How Much Have We Lost?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

DoD to Contribute $23,798,603 to Expand Ft. Belvoir Elementary

Fort Belvoir Elementary School opened in 1998 and quickly became one of the largest elementary schools in Washington Metropolitan Area.  Population at the base has continued to explode as the Army has renovated and added housing units on base.

Normally, when new development brings new families and infrastructure needs, localities can require developers to pay proffers, which are passed along to homeowners, to help cover the public infrastructure costs.  When the Federal Government creates development, that is not possible.

Last week, the Department of Defense announced a grant of $23,798,603 to Fairfax County Public Schools.  The press release says:
Fairfax County Public Schools will use its grant to renovate, repair and construct new classrooms at Fort Belvoir Elementary School to address the capacity and facility condition deficiencies that placed the school on the Deputy Secretary of Defense Priority List at #26. The school will serve over 1,590 military connected students in grades kindergarten through sixth.
Given that FCPS is currently facing a capital backlog of over $1 billion, this will allow the FCPS to focus on other renovation priorities.

Thank you Uncle Sam!

Monday, July 21, 2014

44th District's Osprey Impress!

As the Potomac River continues to recover, raptors have begun to rebound including Osprey.

William Young and Ashley Bradford has done an amazing job documenting an Osprey family near Bellehaven Marina (just north of the 44th District, but frequented by many 44th District residents!).

You can find Osprey nests all over the 44th District along the Potomac River including Little Hunting Creek and Dogue Creek.  I've also seen Osprey nests on the softball field light poles at Walt Whitman Intermediate School and Mount Vernon High School.

It's only ironic that these nests include plastic bags (thank you AutoZone for helping our Osprey make their nests). What would these birds do without plastic bags?    They attempted to reproduce with plastic bags attached.

 Excellent videos and resources about a striking predator in our area.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

10 Years & $15,000 of Saved Gas Later, The I-95/I-395 Hybrid Exemption Coming to An End

In July, 2004, the papers were buzzing with news about the new super fuel efficient vehicles coming out - hybrids.

They were a little bit more expensive, but the fuel savings were significant.  The federal and state government adopted tax credits.  Virginia also exempted hybrid vehicles from emissions testing and allowed these new cars to be plated with "Clean Fuel" license plates that were granted a then little used exemption for High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV) in 1994.  The affordability of this new technology coupled with the HOV exemption pushed thousands of Virginians to purchase these new cars.

I was one of them.  

My wife and I had two children.  After our second child was born, I bought my dad’s 1995 Honda Accord and sold a two-door Saturn.  The gas mileage on the Accord was average and the fuel efficiency of hybrid’s intrigued me.  A local Toyota dealership said I would have to wait eight months for a Prius.  Sheehy Honda on U.S. 1 in Hybla Valley told me they could put me in a Honda Civic Hybrid in a week and this week, my 2004 Honda Civic Hybrid has 180,000 miles on it and turns 10 years-old.  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Easing the Burden on Military Spouses

Fort Hunt has always been a popular community for military families and growing up, I always had friends coming and going as their parents were moved around the country.

As a child, your perspective is focused upon your friend who is leaving, but not the effects upon the entire family  As a practicing family law attorney, I really come to appreciate the emotional and economic stresses that transfers, deployments, and the combat injuries can place on the entire family. 

For example, whenever a military family goes through a divorce, the issue of spousal support frequently comes up if only one spouse is serving in uniform.  Due to frequent location transfers, it is often very difficult for the non-military spouse to develop a substantial career or earning history.  Unemployment rates for military spouses are three times the rate of civilian spouses. Some studies suggest 90% of military spouses are underemployed.  Frequently, it is difficult for military spouses to start to focus on a career until their active duty spouse has retired.  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

SFDC Pushes U.S. 1 Revitalization!

Great job by the Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation (SFDC) putting together this video featuring redevelopment possibilities in the U.S. 1 Corridor.  Share it around!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Weekly Column: A State Budget, A Federal Grand Jury, and Court Challenges

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of June 24, 2014.
A State Budget, A Federal Grand Jury, and Court Challenges

The last two weeks in Richmond have been unusually busy.  

First, ethics are back at the forefront.  in the wake of the resignation of State Senator Phil Puckett and change in control of the State Senate, the new state budget was written under one-party control.  A $1.6 billion shortfall due to lagging income tax collections forced cuts which I detailed two weeks ago:  K-12, higher education, affordable housing, healthcare, and funding for continued planning for improvements on U.S. 1 was removed from the budget.

Last week, press reports suggest a Federal grand jury was summoned to investigate the resignation of Senator Puckett and allegations that a judgeship for this thirty-three year-old daughter and a six-figure job at the Virginia Tobacco Commission were offered in exchange for his resignation. The lack of any state investigation spotlights the weakness of the ethics reforms we just passed.  

Friday, June 20, 2014

Vetoes Drop and Virginia Moves Forward

This morning Governor Terry McAuliffe announced seven vetoes and other administrative actions.  In summary, he has vetoed legal prohibitions to expanding Medicaid and he is moving forward on Medicaid expansion due to political obstruction.

Administrative Action
First, the Governor announced that he is going to expand Medicaid administratively using his power as Chief Executive.  There was bipartisan support to do this legislatively, but the most conservative members of the House of Delegates were blocking it.

He has directed the Secretary of Health and Human Resources to have plans drawn up by September 1, 2014.

He has also directed officials to hold all plans to construct a new $300 million General Assembly Building. He said that he cannot support this construction while Virginia cuts funding from homelessness.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Weekly Column: No Medicaid, U.S. 1 Cut, and a Frustrating Week

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of June 16, 2014.
No Medicaid, U.S. 1 Cut, and a Frustrating Week
Last  week was one of the most frustrating weeks in the General Assembly since my 2009 election.

First, on Sunday afternoon, we learned that Democratic State Senator Phil Puckett from Southwest Virginia had announced his resignation to be considered for a job on the Virginia Tobacco Commission and clear the way for a judgeship for his 33- year-old daughter.  This effectively gave the Virginia State Senate a Republican majority (20-19). 

On Monday, 21 senators signed a letter requiring the Senate reconvene and the Speaker called the House of Delegates back for a session on Thursday.
When we arrived in Richmond on Thursday, we got more disappointing news.  Apparently, the state’s revenue projections for purposes of building the FY14-15 budget were off because of incorrect assumptions.  The primary problem was that revenue collections were up last year because wealthy taxpayers recognized significant increased income from stock liquidations done in anticipation of increased capital gains tax rates.  The budget experts did not consider this in preparing this year’s revenue projections.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Finalizing a State Budget - Not Pretty

The new proposed amendments to the state budget are now up online.  You can see them here:

The biggest issue is that revenue collections came in well below what was expected largely due to lagging capital gains tax revenues.  The overall shortfall is expected to be about $1.6-$2.0 billion.

What follows below is my initial impressions of what has changed versus Governor McDonnell's introduced budget.  Don't kill me if there are a couple mistakes.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Weekly Column: Five Myths About Medicaid Expansion

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of June 4, 2014.
Five Myths About Medicaid Expansion
As the deadline to pass a budget approaches, Virginians will likely hear that state government could shut down because of a stalemate over expanding Virginia’s Medicaid program as encouraged by the Affordable Care Act.  I would like to clear up a few misconceptions. 
Myth #1 – Virginia’s Medicaid Stalemate Is a Partisan Dispute
               There have been media reports that the Medicaid expansion fight is a Democrat-versus-Republican battle.  It is not.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Government Shutdowns and Legal Reality

Today's papers were full of headlines about focused on some of my colleagues demands that the Governor explain his legal basis for keeping state government running if the House continues to refuse to compromise on Medicaid.

They issued a letter citing a presentation given by staff attorney's with the legislature's Division of Legislative Services (DLS).  You can read the presentation here if you are curious.

I have received a few calls over the last couple days.  I have not spoken to anyone in the Govenor's Office, nor have I done any heavy duty legal analysis, but it seems pretty simple to me.

If you follow the DLS legal rationale to its logical conclusion, then all state employees must stay home and the state government cannot spend any money after July 1, 2014.  While, I have the utmost respect for DLS' attorneys and they are right most of the time, but the practical reality of their legal conclusion leads to nonsensical practical outcomes, and just like we cannot maintain segregated schools or prohibit interracial marriages (or refuse to implement the Affordable Care Act), there are a few legal obligations, we cannot simply choose to ignore.

The Governor was elected by the people of Virginia to be the CEO of the government and one branch's failure to act, does not tie his hands in a crisis.  The Courts will grant him temporary powers to govern necessary government functions.    Here's why.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Shadding on the Potomac

Me, Rob Hartwell, Del. Jackson Miller, Jackson, Jr., the Harley
Brothers & Family, Delegate David Ramadan, and Jim Cummins
On Monday, May 12, 2014, I was lucky to tag along with Biologist Jim Cummins and his crew to help restore Virginia's Shad runs.  His work is funded by the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basis, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries via funds made available from the Environmental Protective Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery near Hopewell.

We shoved off from Mason Neck just before high tide around 6:00 p.m. with skiffs operated by the Harley Brothers - Brad and Mike.  The brothers are the last two licensed commercial fisherman who operate out of Fairfax County.  They fifth generation Fairfax County fishermen and their family has a long history on Mason Neck and they know this stretch of River like the back of their hands.

Panorama shot of the "Mother" Ship
where we processed the fish.
Our crew consisted of myself, Delegate Jackson Miller, his son Jackson, Jr., Delegate David Ramadan, Jim Cummins, Mason Neck native Rob Hartwell, the Harley Brothers, their long-time co-fisherman Rusty Zuppello, and a four-person crew from Virginia's Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.  The fishing crew ran in two boats which DGIF manned the "mother ship" where the fish would be processed.

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