Yesterday at 8:00 am, the Privileges and Elections, Constitutional Amendments Subcommittee summarily killed in a block vote a series of constitutional amendments, several of them concerning a fairer, non-partisan redistricting process. The meeting lasted less than thirty minutes and no one was allowed to testify in support or in opposition of the resolutions.
Yesterday, my bill, HB 2179 reported unanimously out of P&E’s Campaign Subcommittee. It changes the listing order rule for candidates in non-partisan elections on a ballot. Currently names of independent candidates appear alphabetically. HB 2179 calls for the ballot order to be determined in order of the time of filing. Last year, SB 664 changed the ballot order for school board elections.
Yesterday on the floor, House Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones (R-Suffolk) announced that he had come to an agreement with Senate Finance leadership on state employee raises of three percent starting on July 1, 2017. While teachers would not be included, more money would be sent to the school divisions on a per capita basis with no strings attached. The school money could be used to help fund teacher raises or for other priorities. When the General Assembly usually fund teacher raises, the sum total is sent down through an unfavorable distribution formula.
Yesterday was another long day of committee meetings. I headed to the General Assembly Building before the sun rose for a 7:00 a.m. P&E Elections Subcommittee meeting and didn’t leave until after sunset.
I write a week and a half into the fast moving 2017 General Assembly Session, but even as a fan of a part-time citizen legislature, six weeks is way too short to fully or adequately address the issues before us. Legislation is introduced and is immediately disposed of before the public knows about it and can weigh in.
Getting more trucks off the interstate and onto rail is a win-win for commuters and for shippers. Accordingly, two major linked investments are now coming in to view as a result, in large part, of the landmark 2013 transportation legislation. Today, the Long Bridge, paralleling the 14th Street Bridge, is a severe bottleneck with CSX, VRE and Amtrak all sharing the same track. A second bridge, therefore, is in the planning stage and will help in many ways, including freeing up capacity for additional VRE trains.
Our national nightmare—the never ending 2015-16 presidential campaign—is finally over. I hope that your voting experience was less stressful this year. Part of the reason is that a record number of people voted absentee. Another is that the paper ballot (100 percent) gives the voter all the time needed to read the six ballot measures without holding up the line. Whatever happens, Virginia needs to evaluate outdated election policies and systems.
Last month, I had the opportunity to speak with the Virginia Association of Community Service Boards (VACSB) about, among other things, the General Assembly’s re-commitment to mental health services. For those of you who are not familiar with CSBs, they were established in 1968 to provide for “community-based mental health, developmental, and substance abuse services to individuals with mental health or substance use disorders, intellectual disability, or co-occurring disorders.” That is a tall order given the human condition.
Last month, I had the opportunity to welcome Governor McAuliffe to the 43rd House District. He came to help weatherize the home of two veterans living in Rose Hill. For over three decades, Dominion’s EnergyShare program has helped hundreds of thousands of Virginia families maximize energy efficiency and decrease their energy bills by providing simple yet critical tools and techniques to weatherize their homes.
In 2013, Governor McAuliffe ran to build a New Virginia Economy—primarily to grow the private economy and reduce our overdependence on federal spending. A major part of our economic growth rests on badly needed, significant transportation improvements.