The General Assembly reconvened on Wednesday, April 3, to take up the Governor’s amendments and vetoes. HB 2313, the transportation bill, which caused so much debate during the session, came back with amendments which addressed concerns of constitutionality and reduced some of the burdensome fees that my constituents were displeased with. I heard from over 100 constituents on the issue of the Governor’s recent transportation plan, HB 2313, who came down on both sides of the issue. Although I still feel the repeal of the gas tax and the fee on hybrid cars are misguided, I voted for the bill again during our April 3 veto session for one simple reason: this is the biggest increase in funding for transportation in 27 years, providing substantial funding for Northern Virginia and the 36th District in the next five years.
The other “hot button” issue during the past few weeks was Governor McDonnell’s proposed amendment banning insurance coverage of abortion in the new health insurance exchange. This restriction forces Virginians to choose between joining the health insurance exchange without comprehensive women’s health insurance, or pay out of pocket. For many women there is no choice.
As my esteemed colleague Sen. Don McEachin stated, “Virginians will lose the ability to make their own choices with their dollars and instead, Governor McDonnell will be determining for them exactly what they can and cannot buy with their own hard-earned money.”
Republicans talk about the free market system as the best economic model, yet they subvert the free market system — and their ideals of the “rugged individual” — when they promote and pass legislation restricting private citizens’ access to legal products and services. Let the people and the markets decide what should and should not be offered. If particular services, like insurance coverage for abortion is really so unpopular, insurance companies in Virginia would simply cease to offer it since it would be cost prohibitive or unnecessary.
To end on a promising note, VDOT is moving steadily forward on improvements to Route 1, something I have been working on since 1993 as a delegate. Currently, the Virginia Department of Rail & Public Transportation [DRPT] and VDOT, along with the Office of Intermodal Planning & Investment [OIPI] have a detailed scope of the work to be done, have met with the appropriate state and federal agencies, and in the process of hiring consultants by the end of April.
I am working closely with the elected officials in Fairfax and Prince William counties and we are encouraged at the progress. The improvements to Route 1 will lead to real quality of life improvements for our residents and businesses. It will also improve commutes and traffic congestion at key locations along Route 1.