How Much Have We Lost?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Leesylvania State Park Under Big Pressure

The Potomac Local reports that Leesylvania State Park has now closed its gates six times this summer due to over capacity problems.


This has been a problem for years and only underscores the urgency of getting Widewater State Park in Stafford County open for business.

Stafford County has no public water access.  Two years ago, funding for all three phases of Widewater State Park's buildout was funded in the state budget, but was removed after private campground operators complained about damage to their business.


We did get Phase I of three funded and held a groundbreaking last March on a canoe launch and other amenities but no public bathrooms.  


Next year we need to fight to get all three ohases funded.  There is clearly demand for more parks on the Potomac River and we need to get this funded as soon as possible so Virginians can enjoy their River.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Weekly Column: U.S. 1 Widening Yields Many Benefits for the Community

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of August 3, 2017.
U.S. 1 Widening Yields Many Benefits for the Community

On August 3, 2017, the Federal Highway Administration is hosting a ribbon cutting to commemorate the widening of U.S. 1 through Fort Belvoir.  The project’s completion  is an important milestone for our community and has broad ramifications. 

When I first ran for office in 2009, I stated that improving U.S. 1 was my number one priority.  U.S. 1 is the spine of Mount Vernon, Lorton, Woodbridge, Dumfries/Triangle and Eastern Stafford’s central nervous system and  a critical driver of not just transportation, but also access to employment, recreation, retail businesses and restaurants.  U.S. 1’s fate can mean revitalizing area schools and housing and can enhance our overall quality of life from Stafford County to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Weekly Column: Voluntary Background Check System is a Failure

In 2016, the General Assembly enacted a legislation requiring the Virginia State Police to staff gun shows and be available to conduct voluntary background checks upon request by private, non-federally licensed gun sellers as part of a broader compromise on concealed weapon permits.  The law has been a total failure.

The legislation required the state to spend $300,000 to hire three new Virginia State Police employees to be present at all gun shows.  What have we got for our $300,000?

In January, The Daily Press reported that as of January 1, 2017, one person was denied a purchase at 41 gun shows after thirty nine checks.

This week, the Richmond Times Dispatch Reported that since that time, only 18 more checks were performed in the next six months ending June 30, 2017.  In other words, in 77 gun shows there were 59 voluntary background checks.  At 45 of 77 shows, no checks at all were requested. As of today, one buyer was denied.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Weekly Column: Time for Local Governments to Invest in Early Voting

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of July 10, 2017.
Time for Local Governments to Invest in Early Voting
In Virginia, we have a elections every year.  This year, we even have three including a special election for school board on August 29 and then elections for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General and State Delegate on November 7.
Turnout in our state and local elections plummets. In my experience, a large reason is that voting takes precious time away from jobs and families and given Northern Virginia traffic, time is at a premium.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Time is Now to Plan for NOVA's Boom

UVA's Weldon-Cooper Center recently came out with it's new population projection for 2040 (which isn't that far away!). 

The top lines from the newspapers project Virginia passing New Jersey and Michigan in population, but the local numbers are more interesting.

NOVA counties are going to see some major increases.  I have listed the counties in the 36th District here in blue.  Here's some comparisons:

Jurisdiction
2015 Population2040 Projected
Population
Total
Increase
Percentage
Increase
Total Delegates
Total Senators
Fairfax County
1,129,330
1,347,487
218,157
19.3%
13.2
5.2
Prince William County
443,463
682,111
238,648
53.8%
6.7
2.7
Stafford County
134,251
208,845
74,594
55.5%
2.0
0.8
Loudoun County
374,451
684,911
310,460
82.9%
6.7
2.7
Arlington County
234,678
313,352
78,674
33.5%
3.1
1.2
City of Alexandria
159,571
215,119
55,548
34.8%
2.1
0.8
City of Fairfax
23,193
25,286
2,093
9.0%
0.2
0.1
City of Falls Church
14,183
20,577
6,394
45.0%
0.2
0.1
Fauquier County
67,898
84,873
16,975
25.0%
0.8
0.3
TOTAL
2,581,018
3,582,561
1,001,583
38.8%
35.0
13.9
    Population will continue to shift to Northern Virginia - 35% of Virginia's population will be in Northern Virginia compared with 29.6% in 2010.

    Wednesday, May 24, 2017

    Trump Budget Impacts on 36th District

    Earlier this week, President Trump announced his budget. 

    Aside from the massive layoffs in federal workforce and actual workers actually to lose their jobs with the federal government who live in the 36th District, there are other programs which provide grants or funding to other local programs in the 36th District. 

    These are just some of the programs eliminated which have touched the 36th District that I have been able to determine so far:
    • Eliminates the New Starts Program - Entire U.S. 1 Multimodal Transit Study and EMBARK plan is designed around obtaining $1.5 billion in funding from this program to construct bus rapid transit and Yellow Line Extension on U.S. 1.
    • National Wildlife Refuge Fund - 36th District has three National Wildlife Refuges
    • National Infrastructure Investments (TIGER) - TIGER grants funding completion of the Fairfax County Parkway in southern Fairfax County and construction of the I-95 HOT Lanes
    • EPA Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Fund - Self Evident
    • NASA Office of Education - has provided scholarship and summer learning opportunities for 36th District students
    • Corporation for Public Broadcasting - PBS/NPR/WETA broadcast into 36th District
    • Legal Services Corporation - Funds civil legal services for low income populations throughout the U.S. 1 Corridor
    • National Endowment for the Arts - funds Virginia Commission for the Arts and has funded grants in the 36th District
    • National Endowment for the Humanities - has funded grants in the 36th District - including for example effort to result in comprehensive edition of George Washington's papers
    • NeighborWorks America - Invested $191 Million in Virginia including first time homebuyers grants, foreclosure prevention counseling, and affordable housing assistance
    • Community Services Block Grant - Funds human services in Fairfax, Prince William and Fairfax Counties
    There are dozens of other impacts as well that I have not assessed, but these cuts would cost the 36th District millions of dollars of aid, services, and jobs.  If you know of any others, post them up in the comments.

    Monday, April 10, 2017

    Weekly Column: Successes in the Final Session

    The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of April 8, 2017.
    Successes in the Final Session

    On April 3, 2017, the General Assembly met in Richmond to consider the Governor’s amendments to and vetoes of various bills.   Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed 40 bills, a one-year record in Virginia.  All of his vetoes were upheld.

    The Governor vetoed legislation requiring local governments to pay damages caused by undocumented immigrants in their locality, legislation requiring reports of resettled refugees, a bill prohibiting “sanctuary cities” from receiving state funds and bills requiring Virginia sheriffs to hold people without legal justification.

    He vetoed bills requiring identification to vote early by mail, allowing protective order subjects to carry concealed weapons and to be given weapons training information and allowing Virginians to carry concealed switchblades.  He also rejected bills that would prohibit local governments from requiring contractors to pay employees living wages, bills to expand charter schools in Virginia and numerous other bills designed to limit voting.

    Monday, March 27, 2017

    2017 Puller Institute Policy Projects

             On Wednesday March 22,  the 2017 Puller Institute students presented their 36th District policy projects and received certificates commemorating their completion of the program.

               In 2016, I created the Puller Institute to honor my predecessor, State Senator Elizabeth “Toddy” Puller who served in the Virginia General Assembly for 24 years.  Senator Puller was an avid fighter for the citizens of Virginia and this program is dedicated to her years of hard work for the 36th District. Over a decade ago, my predecessor in the House of Delegates,  Delegate Kris Amundson created her Young Leader Program.  Her program was designed to introduce top high school students in the Mt. Vernon area to Virginia State Government process. The Puller Institute is modeled after that program.
           
                During this year's program, eight students from four different high schools traveled to
    Richmond during the General Assembly Session to be immersed in the legislative process of Virginia.  They observed the legislative process and meet with legislators, policy-makers, advocacy groups, and others.  They also were fourtunate enough to meet with Governor Terry McAuliffe, First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe, Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam and Secretary of Education Dietra Trent.         
     

    Wednesday, March 22, 2017

    Governor Acts on Coal Ash


    Possum Point Coal Ash Ponds - 120 acres
    Today, Governor Terry McAuliffe offered his amendments to SB1398 which I introduced to provide better information to the public before we make final decisions on closing four ponds or impoundments holding millions of cubic yards of coal ash located in:
    • Possum Point, Dumfries, VA
    • Bremo Station, Bremo, VA
    • Chesterfield Station, Chesterfield, VA
    • Chesapeake Energy Center, Chesapeake, VA

    While Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has been following existing state and federal law, I have remained concern that DEQ needs more tools and more options need to be on the table. 

    Monday, March 13, 2017

    Winter Storm Stella Advisory!

    Winter Storm Stella is bearing down on the 36th District.  Here are couple important tips, websites and numbers to keep you safe, warm and dry:
    • Monitor your local news sources for the latest weather conditions, and check the  National Weather Service  for up-to-date storm information.
    • Prepare your home for winter weather conditions by closing all windows and doors as well as ensuring all lose items (furniture, children's toys, etc.) outside your residence are secured or brought inside.
    • Stay off the roads, if at all possible.
    • If you must drive, do so slowly and carefully, give yourself extra time to reach your destination, and leave plenty of driving room between you and the vehicle ahead of you.  Before getting on the roads, do the following:
      • Call 800-FOR-ROAD (800-367-7623to report road hazards or ask road-related questions at VDOT's 24-hour Customer Service Center.
      • Call 511, go to www.511virginia.org or download the 511 mobile app to get the latest road condition information.
      • Prepare for winter driving conditions by having an emergency kit in your vehicle.
    • Have all of your utility account information, additional light sources,  and supplies to keep you warm on hand, in case of power outages.
      Additionally, please use the link and the numbers provided below to stay up-to-date on the road conditions or to report any power outages and road blocks:


    Dominion Resources Power Outage Line

    Dominion Resources Storm Center Outage and
    Restoration Updates

    VDOT Online Up-to-date Winter Storm Information,
    Plowing Map and Road Issue Contact Number

    Northern Virginia Snow Information/Status
    call 1-800-FOR-ROAD (367-7623) to report road issues

    Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative 
    1-888-335-0500

    Washington Gas
    1-800-752-7520

    Columbia Gas
    1-800-544-5606

    Verizon Wireless

    1-800-837-4966
    Cox Communications
    1-800-961-0027

    Also, if you have any problems, you can always contact my office at 571.249.4484.  Stay safe!

    ***Additional Updates Will Be Posted***

    Monday, March 6, 2017

    Weekly Column: 2017 General Assembly Wrap Up Part II - Major Bills

    The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of March 5, 2017.
    Virginia General Assembly Approved New Policies
     
    Last week, I reported on my accomplishments in the recent session of the General Assembly.  This week, I am highlighting a few other important policy changes coming to Virginia because of our action.
    First, we passed several bills addressing the ongoing opioid crisis which is causing carnage across Virginia.  Community organizations will be authorized tothat possess the counter-overdose drug naloxone and after 2020 opioid prescriptions   will only be allowed to be transmitted electronically to minimize forgery risk. We passed legislation authorizing Virginia to sign onto the Interstate Metro Safety Compact.  This was absolutely necessary not only because of Metro’s ongoing problems, but to ensure that Metro continues to receive critical federal funding.
     
    I have heard from several communities about problems created by AirBnB, a company that allows people to temporarily rent rooms or their homes.  In some areas, neighbors feel like residential properties have become hotels.  We passed legislation to confirm that localities’ can regulate these temporary rentals. The bill also authorizes localities to create registries for people renting their rooms for fewer than 30 days and to fine abusers.

    Monday, February 27, 2017

    Weekly Column: 2017 General Assembly Session In the Books!

    The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of February 27, 2017.
    2017 General Assembly Session In the Books!

    In the 2017 General Assembly session, which ended on February 25, we were able to make some progress in spite of a $1.1 billion budget shortfall.

    First, we approved amendments to the state’s biennial budget.  After drawing on a $560 million Rainy Day Fund, the budget funds the state share of a long-overdue two percent salary increase for teachers, a three percent raise for state employees, and a $7,000-per-year increase in starting salaries ($36,000) for state troopers.   As always, we met our constitutional obligation to balance the budget.
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