eNews Archive-2014

December 12, 2014

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

Combating Sexual Assaults on Virginia's College Campuses

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

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

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

Commission and Committee Meetings

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

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

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

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

I-95 Express Lanes

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

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

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

Toys for Tots in the 41st District

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

 

November 17, 2014

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

Special Session Update

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

Around the District

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

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

I-95 Express Lanes

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

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

Important information to know about the new Express Lanes:

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

2015 World Police and Fire Games

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

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

 

 

October 27, 2014 

Budget Update

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

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

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

Around the Commonwealth

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

Around the District

Springfield Town Center

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

MVLE Annual Dinner

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

Flu Season

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

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

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

 

October 10

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

Governor’s Ethics Panel

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

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

Around the Commonwealth

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

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

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

Around the District

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

Northern Virginia Aging Network

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

Kaiser Permanente Tour

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

Chiropractic Health Week

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

Retiring Principal Jeff Yost

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

Virginia Energy Star Sales Tax Holiday 

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

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

 

 

September 24 - Special Session Update

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

Special Session Update

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

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

Budget Update

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

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

Around the District and Commonwealth

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

Nanosatellite Advisory Committee

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

Climate Change Resiliency Commission

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

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

 

 

 September 10 - New School Start Times and Road Paving!

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

Special Session Update

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

Around the District

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

FCPS School Start Times

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

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

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

Old Keene Mill Road Paving

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

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

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

August 25, 2014

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

September Special Session Update

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

Commonwealth Budget Update

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

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

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

Legislation for 2015 Session

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

Around the District

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

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

 

August 8th

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

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

Special Session Update

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

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

Around the District

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

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

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

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

Around the Commonwealth

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

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

 

July 28, 2014

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

Special Session Update

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

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

Around the District

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Events

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

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

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

 

July 11, 2014

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

Special Session Update

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

Around the District

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

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

Around the Commonwealth

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

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

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

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

Office Hours

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

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

 

June 30, 2014

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

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

Special Session Update

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

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

Around the District

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

Office hours

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

New laws set to take place

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

Fourth of July

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

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

Have you heard of Tony Deblois?

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

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

June 16, 2014

Special Session Mid-June Update

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

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

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

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

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

Around the District

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

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

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

Around the Commonwealth

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

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

 

May 30th, 2014

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

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

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

Special Session Update

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

Bill Signing of HB 412

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

World Police and Fire Games in Fairfax

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

Relay for Life of Springfield and Burke

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

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

Local High Schools Update

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

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

 

May 16, 2014

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

Special Session Update

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

Bill Signing Ceremonies

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

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

Meetings around the District

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

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

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

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

Virginia Commission on Intergovernmental Cooperation

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

Potholes and Transportation

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

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

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

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

 

 

Special Session Update - March 28th 

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

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

House Bill 5001

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

House Bill 5003

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

House Bill 5002

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Friday - March 7th

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

2014 Session

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

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

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

Update on my legislation

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

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

Update on our Schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

February 28, 2014

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

Update on my legislation

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

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

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

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

Other bills from the 2014 Session

Mental Health Reform

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

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

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

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

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

Military Dependents

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

Senior Tax Relief

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

Solar Tax Credits

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

Underground Power Lines

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

Our Schools

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely yours,
Eileen  

 

Week 7 Update - February 21, 2014

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

Update on my legislation

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

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

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

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

Budget

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

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

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

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

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

Other Updates

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

News from our schools

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

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

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

 

Friday, February 14

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

Crossover Day

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

Update on My Legislation

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

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

SOL Reform

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

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

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

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

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

Ethics Reform

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

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

Other Updates

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

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

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

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

 

Week 5 Update, February 7th 2014

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

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

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

Update on My Legislation This Past Week                

HB 543

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

HB 544 – New Assigned Bill Number, HB 1268

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

HB 1096

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

HB 957

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

HB 1247

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

Other Updates

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

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

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

Sincerely yours,
Eileen  

 

January 31, 2014

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

Update on Legislation

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

HB 1096

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

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

HB 548

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

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

HB 957

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

HB 948

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

HB 543

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

Visitors Update

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

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

Office Hours

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

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

 

Week 3 Update - January 24th

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

Update on My Legislation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meetings and Other Updates

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

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

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

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

 

 

Week 2 Session Update - January 17th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely yours,
Eileen

 

General Assembly Legislative Update - January 13

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

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

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

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

Among the bills I have introduced are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

January 7th

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

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

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

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

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

 

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