Opinion: Commentary: Accountability to the Citizens is American Democracy

Opinion: Commentary: Accountability to the Citizens is American Democracy

Every four years, the people of Virginia have a choice: should they continue with their current state representative or go a different direction? Earlier this year, I had to decide whether to again seek to represent the 34th District in the Virginia State Senate.

It’s not a decision I made right away. I listened to the citizens who elected me. And I asked myself – what have I done to deserve reelection?

I'll save you the suspense: I decided to run again. But I think I owe it to the public to explain why I deserve reelection.

  • First: Consumer Protection, Criminal Justice Reform, and Property Rights

In 2015, I led the fight against Virginia's power monopolies when they brought a bill to suspend consumer protections. That year, I was one of the only state officials to speak out. Since then, our movement has grown dramatically. Now nearly all Democratic candidates have followed my lead by refusing campaign contributions from utility monopolies. The next step? Ending the monopoly of power companies on how we receive and utilize energy.

My work as a lawyer informs my efforts at justice reform. Since 2003, I've introduced legislation to raise the felony larceny threshold in Virginia. The reason is simple: minor property crimes should not be charged as felonies. In 2019, the General Assembly finally passed legislation to double Virginia's larceny threshold.

On the civil side, I sponsored the "Homeowner Bill of Rights," which became law four years ago. That law protects homeowners against HOA and condo boards with traditional American concepts like notice, due process, and right to counsel. You own a home in an association – you have rights. My law guarantees that.

Finally, I passed laws in 2018 to restrict the state’s power of eminent domain, which is used to take people's land for public projects. Public projects are important but so is fully compensating business owners and residents. In 2018, I sponsored and passed legislation specifically to protect small businesses which are negatively impacted (or even closed) by state action. That is now the law.

  • Second: Access to Higher Education

With four children, and one enrolled in a Virginia university, our family is aware of the challenges of higher education today. As a Senator, I've focused on transparency, access, and affordability. These issues are interrelated. If you require colleges to explain their tuition levels, it increases trust and accountability. It also makes college more affordable for middle-class families.

In 2018, the General Assembly passed my bill on “30-day” notice, which requires universities to advertise and explain any tuition increases to students and parents. This year, I expanded that concept by passing a “public comment” bill, which requires universities to hold public hearings before voting on tuition increases.

This law is already working; most Virginia universities agreed this year to suspend tuition increases for their in-state student population.

  • Third: Promoting Public Health

How do we promote healthy living in our Commonwealth? We must address the issue of opioid addiction. It’s not just a problem in Appalachia. It affects our community here in Fairfax. Years ago, I sponsored the “Good Samaritan Overdose Protection Act," which protects those who report an overdose to the authorities. Before, friends and family who reported an overdose could be liable for legal prosecution. My bill gave them immunity. This law has become a standard around the nation for dealing with opioid addiction. Not every bill in the General Assembly will literally save lives. This bill has done so.

Healthy living means active living. That starts in elementary school. In 2019, a group of self-styled "Recess Moms" presented the General Assembly with a simple idea: kids need more recess during the school day. So we wrote a bill, passed it, and it was signed into law. An active kid is a healthy kid and a better student.

We must have a balanced and cost-efficient healthcare system. Today, it is a non-competitive and strangled industry. To that end, I've supported increasing competition in healthcare providers and have carried legislation to repeal the so-called "Certificate of Public Need" process. We need open access and consumer-friendly services to drive down prices and better serve patients.

  • My 2019 Campaign:

These are my accomplishments. Because I represent the 34th Senate District, they are also yours. This year, I have no registered opponent for reelection, but that doesn't mean I won't ask for your vote.

In the coming term, I will focus on campaign finance reform, i.e. putting limits on "super-size" contributions and prohibiting donations by public monopolies. I will also put forward legislation to restrict plastic bags in our watershed. We still represent the “fresh, green breast of the New World” in Virginia. Let’s keep it that way.

In 2021, we'll tackle redistricting. I support the non-partisan model. Voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.

So that’s why I'm running for reelection. Contact us at info@fairfaxsenator.com. Tell us what you think. Ask for a yard sign. And I humbly ask for your vote.