As the Virginia State Assembly sets its sights on Richmond this week, all eyes are on the state budget. State programs will have to be trimmed or eliminated altogether, and there will be sacrifices made on every level.
Del. Thomas M. (Tom) Bolvin (R-43rd) held his annual meeting for constituents to discuss whatever was on their minds, but most were worried about the budget.
"This is my pre-session town meeting," Bolvin said, before opening the floor to questions. One man was concerned about the budget in respect to public safety, mainly the number of state police officers.
"The first thing I'm going to do is review the governor's budget amendments," Bolvin said. "There's going to be a large investment in public safety."
His guest speaker was Lt. Tom Martin of the Virginia State Police. Martin gave an overview of roles and functions of the state police after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the 2002 sniper incident.
"It's such a difference to law enforcement after the terrorist attack," Martin said.
The sniper incident also put strains on the state police force.
"This was in addition to our normal criminal and normal traffic problems," Martin said, noting how such incidents cross jurisdictions now. "We immediately started calling Montgomery County. Everything was solved through a joint investigative process," he said.
Bolvin noted his own dedication to public safety.
"We're going to see additional dollars go there, not fewer," he said.
Other concerns on Bolvin's agenda heading down to Richmond were community parking concerns, a Springfield Mixing Bowl watchdog group, education, terrorism and health. He will limit the number of bills to focus on the budget.
"The primary focus is to get through the budget crisis," he said.
Bolvin and Del. David B. (Dave) Albo (R-42nd) are both sponsoring community parking bills to limit the type of vehicles that will be allowed to park in the neighborhoods. Bolvin's bill is aimed at trailers and semi-trailers. He referred to them as "quality-of-life issues."
The recent budgetary overruns at the Interstate Interchange highway project, known as the Springfield Mixing Bowl, concerned Bolvin as well. The bill would create a team to monitor that situation.
"Forming a legislative oversight committee so we don't have overruns," he said.
In the education arena, members of the School Board requested that Bolvin push for freedom-of-information exemptions. The education formula is another area he'll address. Where Fairfax County pays for 80 percent of the Standards of Quality payment, Bolvin would like to see it around 65 percent, like other counties.
"Several of us are working on that," he said, referring to six other Fairfax Republicans as well.
In the public health arena, Bolvin will defend his booster seat bill which was enacted last year and push for giving breast cancer patients an option for a lumpectomy treatment. He called the latter a less drastic approach to breast cancer than the present mastectomy.
"It has been proven to have much success," he said.
Bolvin is also pushing for a restriction on minors using cell phones while driving.
"Our most inexperienced young drivers should not be on the cell phone while driving," he said.
INITIALLY, ALBO drafted 30 bills but is submitting only some of them.
I have drafted about 30. I don't know if I'll put them in or not," he said.
Bills that stood out involved the mailing of alcoholic beverages, the transportation trust fund, construction on land in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and Albo's restrictive bill on residential parking. Both Albo and Bolvin have versions of the residential parking bill.
As far as the budget is concerned, Albo is not on the Budget Committee, so he does not know how the budget will be trimmed, but he is firm on his stance against new taxes.
"My big thing is to make sure no one tries to balance the budget by raising taxes. If the budget bill involves raising taxes, then I'll vote against it," he said.
Albo was initially elected in 1994 when the country was in another recession, so he feels the state will find its way through this one as well.
Albo is on the alcohol regulations subcommittee and was confronted with the alcohol-in-the-mail issue by a local winery, which labeled the current law as unconstitutional. There are issues with the taxes and monitoring the drinking age, which Albo's bill will have to address.
The transportation trust fund was tapped into last year, according to Albo, where $300 million was transferred to the general fund in order to balance the budget.
Albo's bill would ensure "all the money in the transportation trust fund has to be used for transportation," he said.
THERE WERE THREE words for Vivian E. Watts’ (D-39th) concerns at the assembly.
"Funding, funding, funding," she said, but there weren't three clear-cut answers to the problem.
One approach Watts is behind is revising the formula for education so Northern Virginia gets more than what is given now.
"Absolutely revising so the amount we are entitled to reflects the need," she said.
Watts mentioned that Virginia Beach gets a large portion of income from tourism, from which Northern Virginia does not benefit.
Other items on Watts' agenda include the protection of the assets of the elderly and changes in the state highway funding formula. She would factor congestion into "vehicle miles per lane miles," she said. This is crucial on Routes 123, 7 and 28.
"It's very important to get out the information before next session," she said.