Sunday, June 30, 2013

Gay Marriage and the Law in Virginia

With the Supreme Court's recent decisions in United States v. Windsor (DOMA) and Hollingsworth v. Perry, there have been some articles in Virginia about my legislation last session to remove Virginia's prohibition on gay marriage, civil unions, or any laws recognizing such unions in any way from the Constitution of Virginia

Nearly all of it incorrectly describes my bill as a bill to "repeal Virginia's gay marriage ban."  Maybe I'm splitting hairs, but legally, it did not achieve that.  It was the first step towards the repeal of Virginia's gay marriage ban, but passing my legislation and approval by the voters would not have "repealed" Virginia's gay marriage ban. 

There are two important issues.  First, whether Virginia allows gay marriages to take place in Virginia.  Second, whether Virginia recognizes gay marriages performed in other states.  The Supreme Court has not addressed Virginia's power to ban gay marriage.  However, United States v. Windsor puts Virginia in violation of the 14th Amendment.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Texting and Emailing While Driving Can be Reckless of July 1

On July 1, 2013, a new Virginia Law goes into effect makes it clear that writing or reading emails or text messages is now a primary offense for which a driver may be stopped.  The law also makes clear that if someone is convicted of Reckless Driving and Texting/Emailing While Driving, there is a mandatory minimum fine of $250.

Some of the media coverage about this new law has indicated that people can use their GPS while driving.  Other stories have suggested that the law contains a loophole for other behaviors such as using Facebook, Twitter, or playing Angry Birds - this is wrong.  Some people have suggested that it should cover picking up a cigarette, putting on makeup or reading the newspaper while driving - this is unnecessary.  I requested an opinion from the Attorney General to clear some of this up which he issued on June 28, 2013 and was covered in today's Virginian Pilot.

First, here's some background.  For at least the last sixty years, Reckless Driving has been illegal and is a Class 1 Misdemeanor.  There are about ten specific things that are Reckless Driving (such as driving 20 MPH over the speed limit) and a general catch-all statute.  Here's the broad statute:
§ 46.2-852. Reckless driving; general rule.
Irrespective of the maximum speeds permitted by law, any person who drives a vehicle on any highway recklessly or at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person shall be guilty of reckless driving.
Class 1 Misdemeanors have a maximum punishment of twelve months in jail, a $2500 fine, and Reckless Driving also provides for an optional six months driver's license suspension. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

West Potomac's Paul Russell Retires

Picture of Paul Russell in 1970 something from Sygyzy Magazine
West Potomac's Creative Writing Magazine
Today, I attended my 9th West Potomac High School Gradation and had the pleasure of handing the Outstanding Faculty Award to my 11th Grade English/Creative Writing Teacher, Paul Russell, who retired today after teaching at Groveton High School and West Potomac High School for 44 years. 

He was voted this honor by the Class of 2013.

I don't remember all of my classes at West Potomac, but a few teachers really stick out.  Mr. Levy (AP US Government), Mr. Holder (Band - wrote about him here when he retired), and Mr. Russell.

Mr. Russell's class really sticks out in my head 25 years later. First, and least importantly, he was my sixth period teacher (only had six periods back then), and I was caught skipping his class with Fran Kim - we skipped to play golf, Greendale was closed for rain, we tried to sneak back in to avoid the unexcused absence and got caught by Vice Principal Ruby Jackson in the parking lot behind Springbank - and had to do in-house detention (the only time) in the room next door to Mr. Russell's class (which is a whole different story).  

Monday, June 10, 2013

U.S. 1 Multimodal Study To Begin!

In the 2013 General Assembly Session, Senator Puller and I secured $2 million for the U.S. 1 Multimodal Transportation Study in the 2013 amendments to the 2013-14 Biennial Budget.  This study will analyze and recommend the appropriate mode of transit from I-495 to the Occoquan along U.S. 1.

For current information about the project, I have created this link to the official webpage maintained by the Department of Rail and Public Transit:

If you would like to see more information about where things stand on U.S. 1, I have created a page on my official website here:

This study is the first legally required step to improve U.S. 1 between Woodlawn and I-495.  It is great news.

The Governor's Press Release is below the flip:

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Pot Is Calling for the Kettle - Hypocrisy on Concealed Weapons

Last session, one of few contentious gun safety bills we debated was legislation regarding confidentiality of concealed carry permits (CCP) for handguns.

If a Virginians wants a CCP today, they are required to apply at the Circuit Court.  Anyone can go to the courthouse and review them like any other court document.  If you want to see what they look like, you can click here for the standard application.

Around the United States and in Virginia, several newspapers have published the names and addressed of people who CCP's, including recently after the Newtown Shooting.  Gun rights groups have taken offense to that and fought to make these records confidential. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Hispanic Housing Discrimination Alive and Well in Northern Virginia

The Equal Rights Center has just come out with a disturbing report entitled Precaucion: Obstacles for Latinos in the Virginia Rental Housing Market, that should concern everyone. 

After conducting study with live prospective renters, they found that landlords routinely discriminate against Hispanics prospective renters in Northern Virginia.  Given that 24% of the population of the 44th District is Hispanic, this is an issue that should be of special concern to anyone living in our area. 

Here's how it worked:
  • The study conducted 106 matched pair (one Hispanic and one white going to the same property) tests in areas where Hispanic populations lived in close proximity to predominantly white populations. 
  • The tested landlords required at least 25 units. 
  • The Hispanic pairs gave had the same personal and financial profiles. 
  • The Hispanic pair went first to ensure they'd receive more favorable information (e.g. before a unit was rented)
  • They both visited the same day and frequently saw the saw property agent
  • Everyone was lawfully present in the United States
  • They conducted the study in the City of Fairfax, Henrico & Richmond, Loudoun, Prince William, Manassas, Roanoke County, and the Northern Shenandoah Valley (Augusta, Culpepper, Frederick, Rockingham), and Virginia Beach.
In 58 of 106 tests, the Hispanic pair was discriminated against.  Here were the specific findings: