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 Whatever happens, Virginia needs to evaluate outdated election policies and systems.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.
Last month, I joined the League of Women Voters and other Virginia voting rights organizations to observe the ceremonial signing of my election officials training bill, HB 1030. I introduced this bill to make sure the Commonwealth meets its responsibility to maintain fair and efficient elections. We cannot continue to dictate new regulations to our localities without providing them with adequate tools to implement them.
This spring, Governor McAuliffe launched an historic action to restore the right to vote for over 200,000 Virginians through his executive authority, spelled out in Article V, Section 12 of the Virginia Constitution. Virginia is one of only four states that do not have an automatic process for the restoration of rights for felons who have paid their debt to society.
One of sequestration’s biggest “losers” was the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which was required to cut 5 percent across the board. Although this was a drop in the bucket compared to the approximately $85.4 billion in spending authority reductions for FY 13, it took a considerable toll.
Federal sequestration has taken a considerable toll on Virginia’s defense driven economy. Governor McAuliffe’s top priority, therefore, is to help diversify our economy. This session, the General Assembly is working on a business-led, bipartisan initiative called GO Virginia. It is designed to enhance the growth of local and regional business opportunities through regional public-private partnerships.
Planned Parenthood has once again come under attack, this time in Virginia’s Capitol. Various bills have been introduced this session that vilify this critical healthcare provider and attempt to block its funding. One of the more egregious bills is on a fast-track in the House and will be up for consideration in the next couple of days. House Bill 1090 would prohibit the Commonwealth from entering into contracts or making grants to comprehensive family planning centers across the Commonwealth.
Since 2000, Reagan National Airport (DCA) domestic passenger traffic has grown 46 percent. Part of that growth has come at the expense of travelers that once flew through Dulles International Airport (IAD). At the same time that DCA, with its swiss cheese 1,250-mile ‘Perimeter Rule’ and federal landing slot restrictions, has been thriving, IAD traffic has been declining. DCA annual throughput actually surpassed IAD’s during the recovery from the Great Recession.