eNews Archive-2015

December 18, 2015

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

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

Transportation Briefings

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

Inaugural Annual Capital Region Business Forum

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

Anniversary of the Sandy Hook Tragedy

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

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

Committee Meetings

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

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

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

Click here to view the 2016-2018 budget.

Judge Interviews

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

Rotary Lunch

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

Season's Greetings!

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

 

December 4, 2015

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

Preparing for the 2016 General Assembly Session

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

Jobs for American Graduates

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

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

Commissions and Boards

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

Shirley Gate Road

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

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

Feeding the Hungry

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

Noise Ordinance

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

 

November 18, 2015

 

Thank you for your support on Election Day!

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

House Democratic Caucus Retreat

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

Honoring our Veterans

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

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

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

On the road with Jobs for Virginia Graduates

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

House Appropriations and Finance Committee Retreat

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

The Roads of Fairfax County

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

Fall Foliage in the 41st

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

Football Playoff Season in the 41st District

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

Both teams will play again on November 20th:

Battlefield HS vs. Lake Braddock SS

(location to be determined)  7:00 PM

Robinson SS vs. Centreville HS

(Playing at Robinson) 7:00 PM

 

Theater Season

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

West Springfield HS- The Two Gentlemen of Verona

November 19-21 at 7:00 PM

Robinson- Noises Off

November 19th-21st at 7:00 PM

November 21st at 2:00 PM

Lake Braddock- Scrooged

November 19-20 at 7:30 PM

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

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

October 23, 2015

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

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

Online Form to Request an Absentee Ballot

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

Jobs for Virginia Graduates

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

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

DSNAV Buddy Walk

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

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

Scouts

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

NVTC TechPac Endorsement

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

Spartan Fest

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

My Monthly Office Hours

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

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

 

October 9, 2015

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

Registering to Vote

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

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

Voting Absentee

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

By Mail

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

In-Person

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

Remember, please bring a photo ID when you vote!

Enacting Sensible Gun Safety Legislation

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

Teleconference with Robinson Alum Kjell Lindgren and the International Space Station

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

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

Northern Virginia Aging Network Breakfast

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

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

Candidate Forums

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

September 24, 2015

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

Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act

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

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

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

Boards, Commissions and Roundtable Meetings

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

Joint Commission on Technology and Science

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

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

Student-Athlete Concussions

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

World Police and Fire Games Board of Directors Meeting

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

Burke Centre Festival

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

Fear 2 Freedom

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

Fairfax County Introduces Text to 9-1-1

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

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

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

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

September 11, 2015

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

Commission Meetings

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

Joint Money Committee Meeting

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

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

Virginia Values Veterans

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

Climate Change Resiliency Commission

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

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

Health Insurance Reform Commission

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

Jobs for Virginia Graduates

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

FCPS Budget

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

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

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

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

 

Special Session Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shop with the Sheriff

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

JCOTS & JCTA

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

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

SOL Scores Improved! 

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

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

 

July 17, 2015

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

Best of Braddock

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

Health Insurance Reform Commission

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

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

Revenue Surplus

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

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

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

Braddock Nights Concert Series

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

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

 

July 6, 2015

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

World Police & Fire Games

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

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

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

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

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

World Cup

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

New Laws in Virginia

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

Office Hours

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

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

 

June 19

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

The Hunting Ground Film Screening

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

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

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

SOL Bill Signing

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

Dateline Special with 41st District Constituents

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

Honoring those in our community

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

High Schools

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

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

Chamber of Commerce

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

First Responders

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

Food Truck Update

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

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

 

May 27, 2015

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

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

Bill Signings

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

Food Truck Bill Signing

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

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

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

Child Care Bill Signing

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

Watch a news clip about the signing here.

Campus Sexual Assault Bill Signing

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

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

You can watch a clip of the bill signing here.

Clean Air Partners Annual Awards

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

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

Top Virginia High Schools

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

Free Screening of “The Hunting Ground”

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

 

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

SOL Reform

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

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

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

Father Richard Martin

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

Ribbon Cuttings and Bill Signings

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

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

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

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

World Police and Fire Games

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

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

 

Transportation Update

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

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

Out and About in the 41st District

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

Mason Drive Opening

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

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

Burke School’s 75th Anniversary

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

World Police and Fire Games

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

Father Richard Martin Commemoration

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

Upcoming events this weekend in the District

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

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

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

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

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

 

April 17, 2015

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

Reconvene Session

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

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

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

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

ABLE Act Ceremonial Signing

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

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

Watch this news clip of the event!

JCTA & JCOTS

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

Virginia Education Association

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

Around the Community

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

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

Sincerely yours, 

 

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

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

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

Bill Signings

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

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

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

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

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

Connection Story on ABLE Act

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

Mission of Mercy Project

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

World Police and Fire Games Update

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

Transportation

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

Express Lanes

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

Office Hours

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

 

 

 

WEEK 7 SINE DIE

 

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

 

Update on My Legislation

 

ABLE Act

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Preventing Campus Sexual Assaults

 

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

 

Military Mental Health

 

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

 

Update on Other Legislation

 

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

 

Veterans Care Centers

 

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

 

The Budget

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Arts/Military Caucus

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

Week 6 Update

 

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

 

Update on My Legislation

 

ABLE Act

 

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

 

CARE Act

 

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

 

Preventing Campus Sexual Assaults

 

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

 

Food Trucks

 

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

 

Update on other Legislation

 

Important Transportation Measures

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Final week of the 2015 General Assembly

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Week 5 Update

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

Quick Update on my Legislation

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

Update on other legislation

Ethics Reform

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

School Start Times

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

The Budget

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

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

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

Military and Veterans Caucus

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

Judges

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

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

 

Week 4 Update 

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

Update on my Legislation

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

Child Care Safety

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

Food Trucks

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

Securing Federal Funding and Saving Jobs

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

ABLE Act

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

Preventing Campus Sexual Assaults

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

Medical Cannabis

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

Visitors to Richmond!

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

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

 

Week 3 Update

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

Update on my bills

SOL Reform

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

Business - Technology

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

Feeding Virginia

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

CARE Act

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

Workforce Development

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

Child Care Safety

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

Connection/Office Hours Article

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

Visitors to Richmond

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

Winter Weather

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

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

 

 

General Assembly Week 2

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

Update on my bills

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

HB 2305

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

HB 2306

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

SOL Reform

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

Campus Sexual Assault Reform

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

Visitors to Richmond

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

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

Office Hours

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

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

 

General Assembly Week 1

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

HB 1343 Press Conference

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

General Assembly Legislative Update

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

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

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

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

Among the bills I have introduced are:

Education

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

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

Campus and Public Safety

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

Child Care Safety

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

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

Workforce Development – Economic Development

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

Business - Technology

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

Senior Citizens

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

Health Care

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

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

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

 

Off to Richmond!

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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