As the 2011 legislative session comes to a close, it's time for an update on some of the newsworthy issues the General Assembly tackled this year. Virginia made national news again, but it was not because it received another award as the best state for business. It was not for finding a long-term sustainable solution to our growing transportation crisis. Instead, we came under the national media glare for an array of far-reaching social legislation.
I write this as we enter our fourth week in Richmond. It has been very busy. While the two-year budget is being negotiated behind the scenes, an array of hot-button social issues has dominated the debate in the General Assembly. On their way to approval are bills covering voting procedures, abortion, guns, and gay rights. I will write about these issues next month when we know what will be sent to the Governor's desk.
I write this as I prepare for the 2012 General Assembly session, which will be framed by debate over Governor McDonnell's proposed two-year budget. Over my eight years in the House of Delegates, when budget agreements are hammered out in conference committee, I have often sensed broad satisfaction that we did the best we could. I'm afraid however, that Virginia's reputation for sound fiscal management is eroding away.
Responding to, and contributing to, the growth of Northern Virginia over the last twenty years has been the phenomenal evolution of George Mason University (GMU). As the demand for rigorous higher education has grown, the university has risen in stature among those who rank schools. More than 17,600 freshman applications are made each year. Only 7,000 are admitted in order to fill about 3,500 seats—85.7 percent of whom return for their sophomore year.
Congressman Jim Moran, with the help of Congressman Gerry Connolly and Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner, announced the approval of $180 million for the widening of Route 1 through Ft. Belvoir to accommodate the influx of military and civilian personnel serving the new Ft. Belvoir Community Hospital and wounded warrior facilities. Since Congress is not doing "earmarks" currently, this announcement was the result of a competition for funds to serve military bases with hospital-derived traffic. As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, Rep. Moran, with Rep.
The U.S. Army's Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, DC, is closing as part of the latest BRAC round of consolidations and relocations. In addition to the new Fort Belvoir Community Hospital for acute care, the Wounded Warrior rehabilitation program is being split between Bethesda Naval Hospital and Fort Belvoir. With these needed changes comes a shuffle of resources among both the armed forces and the key nonprofit charities that support their efforts. I recently visited the new Wounded Warrior barracks and facilities with Base Commander Col.
It looks like we have survived a record hot summer, and schools will be back in session before you know it. Many of you are already busy getting your children ready. Education is always a top priority of the General Assembly, and last winter we were able to restore some of the 2010 cuts to K-12. While the national economy is struggling to grow, Virginia's revenues are coming in a little bit better than the estimates on which the budget is based. Our adjustments to the 2011-2012 budget reflected this relative good fortune.
Listed below are a few new laws that may impact your daily life as of July 1, 2011.
If you and your family or friends are thinking of weekend activities or taking a well-deserved summer vacation, there are many good options right here in Virginia. A variety of great day and weekend trips can be found when you visit www.virginia.org to learn all about the fun, educational, and memorable activities you can be a part of near home.
It has been a busy spring for the General Assembly. As a member of the redistricting committee, several trips to Richmond were needed in order to redraw legislative districts to meet the one-person, one-vote requirement after another decade of strong growth. After the Governor vetoed the first bill over the State Senate plan, we returned for a second try. The successful plan moves three House of Delegate seats and one Senate seat from slower growing areas to the southern suburbs of Washington, DC.