Column: Lots of Moving Parts Remain

Column: Lots of Moving Parts Remain

Thanks to all of you who attended one of the town meetings in Mount Vernon or Old Town on Saturday. It’s always good to hear what’s on your mind, and your input helps me represent you better.

As the General Assembly approaches the scheduled adjournment of our 46-day legislative session, there are still lots of moving parts: amendments, conference committee reports, and remaining bills are all being rapidly considered; committees just completed their work on Monday; the Senate and House budgets are in conference committee to be worked out with Medicaid expansion being my top priority; and a transportation plan may yet emerge to address our enormous funding needs.

The Senate recently passed a bipartisan transportation proposal that represents a clear improvement over the House version as well as Governor McDonnell's original plan. Under the Senate plan, the gasoline tax would be increased by 5 cents per gallon and indexed to rise automatically with the cost of road construction materials. Also, a wholesale tax would be imposed on fuel and 1 percent regional sales taxes would be instituted in Northern Virginia, Central Virginia and Hampton Roads. The House plan, meanwhile, falls woefully short of the necessary funding because it eliminates the gas tax. I am hesitant to get into too many details, as the final plan will likely be a compromise between the Senate and House plans. In the meantime, I’ll keep working with Sen. Janet Howell, who serves on this important conference committee, to promote the best aspects of the Senate plan. I remain hopeful that House Republicans will work with us and recognize Northern Virginia’s needs and garner adequate funding for roads and transit.

Another key issue remaining to be settled is Governor McDonnell’s initiative to provide for state takeover of low-performing schools. I applaud his interest in helping struggling schools, but I do not believe a mandatory takeover mechanism is the best way to do it. While state support for those schools is welcome, his bill takes a hard-line approach that does not allow for continued involvement from the local school board and citizens. It employs a low standard for takeover without setting a timeline for a school to be returned to community control, and there could soon be over 100 schools in jeopardy of takeover. The legislation also does not consider existing transformation policies that are successfully taking hold. Though a constitutional amendment to provide authority for takeover legislation was effectively withdrawn, the legislation itself is still under consideration.

To read more about what I’m up to, visit Call my office at 571-384-8957 or email me at to share your opinion or if we can be of assistance. In addition to legislative work, we are still responding to the more than 2,500 constituent emails received this session.

It’s an honor to represent the people of the 30th Senate District and I look forward to seeing you back home soon.