The General Assembly session is only a few weeks along and, already, one of Del. Tim Hugo's (R-40th) bills is making progress.
It deals with utility companies digging up people's yards and driveways, and he proposed it on behalf of his constituents. And on Tuesday, it passed the House Commerce and Labor Committee and headed for the House floor.
"THE BILL says that, if you dig up someone's yard or driveway, you need to restore it to the condition you found it in, as much as possible," said Hugo. "We're going to fight it out on behalf of Little Rocky Run and other neighborhoods on this one."
All too often, phone, electric and cable TV companies have destroyed yards and driveways in the local area so they could lay their wires and cable. Then they've either left it as is or done a slipshod patch job — much to the residents' anger and dismay.
In some cases, said Hugo, "Their homeowners association would say their driveways didn't conform to the code, after they'd been patched, and the residents had to incur the expense of repairing them. To come and scar [someone's property] and not restore it to its previous condition is just not fair. It's just common courtesy [to fix it]."
Now in his fourth legislative session, Clifton resident Hugo, 42, says the biggest issue this time is transportation and how to deal with it. "There's significant money in the [budget] surplus, plus opportunities for new money," he said. "The House wants to take as much of this multi-billion-dollar surplus as possible and devote it to transportation."
He said the delegates are going to work with Gov. Tim Kaine and also put forth their own ideas. "My idea is to take the money that people pay for their car-insurance premium tax and bond it — borrow against it — to use for transportation," explained Hugo. "The money's already there and would be dedicated to transportation."
Democrats Kaine and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly are both talking about this, said Hugo. "If it's a good idea, it doesn't matter what party it came from," he said. "It seems to me, if a lot of people share the credit, a lot of good things get done."
His bill is a component of the House transportation package. And if all goes well, said Hugo, "We could end up with $10 billion worth of [road] construction over the next decade."
He's also crusading to cap the number of out-of-state students allowed in Virginia colleges and universities. "Some are bringing in up to 40 percent out-of-state students, so we're going to try to cap it at 25 percent, like North Carolina does," he said. As things stand now, said Hugo, many in-state students aren't getting in because of the high number of outsiders accepted.
HE ALSO suggested that out-of-state tuition charges be increased. "Other states charge out-of-state students five or six times the cost of in-state tuition, or more, depending on what the market will bear," he said. "Here, it's only two or three times the cost."
For example, the College of William & Mary charges $7,778 a year for Virginia residents and $23,000 for those out-of-state. In contrast, UNC Chapel Hill costs $4,613 annually for in-state residents and $18,411 for outsiders.
Said Hugo: "Our high schools are pumping out so many good, young men and women. But UVA and Virginia Tech can only take so many because of geographic discrimination. So we're going to increase the number of in-state slots available by decreasing the number of out-of-state slots."
In other areas pertinent to western Fairfax County, he said, "The HOV provision for hybrid cars is due to expire at the end of June, so we're going to extend it another year." The reasoning behind it, he said, has to do with maximum efficiency of the HOV lanes and environmental concerns.
Hugo has a technology background, so it's not surprising that he's also continuing to push for telework "to get people off the roads and make people's commutes shorter." He has a number of telework bills, and a joint subcommittee will look at how they may be enhanced.
Some of them, for example, propose seeing which groups of state employees aren't currently teleworking and giving them a deadline for doing so. "We need new roads," said Hugo. "But we're not going to build our way out of these problems."
He's also proposing legislation promoting paper-verified ballots. "We want to move toward them," he said. "And liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans are joining on this issue on a national level. We're proposing this on the state level to make sure voters have confidence in the electoral system."
Hugo said this issue goes beyond fraud to the plain fact that, quite often, computers crash and equipment breaks down. But with paper-verified ballots, he said, "If you lose an election and know nothing went wrong [mechanically], then you can't be bitter." Noting that it's a matter that crosses party lines, he said, "The Clifton Democratic Women's Club and I are all pushing the same issue."
Another of his bills deals with sexual crimes against children. It calls for a mandatory minimum confinement of 25 years in prison for conviction of a sexual assault of a child under 13. Said Hugo: "My bill is part of a House crime-package initiative."
WHEN HUGO first went to Richmond after winning a special election, he "started at the very bottom. My license plate said No. 100." Now, though, it's 68. So, he said, "I'm building up seniority that can get things done for western Fairfax — whether it's repairing potholes in front of someone's house or getting stop signs for Pickwick Road."
"Government can sometimes be a creaky organization," he continued. "And I think my job is to be the squeaky wheel and push things forward for my constituents, whether it's on a state or local level."
Hugo said there's an "emerging recognition that Northern Virginia has transportation problems, like the rest of the state." And, he added, since Fairfax County is an "economic engine" and a "cash cow" for the rest of Virginia, "I tell [the other legislators] they better take care of Northern Virginia or they'll be sorry."
Besides representing the 40th House district, Hugo does federal tax returns in partnership with the IRS. He and his wife Paula have three young children, Katie, 7, Christopher, 5, and Matthew, 10 1/2 months.
<sh>To Contact Hugo
<bt>Address: Del. Tim Hugo (R-40th)
P.O. Box 406, Room 716
Richmond, VA 23218