February 8, 2017
Lively conversations with constituents last Saturday on issues before the General Assembly and on increasing civic engagement.
In this Issue
  • Commentary: "How a Bill Does Not Become a Law in Virginia"
  • Virginia Report
  • Bulletin Board
  • Check your Calendar 

How a Bill Does Not Become a Law in Virginia

Most people can remember the flowchart from high school civics class that graphically showed how a bill becomes a law. According to the chart, a legislator gets an idea for a bill that is drafted, introduced into one house of the legislature where it is heard by a committee, sent to the floor for a vote if approved, and sent on to the other house for the same routine. Generally, that is what happens in the best of circumstances, but reality is much more complicated. I can best make my point about what really happens in too many cases by reviewing the erratic course of a couple of bills in this session of the Virginia General Assembly that will not become law.

There is an increasing realization that many legislatures--including the General Assembly in Virginia--are not as responsive to public opinion as would be expected from democratically elected bodies because of the way that legislative boundaries are drawn. An intense campaign by an organization named OneVirginia2021 has made many people aware that under the current system of having the legislature drawing its own district boundaries legislators are picking their voters rather than voters picking their representatives. By comparing voting histories with census numbers district boundaries can be drawn that are safe for incumbent legislators. The likelihood of incumbents being defeated is so slight that they go unchallenged. I have been working on this issue throughout my political career and once again introduced legislation to establish an independent legislative redistricting commission. My bill was sent to the Privileges and Elections Committee where it was assigned to a subcommittee. The subcommittee allowed me and others with similar bills to make presentations with comments from the public. A survey of my district indicates that about 80 percent of my constituents support a nonpartisan approach to drawing district lines. Other legislators introduced bills to accomplish the same result. My bill and all the others were swept together in one motion and defeated by a vote of four to one. On this important issue four legislators made the decision for the entire 140 members of the General Assembly.

This is not an unusual situation. My bill that would have required universal background checks for gun purchases had the support of the Governor and 90 percent of my constituents. It was sent to the Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee and then to a subcommittee of five legislators, four of whom have an A+ rating by the National Rifle Association. There was little surprise when my bill and all the other common-sense gun safety measures were defeated by a vote of four to one.

Under the Rules of the House, the Speaker of the House makes all committee assignments. Rather than a balance of points of views, the committee membership is stacked to reflect his position of the majority party. The Speaker also decides which committee will consider which bills. The rigged committee membership makes it easy to explain how a bill does not become a law in Virginia.   

Virginia Report on Comcast 28
Tune in to Ken's weekly television program,Virginia Report, on Reston Comcast Channel 28 for public service programming (Verizon Channel 1981). Ken interviews state and local leaders who are making news by making a difference.

Delegate Plum was interviewed in Richmond by VCTA (the Virginia Cable Telecommunications Association) on issues being considered by the General Assembly. You can view the interview here

Virginia Report is also available for viewing online at
www.youtube.com/watch. Previous shows can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/album/1650266.

Bulletin Board
4th Annual Maker Faire NoVa Set for March 19--Tickets Available Now

Tech enthusiasts, inventors, entrepreneurs, educators and curious minds will gather on Sunday, March 19, as the 4th annual Maker Faire NoVa comes to South Lakes High School and Langston Hughes Middle School located at 11400 South Lakes Drive, Reston, from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Previously known as NoVa Mini Maker Faire, the event is upgraded to the status of community faire with a new name and a new website,  http://nova.makerfaire.com/. More than 100 makers will share their knowledge through hands-on projects, demonstrations, workshops and a speaker series in areas of art, engineering, robotics, drones, 3D printers and more. Details are at  nova.makerfaire.com or 703-437-5780, Nova Labs.

America's Small Business Funding Community

The StreetShares community brings together business owners in search of funding and investors looking for both financial and social returns. In the end, business owners get the best deal possible, and investors earn a solid return while supporting American small business--everybody wins. StreetShares mission is to "Inspire, Educate, and Support Veteran Small Business Owners." Learn more about
funding solutions for your small business, requirements, application details, and more at StreetShares.

Grants and Scholarships Now Available from the Community Foundation

The Community Foundation's 2017-2018 scholarship applications are now open for Northern Virginia students pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees. Each year, the Community Foundation awards over $200,000 to help nearly 80 Northern Virginia students attend the college of their choice. Scholarships range from $1,000 to $5,000 and some are renewable for four years. Applications are due by 5:00 p.m. on April 3, 2017. Additional scholarships are available, with deadlines throughout the spring. For more information, including a list of all the scholarships offered by the Foundation, visit

Calendar of Events
Thursday, February 9, 6:00 to 8:30 p.m., Sneak Peek Reception for the 2017 Cornerstones of Our Community - Best of Reston Awards! Hosted by Leidos at 11951 Freedom Drive, Reston. RSVP by February 7 to events@cornerstonesva.org. 

Thursday, February 9, 6:00 to 8:30 p.m., Hunter Mill District's Community Resiliency Group meets for The Tabletop Exercise, designed by the FEMA National Exercise Program, a simulated disaster environment to test and practice disaster response information. Admission is FREE! Dinner included! Download a flyer here. Register here.

Sunday, February 12, 4:00 p.m., The Reston Chorale's chamber ensemble Camerata performs Inside Out, an introspective musical journey through darkness and light, at the CenterStage, Reston Community Center Hunters Woods. Tickets and information at RestonChorale.org

Tuesday, February 21, at 6:30 p.m., Herndon-Reston Indivisible Meeting, Sunset Hills Montessori School,   11180 Ridge Heights Road, Reston. Open Meeting; all are welcome. Herndon-Reston Indivisible is a progressive group formed to actively resist the Trump agenda. Learn more at  February Herndon-Reston Indivisible Meeting.

Thursday, February 23, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Social Security: What You Need to Know Today & Tomorrow (55 years and older), at RCC Hunters Woods, 2310 Colts Neck Road, Reston. Free but  registration is required (500486-7C). This workshop will provide information about the expected benefits, how and when to claim earned benefits, the benefits for spouses and children and the benefits available in the event of disability before retirement. The instructor is an expert on Social Security from AARP.

Thursday, February 23, 7:00 p.m., Film Screening of "GerryRIGGED" and Redistricting Panel, at Cinema Arts Theater located inside Fair City Mall at 9650 Main Street in Fairfax. Sponsored by League of Women VotersĀ® of the Fairfax Area and OneVirginia2021: Virginians for Fair Redistricting. Download a flyer  here

Saturday, March 4, 8:30 a.m., Hunter Mill Community Summit, at the Visitor Center at Frying Pan Farm Park, 2739 West Ox Road, Herndon. The Summit hosted by Supervisor Hudgins will focus on presentations of the FY2018 proposed County budget and the FY2018 proposed County School budget. In addition, a special interactive presentation by Michael Cassidy of the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, on "Prosperity, Equity, and One Fairfax Community" will round out the program. ( www.fairfaxcounty.gov/huntermill)