In just his second session in the General Assembly, Del. Gary Reese (R-67th) is racking up an impressive amount of accomplishments. With just a few days left until the end of the current legislative session, the delegate from Oak Hill has 12 bills on Gov. Warner's desk, awaiting his signature.
"This has been a spectacular session," said Reese. "If you're willing to work with people and understand their problems, too, it's amazing what can get done."
He's not splashy or showy, and he doesn't play dirty. But he knows how to fight for what he and his constituents believe in and — perhaps even more importantly — how to get along with others to make these things become reality.
Reese's experience as both an attorney and a former member of Fairfax County's School Board has taught him when a compromise is called for and when forming alliances will best further his cause. And he's already put this knowledge into practice during this session in Richmond.
For example, one of Reese's most closely watched bills here — because of its impact on local traffic — is HB 1457. It requires the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) to act on formal requests from local governing bodies to restrict truck traffic on secondary highways within nine months of receiving such requests.
"I originally thought it should be six months, but then I found out that the kind of engineering studies it requires needs nine months," he explained. "This is realistic, and it puts a nine-month span on it, instead of two years, as things are taking now."
This bill came about after the county Board of Supervisors requested truck bans on Pleasant Valley and Bull Run Post Office roads. Two years have passed, and the Board is still awaiting an answer. So Reese went to work.
"Del. Pollard — a Democrat from the Eastern Shore — had a bill that had failed to report," explained Reese, a Republican. Pollard's bill would have added primary roads so, said Reese, by joining forces with him and including both primary and secondary roads in the bill, "that assured both Democrat and Republican support — and early passage."
Hence, this was one of Reese's bills that went to the governor and, frankly, he said, he doesn't anticipate problems with Warner signing any of them. Another bill Reese is especially proud of is HB 1838 — the Taxpayer's Budget Bill of Rights. It provides that the governor's budget and budget bill be written in a format and language easily understood by the citizens.
It also requires the budget to contain specific outcomes, functions and goals related to expenditures. Reese's bill passed both the House and Senate unanimously and, he said, "You don't often get a bill that goes through the full House Appropriations Committee, 25-0, and the Senate Finance Committee, 15-0." It later passed, 100-0, in the House and 38-0 in the Senate.
He said this bill "represents a sea change in the way that a governor approaches a budget. And Warner believes that budget reform of [this] nature is something he wants to associate himself with. Earlier, I'd showed him a copy of a Fairfax County [school system] budget, [illustrating] how a budget could be made clear and understandable, and we worked out the final language. It shows what can happen when the governor's office and our office can come to agreement on an idea whose time has come."
Reese also has two adoption bills heading toward the governor's pen. One establishes a public-relations campaign extolling the virtues of adoption over abortion, and it passed both houses on Tuesday. Reese said Warner's already initiated this campaign with public-service announcements and lapel pins — like one Reese sported on Tuesday — saying, "Adoption — an Option for Life."
His other adoption bill insures that women contemplating abortion will first be given information about adoption as a possible option. "It passed the House and went through the Senate committee like greased lightning," said Reese. "That one will fly."
Below is a list of Reese's bills that have passed both houses and are now on Warner's desk:
HB 1457 — Requires the CTB to act within nine months of receiving truck-ban requests.
HB 1458 — Extends wage garnishments from 90 to 180 days.
HB 1833 — Gives adoption information to women contemplating abortion.
HB 1834 — Requires schools to either do scoliosis screening of children or give parents information about how to do it, themselves.
HB 1836 — Clerks in Fairfax County Circuit Court record more than 400,000 documents a year but, with this huge volume of work, they're behind by 30-60 days. They're now fined if they don't record things in 10 days. This bill would give them 30 days.
HB 1838 — The Taxpayer's Budget Bill of Rights. "It tries to simplify a complex issue," said Reese. "Some didn't want it simplified, but it flew, anyway."
HB 1840 — Changes the law regarding lost evidence of debt so people may show affidavits as proof, instead of having to post bonds.
HB 1842 — Current law requires General District Court to retain for 10 years records of attempts to find people being sued. This bill would change it to two years, reducing the space needed and expense of document storage.
HB 1844 — Establishes the adoption, public-relations campaign.
HB 1845 — Expands electronic filing into the Clerk of the Courts office.
HB 2335 — Allows rental agreements to contain automatic-renewal language.
HB 2740 — Gives someone whose wages are being garnished the chance to file an exemption sooner.
Reese's bill about school superintendents' contract re-negotiations didn't make it, but Del. Jay O'Brien (R-39th) introduced a version of it in the Senate. His, which passed, requires 30 days notice of the contract re-negotiation be given to School Board members. "I believe the public should be notified, too," said Reese. "But there's always another day."