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Focus on Fairfax
Feb. 26, 2017
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
With the crack of the gavel, the 2017 General Assembly session adjourned sine die this past Saturday.  That same morning, we passed amendments to Virginia's biennial budget.  The challenge we faced this year was significant - closing a $1.2 billion budget shortfall.  Since several people have asked, the shortfall was caused by lower-than-expected payroll and sales tax receipts.  Growth in overall revenue was expected to increase by 2.8% in FY16 and 3.5% in FY17.  Midway through last year, those figures were revised downward to 1.3% and 1.6%, respectively.  While things are looking up, the General Assembly has stuck with the lower forecasts out of an abundance of caution.
Despite some painful cuts, the General Assembly was able to restore funding for some key areas.  These include:
  • Increased funding for public education over the Governor's introduced budget (an increase of approximately $840,000 for Fairfax County).  This includes the state's share of a 2% pay raise for teachers.
  • Three percent salary adjustment for state employees.  Higher increases are provided for high-turnover positions, including State Police and health care workers in low paying positions.
  • Over $30 million in new funds targeted to mental health and substance abuse programs.
  • No reduction to financial aid for college students.  The budget also reduces cuts to higher education in general (they are still subject to cuts, however).
  • Funding for two circuit court judges in Fairfax County.
  • Language to help ensure that needed safety and operational reforms are instituted at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).
The budget also directs 50% of any surplus into a cash reserve to be used only to offset further reductions in state or federal revenue.  Click here for the budget summary provided by the House Appropriations Committee staff.
While not perfect, I believe this is a responsible budget and voted yes.  The budget passed the House 96Y-1N.
Constitutional Amendments
This year we considered dozens of proposed amendments to Virginia's constitution.  Unfortunately, attempts at non-partisan redistricting failed in the House Rules Committee. You can see all of the proposed amendments here.  Before going to the people for ratification, proposed amendments must pass the General Assembly twice, with an election between the two votes.  As a result, odd-year sessions are when proposed amendments "get started." 
Two of the more hotly contested items passed this session include a proposal to create a "transportation lock-box" (HJ693) and a proposal to allow the legislative branch to nullify regulations developed by the executive branch (HJ545).  I have long supported a transportation lock-box.  Many constituents qualified their support of new taxes for transportation enacted in 2013 on the assurance that the revenue could not be diverted for other uses.  The proposed amendment requires a super-majority to take funds out in the case of an emergency, with a constitutionally mandated four year period to pay back the funds with interest. 
The nullification proposal is extremely concerning.  It would not only allow the General Assembly to overturn a regulation during session, but would allow a standing committee or a joint legislative commission to suspend all or part of any regulation while the General Assembly is out of session.  This would completely blur the separation of powers and create enormous instability and uncertainty for the business community.  While there is legitimate debate over the nature and scope of regulations, most businesses rely on at least some level of stability to operate.  Suspending and unsuspending regulations would create chaos.  It is also concerning that many of the joint commissions that would be empowered by this amendment include non-elected members.  The simple fact is that any member of the General Assembly can already overturn a regulation by introducing legislation the old fashioned way.  The amendment passed narrowly (52Y-46N in the House) so may be in trouble when it comes up for a vote next year.
My Legislation/Conference Committees
Seven of my bills passed the General Assembly, with five now signed by the Governor.  Highlights include HB1552, which requires our schools to provide parents and students with information on career and technical education opportunities, and HB1619, which establishes a process for protecting the Chesapeake Bay while allowing for new economic development.  In response to an NBC4 investigation in December, I also introduced successful legislation (HB2432) to strengthen the process for revoking a teaching license for sexual misconduct and related offenses.
In addition to my legislation, I was assigned to several conference committees to work out differences between House and Senate versions of legislation.  One of these was a measure aimed at increasing the number of computer science teachers (HB1663).  Compared to many other nations, the United States lags far behind in producing workers in the computer science field.  Step one to solving this problem is to have more teachers who are able to inspire and educate our students.  I was pleased to work with the chief patron to pass this bill and even more thrilled that the Northern Virginia Community College will now be the home for this effort. 
I am looking forward to sharing the results of the 2017 session and hearing your ideas for 2018!  Let me know if you are interested in having me speak to your civic group, homeowners association, PTA, or other group
Finally, thanks to everyone who completed my 2017 Constituent Survey.  We received a record number of responses.  Your feedback was invaluable as I considered how to vote on specific issues.  You can see the results of the survey here.


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David Bulova
Delegate, 37th Virginia House District
© 2010 David Bulova
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