From our family to yours, we wish you a happy, healthy New Year! Hoping 2019 is filled with good health, peace, love and plenty of time to spend with family and friends and all those who make you smile!
Tomorrow, I start my tenure as the Leader of the House Democratic Caucus. I am honored to have the opportunity to lead our impressive and diverse caucus. I look forward to all that we can achieve together in 2019. (You can read more about my new role in the Washington Post by clicking here)
I believe that during this session, we, both Democrats and Republicans stand on the precipice of great change. What we do and how we respond to the challenges before us will not only define Virginia for the coming year, but potentially for generations to come.
The Upcoming Legislative Session
The next General Assembly Session begins on January 9th, 2019. This year’s session is set to last 45 days, with many issues important to our community up for debate including the biennial budget, education reform, health care, military and veterans, public safety, transportation, gun safety, the Equal Rights Amendment and the environment.
During this year’s session, I will once again provide you with weekly updates through my eNews about the important topics that arise during each 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 of interest, follow Committee meetings and obtain member contact information. You can also watch each day’s House of Delegates session live starting next Wednesday here. In addition, please visit my website here and follow me on Facebook at Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn and Twitter at @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 firstname.lastname@example.org. My staff and I will be happy to help you set up a tour of the Capitol, reserve seating for you to observe a floor session and offer recommendations for other places to visit while in Richmond. Please come visit me in my new office, Room E601 in the General Assembly Building (the Pocahontas Building), while you are in our State Capitol.
Governor’s Budget Presentation
On December 18th, I was in Richmond for a meeting of the Joint Money Committee, which is made up of the Senate Finance, House Appropriations and House Finance Committees, the latter upon which I serve. Governor Northam unveiled his budget proposal for the 2018-2020 biennium. In addition, he outlined a plan to put Virginia on a path to commit 8 percent of its total budget in reserves by the end of his administration. The Governor also proposed making the Earned Income Tax Credit fully refundable. This tax credit is available to Virginians who work and make $54,000 a year or less. Here are just a few of the great items in Governor Northam’s proposed budget.
- A one-time 2 percent raise in salary for teachers as of July 1, 2019. This is in addition to the 3 percent raise adopted by the General Assembly in the budget we passed earlier this year. This would provide our teachers with the single largest raise in 15 years.
- $80 million through our Literary Fund for school construction loans. This money would cover all of the outstanding requests for the Literary Fund, and would help ensure that students have the best and arguably safest learning environment possible.
- $36 million to start increasing the number of counselors in our public schools. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among school-aged youth, both nationally and in Virginia. These funds would reduce the counselor to student ratio from 1 to 425, to 1 to 250 in a few years.
- $5.5 million for career advisors at our community colleges. This would help guide students towards a work pathway that’s right for them.
- $50 million in fiscal year 2020 to the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund. This would aid urban and suburban areas reduce pollution coming off of roads and other impervious surfaces. It would also allow Virginia to accelerate our Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts, and, I hope, meet our targets for a restored Bay in a few years.
- $46 million in the coming budget year, on top of $4 million already in the budget, to help get broadband to those Virginians who don’t have it. The Governor also plans to propose $50 million each year in the next two biennial budgets.
- $19 million to the Housing Trust Fund, which provides loans for home purchases and helps reduce homelessness. The Governor is also proposing the creation of a new position at the Department of Housing and Community Development to work on the issue of eviction.
- Virginia would also end the practice of suspending driver’s licenses for unpaid court costs and fees. Often, people don’t pay court costs because they can’t afford it. Suspending their license for these unpaid fees can make it that much harder on them to continue working and paying such fees.
ArtsFairfax Board Meeting
Recently, I attended a productive meeting of the ArtsFairfax Board, on which I am proud to serve, at George Mason’s campus. Dean Rick Davis of GMU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts gave an exuberant presentation and his excitement about the arts is contagious. Just this past month, ArtsFairfax has awarded $92,711 in grant money to 13 Fairfax County arts organizations. We are looking forward to finding more ways to promote the Arts in our community. I am proud to be a founding member and current chair of the General Assembly Arts Caucus.
Annual Fairfax Delegation Public Hearing
Prior to the Session, the Fairfax Delegation to the General Assembly holds a public hearing to listen to residents’ concerns and suggestions about the upcoming legislative session. This year’s hearing will be held on Saturday, January 5th from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center (12000 Government Center Pkwy, Fairfax, VA 22035).
The hearing will start with remarks from the Chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and then each member of the public who wishes to speak will be given three minutes to do so. You can watch the event live on Fairfax County Government Channel 16. Click here for more information if you are interested in signing up to speak as an individual or on behalf of an organization. I hope to see you there.