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Richmond Diary: From Education to Transportation

Reflections on week two in Richmond.

— State Sen. David Marsden (D-37) reflects on week two of the 2012 Virginia General Assembly Session.

Monday, Jan. 16

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is always one of the busiest times in the General Assembly Session. Constituent groups from across the political spectrum converge on the Capitol to make their voices heard because they have the day off. I had my first bill pass in the Courts committee, which was a bill granting authority to the Attorney General to defend individuals operating a corporation as the representative of a Circuit Court Judge. Also, I had a bill to co-designate the East Sea along with the Sea of Japan in future Virginia textbooks pass in a sub-committee of Education and Health.

Tuesday, Jan. 17.

Tuesday morning all the Senators received a briefing from Finance Committee Staff. What disturbs me the most about the Governor’s budget is the transfer of general fund money reserved for education, health, and public safety, to transportation funding. Last year, the Secretary of Transportation promised me that the Governor would propose a sustainable funding stream for transportation if I would vote to accelerate our bond package from six years to three years to concentrate the funding and get road construction started in a meaningful way. In no way does re-directing school funding qualify as fulfilling this promise.

Wednesday, Jan. 18

I presented a bill dealing with pedestrian crosswalks to the Transportation Committee. This bill would require automobiles to stop when pedestrians are in the crosswalk, rather than try to time their passing with the pedestrian’s movements. This bill was originally brought to me by a local school that had some safety concerns. Unfortunately the State Police and others had some problems with the language, and I agreed to hold it over till next year, to give all parties involved time to work out a compromise.

Thursday, Jan. 19

This morning I drove up to Bumpass, Va. to visit a working fox pen. This year I have introduced SB 202, which seeks to shut down fox pen operations all over Virginia. I felt that by meeting someone directly involved, and seeing firsthand what a fox pen entails, I could form a more knowledgeable argument. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this practice, fox pens are 100-900 acre areas, enclosed with electrified chain link fences. Foxes are trapped elsewhere and brought in, or they breed within the enclosure, and chased by hounds for the purposes of training these dogs to track. In the last three years, almost 4,000 foxes were reported as purchased by the 32 pens currently operating. These animals are being killed by the dogs in a most unsporting fashion, and it is time to end this practice.

Friday, Jan. 20

Friday is typically a light day in the General Assembly; however this Friday the Fairfax delegation met at 2 p.m. to discuss a judicial appointment to the Circuit Court. In Fairfax County, any member of the House or Senate who has even one precinct in Fairfax County has a vote on judges. We meet and review the applicants, and come to a consensus on whom to nominate. After that, our nomination is sent to both bodies for a full vote. Afterwards I drove back up to Northern Virginia to attend an awards ceremony for the American Heritage Girls. I was proud to present an award to Rachel Cochran, who was receiving the Stars and Stripes award with a Virginia State Flag which had flown over the Capitol in Richmond. This award is the equivalent of the Gold Award for Girl Scouts and the Eagle Scout rank for Boy Scouts. Honoring young people in these organizations with a flag is one of the best things I get to do.