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Column: Transportation, Education Top Agenda

Richmond Report

Going into the second week of session, the pace has picked up in the amount of bills to be considered in the House sub-committees. We had our first meetings of the Transportation Sub-committee, which hears proposed legislation on transportation funding, land use policy and special projects, and the Education Sub-committee on Higher Education and the Arts, for both of which I serve as chairman.

I listened to your concerns at my Town Hall last weekend and my Tele-Town Hall this past Wednesday and I appreciate your input on proposed legislation. We had several thousand participants in the Tele-Town Hall at various times during the event. I regret that I was not able to get to all the questions due to time constraints.

Many of you were interested in and made comments on the governor's 2013 Transportation Funding and Reform Package. The plan at year five would generate over $800 million in additional funding to be invested in the commonwealth's transportation network. It would replace the 17.5 cents a gallon tax on gasoline (excluding diesel) with a 0.8 percent NGF sale and use tax increase that excludes food. I am receiving many comments on the plan with concern being raised about replacing the gas tax with a general sales tax.

There are a number of transportation bills in the General Assembly including legislation by Senators Saslaw and Watkins and Delegates Rust, Albo and Watts in addition to the governor's proposal. I am hopeful with all these ideas, we will be able to forge a bi-partisan solution to our serious transportation problem.

Other issues you commented on were uranium mining in Southwest Virginia, Medicaid expansion, and education funding for good teachers.

Your opinions on uranium mining in Southwest Virginia were about evenly split between those who support it and those who did not support it. If it does go forward, numerous approvals will be required from various agencies in the federal, commonwealth and local governments. It has been estimated these approvals will take seven to nine years. The expansion of Medicaid was slightly favored and education funding for teachers was overwhelmingly supported.

One of the issues that has concerned me is the spread of Lyme disease. This year, I am chief co-patron of HB 1933, which proposes to insure that Virginia residents are adequately educated and informed of the limitations in the existing serologic tests to detect Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a serious concern in our area and I have worked on this issue for several years.

According to the National Capital Lyme and Tick-borne Disease Association, early symptoms of Lyme disease may include headache, stiff neck, fever, muscle aches and fatigue. If left untreated or treatment is delayed, the disease can become chronic with serious, debilitating complications. A few examples include: joint pain and swelling, heart disease; neurological problems such as Bell's palsy, dizziness, irritability, ADHD-like symptoms, cognitive dysfunction, muscle weakness and neuropathy.

Representatives from the following organizations visited our Richmond office to discuss proposed legislation: Fairfax County Public Schools, Loudoun County Public Schools, Virginia Tech, James Madison University, George Washington University, Randolph-Macon College, University of Virginia, Mary Baldwin College and Longwood University.

Other visitors include: the counties and school boards of Fairfax and Loudoun, Virginia Education Association, The Family Foundation, National Organizational for Women, The Humane Society, Virginia AFL-CIO, Virginia Dietetic Association, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Chain Bridge Bank, Virginia Commerce Bank, Virginia Wine, Wolf Trap and the Northern Virginia Technology Council.

I can be reached by phone at 703-437-9400 or by email at DelTRust@house.virginia.gov. You can also “like” me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.