Monday, May 27, 2013

Changing Virginia's Disclosure Laws

There's been a lot in the news lately about gifts and politicians in Virginia.  Apparently, the catering at the Governor's daughter's wedding was paid for by one of his political donors embroiled in a tax dispute with the state.  The Governor didn't disclose it by claiming that it was a gift to his daughter - not him.

Ken Cuccinelli failed to reports a few gifts from the same donor. Some of the Governor's cabinet members forgot to disclose gifts.  Several legislators also claim that they forgot to disclose gifts.  Apparently, the disclosure system only works effectively when the Federal Bureau of Investigation is in town. 

I've had a few constituents email me with questions about where I stand.  Here are some thoughts.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Destruction of Liberty by Government-Owned Rec Centers

As Memorial Day approaches and our local pools open up for the weekend, we thought it was important to highlight Ken Cuccinelli's views on public recreation centers. 

I wrote about this and about the history of the Mt. Vernon Recreation Center last week here:

Today, I appeared at the free Fairfax County pool at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in Gum Springs to highlight another "liberty-destroying" facility in our community with Democratic Chairwoman Charnielle Herring and Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay.  Our conference is below. 

Happy Memorial Day! 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

How Much New Transportation Money Is Actually Coming?

Now that a transportation funding bill has passed, constituents have been asking me about funding new road improvements.  However, there's really not as much money as people think. 

In Virginia, all roads are state roads.  Roads are divided into interstates, primary roads and secondary roads.  Primary roads are under 600 - U.S. 1, Mt. Vernon Highway, Telegraph Road.  Secondary roads are numbered 600 and higher - like Fort Hunt Road, Sherwood Hall Lane, residential streets, etc.

Secondary road money comes from the state but is prioritized by the Counties.  For the last two years, Fairfax County has effectively received $0 from the state to make any improvements for secondary roads.  This has halted all widenings, speed bumps, sidewalk construction, turn lanes, new stop lights - everything.

The transportation legislation passed last session added new money into the transportation system for the first time in 27 years.  Much of the new money is going to plug the maintenance shortfall - paving, bridgework, etc.  Plus, $300 million goes to the Silver Line off the top. 

One reason I voted against the bill was because I said it was not enough money to solve the needs in the 44th District or the entire state.  In reality, it's only about 20% of the total projected statewide shortfall over the next 20 years.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Poverty in NOVA: Redefining Poverty in Virginia

The Weldon-Cooper's Stat Chat blog continues to be one of my favorites because they are constantly changing the way we look at numbers.  Their latest project - redefining Virginia poverty.

First, their new report points out that poverty is not something can be defined uniformly across all areas due to different variables - different costs of housing, transportation, healthcare, good, etc.  Existing poverty measures are built on consumption models from the 1960's.  People spend their money differently today.  For example, one big expense variable in Northern Virginia is be childcare - numerous studies have shown that the D.C. Metropolitan Area has the highest childcare costs in the United States. 

Therefore, they have defined poverty into something called the "Virginia Poverty Index" or "VPI."

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Monday Public Meetings on Digital Divide at West Potomac

The economic inequality that currently exists between groups in terms of access to, use of and knowledge of information and communication technology is often referred to as The Digital Divide.

Last year, I was disturbed to learn that Fairfax County Public Schools had chosen to roll out "electronic textbooks" without ensuring that every child had the ability to use them.  I first discovered they were being used when my children were at home using them.

"Electronic textbooks" are a new tool in education.  They are also actually more than just books.  They are actually online learning system that have homework problems with real time corrections.  They have extra help videos and extra homework problems.

The only problem is that in order to use them you must have both a computer and a broadband connection.  From knocking doors on U.S. 1, I am very aware that many of the 44th District's residents do not have a computer or enough computers and broadband connections due to income restraints. 

I strongly believe that no public school should use a tool that is not equally available to all children in the system, and that family income should not be a barrier to any child's learning potential.

While researching this process, I discovered that both Henrico County Public Schools and Albemarle County Public Schools provide computers to every child in their system from 7th grade and up.  Also, Cox Communications has just launched a program called "Internet Essentials" that provides $10/mo. broadband and $150 refurbished laptops to families that qualify for the free and reduced lunch program.  However, few people know it exists yet.  More information is here:

Therefore, I introduced legislation prohibiting any school system from using an "electronic textbook" program unless they can show every child in their system has a computer in their home and a broadband connection. 

My legislation was referred to the Virginia Broadband Advisory Council and the Joint Commission on Technology and Science where it is currently being studied.

However, Fairfax County has begun public hearings to take information as to how they can best close The Digital Divide in Fairfax County.  The first meeting in Mt. Vernon:

FCPS Digital Learning Public Hearing
Monday, May 20, 2013
West Potomac High School
7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
If you cannot attend, you can provide input here:

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Will a Virginia Expungement Continue to Have Value?

In Virginia, a person is generally entitled to an expungement, if they are found not guilty or their charge is dropped without any finding of guilt.  Here's what Virginia Law currently says:
The General Assembly finds that arrest records can be a hindrance to an innocent citizen's ability to obtain employment, an education and to obtain credit. It further finds that the police and court records of those of its citizens who have been absolutely pardoned for crimes for which they have been unjustly convicted can also be a hindrance. This chapter is intended to protect such persons from the unwarranted damage which may occur as a result of being arrested and convicted.
Once expunged, a person does not have to disclose the charge on an employment application.  It is also a crime to ask someone about an expunged charge in the employment process (excluding federal security background checks).

Notwithstanding Virginia Law, some companies have continued to make information regarding expunged charges available - completely destroying the purpose of Virginia's system - and continuing to subject people to the consequences of having an unfounded charge appear on their record.  It's not fair at all and sidesteps Virginia Law.