Of the work he did in Richmond last session, Del. Steve Shannon (D-35) is most pleased with two bills aimed at benefiting his constituents.
In the closing days of the session, he was able to secure a $50,000 grant to the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department to help with its renovation and expansion project. "Those guys do great work for the community," Shannon said.
Even as a freshman in the minority party, Shannon said that he was able to work with others in the classic political style. "So many times, representatives will come to the Finance Committee [on which Shannon serves] and will need votes," he said.
In some cases, he was able to assist those other members who were then willing to help him secure funding for one of his local projects. "Relationships matter down there [in Richmond]," Shannon said.
The Vienna delegate was also able to work with Del. Jim Scott (D-53) in attaching a condition to the proposal to build HOT lanes on the Beltway. The added lanes would go through Shannon and Scott’s districts, and the delegates were able to require that with any widening caused by the HOT lanes, VDOT would build soundwalls along both sides of the Beltway from Route 7 to Gallows Road (south of the Route 50 exit). "We were really pleased we were able to get something in," Shannon said.
Shannon shared the complaint of many in the region that they were unable to obtain authorization for the continued use of red-light cameras. The General Assembly allowed localities to install the cameras 10 years ago, but that authorization is set to expire June 30. "That’s a bill that all law enforcement agencies across the state wanted," Shannon said.
While the bill to reauthorize the program died in the House committee on Militia, Police and Public Safety, Shannon expects it to be re-introduced. "I think there will be a concerted effort to bring down law enforcement and speak for that bill," Shannon said.
MANY OF the other bills that Shannon worked on dealt with law enforcement. He carried several bills to increase penalties on different sorts of drugs (HB 2291) and co-sponsored legislation to formally recognize some drugs as controlled substances (HB 2716.)
One bill that Shannon introduced requires individuals convicted of sex crimes to register in Virginia. It was incorporated into a similar bill (HB 2836) sponsored by Del. Beverly Sherwood (R-29). The bill also allows the state and localities to work together to investigate individuals who they think have failed to register, and obtain warrants for their arrest.
Shannon also touted some accomplishments of the General Assembly as a whole. One bill that is designed to help cleanup nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake Bay will allow sewage treatment facilities to trade pollution limits like a commodity.
A level would be set for a given tidal basin of how many pounds of chemicals, for example, nitrogen, would be permitted. That would then be divvied up between the treatment facilities that have an outflow into that basin.
If a particular facility comes in under its targets, it can then sell those unused pounds to a facility that is over its allotment. "In doing that, the state can realistically increase the benchmark for everybody," Shannon said.
Some treatment facilities, like those in Fairfax County, may end up with a cash windfall from this measure, since they have equipment that already comes in below the likely targets. "The key to it all is setting the baseline appropriately," Shannon said.
Shannon was one of the delegates who voted in favor of the so called "Droopy Drawers" bill (HB 1981). The bill drew international attention, generally unfavorable, and would have mandated a $50 fine for anyone whose underwear was exposed in a "lewd or indecent manner." The bill was defeated in committee in the Senate.
Shannon explained that on the day the bill came forward, its sponsor, Del. Algie Howell (D-90), spoke in favor of it. "Another legislator got up and started going after him personally," Shannon said.
The attacks reached the point where the Speaker of the House had to step in, Shannon said. Shannon said he knew the bill was probably not going to pass, and many voted to support their colleague. "It was clear to everybody that the bill was going to die, and a lot of us voted for the bill just to rebuff that delegate," Shannon said.