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Votes

Va. General Assembly Begins

Sen. Ken Cuccinelli outlines his legislative agenda.

Beginning his third year in the Virginia General Assembly, Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-37th) says he's "beginning to feel like a veteran — I certainly have a Purple Heart from last session."

That's because last session was marked by particularly bitter battles about the budget. This time, he said, the main topic will be transportation.

"BUT IF there's movement on charter universities, it would be bigger in the general realm of things," said Cuccinelli, of Centreville. "But I think it gives up way too much to the universities, with little benefits to future students. So I think it's unlikely that any action will be taken on it."

He expects this session, from Jan. 12-Feb. 26, to be "chaotic," but he's definitely looking forward to it. "I'm excited about my agenda, and I believe I have some important bills," he said.

One is to try to put rail-to-Dulles on a referendum. "When we initially decided as a county to proceed with Metro, we did it by putting the bonds on a referendum," explained Cuccinelli. "This is a much larger project for Fairfax County, and I think it's only appropriate — given the long-term tax implications — that it be put to a referendum."

Once it's built, he said, it'll be worth 4 or 5 cents on everyone's real-estate tax — nearly $1,000 per family per year. "For its construction, it'll have federal money or it will be raised in the Corridor," he said. "But when it starts running, there'll be a new operational subsidy. The fare only covers a fraction of it — our taxes will cover the rest."

Regarding some of the other transportation ideas he favors — such as HOT lanes and putting aside money for public/private partnerships — Cuccinelli said they're now "being picked up by others."

He's carrying about 25 bills in this session. One involves going from one to two years between auto safety inspections. "It's to put it on the cycle with emissions inspections and so people can make appointments for them," he said.

CUCCINELLI'S also proposing absentee-voting legislation to help stay-at-home parents vote in the same way that caregivers of invalid family members can. "When you go to the voting booth [now], you have to leave your children in the line," he said. "So I'm trying to get around that rule."

And he has a bill to eliminate accelerated sales-tax payments for businesses. "We make them pay their July sales tax in June — assuming what it will be — because the fiscal year ends June 30," he said. "Now that we have a surplus, it's entirely appropriate to eliminate this."

Cuccinelli also has several bills related to taking care of juveniles in mental-health and temporary-detention proceedings. "Right now, the system doesn't give judges the same options for treatment of kids as they do for adults when they come before them for temporary detention," he explained. "[These bills give] the judges more options on how to get them treatment."

Another one of his bills would institute citizenship checks on people registering to vote. "I'm going to try to get the State Board of Elections to either tap into the DMV data base or to require the same sort of documentation that the DMV requires for proof of citizenship," said Cuccinelli. He said it would probably be some combination of, for example, a birth certificate, passport, social security card, etc.

"I also have a scaled-down version of the health-and-safety regulation bill that I put in last year regarding abortion clinics," he said. "It puts safety requirements on these clinics."

HE HAS a bill to put police officers on the same footing with firefighters as so how their overtime is figured. And he's co-sponsoring at least one and maybe more bills to change the education-funding formula "to put Fairfax County at less of a disadvantage."

There's also a Cuccinelli tort-reform bill that would cap non-economic damages, for things such as pain and suffering, that currently aren't capped. "The idea is to try to get a handle on medical malpractice insurance and create a more rational climate for litigation," he said.

As a group, said Cuccinelli, "The legislators will be picking up the pieces from the last session and working to rebuild relationships that were strained. I want to work together with them, as best I can."

At the outset, he's hopeful that this will be a positive session "in what we come out with for the commonwealth. Sometimes, you celebrate your baby steps — and I hope we have a lot of them, this session."