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Focus on Fairfax
Feb. 8, 2017
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It is hard to believe that the session is officially at the half-way mark.  Known as cross-over, this past Tuesday was the last day that each body could act on its own legislation - with the exception of the budget bill.  Traditionally, cross-over is the busiest day of the session.  This year was no exception as we acted on 168 bills in eight hours
Town Hall Meeting
This Saturday, Senator Chap Petersen and I will be holding our annual Town Hall meeting at Fairfax City Hall from 9-11 a.m.  We are looking forward to sharing what is going on in Richmond and hearing your thoughts and feedback.  I will also provide a sneak peek of the preliminary results of my 2017 constituent survey.
Update on My Legislative Agenda
Seven of my bills have passed the House and are now before the Senate.  One of them (HB1619) actually got over early enough to be approved by the full Senate and is now on its way to the Governor for his signature.  While very technical in nature, the bill is important because it establishes a process for allowing new economic development while continuing progress toward protecting the Chesapeake Bay.  The measure has the support of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Sierra Club, and Virginia Manufacturers Association.  

On Thursday, I will be presenting my HB2432 to the Senate Education and Health Committee.  This bill clarifies the process for revoking a teaching license.  It is in response to an NBC4 investigation that revealed four cases of admitted sexual abuse by teachers in Fairfax County where the license wasn't revoked in a timely manner.  While Fairfax County was the subject of this investigation - examples have happened across the state.  

My other bills that passed the House and are now before the Senate deal with career and technical education (HB1522), palliative care (HB1675), and electric vehicle charging stations (HB2431).  The latter was brought to me by students from Thomas Jefferson High School, who came to Richmond to testify on their bill!  They did a great job.
As is always the case here in the General Assembly, you win some and you lose some.  I was particularly disappointed that my HB1765 died on the House floor in a close 45Y-49N vote.  At least I was in good company - one of the Speaker's bills was defeated 48Y-47N a few days later.  My bill attempted to close a loophole in Virginia law that allows a person convicted in General District Court to abuse the appeals process to avoid conviction by failing to show up in Circuit Court.  The bill generated a great deal of discussion by attorneys on both sides - with the Commonwealth Attorney's Association in strong support.  I plan to work with the proponents and opponents over the summer to see if we can reach a solution.
Education, Fracking, and Gerrymandering
In addition to my own legislation, I had a chance to support several important bills as a member of the House Education Committee.  These included measures to improve college affordability and accessibility (more details in a future newsletter) and to train more teachers in computer coding.  On the flipside, I spoke on the House floor against a proposal to shield certain information about the chemicals used in fracking from public scrutiny.  I argued that injecting chemicals into the ground that have the potential to affect drinking water for thousands should be completely transparent.  You can read the story here.  Finally, I was disappointed that all attempts to enact non-partisan redistricting reform were tabled last week in a House subcommittee.  I strongly believe that a fair and impartial redistricting process is essential to the long-term health of our democracy.  Because true reform will require an amendment to our constitution, the move to table these bills means that the next chance to enact reform will not be until 2019.
House Budget
The most significant challenge facing the General Assembly this year is a $1.2 billion budget shortfall due to lower than anticipated revenue.  While the revenue forecast is looking better, the approach so far has been to continue planning for the worst.  The Governor submitted his initial cuts in December, which was no easy task.  This past Sunday, the House and the Senate released their versions of the budget for consideration.  Here are some of the major items from the House side:
  • State Employee Compensation.  Provides a 3% salary adjustment for state employees and a 2% adjustment for state-supported local employees.  Also provides an additional adjustment for key hard-to-retain employee groups.  Employee compensation has been stagnant for several years and is resulting in many positions going unfilled.  As an example of the problem, the starting salary for a State Trooper is now about $10,000 below that of local police.
  • K-12 Education.  Eliminates a proposal by the Governor for a 1.5% bonus for teachers.  Instead, the House makes a change in the Virginia Lottery distribution formula that increases local funding and flexibility.  The House approach results in slightly more for Fairfax County and the City of Fairfax than the Governor's introduced budget.  Nonetheless, providing the state share of raises for our teachers is a high priority for me.
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse.  Increases the budget for mental health and substance abuse treatment by $28.5 million.
  • Higher Education.  Reduces cuts to higher education by $21 million and redistributes the cuts to help universities that have a higher percent of instate students.  Several new initiatives are delayed (such as workforce grants and cyber-security research initiatives).  Note, this is still a cut of $56 million from the existing budget.
  • Economic Development.  Defers some initiatives (for example, the Virginia International Trade Corporation) and then shifts funding around to different priorities (funding is reduced for the Governor's Opportunity Fund, while increased for the GO Virginia regional economic collaboration initiative).
  • Medicaid Expansion.  Given the uncertainty at the federal level, neither the House nor the Governor's budget includes plans for Medicaid expansion.
  • Metro Reform.  Includes language to help facilitate needed management and governance reforms to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority compact. 
  • Transportation.  Increases funding for transportation by $98.6 million as a result of re-forecasting of revenue projections.
  • Parks, Open Space, and the Environment. Prohibits new park acquisitions without General Assembly approval.  Redirects water quality improvement funds to agricultural best management practices.  There is no new funding for urban stormwater quality management.
  • Capital Outlays.  Delays several capital projects, resulting in a debt reduction of $70 million.  This saves about $10.8 million for the general fund.
As is tradition, each body will reject the others' amendments and put the bill into conference, where the conferees will work to come up with a compromise budget.  While there are definitely parts of the budget that I don't like, there are also some very positive aspects.  Overall, I think we are heading in the right direction and I am optimistic that we will adopt a final budget before the end of the session on February 25th.
I've enjoyed being visited by many constituents down in Richmond over the past few weeks!  I hope to see many of you at my Town Hall meeting this Saturday.


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David Bulova
Delegate, 37th Virginia House District
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