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All Politics Is Local!
Attorney General Mark Herring And the Albemarle County Democratic Party
invite you to a reception with our local candidates for 2015
Friday, May 29th
5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
1550 Pantops Mt. Place
This is a fundraiser to support the Albemarle County Democratic Party and its candidates.
Host $2,500 * Patron $1,000 * Friend $500 * Supporter $250
(Sponsors are invited to meet our candidates and Attorney General Herring at 5:30PM)
Individual Tickets $65
RSVP Chair@AlbemarleDems.org and pay online
Directions: From downtown Charlottesville take Rt. 250 East to Pantops. Left at light onto Pantops Mt.
Place. First right into Commonwealth Senior Living.
Authorized by the Albemarle County Democratic Committee
Randolph running for Scottsville Seat on Albemarle Board of Supervisors
May 1, 2015: for immediate release
Rick Randolph, Scottsville District Planning Commissioner, will seek the open Supervisor seat in the Scottsville District of Albemarle County. He will announce his candidacy at 5:00 PM on Monday, May 4 outside the 2nd floor entrance to Lane Auditorium at the County Office Building on McIntyre Road.
“My past 3.5 years as the Scottsville District Planning Commissioner has made me appreciate Albemarle County even more as well as allowed me to better understand how the county operates,” says Randolph. “As Supervisor, I will seek to serve my district and bring about sensible change.”
Rick is committed to maintaining the high level of personal constituent service he has shown as Planning Commissioner, exercising creativity and fiscal caution to build a sustainable budget, increasing educational success for all Albemarle students, and recognizing the benefit of a Master Plan for the Southern Neighborhoods. He will actively seek to identify cost-effective solutions to pressing water and air quality and solid waste issues facing the county.
A resident of the Scottsville District for the past decade, Rick is married to Susan Randolph and between them they have four children, three of whom attended college locally.
After working as Vice President for development at the Alzheimer’s Association for Central and Western Virginia, Rick founded Randolph Coaching & Consulting, a whole health coaching and consulting business consulting firm both for-profit and non-profit businesses. Rick launched Keswick Home Services, a home repair and maintenance company that he operates while serving as a planning commissioner.
Rick is also an active volunteer in the community and currently serves as member of the county’s Capital Improvement Program Oversight Committee, Long-Range Solid Waste Solutions Advisory Committee, Rivanna River Basin Commission and the Village of Rivanna Citizen’s Advisory Council. With Grace Church in Esmont, Rick coordinates the volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, serves as the Vice-President of the Region XV Council of the Episcopal Diocese and is an active lay reader and member of the outreach committee. Previously, Rick served on three of the Charlottesville Chamber of Commerce’s committees and was a member of the coordinating committee for the MS Society’s Tour de Vine.
Prior to moving to Albemarle County, Rick worked as a fundraiser for multiple organizations including a United Way. He also taught and administrated at the K-12 level for 16 years and at the collegiate level for six years with a focus on both politics and the environment. He earned his Bachelors in American government from the University of Virginia, a Masters in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania, and completed his Ph.D, course work in political science at the University of Connecticut.
Randolph looks forward to meeting his neighbors in the Scottsville district and discussing their concerns and ideas during his campaign. Election Day is Tuesday, November 3, 2015.
JOINT TOWN HALL
Tuesday, May 5
5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 5
5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Senator Creigh Deeds and Delegate David Toscano will hold the second of two town halls this spring on Tuesday, May 5 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Northside Library in the main meeting room. The Library is located at 705 West Rio Road, Charlottesville, VA 22901
Call to Democratic Party Caucus
Virginia 17th State Senate District
Call. Pursuant to the Democratic Party Plan of Virginia (“the Party Plan”), the 17th State Senate District Democratic Nominating Committee (“the Committee”) hereby calls an Unassembled Caucus for the sole purpose of choosing a Democratic nominee for the 17th State Senate District (“the 17th District”).
Caucus Rules, Forms, and Information. Caucus Rules will be posted, along with other pertinent forms and information about the nominating process, on the websites of the Spotsylvania, Orange, Albermarle, Louisa, Fredericksburg and Culpeper Democratic Committees. Any changes to the Caucus Rules will be updated at that site.
General Participation Requirements. Each participant in the Caucus must be a qualified voter in the 17th District at the time of their participation. No participant in the Caucus may intend to support any candidate who is opposed to the Democratic nominee in that General Election.
Voting Opportunities. Participants in the Caucus may vote only in person and at the designated time and location. The Caucus will be held from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on May 16, 2015 at the Culpeper Democratic Committee, 102 North Main Street, Suite 200, Culpeper, VA 22701.
Candidate Requirements. Each candidate for nomination must meet all applicable requirements of state law, the Party Plan, and the Caucus Rules. Each candidate for nomination must submit a completed Declaration of Candidacy form and petitions to the Chair of the Committee no later than May 9, 2015 at 5:00 p.m. Each form must bear the original signature of the candidate. If only one qualified candidate files by the deadline, that person will be the nominee of the Democratic Party and the Caucus will be canceled.
For questions about the Caucus, to request any accommodation necessary to ensure full participation, or to file a Declaration of Candidacy, please contact Doug Ferguson, Chair of the Committee, any time at email@example.com (540) 898-3749. Candidates wishing to file must mail their Declaration of Candidacy to the Spotsylvania Democratic Committee, P.O. Box 1231, Spotsylvania, VA 22553-1231 in sufficient time to meet the deadline of 5:00 p.m. on May 9, 2015. (“Postmark does not apply.)
Rules for an Unassembled Caucus
All times shall be read from the official clock, to be determined by the 17th State Senate District Democratic Nominating Committee Chair.
The doors of the caucus room will open and the certification process will begin at 1:00 pm on Saturday, May 16, 2015.
The doors to the caucus meeting room will be closed promptly at 3:00 p.m. Persons standing in line to complete a Caucus Participation Form at the time the doors close will be allowed to complete their forms and participate in the caucus.
Every person who participates in the caucus must complete a Caucus Participation Form and sign a statement that says they are a registered voter of the District, believes in the principles of the Democratic Party, and that he or she does not intend to support a candidate opposed to the Democratic nominee in the next ensuing election.
The chair of the Committee shall act as the temporary chair of the caucus.
The secretary of the Committee shall act as the temporary secretary of the caucus.
The caucus shall be conducted in accordance with the Virginia Democratic Party Plan and the Call to Caucus.
The first order of business shall be the election of a permanent chair.
The permanent chair shall appoint a tellers committee.
Only those candidates properly filed as a candidate for the House of Delegates on or before the deadline will be recognized as such and included on the ballot.
Ballots will be prepared listing the first name, middle initial, and last name of each candidate properly filed in alphabetical order. It is prohibited to give any preferential treatment to any candidate and none will be listed as the “official candidate.”
Caucus participants may vote for individual candidates by placing an “X” beside the appropriate name.
The tellers committee shall count the ballots.
There shall be no campaigning inside the caucus room or check in area.
There will be no Press or Observers permitted in the room in which balloting takes place.
Tie votes will be decided by the flip of a coin.
Adopted:__April 30, 2015___________(date)
Signed:__Douglass R. Ferguson______(Chair)
Authorized and paid for by the 17th Senate District Democratic Nominating Committee
Senator Creigh Deeds sends his latest newsletter with news from the the Veto Session at the General Assembly.
April 15 was more than Tax Day this year. Indeed, the legislature came back into session on Tax Day to consider the Governor’s amendments and vetoes to legislation passed during the 2015 General Assembly Session. Typically Senators and Delegates return to Richmond to consider handfuls of amendments and a few vetoes. This year was atypical for a number of reasons.
For the first time since 1998, the budget was signed without amendment. The Governor’s signing the budget as passed by the legislature certainly does not mean the Governor viewed the document as a perfect funding plan. Politics is about compromise, and I think the Governor felt the budget was the best we could do given the political realities in Richmond. The lack of amendment signifies that the Governor wants to develop a good working relationship with the legislature. Hopefully this olive branch will bear fruit for both parties.
The General Assembly considered amendments, most of which were uncontroversial, to almost 70 bills. The most discussed and debated amendments related to privacy issues. The Governor amended significantly the bills seeking to limit the use of drones by police. Those amendments were rejected by the General Assembly in favor of people’s privacy. There was also a bill that limited the ability of law enforcement to arbitrarily collect data obtained by license plate readers. The bill basically would have codified an Attorney General’s opinion. The Governor’s amendment to expand the length of time such data can be kept was rejected as well.
The Governor also vetoed 17 bills. The vetoes were generally controversial but none of them were overturned. In fact, in some cases there was not even an attempt to overturn the veto.
So the General Assembly session for 2015 is now history. However, the work goes on. I work as a lawyer, but my work as a legislator will continue for the remainder of this year as well. I sit on a couple of important committees that will be meeting throughout the year.
The first is the Joint Commission on Transportation Accountability. While the name sounds dull, the work interests me for a couple of important reasons. First, there has been a lot of distrust about the use of transportation dollars in many situations over the years. In fact, there is a growing body of evidence that the previous Administration essentially threw away $300 million of taxpayer money on a public private partnership to improve U.S. Route 460 between Petersburg and Portsmouth. This commission will oversee the remaking of the way these public private partnerships work.
Second, and importantly, since 2013 we have made significant investments in transportation, and the work of this commission will provide an important level of oversight over the process that has developed since then. In 2013, we passed House Bill 2313 which provided for the first time since 1986 significant new investments for transportation. I have discussed in this space many times House Bill 2313, its attributes and its limitations. Significantly, it provides money for the maintenance of highways thereby freeing up other money for construction, but its contribution to the construction budget is limited.
In 2014, House Bill 2 passed which aims at taking the politics out of deciding how the money is spent. This year, House Bill 1887 reforms the funding formula in a way that I think improves the process. A healthy transportation system is a key component of promoting economic growth in all parts of Virginia, and I want to continue to be an active participant in these vital discussions.
The second major policy area that I will continue to work on through the interim is mental health. I have stated many times in the past that my goal is to create in Virginia a model public system for the provision of mental health. I want a system that very simply is there for Virginians who need it in every part of the Commonwealth. We have an overwhelming task to get that accomplished by the end of 2017.
This work flows out of Senate Joint Resolution 47, which I sponsored during the 2014 Session to create a four year joint subcommittee. I chair the subcommittee, which is now in its second year. This year we will meet in June, September and November. During each two-day meeting, we will meet, solicit public comment, and hear from experts as well as tour various mental health facilities and programs across Virginia. Our task for this year is to produce an interim report in December that focuses on the basic question of what services, at a minimum, should our public system of mental healthcare provide.
That is a big question. We are divided into three workgroups to try to come up with answers to that question. Del. Robert Bell of Albemarle County chairs the civil commitment workgroup. Sen. Emmett Hanger of Augusta County chairs the workgroup on the continuum of care. Del. Joseph Yost of Giles County chairs the workgroup on special populations. Each one of those workgroups has important and daunting work ahead.
While we have tweaked our mental health laws over the past decade, the most important question is whether the General Assembly will have the political will to right the ship and create a model system of care – a public mental health system we can all be proud of, that other states and the federal government can emulate.
I hope that each of you stay engaged with both of these important issues and keep in touch with my office and with your other legislators. It is my honor to serve you in the Senate of Virginia. If you have questions, do not hesitate to contact me. I can be reached at my legislative office in Charlottesville at 434-296-5491 or PO Box 5462; Charlottesville, VA 22905 or in Hot Springs at 540-839-2473. Or you can reach me by email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can signup for Senator Deeds email updates at his web site.
THE 25TH LEGISLATIVE DEMOCRATIC NOMINATING COMMITTEE’S
CALL FOR PERSONS SEEKING TO BE THE DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE TO REPRESENT THE 25TH HOUSE OF DELEGATES DISTRICT IN THE 2015 GENERAL ELECTION.
Pursuant to the authority provided by the Democratic Party of Virginia Democratic Party Plan, THE 25TH LEGISLATIVE DEMOCRATIC NOMINATING COMMITTEE hereby calls for the notification of interested persons.
All appropriate provisions of the Virginia Democratic Party Plan (“State Party Plan”), as amended, and the Bylaws (“Bylaws”) of the Virginia Democratic Party Plan (“State Party Plan”), are incorporated into this Call by reference and made a part hereof.
The sole purpose of this Call is to solicit Democratic candidates for the 25th House of Delegates seat.
- Filing Deadline and Requirements:
All interested persons must meet the requirements specified by the State Party Plan and the Bylaws and must notify FRANK NOLEN, CHAIR of THE 25TH LEGISLATIVE DEMOCRATIC NOMINATING COMMITTEE at BOX 13, NEW HOPE, VA 24469, by email at email@example.com, by phone at 540 294 0310, or by hand at 680 Patterson Mill Rd,. Grottoes, Virginia no later than 12 noon EDT, April 10th, 2015.
- Notice Requirements:
It shall be the duty of the 25TH LEGISLATIVE DEMOCRATIC NOMINATING COMMITTEE to insure that this Call receives the widest possible dissemination and distribution.
- Candidate Qualifications:
Any Democrat who resides in and is registered to vote in THE 25TH LEGISLATIVE DEMOCRATIC NOMINATING COMMITTEE is qualified to be considered provided he or she signs a declaration that he or she is a Democrat, is a registered voter in the 25th HOUSE DISTRICT, believes in the principles of the Democratic Party, and does not intend to support any candidate who is opposed to a Democratic nominee in the next ensuing election.
Adopted by the 25TH LEGISLATIVE DEMOCRATIC NOMINATING COMMITTEE on March 28, 2015.
Frank W. Nolen, Chair
Samuel Miller District Supervisor Liz Palmer sends this update:
You can signup for Supervisor Palmer’s email updates at her web site.
Senator Creigh Deeds sends his final update from this year’s General Assembly Session
The 2015 Session of the General Assembly is history. While we passed over 1500 bills and resolutions, the Session will be remembered for a handful of things including reforming the transportation funding formula, adopting a new ethics bill that changes very little, and adjourning a day early. The Session will also be remembered for what it did not do. We failed, once again, to expand Medicaid and provide health insurance that we are already paying for through federal taxes to as many as 400,000 Virginians.
The budget was balanced and adopted on time. The budget included funding for a number of priorities such as pay increases for public employees, significant new funding for mental health services (drop off centers, child psychiatry, supportive housing, etc.), and an additional $10 million for financial aid at our colleges and universities.
But the budget does not include funding for Medicaid expansion, leaving over $2 billion that Virginians already pay on the table, money that could be providing health insurance to hundreds of thousands of Virginians, and creating jobs and economic activity. The budget even cuts the Governor’s modest proposal to provide services to the severely mentally ill by reducing eligibility from 100 percent of the federal poverty level to 60 percent. Several hundred people who signed up already will receive one year of care and then be cut off, precisely the thing that House Republicans said that they did not want to occur with Medicaid expansion.
Sexual Assault on Campus
We began this session under a cloud of tragedy. Hannah Graham, a 19 year old UVA student, was murdered this fall after going missing early one morning on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville. We were all shocked to learn that the primary suspect in the case, Jesse Matthew, had complaints against him while he was enrolled at Christopher Newport University and Liberty University. The incidents did not result in criminal charges or convictions but demonstrated a history and pattern of dangerous behavior.The University and Charlottesville communities were then stunned by the publication of a
Rolling Stone article, since discredited, detailing a graphic sexual assault of a student and criticizing the University’s fraternity culture and the institutional response to such attacks. Even though the article did not accurately reflect the facts that had occurred, there was a tremendous feeling on the part of many that we had to address the issue of sexual assault on campuses.
Many families entrust their children to the Commonwealth at our institutions of higher learning. As a Commonwealth, we have an obligation to protect those students and make sure that they can receive an education in safety. A number of bills were introduced, including a couple that I sponsored, limiting the role of an institution of higher learning in the investigation of sexual assault allegations and requiring dismissals for criminal acts to be noted on a student’s academic record.
In the end, state legislative action was bound to a large extent by federal law. Privacy rights are protected, and colleges cannot release much information. The final compromisebill establishes a review team at each institution consisting of the Title IX officer, law enforcement and a student representative, requires certain higher education employees to report sexual assaults to the college’s Title IX officer within 72 hours of learning about the incident, and provides that law enforcement be notified of the incident if there is a risk to the public or the victim. Furthermore, if the incident would be chargeable as a felonious sexual assault, the law enforcement representative on the review team must consult with the Commonwealth’s Attorney.
In addition, we passed legislation requiring a notation on a student’s academic record from any public or private college or university if the student was suspended, dismissed, or withdrew while under investigation for a violation of the institution’s rules or student code of conduct. On a related note, the General Assembly also adopted legislation, sponsored by Delegates David Toscano and Rob Bell, expanding the number of misdemeanor convictions for which a DNA sample is required.
In light of the convictions last year of the former Governor and First Lady, there was a push to change the General Assembly’s ethics rules. The legislature overwhelming approved some modest reforms. The legislation maintains the current cap on unreported gifts to $50. Gifts that are worth between $50 and $100 have to be reported, and gifts over $100 in value are prohibited.
The bill imposes significant travel restrictions, not in where a person can go, but in the compensation or reimbursement one can expect for that travel. The legislation does not address campaign contributions or the use of campaign accounts, which have been of particular interest to many people who have reached out to me on ethics reform. I anticipate that the bills will be subject to significant amendment by the Governor.
In 1986, the most significant investment in transportation for many years occurred under Governor Gerald Baliles. The gasoline tax was increased, and a modern transportation formula was developed. Although the process worked very well for a number of years, beginning in the mid-1990s the formula stopped working effectively due in large part to changes in policy at the state level and population growth. In fact by 2009, the formula was not working at all and transportation funding was insufficient even for maintenance much less construction of new projects. Governor Warner tried to address it in 2004, but other needs were prioritized. Governor Kaine tried to address it numerous times but was turned away. In 2013, Governor McDonnell championed House Bill 2013, which for the first time in a generation raised significant money for transportation.
Legislative action to increase transportation revenues was followed in 2014 by House Bill 2, which aimed to depoliticize the process by which major projects are selected. My view has always been that projects ought to be determined by need rather than by politics. A legislator should not be able to get a project selected just because he has clout or seniority. This year, the administration, working with Delegate Chris Jones, introducedHouse Bill 1887 that resulted in a re-write of the funding formulas. I was honored to be on the subcommittee that reviewed and rewrote this bill in the Senate. We wanted to make sure that all parts of the state were served. The legislation for the first time ensures sustainable funding for transit, which is a significant source of transportation in Northern Virginia and a growing means of transportation in Hampton Roads, and also serves the interests of freight rail as well. I can tell you that House Bill 1887, while not perfect, does in fact meet the needs of all of Virginia.
After setting aside money for maintenance, 45 percent of the money will go into a fund for “State of Good Repair”, which is for bridges, tunnels and overpasses, statewide. I think we will see a significant amount of this money in the Staunton, Culpeper and Lynchburg districts. The remaining 55 percent is broken into two categories. Half of the money will be used for House Bill 2 projects of statewide or regional significance. The remaining half will go into the transportation districts for projects of regional or local significance. There is money for dirt roads and to ensure flexibility so that we can utilize technology to pave or otherwise surface these roads.
Of significance, the legislation takes the politics out of the Commonwealth Transportation Board. This is significant because in the past CTB members have felt obliged to support projects that the Governor who appointed them supported. Now, board members’ terms will be staggered and they can only be removed for cause. This bill, House Bill 1887 is significant and may be the most important legislation that passed in the 2015 Session.
Child Day Care
Over the past year or so there have been a number of high profile situations, some tragic, that have thrust into the spotlight the use of unregulated daycare in Virginia. A number of bills were introduced this year to address this issue. The compromise legislation will require family day home providers who watch 5 or more children to become licensed. Current law sets that limit at 6. The bill also requires unlicensed and unregistered family day home providers to provide written notice to parents that they are unregulated and to share information about a website maintained by the Department of Social Services that discusses the different types of child care available. The compromise also requires fingerprint criminal background checks for those operating family day homes, other adults living in the home, and volunteers at day care facilities. The whole idea is to do as much as possible to protect children and families but to acknowledge that much of this care is run by churches and other groups that are not regulated. The balance is between protecting children and allowing parents to raise their children as they see fit.
Those in the Charlottesville area remember all too clearly the details involving the UVA students who purchased bottled water and cookies at a local grocery store only to be confronted in their vehicle by a group of undercover ABC agents. The year prior and every year since, I have introduced a study resolution seeking to consolidate law enforcement functions under the Virginia State Police. While those efforts have failed, the General Assembly did adopt reforms this year of ABC. The legislation overhauls the supervisory structure at the Department and creates the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board Authority as an independent agency governed by a five member board of directors. Those directors must hold a degree in business or a related field and have experience in business management. The members of the board, which will be paid significantly less than the current three sitting ABC Commissioners, can only be fired with cause. The push for reform was driven to a large extent by what happened in Charlottesville in 2013
For the second time in the 24 years that I have served in the General Assembly, the session ended a day early. Just as we did in 2000, business finished late on Friday evening in advance of the scheduled Saturday adjournment. While many may laud the legislature for being efficient, I am concerned that details may be overlooked when we rush our business. For example, the ethics bill is forty-nine pages and was changed multiple times on the last day of session. In fact, changes were written into the bill in the last hour before we voted. I voted for the bill, because in balance it did many good things, but I worry that we did not have enough time to vet the last minute edits.
While some bills have already been signed into law by the Governor, most are still in the final enrolling process and will soon head to the Governor for consideration. The General Assembly will reconvene in Richmond on April 15 to vote on the Governor’s amendments and vetoes. If you are concerned about any of the bills adopted by the legislature, I urge you to express your views to the Governor.
It is a great honor to continue to serve you in the Senate of Virginia. I can be reached at my legislative office in Charlottesville at 434-296-5491 or PO Box 5462; Charlottesville, VA 22905 or in Hot Springs at 540-839-2473. Or you can reach me by email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can signup for Senator Deeds email updates at his web site.
Senator Creigh Deeds sends his latest update from this year’s General Assembly Session
With a week to go until the scheduled February 28 adjournment, the Virginia General Assembly is moving steadily along. From what I hear, few areas of controversy remain in the budget deliberations. I still think it is possible, though not as likely as I previously thought, that we adjourn a day or two early.
In past columns I wrote about measures the Senate adopted to fund pay increases for state troopers and sheriff deputies. The legislation was unique in that it included a revenue source to address the issue of salary compression. Some supervisors make less than those they supervise, and troopers who are being hired might earn more than some who have been on the job for years. As I thought, the House of Delegates may not be as receptive to the idea of a dedicated source of funding to address the issue. Rather, the House is coming up with money from other general fund sources to address salary issues for all state employees. Without question, the issue of salary compression is not unique to state police, and I am hopeful the budget conferees develop a compromise compensation package that recognizes the hard work and dedication of our public workforce.
My mental health bills have run into trouble in the House of Delegates. Over the past 15 months, I have been dedicated to raising standards for mental health treatment and for ensuring that quality treatment is available in every corner of the Commonwealth. Last year, Delegate Rob Bell and I introduced bills requiring DBHDS to study the requirements for emergency evaluators, including qualifications, training standards and oversight and to make recommendations to improve the safety of the individual subject to emergency custody orders and the public. The bills I introduced this year, Senate Bills 1408, 1409, and 1410, encompass the recommendations included in the report issued on December 1 in response to that directive. All three were designed to improve standards for those who perform the evaluations and ensure that DBHDS has the tools they need to pursue quality across the Commonwealth.
Nevertheless, the bills have stalled in the House of Delegates amid fears about the cost of legislation and concerns raised by change resistant community services boards. DBHDS is the state agency that contracts with and oversees our CSBs, and I trust the judgment of DBHDS professionals to determine what standards should be in place for emergency evaluators. Not to be deterred, I am looking for other routes to continue to make these measures law and improve the quality of care of individuals in crisis situations.
It should be noted that work of the Joint Subcommittee to Study Mental Health Services in the 21st Century, which I chair, continues. The evaluation piece of mental health services is but a small, albeit important, piece of the puzzle.
Other legislation I have carried relating to mental health has met with more success. The Senate and House of Delegates have passed bills to require hospitals and facilities to update the psychiatric bed registry as soon as bed availability changes and to improve the transportation options available in crisis situations. A third bill sought to improve law enforcement access to information about past history of involuntary commitment should be voted on by the House early next week. When responding to emergency, life or death situations, this information can be very useful to law enforcement in responding to the scene. All three bills were recommended by the Governor’s Mental Health Task Force and subsequently vetted by the Joint Subcommittee.
Of interest to some, a bill that failed this morning was one that would have reduced the food to mixed beverage ratio in restaurants. The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control enforcement of the ratio has been inconsistent. At present, the ratio does not even include beer or wine sales. In my view, the issue needs more study and is not ripe for consideration at this point.
Many people have contacted my office about issues associated with the proposed natural gas pipeline that would cross the Counties of Highland, Augusta, and Nelson, as well as other bills related to Dominion. Senator Emmett Hanger sponsored legislation, which I co-sponsored, to repeal the 2004 law that grants natural gas companies the ability to survey land, over landowner objections, for a proposed pipeline. That legislation was not successful. Frankly, I was not surprised by the outcome, but not for the reasons many people suspect. The Constitution prohibits the General Assembly from taking up issues regarding private controversies, and tied to that provision is a tradition of the legislature not to consider bills that may affect pending litigation. There have been a number of suits filed in both state and federal court regarding the pipeline and the underlying issue of the bills, the right to survey. I remain convinced that the 2004 legislation is unconstitutional, but I was not surprised that the legislation stalled in light of the litigation.
Legislation pursued by Dominion to remove oversight of their profit for eight years in exchange for a five year partial rate freeze has passed and is on the Governor’s desk awaiting action. I voted against the legislation because, looking at the recent past and the current earnings of Dominion and American Electric Power, the two utilities affected by the bill, there is a significant indication that ratepayers are entitled to hundreds of millions of dollars in refunds. While it is true that it would likely only amount to a few dollars per customer, that is still a significant issue.
Energy is an issue that we all have to think about very carefully. The past few days have seen record cold throughout the Commonwealth. We must have a consistent and sustainable supply of electric power to provide the heat necessary on these cold days. It gives one pause and ought to cause us all to reflect on the discussions regarding energy production.
The end is in sight of the 2015 Session of the General Assembly. I will soon be home and back at work in my law practice. If I can be of service to you in any way, please send me an email at email@example.com
. If you prefer to send a letter or call, I can be reached at PO Box 396, Richmond, VA 23218 or (804) 698-7525 through February 28. After adjournment, my legislative office can be reached at PO Box 5462, Charlottesville, VA 22905 or (434) 296-5491.
You can signup for Senator Deeds email updates at his web site.
Senator Creigh Deeds sends his latest update from this year’s General Assembly Session
The midpoint of the 2015 General Assembly Session has passed. We are nearing crossover, the point when the Senate and House of Delegates must complete work on bills generated by its members. While the budget remains the focus, a number of controversial issues have come before the Senate thus far.
With respect to mental health, there are some issues that have to be worked out. A house bill sets up a study for whether emergency room physicians should have the ability, now performed solely by CSB evaluators, to determine whether one should be subject to a temporary detention order. The participation of ER doctors is already being studied by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) and by the joint subcommittee I chair. Nevertheless, it is somewhat in conflict with legislation I sponsored as a result of the DBHDS study on the qualifications and training of emergency evaluators. My sense at this point is that we will try to work out the differences, but it may be wise to take the cost of improving the program into consideration and try to have the Governor incorporate the changes into his budget and legislative priorities next year.
Senator Mark Obenshain sponsored a resolution to establish charter schools in the Constitution of Virginia and grant decision-making authority to the State Board of Education. I voted against the measure, as I have in the past. Charter schools have a place in our educational system, but unless we develop a different funding source I am not willing to strip local school boards of the authority to determine whether the creation of a charter school is best for their community. Public charter schools would no doubt be funded through the current educational funding stream, and the money would come out of the public schools in the locality where they are located. Therefore, I am not willing to substitute the state’s judgment for that of the local school board.
There has been a lot of promise and a lot of discussion in charter schools. We want children to have the best outcome possible and the best hope for positive outcomes in the future. However, our obligation as a Commonwealth is to make certain every child has an opportunity to succeed. The best way to do that is to make certain our public schools are as strong as possible. Looking around the country at the charter school movement, the results are mixed in states where charter schools are more prevalent. I am not encouraged that charter schools are the answer to addressing the needs in our public school system.
Senator Tom Garrett introduced Senate Bill 1132 to allow guns on school property by concealed carry permit holders after school hours. I voted against the bill because I think it sends the wrong signal. We banned firearms from public school property years ago, and I do not see any reason to change that policy. Over the years I have been an advocate for the rights of law-abiding citizens to own and possess firearms. However, there are limits to everything. Schools need to be a place of safety for young people. In addition, the legislation would have required private schools to allow firearms on their premises. Many of the private schools are run by churches, and I do not think the state should override churches in this regard.
A number of bills of interest relating to energy and power companies are still pending before the legislature. The first, Senate Bill 1338, sponsored by Senator Emmett Hanger would repeal a 2004 law that gave natural gas companies the right to enter onto private property, prior to the exercise of eminent domain, to conduct a survey to determine if the property is suitable for a pipeline. Frankly, the utilities can already do this with permission. I voted against the law in 2004 and am co-sponsoring the bill because I do not think the state absent exigent circumstances has the right to give private companies or individuals the right to come onto the property of someone else without permission. It has effectively legalized trespass and is totally unconstitutional, in my view.
Senate Bill 1349, which is sponsored by Senator Frank Wagner, would remove two of the major energy suppliers in the Commonwealth, Dominion and American Electric Power, from much of the regulation that are currently subject to in exchange for a temporary rate freeze. There is no freeze proposed or promised for the entire period of the deregulation. I am interested in the debate on this bill, but I am inclined to vote no. Public utilities that essentially have a monopoly over services should be subject to regulation.
I pulled three bills this past week. The first was modeled after a Minnesota law that is designed to protect our declining number of pollinators. Bees are the bedrock of agriculture, and thus the economy. Recent declines in the number of pollinators are disturbing. The bill, which was designed ultimately to reduce bees’ exposure to toxins through more stringent labeling requirements, was pulled to give me more time to review the effectiveness of the Minnesota law.
The other two bills I pulled were the bills relating to subaqueous bottomlands. In recent years, Senators Petersen and Marsden, both from the rapidly growing area of Northern Virginia introduced legislation that would have effectively required bottomland owners to open up their land to fishermen and canoeists. I led the charge against those bills because I thought they were unconstitutional takings. However, in 2013 I requested the Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources to direct the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to convene a working group of interested parties to see if there were any areas of consensus. The results of the study, issued in the fall of 2013, prompted the two bills I introduced this year.
The first set up a voluntary process for landowners to determine whether there is a crown grant and thus private ownership of the bottomland. There ought to be a process short of litigation for people to figure these things out. The second would have allowed those landowners to place their bottomlands in easement and receive a tax credit if they chose to open their land up for sportsmen. Both bills were totally voluntary and at the complete discretion of the landowner. An early drafting error fed a campaign of disinformation, and at the end of the day, I heard from many people about how the bills were forcing landowners to do something they didn’t wish to do. I also heard from some environmentalists who thought these efforts did not go far enough. At the end of the day, I decided life is just too short to try and legislate in an area where making anyone happy seems impossible.
Some other bills of note include the following:
- Senators Bill Carrico and Janet Howell have sponsored legislation to address pay issues for our dedicated members of law enforcement with the State Police and Sheriff Deputies. Pay raises and salary adjustments are a frequent request in these high risk jobs. The legislation this year is unique in that they offer a revenue source to fund those increases. Those bills remain in the Senate Finance Committee, and my sense is that the bills will languish there. I think the Committee is working to find a way to provide a two to three percent pay increase for all state employees.
- A constitutional amendment sponsored by Senator Rosalyn Dance would allow the General Assembly to establish a process for the restoration of civil rights to people who have been convicted of nonviolent felonies. Since I believe everybody deserves a second chance and there ought to be a pathway for people to restore civil rights, I voted yes. Current law gives the Governor alone the right to initiate this process. Frankly, the last four Governors (Warner, Kaine, McDonnell, and McAuliffe) have done a good job in restoring rights for those who have turned their lives around, but this is a process that should not be dependent on the Governor.
- Two highly contentious resolutions, SJ252 and SJ269, have generated significant debates, rallies, emails, and phone calls. Both resolutions call for a constitutional convention under Article V of the United States Constitution. One attempts to limit the scope of the convention to a Balanced Budget Amendment while the second sought a more general approach of reigning in the federal government. Given the uncertainty of whether the scope of the convention can be limited and how the delegates are selected, I intended to vote no. Both bills have effectively been removed from consideration.
The General Assembly also recognized the passing of two great community leaders, the Honorable James Brady Murray and Mr. Horton Beirne. Jim Murray was a highly respected businessman, conservationist, and former member of the House of Delegates. Horton Beirne was an active member in a number of community organizations and his church, and added to the significant family legacy in newspaper publishing with his work as the publisher of the Virginian Review. Horton’s love of the Highlands and his work for a better future were unsurpassed. Both are sorely missed by their loving family and friends.
Yesterday, I also had the pleasure of commending the Nelson County Future Farmers of America Farm Business Management team and the Nelson County Middle School Future Farmers of America Agronomy team for each placing second in their respective career development competitions at the 87th National Future Farmers of America Convention and Expo. Several of the students and their parents joined Coach Ed McCann, and the superintendent, Dr. Jeff Comer, on a trip to Richmond to be recognized for their accomplishments.
And on that happier note, I apologize for not issuing a column on January 30. There was a birth in my family that required me to travel out-of-state last week.
It continues to be my high honor to serve you in the Senate of Virginia. Please let me know if you if I can be of service to you in any way. You can reach my office during the legislative session at PO Box 396, Richmond, VA 23218,firstname.lastname@example.org
, or (804) 698-7525.
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