The General Assembly concluded the 2017 regular session in February, and met on April 5 to consider Governor McAuliffe’s amendments and vetoes. The Governor completed final consideration of bills earlier this month. This email provides a brief review of the session related to issues about which citizens have expressed significant interest. A more complete review may be found at http://dls.virginia.gov/pubs/summary/2017/summary2017.pdf. Of course, I welcome your comments and questions on any issue.
The General Assembly passed and the Governor signed into law 836 bills during 2017 session. Our state budget remains balanced, and unlike the federal government, Virginia is not accumulating debt for future generations of Virginians to pay. More than 93 percent of the bills passed were signed into law by the Governor McAuliffe, some with amendments he suggested. While you may have heard that the Governor has vetoed more bills than any other Virginia Governor, which is true, his vetoes constitute a small fraction of the number of bills passed.
During the 2017 session, I focused on my commitment to serve in a bipartisan way to achieve results on issues that unite, rather than divide us, in Northern Virginia.
Further to this point, the House Clerk’s records indicate that during the last two General Assembly sessions since the last election, I’ve had more bills signed into law by Governor McAuliffe — 32 bills — than any other member of the Virginia legislature. All these bills passed the House and Senate with bipartisan majorities. The ideas and suggestions I have received from residents of the 67th district formed the basis of many of these bills. Thank you to everyone who participated in this way.
I introduced HB 2136 to establish the Metrorail Safety Commission in tandem with D.C. and Maryland. The bill passed unanimously. It includes provisions I developed with Governor McAuliffe’s transportation team to address broader Metro operational concerns that gave rise to Metro’s safety and other problems. One metric that points to Metrorail’s challenge: It costs Metro on average 63 cents to take one passenger one mile. The closest comparable systems in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphia average 42 cents per passenger mile. I serve on the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, which shares responsibility with Virginia, D.C. and Maryland for implementing Metro reforms, and doing so is a primary focus of mine for 2017.
Another transportation bill I introduced, HB 2138 will help local governments better coordinate land use changes with transportation planning, so zoning and other land use changes don’t become “congestion creators.” My goal is “congestion-neutral” development in Northern Virginia. Or better yet, development designed in coordination with transportation planning that reduces congestion.
Construction is expected to begin in a few months to widen I-66 both inside and outside the Beltway, in addition to several other projects in our region. Our biggest challenge now? There is a shortage of more than 2,000 transportation construction workers in Northern Virginia. If you or someone you know may be interested in this line of work, please let me know and I would be happy to make a referral.
Included in amendments to the state budget are increases for K-12 education, with record levels of funding returned from Richmond for Fairfax and Loudoun County schools, $653 million and $347 million, respectively, for the 2017-18 school year. These amounts include funding for teacher pay raises, should local school boards elect for raises. I voted in favor of these amendments.
Open Government and Transparency
Four bills I introduced to revise the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) became law. HB 1539 and HB 1540 expand the scope of public access to state and local government records and meetings, respectively. HB 2143 provides online training for government officials charged with ensuring the government complies with FOIA, and HB 2146 provides for online comments from the public to describe the level of service received from a government entity in responding to a FOIA request.
As you may know, I chair the House subcommittee with responsibility for FOIA and laws pertaining to state and local government contracting. In addition to FOIA issues, the subcommittee focused again this year on legislation aimed at ensuring the frugal and efficient use of your tax dollars when state and local governments outsource work to the private sector.
Addressing the Opioid Crisis
Opioid addiction is a national crisis. Several bills passed with my support addressing this issue in Virginia, including heroin use and the over-prescribing of opioid drugs. HB 1453/SB 848 make the use of naloxone more easily available in crisis situations. Naloxone is an opioid antidote that is proven to save the lives of heroin addicts. HB 1885/SB 1232 require better monitoring of the prescribing of drugs containing opioids, often used to relieve pain, to help prevent the inadvertent addiction to such drugs.
Sports Champions at Chantilly and Westfield High Schools
The General Assembly passed four resolutions I introduced giving statewide recognition to the Chantilly High School boys tennis and baseball teams on their recent state championships, as well as the Westfield High School football and boys basketball teams for their state championships. Representatives from each school were present in the House Chamber when these resolutions passed. Congratulations to all the players and their schools!
Thank you for the privilege of representing you in the Virginia House of Delegates. Please feel free to contact me at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-264-1432.