Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Weekly Column: New Committees, Redistricting Rockets Through & A Town Hall

This column appeared in the Mount Vernon Gazette, Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch on January 18, 2012: 
New Committees, Redistricting Rockets Through & A Town Hall

On Opening Day, we were notified of our new committee assignments. I was reappointed to the Cities, Counties & Towns and Science and Technology Committees. As the largest jurisdiction in the Commonwealth, it is important that Fairfax County have effective advocates for local government flexibility and to guard against state government siphoning off more local government funds. The Science and Technology Committee will also enable me to continue to work with the fastest growing businesses in Northern Virginia.
Due to my increased seniority, I was also appointed to the Militia, Police & Public Safety Committee. This committee has jurisdiction over gun control laws, traffic offenses, jail and prison policy. I looking forward to being able to use my practical experience in the criminal justice system on the issues we face in committee to help keep our communities safe.

Another highlight Opening Day was a visit from about forty West Potomac High School Band students. We attended the 1812 Bicentennial Concert together and they took a tour of the Capitol. Listening to Tchaikowsky’s 1812 Overture took me back to Junior Year at West Potomac although back then our band director used shot gun blanks shot into oil drums to imitate the cannon shots (I don’t think that’s allowed any more).

As I predicted, minutes after we were sworn in, the Privileges and Elections Committee “met” in the corner of the chamber, passed the latest partisan redistricting bill with little debate, it was put on a supplemental calendar presented to us at the 7:00 p.m. State of the Commonwealth Address, and was “debated” on our second day. We asked for more time so that the public could comment, we could prepare amendments, and the sixteen freshmen could have time to consider the legislation before debating and voting on it, but our request was rejected. The legislation was passed on our third day in session and is now on to the Senate where it will likely be rocketed through and sent to the Governor.

The Constitution of Virginia requires redistricting to be completed in 2011. Many of us view the latest attempt to draw these lines as being an illegal partisan power grab. Upon passage in the Senate and the Governor’s signature, a court will have to decide whether it was proper.

The legislation passed puts my entire delegate seat inside the Eighth Congressional District. The new Eighth Congressional District would include all of Lee District except for Greenspring Precinct and a small part of the Mount Vernon District in the Lorton area. I continue to believe that we should enact nonpartisan redistricting so that the voters pick their elected officials. Elected officials should be divorced from the process of drawing their districts and setting their salaries and benefits.

On Saturday, January 14, fifty people turned out for our Town Hall Meeting. If you would like to watch thirty minutes of opening statements by myself or Senator Puller or Ebbin, you can watch them on my website at and email your comments to me.

Many constituents expressed concern about the completion of Mulligan Road and the lack of investment in our transportation infrastructure. Several expressed concern about voter suppression legislation such as mandatory voter ID laws, and support for allowing undocumented children to attend state universities so long as they obeyed the law and paid their taxes. We heard from constituents that wanted to help seniors to afford in-home care expenses, admonished us to avoid devolving into Washington D.C. style gridlock, and one constituent urged us to protect against a decline in government services so we can maintain our current quality of life.

We will start to consider legislation this week. I have introduced twenty-eight bills (so far) so I will be very busy. You can see summaries of my legislation on my website.

My constituent survey should have arrived in the mail. The online version is more comprehensive. I would appreciate it if you could complete it at Last year, we received over 700 responses.

Please also visit my blog, The Dixie Pig, at, for more frequent updates. You can also comment on legislation, set up a meeting or request a Capitol tour at Good government requires your involvement so please be in touch or come visit in Richmond so I can best represent you in the General Assembly. It is an honor to serve as your State Delegate.

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