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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.

The 2015 session of the General Assembly has come to a close and was capped off by passing a bipartisan budget—one day early. It is never an easy task to balance the budget of Virginia.   Due to new found revenues, and some prudent corrections in 2014, the process went smoothly with some good news in areas that have been neglected in previous years.  I voted for the bipartisan budget because it is fair, balanced, and it will help Virginia’s families who are trying to weather through this recovering economy.  

 

The Budget Conferees working with Governor McAuliffe’s proposed amendments, produced a solid roadmap to growing our economy and expanding opportunities for all Virginians.  Senate Democrats scored some important victories in the budget process. Most notably, we were able to keep public education whole while giving a pay increase to teachers, deputy sheriffs qualifying for food stamps, and state employees who have not had a meaningful increase since 2007.  


Link to budget legislation.

 

Here are some highlights of the adjustments made to the 2014 - 2016 biennial budget.

 

Rainy Day Fund: We have set aside a $129.5 million repayment to  the Rainy Day fund.

 

Protecting Public Education: Once again, we were able to preserve funding for public education.  The House and Senate also agreed to set aside $537,297 for the “Breakfast After The Bell” pilot program. This initiative of First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe, will fund school breakfasts in elementary schools where reduced lunch eligibility exceeds 45%. One million dollars was added for kindergarten readiness assessment.

 

Higher Education: Operating at below 2009 funding levels, we will see more than $41 million in funding, including $20.5 million to help our universities address enrollment growth, $14.4 million for a 2% faculty salary increase, and an additional $5.4 million for need-based undergraduate financial aid. (Need-based financial aid will total $8.9M). The budget calls for a one-time payment of $141.4 million for capital outlay projects and $52.9 million in funding for school construction loans.

 

Pay Raise For State Employees and Teachers: As previously noted, the House and Senate were able to agree on a 2% pay raise for state employees and to include $52.9 million for the state’s share of a 3% pay raise for teachers, splitting the cost evenly with the localities. An additional $1.2 million has been added to the General Fund to increase the base pay for Virginia’s deputy sheriffs.

 

Governor’s Access Plan: The budget passed by the General Assembly will fund the Governor’s Access Plan, which Governor McAuliffe established last year. The Governor’s Access Plan will provide medical and behavioral health services to 22,000 individuals with serious mental illness.

 

Health and Human Services: The final product will fund the key components of the Healthy Virginia Program, including  dental coverage for pregnant women and health coverage for the children of low-income state employees. The budget allows for $3.1 million for free clinics that will expand services to 7,500 uninsured Virginians, and $1 million for community health centers. Additionally, a total of $750,000 was set aside to increase services for individuals with brain injuries.

 

Behavioral Health Services: Virginia will allocate an additional $9.2 million in funding for behavioral health services. The budget provides $2.1 million for supportive housing for 150 individuals with mental illness and $2 million to improve access to child psychiatry services. The budget includes $250,000 to help patients transition out of the Northern Virginia Training Center, which is very important to many families in our region.

 

Economic Development: The Governor’s Development Opportunity Fund, which is used to attract businesses to the Commonwealth, will receive $28.0 million and the fund will be able to retain any unspent balances. There will also be $500,000 in incentives set aside to encourage companies to hire veterans. We tried our best to make funds available to build a new Virginia economy and attract new jobs to our Commonwealth.

 

I want to thank everyone who contacted me during this session and stopped by my Richmond office. I will continue to keep you updated on the latest news from the General Assembly and look forward to seeing you in the community. The General Assembly will reconvene in the middle of April to take up amended legislation from the Governor.


 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

We are coming up to the closing gavel of 2015 session of the General Assembly. Many important bills have made their way through the Senate and the House of Delegates. They will now head to Governor McAuliffe’s desk for his consideration. The final version of the budget is still being worked out and I will share more details of the conference report with you next week. Here are some highlights from this week.

 

Governor’s Energy Fund: This year, I introduced legislation (SB 1449) to establish the the Governor’s Energy Fund. This will allow the Governor to incentivize economic development by offering reduced electricity rates to qualifying entities. It is another tool to attract businesses to Virginia and is the type of thing we need to be doing in order to build a new Virginia economy capable of adding good-paying jobs. This bill has bipartisan support; it passed in the Senate last week and is now under consideration by the House of Delegates.

 

Brass Knuckles: Last week, in a shocking display, Senate Republicans on a party line vote passed legislation to legalize the sale of switchblades, brass knuckles, and throwing stars in Virginia. This week, cooler heads prevailed and the measure was reconsidered in the House of Delegates and soundly defeated. This was a welcome about-face and a victory for public safety— there is no need to bring these dangerous weapons to the streets of Virginia.

 

Update On Uber and Lyft Legislation: This week Governor McAuliffe signed a bill into law to put in place new rules for the ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft. A compromise was reached with all of the stakeholders that will protect consumers and allow Virginians to take advantage of this new technology.

 

Safe Reporting: The General Assembly passed legislation (HB 1500) to protect individuals acting in good faith to help someone at the scene of an overdose.  All too often in these situations people are afraid to alert the police or first responders for fear of retribution. This measure will shield good samaritans from prosecution for possession of a controlled substance, public intoxication, and underage drinking. It is a commonsense effort to save lives and encourage individuals to do the right thing.

 

New Happy Hour Rules: This week the Senate passed HB 1439 to allow Virginia establishments to advertise happy hour drink specials. I supported this common sense move to help local Virginia bars and restaurants.

 

Protecting Virginia Kids: One of the highlights of this week was the defeat of misguided legislation (HB 1309) to allow local school districts to allow school security guards to carry batons, tasers, and pepper spray. To me this proposal is over the top and is not something we need in our public schools. We don’t need people playing cops in our schools.

 

State Song: The Senate passed legislation to designate two songs as the official song of the Commonwealth: “Sweet Virginia Breeze” and “Our Great Virginia.”

 

You can listen to both of them here:

 

Sweet Virginia Breeze

 

Our Great virginia

 

Sincerely,

DRIVERS ASKED TO DELAY TRAVEL IN N. VA. THIS MORNING

Many roads still snow-covered; VDOT crews working to clear snow and treat icy conditions

FAIRFAX Drivers are urged to delay travel today until at least 10:00 a.m., as Virginia Department of Transportation crews continue working to clear and treat roads in Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Arlington counties. Interstates and major primaries are passable with extreme caution. Other roads were also plowed continuously overnight but still have a layer of snow and ice.

What drivers should know today:

·         HOV restrictions are lifted on I-66, I-395 and the Dulles Toll Road. HOV-3 requirements still apply on the 495 and 95 Express Lanes.

·         Eastbound I-66 X lanes will be unavailable for the morning rush hour, as crews continue to clear shoulders.

·         Crews continue to clear interstates, major roads and neighborhood streets concurrently. Check www.vdotplows.org to see the status of plowing in neighborhoods.

·         If you can, park in your driveway or on the odd-numbered side of the street to allow plows room to pass.

·         After a plow has passed, roads will be passable, but will not be bare pavement and may remain snow-packed.

·         Stay off the roads or delay trips to allow crews time to safely treat the roads.

Resources:

•          If you must be on the road, check www.511virginia.org before leaving for road conditions

•          Report road problems to 1-800-367-7623 or novainfo@vdot.virginia.gov

•         Get more details on snow removal in northern Virginia

•         Follow VDOT Northern Virginia on Twitter: @vadotnova

There is a Winter Storm Warning in effect for Northern Virginia. As the snow approaches our region I wanted to provide you with some helpful contact information in case of an emergency.

Please stay safe and look after one another. Feel free to contact my office if you need any further information at 804-698-7535.

Sincerely,

 

Senator Dick Saslaw

 

Emergency:

  • Emergency: If you are having an emergency, please call 911

 

 

 

Roadways:

 

 

 

  • You can get up to the minute updates on Twitter from @VaDOTNOVA

 

Power Outages:

  • Dominion Virginia Power outages and downed wires: 1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357)

 

Downed Trees:

  • Public roads: Virginia Department of Transportation: 1-800-FOR-ROAD (1-800-367-7623)

 

Water:

 

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