Friday, February 5, 2010

Working to Save Taxpayer Dollars

The article below appeared in the Mount Vernon Gazette and the Mount Vernon Voice on February 3, 2010.

We are lucky to live in a forward-looking county that is an international technology leader. Technology — the computer revolution — can help all of us be more efficient and Virginia’s government needs to catch up. Technological approaches can streamline service to the public, and be part of the answer to balancing the budget. As I promised in my campaign, I have introduced several "fixes" that would bring new technologies to state operations and cut state expenditures.

Fairfax County generates over 270,000 traffic and criminal citations each year. Today, officers in police cruisers write out citations by hand in triplicate on carbon paper. One copy goes to the accused person, one to the Police Department and one to the Court. Each of the 270,000 summonses then is entered into a computer.

I introduced legislation with bipartisan support to authorize a $3 fee for an "E-Summons" system enabling officers to laser scan a driver’s license bar code and generate a ticket using a computer and printer in their cruiser. The information would be automatically uploaded to the court’s system, avoid the need for 10 data entry personnel, minimize mistakes, avoid hand-carrying papers to court, speed up payments, and police officers on the street instead of pushing paper.

I also introduced legislation to foster electronic filing of pleadings in Virginia Courts. These systems, used in federal courts and the District of Columbia, eliminate the need for paper pleadings, couriers and filing and data entry clerks. The Courts of Justice Committee in the House of Delegates will consider this legislation this week along with three other bills. Fairfax County is the largest jurisdiction in the Commonwealth with some of the most complex litigation and heavy court dockets. This system would also save tax payers millions.

I also introduced legislation to authorize our courts to install electronic recording systems in every courtroom in the Commonwealth. Currently, courts have either no one keeping a record during the proceeding or in most cases, courts must hire court reporters costing $350 per day. Electronic recording would bring savings to the state and to litigants, and create a record in all proceedings. U.S. District Court in Alexandria has used these systems for over 10 years. My legislation was tabled for this year, but I am working with Fairfax County’s Circuit Court Clerk and Attorney General Cuccinelli to implement these systems in Fairfax County.

The Fairfax County Electoral Board asked me to introduce legislation requiring the same envelope for absentee voters who vote in the United States and those who vote abroad. Federal law requires a simplified envelope for absentee voters abroad. The existing system results in confusion when counting votes, lost time, unnecessarily printed envelopes and many disqualifed votes. A subcommittee rejected my bill last week because they did not want to conform Virginia law to federal requirements. I will try again next year.

Good government depends on your involvement and you can contact me, comment on legislation or request a meeting on my Web site – or read more of my views on my blog "The Dixie Pig" at Also, don’t hesitate to call me at 571-249-4484.

1 comment:

  1. That e-summons idea is the best I've heard coming from a legislator in decades. Thank you!

    The courts concern me. We citizens are prohibited from carrying into the Fairfax County courthouse so much as a cell phone that is capable of recording -- in the name of some security theater, and with apparent support of Supervisor Hyland (whom I have already written, but from whom I received a "shut up and color" response).

    Votes. Here's a thought. Reframe the question, and use the same one in the States as you do for overseas voters. Problems solved.