful we will succeed.

As many of you have heard through local and national media outlets, on January 21, the Senate passed a redistricting plan that would drastically change the current composition of the State Senate.  Many aspects of this proposed bill are troubling to me.  First, the way in which this measure was passed reflected very poorly on the normal process of government.  Senator Henry Marsh, a 79 year-old Civil Rights leader and respected Member of the Senate, was attending the President's inauguration when the vote was held, enabling it to pass with a 1-vote margin in the evenly divided Senate.  Second, the new district map drawn by the Senate was done without review or input from the public.  Lastly, the constitutionality of this bill is in serious question and was not properly addressed before its passage.  I am hopeful that both sides can work together to solve this problem and restore the public’s faith in the actions of their elected representatives. 

Yesterday, the House of Delegates also considered HB 1442, commonly referred to as the "Tebow Bill", which allows home-schooled children to participate in public school athletics in the school district in which they reside.  The bill passed the House of Delegates 56-43.  I voted against this measure out of concerns over fair play and the enforcement measures involved.  For example, if a student at Lake Braddock,  Robinson,West Springfield or Woodson misses a day of school because of illness they are not allowed to participate in their extracurricular activity nor tryout for the team.  However, it would be difficult to enforce this rule with a homeschooled student who might be sick one day but still come to participate in an activity.  While I fully support allowing everyone a chance to participate in a sport or activity we need a level playing field, not two sets of academic and attendance requirements.  This bill in its current form would be unfair to the thousands of public high school students across the Commonwealth of Virginia that work so hard and contribute to the success of their school.

As you can see from the pictures on the left I continue to stay busy here in Richmond.  I truly enjoy meeting with everybody that comes to Richmond to advocate for their positions.  If you are in town please drop by. 

Week 3 Update

 

As we are now fully immersed in the 2013 General Assembly session in Richmond, I wanted to provide you with an update of my legislative initiatives and other important matters before the House of Delegates.  As this year's short, 45-day session typically maintains a very hectic pace, I feel it is important to keep you as updated as possible. 

Transportation

The Governor has introduced his transportation plan and overhaul of funding to the General Assembly.  This proposal would eliminate the Commonwealth’s gas tax in favor of a 0.8% increase in the sales tax, raise the vehicle registration fee by $15, increase the General Fund's contributions to the Transportation Trust Fund and create a $100 tax on alternative vehicles.  While I am pleased to see the Governor offer a plan with regard to transportation, I have many concerns about this proposal.  I am hopeful, however, that we can come up with a plan that includes sustainable revenue, a "larger" package incorporated with a regional approach, which would help Northern Virginia and a gas tax which continues to tax out of state drivers.

The Governor's rationale for eliminating the gas tax is that due to higher fuel efficiency standards and more alternative fuel vehicles the gas tax is slowly becoming obsolete.  I am concerned about eliminating the gas tax for several reasons.  First, about 30% of the gas tax is paid by out-of-state travelers.  We need to continue to tax out-of-state drivers, so many of whom travel through the state on I-81 and 1-95 contribute through the gas tax.  Secondly, I am doubtful that consumers will see a 17.5 cents reduction in the price of gas.  In fact, it is likely that we could end up paying more overall.  Lastly, while it is true, we have more hybrids on the road and therefore cars are becoming more fuel efficient, I do not agree with the Governors' premise that gas will be obsolete in the very near future (It is interesting to note, that alternative vehicles make up only about 1.5% of all cars on the road).  In addition, I do not agree with the surcharge on alternative fuel vehicles, especially in light of the elimination of the state-portion of the gas tax.

 

 

As I stated above however, I am hopeful that this session will finally be the session for us to work together and successfully address our transportation crisis in a major way. I can assure you, that as a member of both the Transportation and Finance committees, I will be at the table and will be part of the solution. How do you feel about the Governors' plan?

Also on the subject of transportation, I have proposed, HB 2297 a critical piece of legislation for commuters in our area and the Northern Virginia region.  This bill provides that funds for contract fees paid by the Virginia Railway Express for access to the rights-of-way of CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Corporation, and the National Railroad Passenger Corporation are to be allocated from the public transportation portion of federal Surface Transportation Program funds.  A recently-enacted Congressional bill eliminated this essential stream of funding for VRE.  Currently, this funding  has to come through a budget amendment and it is imperative that these funds be successfully returned to VRE. 

I have also introduced legislation to overcome a growing administrative backlog being experienced by the Recreational Access Fund, which supports the development of new access roads and bikeways to public recreational areas and historical sites.  Allowing this Fund to issue "guidelines" instead of "regulations" will significantly reduce the time required to provide these essential services to all of our residents

Education

During this year's Legislative Session, I have focused as well on education issues.  I have introduced legislation to create a Digital Open Source Textbook Library, allowing college students to use digital versions of textbooks for up to 50 different courses.  As the cost for textbooks for a single semester can be as much as $700 for each student, this bill is designed to reduce this significant financial burden by allowing students to utilize newly available technologies for this purpose.  I also presented my Standards of Learning (SOL) expedited retake bill which would allow elementary and middle school students who narrowly fail a SOL test to take a retest while the information is still fresh in their minds.  This will give our youngest students the opportunity to redeem themselves, and thus maintain ever-important confidence in their own academic ability. 

I am hopeful that the House of Delegates and General Assembly will act favorably toward these bills. I truly believe they will help improve the overall functioning of our educational system, for the ultimate benefit of all of our children.  

As you can see from the pictures on the left it has already been a very busy session.  I love meeting with all of the groups that come to Richmond to advocate for their positions.  If you are in Richmond please drop by. 

Off to Richmond!

 

Today I head down to Richmond to begin the 2013 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: the Budget, Transportation Funding, Public Safety, Medicaid Expansion, Women’s Rights, Gun Safety and Environmental and Energy solutions.   

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce my new Legislative Assistant, Garrett McGuire.  Garrett joins my office from Alcalde & Fay Government and Public Affairs Consultants, where he was an Associate working on Transportation, Tourism and Maritime issues.  Previously, Garrett worked for former Congressman Rick Boucher from the 9th Congressional District of Virginia. Garrett holds his Bachelors and Masters degrees from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia and currently lives in Arlington, Virginia. I am thrilled to have Garrett on board; he has met with many of you over the past month and looks forward to meeting the rest of you in the very near future.  Please do not hesitate to contact him at garrett@eileenfillercorn.com or in the Richmond office at (804) 698-1041. 

I encourage you to visit the Virginia General Assembly’s new 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 House of Delegates session live starting tomorrow here.  Also, please visit my website,www.eileenfillercorn.com, for 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.  Garrett would be happy to help set up a tour of the Capitol, reserve seating for a session and offer recommendations of places to visit while in Richmond. 

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