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As I write this article, Virginia is poised to take a step that I was not certain I would see during my time in office. On February 5, the House Committee on General Laws reported HB 1703, a bill that bans smoking in establishments that do not construct separate smoking and non-smoking rooms with independent ventilation systems. Private clubs and cigar bars are not included in the ban.

No doubt, Virginia played a key role in the longest presidential campaign in U.S. history. For the first time in 44 years, the Democratic nominee won Virginia's 13 electoral votes. As I write this note, the political honeymoon is well underway as the D.C. Metropolitan Region prepares for an historic inauguration, and even supporters of Sen. John McCain are wishing the new president success.

More and more families are faced with the challenges posed by an autistic child.

It has been 22 years since dedicated and sustained revenues were raised for transportation. For better or worse, the revenue from the 1986 package remains the basis for our physical infrastructure today, and into the foreseeable future.

When the General Assembly is not in session, complicated issues are often assigned to study commissions. Some of these commissions have become a permanent part of the legislative process, such as the Joint Commission on Health Care, the Housing Commission, or the Crime Commission. Over the last four years, I have served on targeted study panels to make recommendations on emergency medical malpractice liability, the automobile towing industry, and the obesity epidemic in school children. I also serve on the Attorney General's regulatory reform Health Care Working Group.

At a time of immense promise for advances in medical and biological sciences, Virginia is falling far behind other states in supporting basic university research and in incubating start-up biotechnology companies. Despite our successes with "high technology," there has been too little focus on positioning the Commonwealth in biosciences. With this in mind, Governor Warner appointed a commission on biotechnology to help determine what, if anything, Virginia should be doing. The commission deliberated thoroughly, making its final report in December 2005.

Yet another breakdown in governance and management of the Commonwealth is occurring as I write this note. Two competing versions of a two-year budget are stuck in a "conference committee" as we prepare to extend the session past its constitutional limit.

With the real estate slump driving a downturn in tax revenue, governments at the state and local levels are going to have to tighten and trim. At the halfway point in the 2008 session, budget negotiators in Richmond are waiting for bad news from economic forecasters. Everyone expects Governor Kaine's budget, built on certain outdated expectations, to be substantially redrafted before we leave in early March.

After talking about a long-term transportation fix since January, the General Assembly finally adjourned for the year in late September without taking action on the problem.

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