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SALES TAX HOLIDAY: Hurricane season is right around the corner, as well as the severe storms we may encounter in the months ahead. Starting next week, you can make tax-free purchases on emergency supplies and equipment. The Virginia sales tax holiday for hurricane and emergency preparedness equipment will be held on May 25—31, 2015.

 

Click here to see a list of items exempt from taxes.

 

You can learn more about preparing for hurricane and flash flooding season by visiting the Virginia Department of Emergency Management website here. Do not wait until a storm is closing in on our region to make a plan and get supplies.

 

 

HOLIDAY TRAVEL: We can expect the normal influx of traffic and delays this holiday weekend in our area. If you plan to utilize the 95 Express Lanes on your travels please be aware that there will be several on-road signs to alert drivers of delays, below is a rundown of what you can expect when you head south on 95:

 

  • Express Lanes travelers will see an advisory sign in advance of the Quantico/Joplin Road exit, which alerts drivers of congestion ahead on the Lanes.  The sign will indicate approximately how far ahead the delays begin, for example “CONGESTION 3 MILES AHEAD”

 

  • Drivers can use the information on the sign to decide whether to exit the Lanes at Joplin or continue to Garrisonville Road

 

  • If delays increase, signage before the Joplin Road exit  will advise travelers to exit to the regular lanes using the message “EXIT NOW TO AVOID DELAYS”  

You can learn more about using the Express Lanes this weekend by clicking here. Enjoy the holiday weekend and please stay safe on the roads.

Sincerely,

Senator Dick Saslaw

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles will be bringing one of its mobile customer service centers to our area. The DMV 2 GO initiative is a great way for Virginians to take care of any DMV business and for the DMV to better serve customers.

 

Each mobile-office location will be ready in a convenient location to process any DMV transactions you may have. I wanted to let you know that DMV 2 GO will be in Northern Virginia to serve citizens at the following locations:

 

Friday, May 8th -- Falls Church City

9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

300 Park Avenue, Falls Church, VA  22046

 

Saturday, May 9th -- Fairfax County

10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Mason District Park

6621 Columbia Pike, Annandale, 22003

 

Monday, May 11th -- City of Alexandria

9 a.m. to 4 p.m.    

301 King Street, Alexandria, VA  22314

 

You can learn more about DMV 2 Go by following this link.

 

Sincerely,

This week, work began on the Washington Boulevard (Route 27) bridge that passes over Jefferson Davis Highway (Route 110) next to the Pentagon. The project will upgrade and widen the existing bridge, which has been designated structurally deficient.

 

Washington Boulevard (Route 27) will go from three to two lanes of traffic in both directions as it crosses over the Jefferson Davis Highway. The Pentagon and the Virginia State Police will be onsite to help manage traffic flow. However, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is advising drivers to expect minor delays on this stretch of road.

 

Please be patient and alert while the bridge repairs are underway. This temporary inconvenience will fix and modernize a critical piece of infrastructure that Virginia commuters utilize daily. You can view more about the project here.

 

Sincerely,

Starting next week, Metro riders will see the system’s first 7000-series train in service. This state-of-the-art train will begin running on the Blue Line on Tuesday, April 14.

 

The project has been in the making for five years. I am happy that Northern Virginia commuters will be among the first to take advantage of this upgrade to the Metro system. These new Metro cars will be safer, more reliable, and more comfortable for passengers. Ultimately, the new rail cars will replace the current Metro fleet.

 

You can learn more about the new Metro cars here.

I wanted to share this good news with you because this is an important upgrade for our transportation infrastructure. Improving our quality of life and ensuring that Virginians can get around in the region is important to all of us.  While we continue to facilitate improving our roads, mass transit is an important component in breaking through gridlock.  Thanks to all of you who consider this as an alternative to driving.

Sincerely,

The Legislature will reconvene on April 15 to review the actions taken by Governor McAuliffe on all bills passed during the General Assembly. Despite it being what is referred to as the “short session,” (45 days), legislators from across the Commonwealth introduced 1,919 bills and 857 resolutions on a myriad of topics. When we adjourned on February 27 very late in the day, the Governor had over 800 pieces of legislation to review. At that point, the Governor can sign a bill into law, amend or veto it.

Last week I attended the budget bill signing ceremony. It was a special occasion not seen in several decades – Governor McAuliffe signed the measure without any amendments. Highlights of the budget include getting some of our deputy sheriffs off of food stamps with a pay raise as well as finally giving state employees an increase in their compensation unseen for over eight years. The bill itself was over 500 pages and fully vetted by both the Senate and House of Delegates during the regular session. Additionally, any differences were worked out by the budget conferees from both chambers. A combination of stronger revenue projections, identified savings and an additional one-time windfall from the unclaimed property sales helped to close out the budget. Bear in mind we will be at this again in 2016 when a new biennial budget will be before the legislature.

We did see a number of bills make their way to the Governor and recognized that it’s a time like this when a veto pen can be a friend. In all, 17 bills have been vetoed. I intend to support these efforts and will lead the floor fight to ensure things like a law requiring a photo ID to be sent in when requesting an absentee ballot; interminable efforts to continue redistricting the state against even less competitive districts; as well as the transfer of machine guns to individuals. Another bill allowing home-schooled students to participate on public school athletic teams will be vetoed. This is one that I have consistently opposed particularly since there doesn’t appear to be any shortage of public school students trying to make their varsity squads.

The Governor has amended another 67 bills. The legislators will accept most of these. However, there is no doubt that it will be a very long day we spend at the Capital in a few weeks.

I look forward to seeing you in the community over the coming months. Please continue to support out local businesses and enjoy the Spring weather as we wait for those dog days of summer. Feel free to contact me on any matters of concern.

I want to remind you that tomorrow, March 21, 100% of the tolls collected on the Express Lanes on 495 and 95 will go to support our local first responders. This is a great way to give back to the men and women who keep our communities safe every single day.

 

Tomorrow’s Drive to Donate program will benefit Fairfax County, Prince William County, and Stafford County Fire and Rescue. You can learn more about the Drive to Donate program and the Express Lanes here. Remember to have your E-Z Pass mounted in your vehicle while using the Express Lanes.

 

I’d like to thank Transurban, the company that operates the Express Lanes, for this opportunity to help our community.

 

Sincerely,

I want to let you know about a great way to show your support for our local firefighters and first responders. For its Drive to Donate initiative, Transurban, the company that operates the Express Lanes on 495 and 95, will donate 100% of the tolls collected on March 21.

 

It is a way of giving back to the men and women on the front lines every day who keep our communities safe. I encourage you to utilize the Express Lanes on March 21 to help a very worthy cause. The money will directly assist Fairfax County Fire and Rescue.

   

Please be safe on the roads, and help spread the word about using the express lanes on March 21.

 

You can learn more about the Drive to Donate program and the Express Lanes here.

 

Sincerely,

Dick Saslaw

The General Assembly concluded its regular business last week, a day ahead of schedule. This in itself was great progress considering the 2014 special session ended minutes prior to the opening of the 2015 legislative session. Despite attempts to better manage the number of bills introduced in a short 45-day session, over 3,000 bills came through the system. The Commonwealth is a vibrant, well managed state recognized as business friendly and one of the best in the nation to raise a child, and yet each year we find ourselves facing mountains of initiatives to fix some problem or another. To a large degree many bills originate in both bodies giving an issue effectively, two lives. Crossover gives the Senate a chance to review, amend and/or dispatch the House bills and vice versa.

Amendments to the budget bill came to closure with both the Senate and House in bipartisan agreement. This was the last year the Senate Finance Committee would have the expertise of Senators Chuck Colgan, Walter Stosch and John Watkins. They are retiring and leaving a big void in institutional history as well as state finance expertise. Under their leadership, we have seen a fair and balanced budget that puts Virginia families first, entices businesses to the Commonwealth and attempts to address the needs of our most vulnerable citizens. I have recently shared the highlights of the budget conference in my weekly newsletter. If you missed that, you may go to dicksaslaw.com and follow the links to the adopted budget bill and the newsletter highlights.

One of the most challenging bills of the session focused on the reporting of sexual abuse on our college campuses. Victim advocate groups weighed in on the right of an individual’s privacy versus the school’s ability to address criminal matters. The bill that ultimately emerged was a compromise that puts in place a memorandum of understanding with local advocate groups, creates an assessment team that includes law enforcement at the table and balances the individual’s privacy with the safety of the public at large.

Once again, we saw several attempts to tighten up ethics reform that was started in 2014. In my opinion, the 49 page omnibus bill is complex and it may do more harm than good in the long run. I have stated many times, when in doubt, do without. The new measure calls for a $100 limit on gifts, including meals and trips. Additionally, it also creates a nine-member ethics council that will oversee enforcement of professional related travel that may be paid for by a lobbyist. The Governor has the opportunity to sign, amend or veto this measure, which nearly caused a stalemate to the General Assembly. I believe this issue will be revisited again in future years.

It came as no surprise to see the assault on public education that is now standard operating procedure every year at the General Assembly. From vouchers to home school athletes wanting to play for the local school division, we fought hard to preserve our public education. How else do we expect to be competitive in the global economy? Our teachers will get a 3 percent pay increase if half of that is matched at the local level. State funding for public education continues to be at a level slightly below 2009 – this puts a lot of pressure on the localities when it comes to maintaining our world-class education. So when it comes to “creative” ways to syphon money out of our public schools, I will lead the fight to put a halt to that kind of math.

I want to thank our page and messenger from Glasgow Middle for their service during the General Assembly. I also applaud their teachers for their efforts to accommodate these aspiring young students who in addition to their Richmond responsibilities, were able to keep up with their academic endeavors. This is a nationally acclaimed program and I am always proud of the students that I get to appoint.

Many of you visited my office in Richmond. Thanks for making the trip and participating in the process. We had three town halls in January and early February. I appreciate all of you attending those and for staying in touch during the session. Once again, I am seeking re-election and am in your neighborhood to get petitions signed to get on the ballot. I look forward to seeing you soon.

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