The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch in the week of January 28, 2014.
Hybrid Tax Repealed, Senate Shakeup, Improving Electricity Reliability, Guns & Death Penalty
The second week of the General Assembly Session saw the end of the Hybrid Tax, sharpening rhetoric on Medicaid, debate on firearms safety and the death penalty, and brought clarity on the composition of the Senate.First, the House voted to repeal the Hybrid Tax 89-9. Both Chambers have now approved repeal. We must pass each other’s bills after crossover and the Governor has indicated that he will sign the legislation. I am pleased the legislature has listened to the 7,500 people who signed the petition gathered by myself and Senator Ebbin.My budget amendment to provide $4 million of funding for the preliminary engineering of U.S. 1 road and transit improvements was given its first hearing. The Co-Chair of the Mt. Vernon Council of Citizens, Jim Davis, testified in favor and the Mt. Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce provided a letter in support.
The consequences of November elections continue to play out. Last week, Jennifer Wexton won Attorney General Mark Herring’s open senate seat in Loudoun County and Western Fairfax. On January 27, the recount concluded in Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam’s open senate seat at the Senate moved back to a 20-20 tie with Democratic Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam holding the tie breaking vote.As I write this on Tuesday, January 28, everyone is waiting to see what happens in the State Senate where the new majority is likely to retake control and re-establish committees this afternoon. This change will reverberate all session. Stay tuned.The House passed legislation I co-sponsored allowing Dominion Power to seek approval to charge approximately $0.40/mo per year increasing over ten years to approximately $4.00/mo. to being the process of “undergrounding” power lines. The plan is to put 350 miles of power lines per year underground until 4,000 miles have been buried.Dominion Power requested this legislation, in part, due to increased customer complaints about power outages such as those heard at my town hall meeting on September 11, 2012 at Sherwood Library after the Derecho of August, 2011. I am pleased that Dominion is responding to the community and able to achieve it at a very low cost. Next, we need to ensure that our area is at the front of the list for improvements.Virginia has been experiencing problems administering the death penalty. European drug manufacturers have refused to provide the United States with lethal injection drugs. In the last three months, two states have turned to American compounding pharmacies to create new “cocktails” for extinguishing the condemned person’s life.Two legislators introduced legislation allowing them to force an inmate to be electrocuted if the state could not locate drugs. I also introduced legislation permanently banning Virginia’s electric chair for different reasons, but leaving lethal injection as an available method. My legislation was killed, but the legislation forcing the electric chair passed the House of Delegates on a largely party-line vote and it’s now on to the State Senate.The House of Delegates also passed legislation providing reciprocity for any out-of-state concealed weapon permits. I argued against this because Virginia has some of the toughest concealed weapon permit restrictions in the United States – this is why many states do not give us reciprocity.If the law we passed clears the Senate, a Virginian convicted of stalking, sexual battery, acquitted of insanity, legally incompetent, or recently discharged from inpatient mental health or substance abuse treatment could be denied for a Virginia concealed weapon permit, but obtain a permit from a state like Florida and use that permit in Virginia. Florida only requires an applicant to be twenty-one, legally present, and not a felon and will sell a permit to any American. I aggressively fought this bill on the floor, but it passed on a largely party-line vote.You can watch many of these debates or my Town Hall Meeting from this past Saturday on my You Tube channel. If you are a total geek, you can tune in to a live stream of our floor sessions online every day at noon.This week will bring some clarity on the House of Delegates ethics reforms package and Standards of Learning reforms.Thank you for allowing me to serve as your delegate.