On Jan. 6, dozens of residents lined up to tell their state representatives what was on their minds: transportation, growth, homeowner association troubles, the western power line, health care facilities, disability services and more. This year's General Assembly session begins on Jan. 12 and convenes for 46 days.
For state Sen. William Mims (R-33), hearing the concerns of his constituents is an important part of his job.
"It reminds me just how serious our jobs are," he told a woman who came to voice her concerns about finding work for her mentally disabled daughter, who is a senior at Potomac Falls — the same class as Mims' daughter.
Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Bruce Tulloch (R-Potomac) was also on hand to inform the representatives what the county would like out of this session.
"Our fair share of the revenues that we send to Richmond is not coming back to the county," Tulloch said. "We are paying in more and getting less back."
Tulloch pointed out that in 1993, the county sent $84 million to the state in taxes and received 33 percent back in the form of state aid. In 2003, the county sent $550 million to the state and received just 18 percent back in state aid.
Here is a quick rundown of Loudoun's representatives, highlights of legislation they will sponsor this year and how to contact them. For a complete list of legislation, visit legis.state.va.us.
DEL. RICHARD H. BLACK (R-32)
Ex-Marine and Vietnam veteran Del. Richard H. Black has made a name for himself by supporting strongly conservative causes, and this year is no different. The Maryland native has represented Sterling since 1998.
Last year, Black's bill to require anesthesia for fetuses prior to abortion was stopped in committee, but he plans to reintroduce it this year. Under the bill (HB 1524), a physician who fails to administer anesthesia to a fetus over 20 days old before abortion is committing a misdemeanor.
Black has worked on the bill with the National Right to Life Committee, an anti-abortion group that was founded in the wake of the Roe V. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973.
"It probably has the most promise of a pro-life legislation in the country," Black said. He added that he hopes that other states will follow suit if Virginia adopts the bill. Currently, no state has fetal pain legislation, but the similar Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, introduced by U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) is under consideration in Congress.
Black is also sponsoring a constitutional amendment to protect the Highway Maintenance and Operating Fund and Transportation Trust Fund (HJ 562).
"We have a long history of raiding the Transportation Trust Fund to pay for politicians' favorite projects," Black said. "I think that's a great shame."
He is also co-sponsoring a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman (HJ 584), a topic that the last election proved was on everybody's mind, Black said.
"There's quite a move afoot there," he said.
Black is also sponsoring a bill to deny bail to sex offenders (HB 1542) and co-sponsoring a bill to prevent the execution of pregnant inmates (HB 1812).
To contact Black while in session, call 804 698-1032 or email Del_Black@house.state.va.us.
DEL. JOE T. MAY (R-33)
Del. Joe T. May will be busy this year. Not only is he defending his House seat, he's also angling to get the nomination for lieutenant governor — a quest that's already sent him piloting his personal plane to 45 committee appearances. May has represented western Loudoun and Clarke County since 1994. He is a Virginia native, engineer and Virginia Tech graduate.
May is one of the strongest supporters of the House Republicans Transportation Reform package, an answer to Gov. Mark Warner's (D) $824 million proposal. The Republican plan would cost $938.5 million but would stretch out funds over a longer period of time, while much of Warner's package would be dispensed at once. Black joins May in his support of the House Republicans' plan.
May is also preparing to release a plan for a public-private partnership to build light rail out Interstate 66 at one-third the cost of Metro and one-half the cost of additional lanes.
"It's something that I've been working on for a long time," he said. "I think the time is now."
May is also proposing several bills to protect individuals from technology crimes, such as identity theft. As of press time, his bills were in draft form and had not been assigned numbers.
A package of bills cosponsored by May criminalizes phishing (for example, that email claiming a dead Nigerian billionaire is prepared to transfer his fortune to the recipient) and spoofing (a fake email from a bank requesting an update of personal information such as a bank account number), among other activities.
May is also sponsoring a set of personal privacy bills that limit the number of personal identification numbers on public documents.
"If someone has your social security number, it's very easy to steal your identity," he said.
Another bill will require online dating services to include a disclaimer that the members have or have not submitted to background checks. While May admits to not having much personal experience with online dating, he thinks the disclaimer is an important safety feature.
"It means be just a little careful with what you're doing," he said.
To contact May while in session, call 804 698 1033 or email Del_May@house.state.va.us.
SEN. WILLIAM MIMS (R-33)
Virginia native and William and Mary graduate state Sen. William Mims, a trial lawyer, has been representing eastern Loudoun and a piece of Fairfax since 1998. Previously, he represented District 32 in the House since 1992.
Mims estimates he will introduce upwards of 40 bills this session. While some have already been introduced, many are still in draft form. One first-day bill that Mims will introduce will strengthen the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act to prohibit smoking in restaurants, health care facilities and most public places. Smoking will still be allowed in bars, as long as they are distinctly separated from the restaurant.
Mims says that the first restaurant owners who approached him about the bill supported it.
"Restaurant owners are beginning to realize that when anyone is smoking in their restaurant, they generally lose customers," Mims said.
Mims will present the bill with a coalition including the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society.
Mims will also introduce a bill to protect the Sheriff's Office from lawsuits stemming from the new deputy uniforms, which some have claimed are illegal due to outdated state laws. A Sterling man has sued the Sheriff's Office over the new uniforms.
"I strongly believe the Sheriff should have broad latitude in what the deputies should wear, as long as it's clearly identifiable as a Sheriff's deputy," Mims said.
Mims has a record of introducing bills aimed at drunk driving; this year, he may sponsor a bill to make it illegal for youths under 21 to drink alcohol. Currently, it's illegal for people to sell alcohol to an underage drinker, but it's not illegal for the underage person to consume the alcohol.
One bill that should resonate with many Loudoun residents stems from the nearly year-old battle to find an appropriate location for Dominion Virginia Power's 230 kilovolt transmission line to western Loudoun. Mims' bill (SB 783) will require the State Corporation Commission to consider locating a power line underground if the county requests it. If the SCC does not choose an underground path, it must state specifically why the path was not chosen.
To reach Mims during session, call 804 698 7533 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Include full name, address and phone number when contacting by email.