It was a blue-sky day last Wednesday when I was given my oath of office as the 10th District delegate to the 2016 General Assembly Session along with my other 99 House of Delegates colleagues. This begins my third term as your delegate, and my fifth General Assembly session. Speaker Howell gaveled the House to order at noon on January 13, and since that historic moment, I have been very busy with all the duties of serving my constituents and our Commonwealth as a citizen-legislator.
Before I share my activities and legislation priorities, I would appreciate your input by completing my 2016 Session Survey. I will take special note of your answers and comments to the questions in the survey. This will only take a few moments to complete, and I hope you can weigh in and give me your thoughts on items of legislation we will probably see this session.
My staff and I are in Richmond to serve you during this “long session” or 60-day session. We can be reached at email@example.com or 804-698-1010. My Senior Legislative Assistant, Tami Davis, has been joined for session by former aide Cindy Bridgman and Legislative Intern Bobby McCurdy. Bobby is a junior at the University of Richmond studying public policy and leadership, whom I have known since he earned the rank of Eagle Scout. Tami and I welcome Cindy and Bobby to the session team.
Intern Bobby McCurdy joins Delegate Minchew at his chair on the House Floor after the State of the Commonwealth.
In addition to my work on the Courts of Justice, Transportation and Privileges and Elections Committees, I have been assigned a fourth committee – General Laws – by Speaker Howell, as well as the Chairmanship of the Constitutional Subcommittee of the Privileges and Elections Committee. Important legislative work takes place at the committee level and these four committees receive hundreds of bills to review.
This is also a budget year. The 2016-2018 budget will be the most important task facing the General Assembly this year. It is our duty to use taxpayer dollars in a fiscally responsible way as we weigh the services provided by the Commonwealth with the needs of its citizenry. Governor McAuliffe sent the General Assembly his proposed biennial budget and we will take his initiatives very seriously as we progress through this budget process. I attended the Governor’s annual State of the Commonwealth Address last Wednesday, January 13. You can read his remarks here.
I am pleased to report that the House of Delegates passed critically important emergency legislation last week (HB 58) to protect small business owners from a health insurance change originally mandated by the Affordable Care Act ("ACA"). Under the ACA, small businesses between 51-100 employees were due to be moved into the small group insurance market starting in 2016. This shift would have resulted in significant premium increases. By passing this legislation, we have ensured that employees of small businesses across the Commonwealth will continue to have access to their healthcare plans, and that small businesses can continue to thrive in Virginia.
I have filed 30 bills covering many areas of concern to our constituents and the citizens of the Commonwealth, many of which relate to transportation issues facing our region, local jurisdiction concerns, and legal issues. Interestingly, the topic of drones will be discussed at length this session in this new relatively new arena of advanced technology amid security concerns. I will discuss my bills in detail in upcoming memos. Meanwhile, you can view all of my legislation here.
“My door is always open”
Since session began, I have met with many citizens and stakeholders. It is always interesting to hear from constituents, local and state government representatives, and professional organizations about their legislative priorities and responsibilities. I have an "open door" policy and often meet with stakeholder groups who disagree with my stances on matters of public policy. I have found over the years that one can learn a lot from people who hold differing views. Whether I host bankers, accountants, doctors, vets, attorneys, teachers or students, to name only a few groups that came to my office this past week, I am honored to share many quality moments each day with constituents who care about their quality of life in the Commonwealth. If you cannot make the trip to Richmond, and I realize that many cannot, please retain my contact information and let me know your thoughts. Again, my legislative survey, which will assist me in representing you, can be accessed here.
Lord Fairfax Water & Soil Conservation District representatives visit Delegate Minchew in his office.
Virginia Math & Science Coalition recognizes Loudoun County Public Schools for their Science Research Institute Teacher Program.
With all the snow and blizzard conditions forecasted for this weekend, please use the many resources in your local area that are available to you, including your local governments, your utility companies and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). I was also just informed that the Town of Leesburg has a new snow-related hotline. During snow emergencies, Town of Leesburg residents can call 703-777-SNOW to get up-to-date snow removal operations information and to report problems. Residents of Loudoun, Clarke, and Frederick Counties can visit visit the county home pages for winter weather resources.
BREAKING NEWS: Please note that due to the impending weather, Friday’s session (January 22, 2016) will be PRO FORMA. No business will be conducted. All House Committee meetings are cancelled.
Minchew Memo - Week 7
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2015 Session of the Virginia General Assembly adjourned sine die at 9:11 pm on Friday, February 27, 2015. The Latinphrase sine die means “without day”. When a legislature adjourns sine die, it is done with its work. For the first time in 15 years, the General Assembly adjourned sine die before its scheduled (and budgeted) adjournment date of February 28, 2015. Given the per diem cost of running the Virginia General Assembly, the net savings to the taxpayers could fund the salary of a school teacher for an entire year.
While the 2015 Session was notable for its demanding pace, it was also remarkable for the level of transparency and bipartisan cooperation which took place, particularly in the adoption of a balanced budget. Our budget bill created a fiscally responsible path to funding the core functions of our government, and also invested in important areas such as the healthcare safety net and education, and giving a much deserved raise to state police and teachers. On Thursday, Governor McAuliffe signed the budget bill without offering any amendments or line item vetoes. It has been almost twenty years since this last happened.
I am also encouraged by the important legislation we passed - again, in a very bipartisan and transparent manner - to enact stronger, clearer ethics laws. I chaired the House Ethics Subcommittee this year and can report that every bill that cleared my Subcommittee, including the Omnibus Ethics Bill described here, and did so on a unanimous vote with Republican and Democratic co-patrons. Good ethics laws should be bipartisan and we proved that this is an attainable goal. We did have to spend a lot of time reconciling the House and the Senate versions of the Omnibus Ethics Bill and it was the last bill acted upon by the General Assembly at the 2015 Session. We learned this morning that Governor McAuliffe may have a few amendments to the Omnibus Ethics Bill and we look forward to reviewing and acting upon those amendments on April 15th.
This year, I was successful in a number of my legislative initiatives, from securing needed reforms to public procurement, to abolishing “double-taxation” on recordation of deeds of trust, to providing enabling authority for localities to establish child crossing safety zones on roads adjacent to public schools, and winning approval of a new program allowing for PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) programs described here and here. I also worked hard to secure funding for new judgeships to serve Loudoun, Clarke, and Frederick Counties and we have four new judges who will begin service July 1st in our home counties.
As I have done every year since being elected, I will be sending a copy of the 2015 Session Highlights to every household in the 10th District in the coming weeks. Additionally, if you would like to receive a copy of “In Due Course”, which summarizes the laws that will take effect on July 1, 2015, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will email you a copy of this publication when it is released in early June.
While energized by the experience, and proud of what we achieved this session, I am grateful to have returned home to my family and my other responsibilities until we return to Richmond for the reconvened (Veto) Session on April 15th. Also, as I have done every spring after returning home, I have done a road inspection trip in my Jeep checking out the condition of the roads in our district, both paved and unpaved. I would appreciate your help in identifying potholes and other problem road sections by posting a service request to VDOT here or by calling1-800-FOR-ROAD (1-800-367-7623). If you report a pothole and it is not fixed in a reasonable period of time, please let me know at email@example.com or (703) 777-1570.
As always, I am honored to serve you, the constituents of the 10th HOD District, and look forward to seeing you as I travel through Loudoun, Clarke and Frederick counties this spring. Now that I am back in the 10th District, please feel free to contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 703-777-1570, I value your comments, observations and suggestions a great deal, and look forward to seeing you soon.
Lastly, while I rarely engage in political talk in my Minchew Memos, I would like to let you know that I will be seeking reelection this November to continue representing the citizens of the 10th District in the House of Delegates and have been nominated again by my party to run as its nominee. I would be honored to continue my service to you and would ask for your vote.
New Circuit Judgeships Created for
20th and 26th Virginia Judicial Circuits
I am pleased to announce that we were able to secure funding for new Circuit Court Judgeship for both Loudoun (20th Judicial Circuit) and for Frederick and Clarke Counties (26th Judicial Circuit) Both of these circuits have over-burdened court dockets and these new judgeships will allowing for more efficient and timely court systems in our home counties.
Our new Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge will be Douglas L. Fleming, Jr. In Clarke and Frederick Counties, we will have Randy Bryant replacing retiring Circuit Court Judge John E. Wetsel, Jr., and Alex Iden in the new circuit court judgeship along with Ian Williams replacing retiring General District Court Judge David Shaw Whitacre and Kevin C. Black replacing retiring Juvenile and Domestic Relations Judge William H. Logan.
Douglas F. Fleming, Jr., our new 20th Judicial Circuit court judge