Blogs

There are numerous opportunities to hear about and weigh in on the Transform 66 Projects. Please see the information below from VDOT. If my office can be of any assistance to you please contact us a district35@senate.virginia.gov

  

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VDOT public information meetings for the proposed eastbound widening as part of the Transform 66 Inside the Beltway Project.  

Monday, May 9, 2016

Washington-Lee High School
1301 N. Stafford Street, Arlington, VA 22201

Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School
7130 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22043

Meeting Times: 6:30-8:30 p.m. (Presentation: 7:00 p.m.)

More information available here

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VDOT public hearings for the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway Project

Monday, May 23, 2016

Oakton High School - Cafeteria
2900 Sutton Road, Vienna, VA 22181

Tuesday, May 24, 2016
VDOT Northern Virginia District Office
4975 Alliance Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030

Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Piney Branch Elementary School - Cafeteria/Gym
8301 Linton Hall Road, Bristow, VA 20136

Hearing Times: 6:30-8:30 p.m. (Presentation at 7:00 p.m.)

More information available here

 
VDOT has scheduled two public information meetings on the I-395 Express Lanes Extension Project:
 
Monday, April 11, 2016
6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
(Presentation starts at 7 p.m.) 
Wakefield High School Cafeteria
1325 S. Dinwiddie Street Arlington, VA 22206
 
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
(Presentation starts at 7 p.m.)
Francis C. Hammond Middle School Auditorium
4646 Seminary Road Alexandria, VA  22304
 
More information about the I-395 Express Lanes Extension Project is available here and here
 

 

The Governor continues to use his veto pen to put a stop to harsh laws that were passed by the Republicans flexing their majority muscle in the Senate. The veto list is long and I will lead the fight to sustain every one of the vetoes come April 20.

Link to the Governor's Veto List

Update - April 7, 2016

For those interested in seeing exactly where the money in the introduced budget goes please see below.

For complete details on the budget, please visit the state budget website here.

 

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March 10, 2016

Senate and House Budget conferees reached agreement on the biennium budget with a major infusion of funding for public education and higher education. This will help ensure the pipeline of workers for the jobs of the future. Our teachers and government employees will receive the pay raises they earned in their service to the Commonwealth. Additionally, undergraduate financial aid is earmarked at $48 million, which should help student accessibility and keep those degrees affordable. An additional $12.5 million is also included for the New Economy Workforce Credentialing Program.

Strategic economic development investments are embedded to grow and diversify the economy. In order to keep Virginia competitive globally, workforce development is a priority for this spending plan. Research and Development funds will infuse Virginia’s leading edge industries. Funding ($35 Million) for GO Virginia jumpstarts a regional collaborative approach to economic growth.

Sheriffs and State Police will receive raises to incentivize retention of these trained men and women standing on the line for us. Salary compression for senior employees has been addressed with a yearly adjustment.   Some $400,000 has been included for background checks at gun shows.

While not the panacea for the growing needs of access to healthcare, eligibility for GAP programs has been raised to 80% of the federal poverty level. To ensure our hospital viability, $16 million has been dedicated.  

This budget is sound, responsible and complements the work of the General Assembly these past 60 days.  It is a structurally balanced document that deposits $605 Million into the rainy day fund. 

 

The Free File program helps taxpayers earning less than $62,000 file their federal and state tax returns for free online. Virginia is one of 20 states and the District of Columbia that has put this service into use.

To access the Virginia Free File program, visit www.tax.virginia.gov/content/efile. For the IRS Free File program, visit www.irs.gov/freefile.

Additionally, Congressman Don Beyer will be hosting an event on Friday, March 11 at 10:30am at the Bailey's Community Center to discuss the Free File tax prep program available to eligible Virginians. All are welcome.

The latest edition of the "Richmond Report" is in the Falls Church News-Press. For a short clip of the column and a link to the full column please check out the Newsroom.

The region is expected to receive inclement weather in the early morning hours of Friday, March 4. Please see below for an important FYI from VDOT.

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MOTORISTS SHOULD USE CAUTION TODAY AND TOMORROW WITH SNOW AND RAIN EXPECTED
Check 511virginia.org for the latest road conditions, call 511 or download the free app.
 
RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) crews are mobilizing in preparation for winter weather with the potential for accumulating snow and freezing rain in most areas of the state, with the exception of heavy rain in the southeast.
 
Motorists are encouraged to stay tuned to local weather updates. Caution should be used while driving this afternoon and tomorrow morning in areas where snow, slush and ice are expected. Anti-icing materials will be applied in areas where appropriate. VDOT will continue to monitor the storm and adjust resources as needed.  
 
Motorists should allow extra time to reach destinations, lower speed and keep a safe distance from other vehicles. As drivers encounter slow-moving equipment such as snowplows, slow down and allow operators the right of way.
For more information:

Please see below for an important opportunity from FCDOT to provide input on Fairfax County transportation projects:

 

Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) and Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) are hosting several public meetings on projects affecting residents in Fairfax County this month and during March 2016. 

 

How Will You Get Around in 40 Years? Learn About Proposed Countywide Transit Network Feb. 25

http://1.usa.gov/20EX4Hk

 

- Vienna Metrorail Bicycle Access Study Community Meeting March 2

http://1.usa.gov/1oNgoo8

 

- I-66 Inside the Beltway Design Public Hearings March 7, 8 & 9

http://bit.ly/1O3sj5X

 

- "Pardon Our Dust" Meeting on Route 7 Bridge Rehab March 9

http://bit.ly/1p5x6PM 

 

- Wiehle Avenue at W&OD Trail Pedestrian Improvement Project Public Hearing March 17

 http://1.usa.gov/24rO8bf

 

For more information on the projects or to submit comments, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/fcdot/transportation_projects.htm, or call FCDOT at703-877-5600, TTY 711.

Weather continued to dictate actions of the General Assembly when tornadoes ripped through the Commonwealth last week. In addition to loss of life, injury and property, the unprecedented twisters in February forced committees to come to a halt as citizens and legislators took shelter at the Capitol. Not sure what else we can expect in this unusual Session previously closed for record-breaking snowstorms.
 
All eyes turned to the work of the Senate Finance Committee this past week as it unveiled and adopted its version of amendments to the introduced budget. Once again the expansion of Medicaid was not included in the House or Senate amendments. As a result of turning down federal funds for Medicaid Expansion, we are forced to spend $157 million of General Fund money for indigent care. At least $50 million of that money could have been used for Public Education and $15 million for Higher Education. However, we have worked on a number of other needed measures in education, economic development, and infrastructure, resulting in a balanced budget. I will be a budget conferee as the House and Senate meet to hammer out differences. Click here to view the budget amendments proposed in SB29 and SB30. 
 
One large change to the Governor’s proposed budget regarded the 2% pay raise for state employees. In the introduced budget, the pay raise would not take effect until July 2017, however the Senate has moved the date up to December of this year, meaning our state employees would receive the pay increase they deserve sooner than anticipated. 
 
 
Governor McAuliffe signs a bill prohibiting persons subject to permanent protective orders from carrying guns
(Photo courtesy Governor's Office)
 
 
Highlighting public education, funding for preschools, governor’s schools, and technical education, including increased funding for STEM, have all made it in the Senate proposed budget. Due to the recent record-setting Powerball, there is an estimated additional $20.3 million in projected lottery proceeds going towards education. Additionally, funding for higher education included increased financial aid, support for students to have greater access to college and to complete their degree on time as well as new funding for workforce and veterans development. 
 
A major initiative to grow and diversify the economy came with the passage of GO Virginia (SB449), an initiative for economic growth using collaboration between the regional governments, businesses, and education. This will allow local governments to propose projects that business leaders and the state can advise on to help build the economy. Other economic development incentives include the Virginia Business Ready Sites pilot program, and the Governor’s Motion Picture Opportunity Fund. There has been a recent influx of movies and TV shows coming to Virginia to film, such as TURN on AMC and Mercy Street on PBS. 
 
 
The Senate commended Miss Virginia 2015 - Savannah Morgan Lane
(Photo courtesy Senate of Virginia)
 
 
In infrastructure, we have included the funding for I-66 development. With some of the worst congestion in the nation in our area, the widening of the eastbound lane and the additional revenue coming from adding a toll for single riders will increase the amount of funding going towards public transportation, such as WMATA, commuter buses, and vanpools. Also in public transportation, the budget would provide up to $3 million to address operating shortfalls in Northern Virginia transit agencies that resulted from the declining fuels tax revenues. Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority will also receive funds to lower enplanement costs and bring more foot traffic into Dulles Airport. 
 
If you would like to view the rest of the budget or get more specifics on how the funding is allocated to each area, please visit the Senate Finance Committee website here. There are links to explore the budget in more depth.
 
Tuesday, March 1, otherwise known as “Super Tuesday,” is the day to get out and vote in the presidential primary in Virginia. The deadlines to register to vote or to obtain an absentee ballot by mail for this election have passed. For more information on the process or where to vote, please check out the Virginia Department of Elections website here
 
As always, I welcome your comments and questions at district35@senate.virginia.gov.

Crossover has come and gone, and all Senate bills are finally headed over to the House for its consideration. The first few weeks of session have flown by in a flurry of bills, resolutions and budget considerations.  We now have three weeks left to discuss all the House bills that have made it to us in addition to budget amendments and resolutions.

In a throwback to the 1950s, the ironically named “Government Nondiscrimination Act,” HB773, passed the House 56-41. Its Senate counterpart, SB41, narrowly passed on a 20-19 vote. The reality of these two bills is that they are licenses to discriminate, as they would allow religiously affiliated businesses to deny services to same-sex couples, transgender individuals, and those who have sex outside of marriage. As Delegate Mark Sickles pointed out on the House floor Tuesday, there are hundreds of Virginia businesses and organizations that stand in support of equality, looking to keep Virginia an open and diversified state than can attract qualified workers and the businesses we need to grow the economy.  Delegate Vivian Watts demonstrated the detrimental effect bills like these can have on the economy by citing Indianapolis, which lost $60 million in future convention business due to a bill of a similar nature becoming law. Nothing good can come out of either of these bills; they would only result in Virginians being treated like second-class citizens, and businesses may choose to stay away from Virginia.

As you know, I opposed the state displacing local authority when it comes to establishing charter schools. From the emails and phone calls I have received, you agree with me. After much debate, the charter school amendments and resolutions were all defeated on the Senate floor, including SB588SJ6, and SJ93. These proposals would have taken away education flexibility from the local governments, and allowed the state to establish charter schools. Not only that, the legislation would have taken money away from K-12 public schools, whose funding is already stuck at pre-recession levels. Current lawauthorizes a locality to establish a charter school. 

Proud to stand with my fellow legislators in supporting survivors of sexual assault at Rosemary Trible's Fear2Freedom event.

After long deliberation in committee and on the Senate floor, SB416 passed the chamber. Otherwise known as the Airbnb bill, the arguments against it came from hotels, saying that Airbnb is not subject to the same regulations or taxing issues that apply to the hotel industry, putting hotels at an operating disadvantage. The fact is there are more than 1,000 Airbnb rentals available in Virginia currently without a framework for collecting state sales tax and local occupancy taxes. On the plus side, SB416 calls for collection of these taxes by Airbnb on behalf of its listings.  To be clear, even if we had not passed this bill, Airbnb (part of the new sharing economy) would continue to operate. This legislation enables the collection of tax revenue back into localities through a system (VA Department of Taxation) that is already in place. 

The sheen that was discovered on the Potomac River last week has been traced back to Dominion’s Crystal City substation and a spill of approximately 13,500 gallons of mineral oil used to cool transformers. Dominion has accepted responsibility. As they should, the power company will be paying for cleanup as well as the costs of the investigation. If you see any impacted wildlife in the area, please dial the Coast Guard Office of Unified Communications at 311.

The final weeks of the General Assembly will be dominated by budget negotiations between the House and Senate.  We are constitutionally bound to have a balanced budget for the Governor to sign. Once again, Medicaid expansion appears not to be embraced by the Majority. Many aspects of the budget have, instead, shifted towards education, and building a new Virginia economy by incentivizing businesses to come to Virginia and improving workforce development.  The budget reports will be revealed on February 21. Look for more details to follow shortly.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions at district35@senate.virginia.gov.

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