Greetings from Richmond! The 2014 General Assembly is now in full swing. In addition to considering nearly 2,000 bills, we will adopt Virginia’s biennial budget, which must be balanced as required by Virginia’s constitution. Thanks to everyone who has contacted me about issues throughout the year. This session I have introduced 13 bills and several budget amendments. Below is a summary of issues and initiatives I will be working on during the 2014 session.
- Transportation – Last year’s transportation funding package passed with strong bi-partisan support and is already generating significant revenue to fix local and regional transportation bottlenecks such as the I-66 corridor. Several legislators, however, are looking to repeal the package. Protecting this landmark accomplishment is a top priority.
- Standards of Learning – There has been mounting concern that Virginia’s Standards of Learning have resulted in "teaching to the test" at the expense of critical thinking skills. I am thrilled that I have been appointed to the new Educational Reform Subcommittee of the House Education Committee, which will consider how to reform the SOLs.
- Education Funding – It is not your imagination! The difference in the cost of living between Northern Virginia and the least expensive part of the state is a whopping 66 percent. To make up for this difference, our region has traditionally been given additional cost-to-compete funding for education. Unfortunately, the Governor’s introduced budget proposes to eliminate this funding for school support personnel, which would result in a loss of $20.7 million for our region. Restoring this funding is a priority for the Northern Virginia delegation.
- Bridge to Kindergarten – Quality early childhood education is a key predictor of future educational success. This year I have introduced a budget amendment to provide classroom readiness skills to disadvantaged children who have not had a preschool experience. This initiative is based on a successful pilot program at Daniel’s Run Elementary.
- Ethics Reform – Several events this past year placed a harsh spotlight on Virginia's relatively lax ethics and transparency laws. We got started on the right track when the Democratic and Republican caucuses announced the framework for a bipartisan ethics reform package. However, I am pushing for more to be done and have introduced House Bill 271 to increase transparency by requiring that gifts be reported on a more frequent basis. Currently, gifts are only reported once a year after the elections.
- Health Care – There is broad bi-partisan support to make changes to our mental-health system in the wake of the stabbing of Senator Creigh Deeds and the suicide of his son. We will also consider whether to expand Medicaid. Regardless of how you may feel about the federal health care law, taking advantage of expanded Medicaid is a win-win for Virginia. Not only will it help provide preventive health care for over 400,000 low income families, it will help support struggling rural hospitals. Each day we do not act represents $5 million of our tax dollars that go to other states. Expansion of Medicaid is a legislative priority for both our local hospitals and the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce.
- Human Trafficking – For the past several years I’ve been pleased to be part of a bipartisan coalition to fight human trafficking in Virginia by increasing penalties and giving law enforcement the tools they need to prosecute traffickers. This year I have introduced House Bill 767 that allows police to seize the assets of a trafficker, similar to what is already allowed for drug runners. No one should ever be able to profit from this terrible crime.
- Chesapeake Bay Restoration – The Chesapeake Bay is one of Virginia’s natural treasures. I have introduced a budget amendment to establish a cost-share program that will allow local governments to work with private property owners to voluntarily implement practices that will reduce pollution.
I invite you to share your thoughts by filling out my 2014 Constituent Survey. Also, mark your calendars for my annual Town Hall with Senator Chap Petersen on Feb. 1, from 9-10:30 a.m., at Fairfax City Hall. More information on both can be found at www.davidbulova.com. It is an honor to represent the 37th District in the House of Delegates.