Thursday, May 22, 2014

Government Shutdowns and Legal Reality

Today's papers were full of headlines about focused on some of my colleagues demands that the Governor explain his legal basis for keeping state government running if the House continues to refuse to compromise on Medicaid.

They issued a letter citing a presentation given by staff attorney's with the legislature's Division of Legislative Services (DLS).  You can read the presentation here if you are curious.

I have received a few calls over the last couple days.  I have not spoken to anyone in the Govenor's Office, nor have I done any heavy duty legal analysis, but it seems pretty simple to me.

If you follow the DLS legal rationale to its logical conclusion, then all state employees must stay home and the state government cannot spend any money after July 1, 2014.  While, I have the utmost respect for DLS' attorneys and they are right most of the time, but the practical reality of their legal conclusion leads to nonsensical practical outcomes, and just like we cannot maintain segregated schools or prohibit interracial marriages (or refuse to implement the Affordable Care Act), there are a few legal obligations, we cannot simply choose to ignore.

The Governor was elected by the people of Virginia to be the CEO of the government and one branch's failure to act, does not tie his hands in a crisis.  The Courts will grant him temporary powers to govern necessary government functions.    Here's why.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Shadding on the Potomac

Me, Rob Hartwell, Del. Jackson Miller, Jackson, Jr., the Harley
Brothers & Family, Delegate David Ramadan, and Jim Cummins
On Monday, May 12, 2014, I was lucky to tag along with Biologist Jim Cummins and his crew to help restore Virginia's Shad runs.  His work is funded by the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basis, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries via funds made available from the Environmental Protective Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery near Hopewell.

We shoved off from Mason Neck just before high tide around 6:00 p.m. with skiffs operated by the Harley Brothers - Brad and Mike.  The brothers are the last two licensed commercial fisherman who operate out of Fairfax County.  They fifth generation Fairfax County fishermen and their family has a long history on Mason Neck and they know this stretch of River like the back of their hands.

Panorama shot of the "Mother" Ship
where we processed the fish.
Our crew consisted of myself, Delegate Jackson Miller, his son Jackson, Jr., Delegate David Ramadan, Jim Cummins, Mason Neck native Rob Hartwell, the Harley Brothers, their long-time co-fisherman Rusty Zuppello, and a four-person crew from Virginia's Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.  The fishing crew ran in two boats which DGIF manned the "mother ship" where the fish would be processed.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Weekly Column: Yellow Line Petition, Hybrid Tax Refunds & I-495 Changes

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of May 12, 2014.

Yellow Line Petition, Hybrid Tax Refunds & I-495 Changes 
Last week, I wrote about the status of some transportation projects in our community.  Here are a few more important things. 
Sign the Yellow Line/Hybrid Option Extension PetitionThe state’s consultants are busy crunching numbers, population projections and funding options and evaluating community input to prepare recommendations on the  mode of transit we should have on U.S. 1 for the next 20 years.  I strongly believe that the “Hybrid Option” or the two-stop Yellow Line Extension with stations at Beacon Hill and Hybla Valley with dedicated bus rapid transit to Woodbridge is the best option.  Having Metro on U.S. 1 will help revitalize the corridor, generate economic development, and enhance the environment, our schools, and  our quality of life  in the Mount Vernon and Lee areas.
I have set up a petition for people to sign, show  support and comment on why the Hybrid Option is the best option.  Over 400 people have already signed, in addition to the 400 who indicated support for a Yellow Line Extension on my 2014 constituent survey.  Please go online and sign my petition at   
Get your family and neighbors to sign - It will take you less than a minute.  We need to show strong community support!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Flipping the Script on Medicaid

There's been some interesting protestations from many of my colleagues about reports that Governor McAuliffe may be interested in pursuing an administrative expansion of Virginia's Medicaid program without a vote from the legislature.

  • “I don’t believe that he has that authority,” said Del. S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk).  Washington Post.
  • “You see President Obama certainly using executive orders, executive fiat, to delay [portions of] the Affordable Care Act, and you’re seeing the same thing with the attorney general and the governor, with these vague statements,” said House Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox (R-Colonial Heights). “He certainly looks like he’s going to go down this road of using executive orders.”  Washington Post.
  • Matthew Moran, spokesman for House Speaker Bill Howell, told Watchdog: “We firmly believe that the authority to expand Medicaid rests with the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission, not with the governor.”
Given their statements, you would think that Governor McAuliffe was the first person to assert this power.

Interestingly, Governor McDonnell took the position that he and only he had the authority to expand Medicaid - even after the creation of the Medicaid Innovation and Review Commission.  On March 5, 2013, Governor McDonnell wrote the following to Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  

What a difference a new Governor makes.  

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Weekly Column: Spring Transportation Update

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of May 5, 2014.
Spring Transportation Update 
Spring has arrived which means a beginning to the construction season.  Here’s an update regarding transportation improvements in our area. 
U.S. 1 Widening  
Last week, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) started construction to six-lane U.S. 1 from Mt. Vernon Memorial Highway to Telegraph Road and reserve transit right-of-way in the center.  The project will take two years and is funded by the federal government thanks to U.S. Congressman Jim Moran. 
Jeff Todd Way/Mulligan Road Opening 
In September 2014, Jeff Todd Way will open between U.S. 1 (Roy Rogers) and Telegraph Road finally restoring cross-county connectivity between Woodlawn and Hayfield after access through Fort Belvoir was shut down thirteen years ago.  Listen for the loud sigh of relief in 22309 after opening.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

2014 DMV Updates: Hybrid Tax, Birth Certificates & Mopeds

July 1 is always an important date for new laws, but here are a few things people should be aware of effective July 1 when it comes to vehicles this year.

Hybrid Tax Repeal
Senator Adam Ebbin and I made repeal of the hybrid tax a priority.  That goes into effect on July 1, 2014 and customers who have pre-paid to register their hybrid vehicles for multiple years will be entitled to a refund for the pre-paid registration years that begin on July 1, 2014 and after.

Individuals whose registration expires prior to July 1, 2014, but who do not renew their registration until after that date, will still owe the $64.  They will also be assessed a $10 late fee, per the Code.

I will post more information regarding the refund process when I have it, but DMV expects to have a refund process ready by July 1, 2014.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

2014 Paving Projects in 44th District

Last year, I raised an issue with the Virginia Department of Transportation about the lack of paving projects in the 44th District on some of the lists I was seeing.

This year, VDOT provided me with a map showing all paving projects in our part of the County.  I was glad to see a large increase in the number of projects.  If you have any questions or would like to suggest some roads that are in dire need, feel free to shoot me a note at

2014 Paving Projects in the 44th District
2014 Repaving Projects in the 44th District
2014 Paving Project List
Street Length
Sherwood Hall Ln 1.73
Fort Hunt Rd 1.488
Fort Hunt Rd 2.27
Paul Spring Rd 0.446
Bedford Ln 0.05
Stafford Rd 0.29
Rippon Rd 0.37
Drury Rd 0.12
Boswell Ave 0.304
Hollindale Rd 0.3
Whiteoaks Dr 0.66
Radcliffe Dr/Rollins Dr 0.37
Roanoke Dr 0.13
Duke Dr 0.39
Dartmouth Dr 0.24
Colgate Dr 0.32
Rollins Dr/Westgrove Blvd 0.76
Mary Baldwin Dr 0.35
University Dr/Canterbury Ln 0.25
Canterbury Ln 0.14
Davis St/Oberlin Dr 0.26
Smithway Dr 0.13
Westhampton Dr 0.17
Temple Ct 0.05
Memorial St 0.346
Groveton St 0.367
E Lee Ave 0.195
E Side Dr 0.273
Schelhorn Rd 0.47
Frances Dr 0.436
Elm Dr 0.03
Covertry Rd 0.29
Woodlawn Ln 0.07
Rebecca Dr 0.716
Stone Hedge Dr 0.15
Devonshire Rd 0.31
Glasgow Rd 0.13
Memorial Heights Dr 0.222
Marlan Dr 0.11
Ridgecrest Dr/Park Terrace Dr 1.73
Rita Ct 0.05
Davenport St 0.065
Brentwood Pl 0.087
Daphne Ln 0.08
Bluebill Ln 0.276
Hollindale Ct 0.04
Morningside Ln 0.452
Evening Ln 0.17
Earldale Ct 0.13
Midday Ln 0.61
Daybreak Ct 0.036
Custis St 0.32
Courtland Rd 0.57
Shannon Ct 0.05
Leric Ln 0.05
Lida Ct 0.05
Traies Ct 0.18
Jube Ct 0.09
Shiver Dr 0.66
Mason Hill Dr 0.84
Windmill Ln 0.08
Kimbro St 0.17
Maid Marian Ct 0.07
Saville Ct 0.05
Cheshire Ln 0.09
Delafield Pl 0.13