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Focus on Fairfax
Feb. 4, 2018
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Things are now in full swing at the General Assembly!  As we approach the half way mark, subcommittee and committee meetings are longer as we tackle the more than 1,600 bills introduced this session. 
This Saturday, February 10th, Senator Chap Petersen and I will be holding our annual Town Hall meeting at Fairfax City Hall from 9-11 a.m.   Together, we will go over some of the major issues being debated in the General Assembly and then open up the meeting for discussion.  It is a point of pride that we always have so many constituents who come out to provide us with their feedback.  Hope to see you there.
Also, it is not too late to fill out my 2018 Constituent Survey.  The survey results to-date will be presented at the Town Hall meeting, so make sure your voice is included!
Dominion Rate Freeze Legislation
One of the most closely watched issues this year is the effort to roll back the Dominion Energy rate freeze legislation put in place in 2015.  At the time, Dominion Energy and other electric utilities argued that they needed the freeze to efficiently manage changes required to implement the federal Clean Power Plan.  That plan would have required Virginia to significantly reduce carbon emissions from power plants.  However, the Clean Power Plan never moved forward and there is no longer a rationale for continuing the freeze.  In fact, customers deserve refunds for excess earnings.  I support Senator Petersen's efforts (SB9) to eliminate the freeze and expedite the process of returning rate reviews to the State Corporation Commission (SCS).  Unfortunately, SB9 was defeated in a Senate committee.
That said, just going back to the status quo has its downsides as well since the SCC has often been a significant barrier to making progress on important issues such as increasing renewable energy and undergrounding vulnerable distribution infrastructure.  So enters HB1558 - legislation promoted heavily by Dominion Energy that would return some excess earnings back to ratepayers, while using the remaining amount to invest in new solar and wind generation facilities.  The bill also includes provisions related to energy efficiency programs, grid security and reliability, and undergrounding utility infrastructure, among other items.  I've even seen ads on TV encouraging constituents to contact their legislators in support of the bill. 
The most intellectually honest approach would have been to pass Senator Petersen's legislation and then work to fix how the SCC reviews and approves utility projects.  Alas, I will instead be presented with the option of either voting for or against HB1558.  To his credit, Governor Northam has stepped in by creating a work group composed of electric utilities, small and large business groups, industry, the environmental community, and consumer advocates.  I am very concerned, however, that this has turned into a bit of a Christmas tree - with pet projects and interests being thrown in like ornaments to sweeten the deal.  While I am hopeful that this group will arrive at a positive solution, my over-riding concern is that the process of setting rates is transparent and fair, and that consumers have strong, enforceable protections
Update on My Legislation
Several of my bills have now passed the full House and are on their way to the Senate for consideration.  This includes my HB150, which closes a loophole in state law that allowed a teacher from Arlington who was the subject of a Level 1 Case of Founded Sexual Abuse by Child Protective Services to find employment in another school district.  NBC4 did a story on this issue, which can be found here.
I am thrilled that my legislation on career exploration (HB632) reported out of a subcommittee this last Friday and is now heading to the full Education Committee.  Virginia is facing a serious shortage of workers in the skilled construction and industrial trades, as well as other technical fields.  These are good jobs that don't require a college degree, but rather an apprenticeship or industry certification.  The Virginia Manufacturing Association has taken the workforce skills gap so seriously that it has established a Manufacturing Skills Institute on its own dime.  The problem is that too many students don't know these career options exist or feel stigmatized if they don't pursue a college education.  HB632 requires the Board of Education to develop curriculum in career exploration to be implemented in middle school.  Further, it directs the Board to develop resources that allow a student to further explore an interest in career and technical education.  This bill was supported by a diverse group of organizations including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the American Federation of Teachers, the Virginia Manufacturing Association, the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, and the Virginia Contractor Procurement Alliance.
My legislation (HB86) to prohibit a credit reporting agency from charging a fee to place a security freeze on a credit report was also heard last week.  Right now, a credit reporting agency can charge $10 unless the consumer is the victim of identity theft and can produce a police report.  Ten dollars can add up quickly since there are several reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, etc.) - and each member of a family is subject to the fee.  More importantly, as the victim of identity theft myself, this is a matter of principal.  I find it unconscionable that to proactively protect your private information you must pay a for-profit company to keep them from releasing the data.  Imagine having to pay money every time you wanted to be taken off a company's email list?  While my legislation did not pass, a bill to reduce the fee to $5 (HB1027) did move forward.  Half a loaf is better than none in my book and I have signed on as chief co-patron of that bill.
Up next week - I will be presenting my bill (HB1417) to take the HOV hours on I-66 inside the Beltway back to their pre-tolling hours.
Thanks to all of the constituents who have visited me over the past few weeks, including students from George Mason University and the Northern Virginia Community College.  As always, please don't hesitate to contact me if you would like to weigh in on legislation.  It is an honor to serve you!


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David Bulova
Delegate, 37th Virginia House District
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