Thursday, December 29, 2011

State Support for UVA Less Than 50% of 1989 Levels

Some people joke that the the session really starts around December 1 of every year.  Well, this time of year, we are busy getting innudated with briefing materials with various organizations showing us their importance to the Commonwealth.  I was reading through a few sets of materials today and the package from UVA really blew my mind. 

My parents both benefitted from an affordable high quality in-state higher education.  Like my parents, I also benefitted from this attending James Madison University from 1989-1993.

First, today's General Fund inflation-adjusted appropriations for UVA is less than 50% what it was in 1989.  The Commonwealth is investing $7,657 per student at UVA as compared with $16,846 per student when I attended college.

Second, if you compare the UVA General Fund appropriation from 1989 and apply the rate of inflation to it, it has gone from around $120 million down to approximately $105 million. 

You can see from the chart that this trend began when I was in college - I really remember it.  Right after I started at JMU, a recession hit and Governor Wilder insisted that he was going to balance the state budget without raising taxes (he was also talking about running for President).  Higher education was one of the first thigns to be cut.  You can see there was a slight recovery in 2001, but then things fell off the charts in 2001 after control of the General Assembly changed hands.

Monday, December 26, 2011

VA State Parks Youth Conservation Corps

The Virginia State Parks' Youth Conservation Corps is currently accepting applications through April 13, 2012 to help this summer at the state's 36 parks from kids ages 14-17. 

Here's a description:
(YCC) - This is a three-week residential program. Crews live in the park for three weeks. Work generally takes place in the daytime, and environmental education and adventure opportunities fill evenings and weekends. Crewmembers work and live as a team. Crewmembers also complete several projects throughout their park. Recruitment is targeted to attract youth from diverse backgrounds. Young people with a strong background in environmental education are encouraged to apply, but young people who have never experienced a park setting are welcome as well. An executive director and YCC coordinator handle the recruitment and selection of crewmembers and supervisors. Selection is based heavily on the quality of responses given in the application. Site selection and project planning are handled by park staff.
The Virginia State Parks have more information at the link below.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

2012 Young Leaders Program

This year, I will be sponsoring my second annual Young Leaders Program. Former Delegate Kris Amundson began this program in partnership with Cox Communications as an opportunity for selected high school juniors and seniors who demonstrate high potential in leadership to learn about legislative and public service careers through a job shadow experience.

The primary event will take place in Richmond during the 2012 legislative session. Students will come to Richmond for 3 days(January 20th-31st) and observe the General Assembly at work. They will also meet with leaders in state government. The program is an excellent chance for students to learn how state government works first-hand.

Each student will also complete a project, focusing on an aspect of the Commonwealth's government that they choose. After the legislative session, students will present their projects and we may even find a way to make the projects available to the community. Cox Communications may interview students about their experience.

The program will be open to juniors and seniors who live in (or attend a school in) the 44th District. We will be working with several sponsors so that there will be no cost for the students.

Delegate Amundson created this program in 2000 and many Mount Vernon area high school students have participated. Last year we had a fantastic group of students and I'm looking forward to meeting more of the 44th District's high school leaders.

If you'd like a hard copy, please contact my office at 571.249.44TH(4484). Applications are due no later than December 30, 2011. Students selected for the Young Leaders Program will be notified during the first week of January.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Birth of WePo & The Return of Red Dawn

Now for a bit of local history. 

Back when I was in 7th and 8th grade, the southern end of the county endured an epic battle over the closure and merger of Fort Hunt High School and Groveton High School.  I'm not going to revisit that, but after the decision was made, the students were asked to make some decisions. 

I was in the Class of '89 and in the Fall of 1984, I started 8th Grade.  My class (and possibly others), were tasked with coming up with the name, colors, and mascot for the new high school.  My brother was in 6th grade, and the pyramid 6th graders got to work on the "new" intermediate school.

I have a vague recollection of the choices.  I remember that Gunston High School was in play and I have a fleeting recollection that a "Heifer" was one of the mascots on the table, but maybe I'm just confusing rumors with reality. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Nonpartisan Congressional Redistricting Options

Earlier this year, the Virginia Redistricting Competition featured 55 teams of students competing for cash prizes to draw congressional districts based on nonpartisan criteria. 

Here's what the winning maps looked like (click to enlarge) with links to the other documentation submitted with each entry. 

I have also put copies of the Governor's Bipartisan Redistricting Commission maps below the page break here. 

Weekly Column: A Nonpartisan Redistricting Opportunity

This column appeared in the Mount Vernon Gazette on December 22, 2011:
I have repeatedly advocated nonpartisan redistricting. I believe that our current redistricting system is at the heart of political gridlock in Washington and Richmond.  Thanks to power software, today politicians pick their voters instead of voters picking their politicians.  We also have a system designed to minimize public input and maximize incumbent protection.  However, in January, a federal judge will have an unprecedented opportunity in Virginia.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Putting Some Sunshine on Tax Credits

WAMU is running a story this morning by Michael Pope on some legislation that I am introducing next session regarding shining some light on tax credits.

During the last two years I have been elected, I have been astonished at the number of tax credit bills that I have seen go through my Chamber.  Towards the end of last session, several of us were discussing these and the cumulative effect they are having on our budget - especially given how picky we are being about expenditures because Virginia's budget situation is so horrific.

For example, in the last two years, I have noticed the following:
  • A $4M tax credit for movie production;
  • A $40M tax credit for coal production;
  • A $4M tax credit for wineries;
  • A $2M tax credit for Virginia's ports;
  • A $2M tax credit for research & development (I voted for this one);
  • A $2M tax credit for telecommuting;
  • A tax credit for creating "green" jobs.

Monday, December 19, 2011

NAS Study Highlights Risks of Mining Uranium

Six months ago, I wrote about the coming fight this session over the lifting Virginia's thirty-year moratorium on mining uranium.  You can read my article here:

This week, the National Academy of Sciences released its long-awaited report regarding this issue.  The New York Times has a good summary here

The full report has a fascinating section on Virginia's geology, weather, and ecology.  For example, it points out that debris flows are some of the most destructive events in the Virginia's mountainous areas, account for more than 50% of erosion in Virginia mountainous area river basins, and recur on a 2,000-4,000 year cycle.  (P. 30-31)  Virginia is at a relatively high risk for flooding because we have a high precipitation rate and topography - much higher than areas where uranium has ever been mined before in the United States (P. 34). 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Medicaid on the Chopping Block in 2012?

The Governor is set to announce his budget sometime in the next ten days.  The word from Richmond is that we have an approximate $1 billion shortfall.  One of the big drivers of that is medical inflation reflected in our Medicaid budget.

Medicaid is a federal-state health insurance program for low-income and disabled people.  It is also the only provider of long-term nursing care for many Americans, since Medicare coverage and coverage by most private insurance policies is quite limited.  Virginia has one of the most restrictive programs in the United States - you have to be very poor to be eligible.  Most rankings put Virginia at 48th in Medicaid expenditures and 7th in per capita income.  In other words, we are a relatively wealthy state and we do not help the poor much. 

A significant portion of Virginia's Medicaid population are children, elderly and the blind.  Here's how Virginia's 881,075 Medicaid recipients played out in 2008:
  • 480,392 Children
  • 177,755 Blind & Disabled
  • 140,716 Adults
  •   82,212 Elderly

Friday, December 9, 2011

Coming Soon: Unwanted Solitications to Your Mobile Phone

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act ("TCPA").  The TCPA was passed in 1991 and placed limits on robocalls, phone solitications, and unsolicited faxes.  The current law prohibits companies from using robodialers to call your mobile phone. 

There is currently legislation proposing amendments to the TCPA pending in Congress.  The legislation is endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Bankers Association, the Air Transport Alliance, and the Mortgage Bankers Association.  The rationale is that they want to be able to call you about a security breach, fraud alerts, flight cancellations, etc.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

2012 Mt. Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce Business Awards

I had a great night tonight at the Mt. Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce's annual awards dinner.  The award winners pictured at the right were the following:
  • Large Business of the Year - Cox Communications
  • Mid-Sized Business of the Year - Mt. Vernon Athletic Club
  • Small Business of the Year - Commercial Lynks, Inc.
  • New Business of the Year - Walker's Grill
  • Citzen of the Year - Tom Harvey, Hollin Hall Automotive, Inc.
In my comments, I said that sometimes in Mt. Vernon it feels like Mayberry because we're such a tight community.  Cox funds my Young Leaders Program, I played tennis daily at Mt. Vernon Athletic Club when I was in high school, I sat next to the owner of Walker's Grill at dinner the other night, and Hollin Hall Automotive is simply legendary. 

They are all part of why we live in such a great community.  My commending resolution for Hollin Hall Automotive is below. 
Hollin Hall Auto 50th Anniversary Commending Resolution

Saturday, December 3, 2011

VA General Assembly War of 1812 Bicentennial Concert

On January 11, 2010, the General Assembly is sponsoring a concert to kickoff the state's War of 1812 Bicentennial activities.  The concert is FREE, but is ticketed.  Information is below. 

If you are interested in coming or bringing a group, please click on the link below.  If you have questions.  You can email me at

You can access more information regarding the Bicentennial on the webstie for the Virginia Bicentennial of the American War of 1812 Commission.