Ambitious Freshman Goes to Richmond

Ambitious Freshman Goes to Richmond

Englin files 10 bills and four budget amendments.

After besting five other candidates during the Democratic primary last summer, David Englin sailed to victory with 68 percent of the vote in November.

The former Air Force officer moved to Del Ray in June of 2003 — just 18 months before launching his campaign. His committee appointments will be assigned early in the session, and Englin is hoping for a seat on the Education Committee and the Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee. Last week, he filed 10 bills and four budget amendments.

"My number one priority will be I-SaveRx," Englin said. "That’s the first bill I filed in the clerk’s office."

Originally developed by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, I-SaveRx is a program that allows consumers to purchase prescription refills from pharmacies in Canada and the United Kingdom. Illinois, Wisconsin, Kansas, Missouri and Vermont residents are currently eligible, and Englin wants to allow Virginians to be able to participate in the program. During his recent orientation in Richmond, he learned that several Republican members are in favor of it — including Del. Morgan Griffith, the majority leader in the House.

"That’s terrific because now it has the strong likelihood of happening," Englin said. "This is an idea that I’ve been advocating for almost a year now."

Opponents of the program say that the safety of the prescriptions cannot be guaranteed. Rebecca Snead, executive director of Virginia Pharmacists Association, says the program is dangerous.

"It’s like playing Russian roulette with your pills," Snead said. "Our first responsibility with our patients is to first do no harm, and I could not offer a guarantee that these prescriptions will be safe."

AFFORDABLE HOUSING is an issue driving two bills that Englin filed last week. The first provides an income tax credit for low-income renters. Under the proposal, those who earn up to 200 percent of the federal poverty line could claim a credit for up to 25 percent of their rent. The proposal was originally proposed by Alexandria’s Economic Opportunity Commission.

"Some states have implemented programs to give tax credits to renters when the ‘imputed’ property tax they pay exceeds a percentage of their income," wrote City Manager Jim Hartmann in support of the tax credit. "Such relief could be refundable if it exceeds a person’s state income tax liability."

Englin says that while property owners often get tax credits, renters are discriminated against.

"Renters don’t get tax benefits from renting, but renters are the ones who need help the most," Englin said. "This is a way to equalize the benefits a little."

The other affordable housing measure was designed to help renters caught in a condo conversion. The bill would allow renters whose apartments are being converted into condominiums to assign the right of purchase to a government agency, housing authority or nonprofit organization. It was originally proposed by the city’s Landlord-Tenet Relations Board.

"This is a great idea because many people who live in apartments that go condo can’t afford to purchase the property," said Geraldine Baldwin, a low-income renter who is a member of the board. "An organization like the Alexandria Housing Development Corporation could step in, buy the unit and then offer a lower rent."

Englin’s bill would limit the availability of the transfers to the elderly and disabled.

"This bill gives older residents and the handicapped an opportunity to stay in our community," he said. "This could be significant soon because we have potential action on the Winkler properties."

MALNUTRITION IN VIRGINIA is a concern to Englin, who wants to conduct a study of "food insecurity" in the commonwealth. According to a recent report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, food assistance increased by 12 percent in 2005, with 76 percent of the cities reporting an increasing need for food. The survey also showed that 18 percent of requests for emergency food were not met.

"Hunger is a problem for the urban poor and the rural poor," Englin said. "Nobody should go to bed hungry."

Englin’s bill would create a temporary joint subcommittee that would study the problem and offer a report.

"If I knew how to solve this problem, I’d offer a series of bills to accomplish that," Englin said. "But I don’t have all the answers, and so I’m proposing that we study this issue."

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES were also a major focus of Englin’s campaign, and he hopes to encourage cleaner technology in Richmond. One bill he filed last week was an effort to give a sales tax credit to consumers who purchase products approved by Energy Star. The voluntary labeling program was initiated in 1992, when the Environmental Protection Agency created the labels to promote energy-efficient products.

"It’s good for consumers and good for the environment," Englin said. "This is the kind of incentive that would encourage people to make a difference in the environment."

Englin also introduced a bill to exempt energy-efficient automobiles from a sales tax. The exemption would be available to cars that get at least 50 miles to the gallon and sport-utility vehicles that get at least 30 miles to the gallon.

"I intentionally didn’t focus on a specific technology," said Englin, who drives a Toyota Prius that gets 58 miles to the gallon. "I think it’s important to separate the technology from the goal so we leave the door open for entrepreneurs to think of new ways to be energy efficient."

Englin said that he will oppose the Affirmation of Marriage Act and support increased funding for the foster care system. For local projects, he will support a $100,000 allocation for a new air-conditioner at Gadsby’s Tavern and $50,000 for the reconstruction of Fort Ward’s entrance gate.