Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Weekly Column: Schools, Medicaid at Issue in the State Budget

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch in the week of February 24, 2014.
Schools, Medicaid at Issue in the State Budget

Last week, the initial skirmish over the state budget erupted in the Virginia legislature.

The proposed House and Senate budgets are significantly different in how they address elementary-secondary education.  Virginia provides about 23% of Fairfax County’s public school funding. The federal government pays about 5% and the remainder comes from Fairfax County, which is largely funded by real estate taxes.  The only Northern Virginia County with lower real estate taxes is Arlington County.

Aside from Mount Vernon Supervisor Gerry Hyland, most members of the County Board of Supervisors appear to be unwilling to raise taxes of any kind to come close to our neighboring jurisdictions and meet the Fairfax County Public Schools’ (FCPS) request for an increase of $98 million. Therefore, the state’s contribution is critical to enable FCPS pay teachers and staff competitive salaries.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Weekly Column: The Budget Debate Begins!

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch in the week of February 17, 2014.
The Budget Debate Begins 
This week in Richmond brought some surprises, good news and some frustration.

First the good news.  On Sunday, the House and Senate announced their budgets signaling the beginning of budget negotiations.  Senator Puller was able to secure language to prioritize funding for preliminary engineering and environmental studies necessary to continue the U.S. 1 Multimodal Transit Analysis Study.  I am hopeful we can keep that in the final budget once the negotiations begin.

Second, the Senate budget amendments also proposed some Senate Republicans’ alternative way to provide insurance coverage to low income Virginians using a “revenue recovery fund” instead of an outright Medicaid expansion.  There is some bipartisan support for expanding coverage, but it is not clear if there are enough votes to get legislation through the House of Delegates.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


The impending storm is supposed to affect Northern Virginia beginning Wednesday night, bringing a dangerous combination of snow and ice.

I will update information here as it becomes available.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch, from 7 p.m. February 12th to 10 p.m. February 13 for Northern Virginia. They expect the storm to dump 5 or more inches of snow and sleet on the Mount Vernon area. Snowfall is expected to begin on Wednesday evening and could become heavy at times. The NWS also forcasts winds in excess of 15-25 mph, with gusts around 35 mph.

The following information should help you prepare for the storm:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Weekly Column: Session Midpoint: Twelve Bills Marching On

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch in the week of February 10, 2014.
Session Midpoint:  Twelve Bills Marching On 

As we approach the midpoint of this session, I have more good news.  Twelve of my bills have passed the House, are poised to pass, or are causing changes:
  • Repeal of the tax on hybrid vehicles passed two weeks ago. 
  • Legislation to allow parents to “freeze” their children’s credit through age 16 passed the House unanimously.  I introduced this after my 13 and 11-year-old daughters received credit card solicitations. Children are easy targets for identity theft because it is not discovered until they are much older. Virginia is now poised to be the sixth state to adopt such legislation.
  • My bill clarifying who controls a real estate brokerage on death of a broker passed unanimously. This will help protect consumers and the deceased owner’s family.
  • Legislation to add Marines and members of the Coast Guard to serve on juries passed unanimously.  I noticed that current law only includes active duty, non-Virginia domiciled members of the Army, Navy and Air Force.  
  • My legislation to allow Fairfax County to charge $5 per traffic ticket to purchase electronic traffic ticketing systems passed last week and will save taxpayers millions of dollars.   
Passage of several others bills by Tuesday looks promising: 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Taxpayers Funding Movies Instead of Schools

Virginia's budget continues to struggle as our economy continues to recover from the Great Recession.

Education still has not recovered to pre-2009 funding levels, safety net funding lags, over 2,000 disabled adults are on the waiting list for services, and state-supported college tuitions continue to rise while 8,662 children are still waiting for childcare help so their parents can afford to work.

Prioritizing our spending continues to be a priority which is apparently why the Virginia Legislature felt that in this time of competing priorities it was necessary to send $60 million to Hollywood.

In 2010, Virginia first adopted a $2.5 million per year tax credit with a two-year sunset.  At the time, the justification was the "need" to negotiate with Steven Spielberg to ensure that Lincoln would be filmed in Richmond.  This was increased to $4 million in 2012 - I wrote about it here:

This year, HB460 was introduced raising the tax credit to a level that has a $10 million annual impact through Fiscal Year 2019 - $60 million total through it's 2019 sunset (click here for Fiscal Impact Statement).  This equates to $7.29 per Virginian or almost $30 per four-person family.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Deputizing 300 Attorneys General

Today, the House of Delegates passed HB706 designed to authorize any member of the state legislature to have standing to represent the Commonwealth in Court.  Here's what it says:
§ 30-9.1. Standing to defend laws of the Commonwealth.In a proceeding in which a provision or provisions of the Constitution of Virginia are contested or are at issue, or in which the constitutionality, legality, or application of a law established under legislative authority is at issue and the Governor and Attorney General choose not to defend the law in such proceeding, the General Assembly, the House of Delegates, the Senate of Virginia, or a current member of the General Assembly at the commencement of the proceeding shall have standing and shall have the right to intervene as a party.  

This was proposed in anticipation of Attorney General Mark Herring conceding that the Windsor decision invalidates Virginia's statutory and constitutional prohibition on same sex marriage - a conclusion I predicted about six months ago here:

The legislative concept suffers from many difficulties.

First, there are 140 members of this legislature with about 300 personalities.  Deputizing each of us and to represent the Commonwealth on anything is lunacy.

Second, about four years ago, I ran into Ken Cucinnelli at a meeting and told him how upset many of my constituents were about his activities.  Without skipping a beat, Ken turned around and said "tell them to make sure they vote next time."

That's all I could think about during today's floor debate.  Elections have consequences.

Weekly Column: Bills Are Moving

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch in the week of February 3, 2014.
Bills Are Moving

Several of my bills moved in the Virginia House of Delegates last week and we saw some political theater in Richmond.

Several of my ethics bills are either passing or being incorporated into  "omnibus" ethics legislation. 

This week, we learned that taxpayers have spent over $800,000 defending former Governor Bob McDonnell before Attorney General Mark Herring terminated his taxpayer-funded outside counsel. My legislation proposed limit attorneys’ fees to the same rates that Virginia pays for court-appointed counsel for individuals charged with serious felonies -- $1,235 – but was modified to require the Attorney General to pay "reasonable" attorneys’ fees.

I also introduced a budget amendment at the request of the Appropriations Committee Chairman requiring the Attorney General to file a report every year detailing outside counsel and their costs so we can conduct closer budget oversight of this practice.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

44th District Real Estate Data By Zip Code

The Washington Post has put up recent real estate data by zip code.  I thought it was interesting to see what's going on in the 44th District.

Unfortunately, the way the data is posted, it is very hard to compare it against the rest of the area or even Fairfax County.

Either way, here it is:
Zip Sales MSP  PperSF  MDOM AvgSPtoOLP
22308 222  $614,250  $374 20 97.20%
22307 234  $470,000  $345 18 96.90%
22315 512  $434,700  $285 12 98.30%
22306 298  $387,000  $275 16 97.30%
22309 422  $360,000  $240 16 97.10%

Sales: Number of homes sold
MSP: Median sale price
PperSF: Price per square foot
MDOM: Median days on market (a measure of how long a home was on the market before it went under contract.)
AvgSPtoOLP: Average sale price to original list price
(a measure of how much a home sold above or below its original price)