The fast pace here at the General Assembly continued unabated this week. The Speaker gavels the start of session every day at noon and our time on the House floor is getting longer each day as bills that have survived their respective subcommittees and committees are reaching the House floor for their readings and votes. Did you know that you can watch the House of Delegates session each day at noon? You can access the live stream here.
My 2016 Constituent Survey will remain active for five more days until February 10th. Thank you very much to all who have completed the survey. Your responses are important to me and assist me in representing your issues and concerns in the House of Delegates. With my gratitude for your efforts one last time, you can access my survey here.
Before I discuss this week’s legislative work, I would like to say a few words about last weekend’s special 26th Joint Commemorative Session. Every four years since 1934, the General Assembly has had the honor of being hosted by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for a Joint Commemorative Session of the Virginia General Assembly in the Hall of the House of Burgesses in the restored Capitol in historic Williamsburg, Virginia.
One of the highlights of the session was the Address by The College of William and Mary’s President W. Taylor Reveley, III. He spoke eloquently to the members about the need for our leaders to move Virginia forward economically, which will require creative problem solving, and most importantly leadership, which, Reveley said, is the “bone marrow of a functioning democracy,” He ended with this: “In the beginning there was Virginia, friends, and Virginia led. So inspired, we must lead in our time.” You can review President Reveley’s remarks here.
One reason why I sought to serve in the House of Delegates was to work on economic development and job-creation public policies. I chaired the Loudoun County Economic Development Commission in the mid 1990’s when Loudoun became a regional leader in attracting technology industry jobs. In the General Assembly, my work in economic development remains active.
By this time, you may have heard in the press about a new bipartisan initiative called GOVirginia. Eighteen bills have been introduced this session to promote a pro-business climate and foster job creation, as well as incentivize long-term economic growth and protect small businesses by reforming regulatory processes. Our Commonwealth is lagging behind the national economic recovery and in 2014 was 48th in the nation with zero economic growth. That is just unacceptable in a state so rich in resources, educational opportunities and citizens who work hard to contribute to the economic well-being of their families and communities.
I am a chief co-patron of one of the two GOVirginia initiatives, HB 846, a bill creating the Virginia Collaborative Economic Development Performance Grant Fund, that would give two or more collaborating localities eligibility for grants to aid in the expansion or relocation of Virginia companies desiring to expand within the Commonwealth. I am also a co-patron of HB 834, the GOVirginia appropriations component, that also creates regional councils consisting of representatives of government, business and education communities to work on economic development initiatives across the Commonwealth. GOVirginia encourages regional cooperation in economic development, nurturing of prospects and informational sharing and provides a better vehicle for collaboration between state and local economic development authorities. I am excited to be a part of these efforts.
The bills I filed this session are progressing rapidly through the legislative process. Seven have now passed the House and are being routed to the appropriate Senate committees for their consideration. I have highlighted three bills this week, and again, you may access my legislative agenda here.
HB 912 – I am very pleased to report that my bill to direct the Department of Transportation to permit broadband service providers to install and extend underground broadband conduit within the so-called “Byrd Act” roads that we have in our rural areas of Loudoun and Clarke Counties. The billpassed a Transportation Subcommittee on Wednesday with unanimous consent. I have had a passion for finding ways to encourage broadband services to our rural areas for years. Citizens in our rural communities must be able to access inexpensive and high quality broadband in an efficient manner. This in legislation helps remove impediments to progress and I will work to usher it through to the House floor for a vote.
HB 230 – This is a Virginia Bar Association recommended bill from its Elder Law and Special Needs section. This bill allows for a circuit court judge, upon petition from an interested party, to create a special needs trust to serve the interests of the disabled or special needs beneficiary.
Passed the House 98-0.
HB 537 – This bill clarifies and streamlines the process by which local ordinance fines collected by our general district courts make their way back to our counties, cities and towns. Under current practices, our localities often wait months for collected fines to come back to them. This bill should remedy that situation. Passed the House 98-0.
“My Door is Always Open”
Visitors to my office this week included NASA and Aerospace representatives, the NOVA Chamber, the Frederick and Loudoun County Education Associations, ARC of Northern Virginia, Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, and many stakeholders on legislation pending before the House of Delegates.
My staff was so pleased to welcome our friends from Decoding Dyslexia. They have been tireless advocates for raising awareness for dyslexia, supporting and empowering parents, and educating policy-makers on best practices to support Virginia students with dyslexia.
Noah Kane, second from the left, spoke at The White House last November at the 40 year celebration of the IDEA Conference on the challenges of being a student with dyslexia and learning to advocate, not just for himself, but for others with similar challenges.
Finally, we welcomed many groups here for Conservation Day, such as representatives from the Virginia Conservation Network, which partners with the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Garden Club of Virginia, the Piedmont Environmental Council, and other key groups working in many areas of environmental advocacy.
Mrs. Celie Harris discusses conservation and preservation issues facing the Commonwealth and Clarke County with Delegate Minchew.
I encourage you one last time complete my 2016 Constituent Survey and feel free to forward this message along to other citizens of the 10th District. I look forward to sharing more information with you about the 2016 General Assembly session in the weeks ahead.
I will sign off with a photo showing a one-sided conversation I had with Thomas Jefferson in Williamsburg last weekend while attending the Joint Commemorative Special Session at our Colonial Capitol. Jefferson's brilliance was so profound that many pedestrians walking down Duke of Gloucester Street in Colonial Williamsburg will sit on this bench with the author of the Declaration of Independence and ask their questions.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.