Saturday, December 17, 2016

Sunset to Virginia's Annexation Moratorium in Sight

There has not been much news in Virginia about annexation in a while, but it may come roaring back in the next couple years. 

For example, some of the complaining I've heard from members of Mt. Vernon and Lee Districts over the years about the Route 1 Corridor reminded me that history often repeats itself.

Washington Evening Star Article About Grumpy
22308 Zip Code Residents
Someone recently gave me a Washington Evening Star article from 1965 which I thought was interesting.  Community residents basically felt that Fairfax County was not investing sufficient tax dollars in the Lee-Mt. Vernon part of Fairfax County and wanted to explore joining the City of Alexandria.

Before 1971, there were dozens of cities created in Virginia and annexations.  Due to a series of partial moratoria, studies and finally a "temporary" ban on annexations in 1987, you haven't read much about these lately. 

For example, the City of Manassas was created in 1975.  At the time, the thinking was that Manassas had a large cluster of commercial property and that concentrating commercial and higher density property tax revenues could allow those residents to skim higher generally property tax revenues and focus them on their city instead of subsidizing the rest of the city.

In other areas, annexations had racial overtones with councils annexation portions of communities to "adjust" voting populations to marginalize minority populations (Richmond, Petersburg).  Other cities were created to avoid annexation by neighboring cities (Salem, Suffolk, Chesapeake, & Virginia Beach).

Recently, some cities have begun to discuss reversions - to town status - due to limited tax bases.  A few years ago, the City of Bedford reverted to a town. 

In 1987, Virginia enacted a moratorium on annexations.  Some commentators think this has had numerous consequences as cities with limited tax bases can no longer threaten annexation to leverage infrastructure improvements.  For example, it has supposedly increased regional cooperation although the stagnation at Metro due a lack of funding makes you wonder whether our local governments are capable of collaborating. 

Map Summarizing Harrisonburg Annexations
(Courtesy of City of Harrisonburg)
This article has an excellent summary of the situation.

Apparently, the entire purpose of the moratorium was to buy time to sort out Virginia's ancient and outdated City-County distinctions.  We have made pretty much zero progress on that score and most leaders with knowledge and experience on these issues have moved on. 

The last time the moratorium required extension in 2009, Governor Tim Kaine twice vetoed extensions before the moratorium was extended.

The idea that counties are "rural" and require less taxing authority than cities is nonsensical at this point.  However, local governments merely complaining, but taking absolutely no leadership on any of these issues, it is hard to see a resolution to this any time soon.  Interestingly, January, 2012 article above mentions that it might take a city bankruptcy to force the issue - we might have that opportunity soon. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Weekly Column: U.S. Supreme Court Should Overturn Partisan Redistricting

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of December 9, 2016.
U.S. Supreme Court Should Overturn Partisan Redistricting
Virginia is represented by Democrats in all five statewide offices, has voted for a Democratic president three times, yet the Virginia House of Delegates has 66 Republicans and 34 Democrats.   

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on the legality and constitutionality of the last redistricting of Virginia House of Delegates’ districts.  The court’s decision could be monumental for all Virginia voters.

If I could fix one thing to make our government work better at every level, I would reform redistricting.  Partisan redistricting abuse has been around since the beginning of American democracy.  The term “gerrymander” originates from an 1812 attempt to draw districts favoring Massachusetts Governor Eldridge Gerry.  To be clear, both parties do it, but in the last two decades, gerrymandering has become especially powerful for a few reasons.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

GMU'S Point of View on Mason Neck

Point of View Looking Up From the River
Last month, I was invited to a community reception at the newly opened Point of View Complex managed by the George Mason Center for Conflict Analysis and Resolution on Mason Neck.  It is a beautiful complex.

As a practicing litigator, I can testify to the growth in methods of alternate dispute resolution.  The practice of mediation and conflict avoidance is really becoming a science and universities across the world are investing significant resources in teaching students alternative methods to resolve conflicts.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Weekly Column: Expand Early Voting in Virginia

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of December 2, 2016.
Expand Early Voting Now in NOVA

The success of early voting in the 2016 Presidential Election reaffirms my conclusion from visiting 12,000 homes last year – Virginia should expand early voting.

In 2016, I personally knocked on over 12,000 doors and after July 1, using an online secure application form, I helped over 900 voters sign up to vote by mail from their home.  Nearly all of them had no idea they could vote early or vote from home.  The vast majority of these voters did not participate in non-presidential elections (or even some presidential elections) because of a disability, lack of transportation, long commutes or disabled family members that required 24-7 home care.   

Saturday, November 26, 2016

National Museum of the Marine Corps

The 36th District has many unique places including two federal parks, three state parks, three national wildlife refuges, and two military bases.  While I have been familiar with Fort Belvoir my entire life, I had only been inside Marine Corps Base Quantico 86 square miles a few times. 

A few months ago, I decided to visit and get a feel for its mission, facilities and get a taste of its history.  Colonel Joseph Murray gave me an excellent guided tour, lunch in a brand new chow hall (that's what they call dining facilities) and his staff encouraged me to visit the National Museum of the Marine Corps. The day after Thanksgiving I headed 40 minutes south with the kids to check it out.  It was a fascinating trip.

The museum opened ten years ago in November, 2006 and you have probably seen it rising over the trees as you drive up and down I-95. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Weekly Column: Vote “Yes” for FCPS Teachers' Salaries

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Gazette, and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of October 20, 2016.
Vote “Yes” for FCPS Teachers' Salaries

When you vote on Tuesday, November 8, Fairfax County voters can vote for our schools by voting to allow a four percent tax on prepared restaurant meals.  Of the revenue generated by the tax, 70 percent is required to be dedicated to public schools and 30 percent to other county services, capital improvements and property tax relief.

I support a meals tax because we need to strengthen our schools.  Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) are suffering from underfunding.  While state funds have increased by over 50 percent since the 2009 Great Recession, local funds, which represent 80 percent of our school system's budget, have risen only 20 percent and lagged investments made in Arlington and Alexandria.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Weekly Column: Your 2016 Ballot: Yes for Widows, No for “Right to Work”

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and The Potomac-Stafford Local in the week of September 7, 2016.
Your 2016 Ballot: Yes for Widows, No for “Right to Work”
On November 8, you can vote on two state constitutional amendments that require voter approval, in addition to voting for President and U.S. Congress.  There are also local measures on the ballot in some counties.  
One constitutional amendment is relatively non-controversial and would allow localities to exempt property owned by the widow of a killed-in-action first responder from real estate taxes.  Two years ago, Virginians approved similar treatment for the widows of killed-in-action soldiers.  I support giving our localities this authority and voted “yes."
The second amendment is very controversial and very confusing as written on the ballot.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Early Voting Has Started - Avoid the Lines!

Virtually all voters in Virginia are eligible to vote by mail or vote early in person with a legal reason. 

In 2008, 1 in 5 Fairfax County voters cast their vote before Election Day.

Sign Up Online
You can now apply to vote by mail by using an online form on my website.  It takes only 3 minutes to apply:

Sunday, September 11, 2016

47 New Americans at Gunston Hall

Yesterday, I was honored to attend a naturalization ceremony for forty-seven new United States Citizens at Gunston Hall.  It was both an honor and very interesting.  You can see pictures here.

The citizen candidates hailed from 20 countries.  I have now been to about two dozen countries, but I had only been to four of the countries represented in the ceremony - it was a really interesting mix.  I had expected it to be a different group, but it says a lot to me about who is coming to the U.S. and making up our community.

I pointed out to them that about thirty-percent of all residents of the 36th District are foreign born so they are going to have lots of company! 

I also found the oath they took to be fascinating.  I had never heard that oath administered before, and it was a fresh reminder to me of our fundamental obligations as citizens of the United States.  Natural born citizens are never required to take any oath.  This made me think about how all of us should be reminded of our responsibilities.  Here is the text.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Weekly Column: Virginia Faces Another Shortfall

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and The Potomac-Stafford Local in the week of September 7, 2016.
Virginia Faces Another Shortfall

Last month, Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that state revenues were lower than assumed in our state budget passed earlier in the year.  This creates a series of difficult choices. 
In July, the Governor announced that the budget ended on June 30 and came in $266 million short of expectations.  Last month, the Governor announced that due to continued lagging revenues, the current budget was projected to be short by $850 million this year and $630 million in next fiscal year.  This creates a total $1.7 billion from what was budgeted last session.   
There are many causes of this.  First, the lingering effects of the Sequester – automatic spending cuts by the federal government – continue to stall the Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads economies.  Cuts to defense spending alone took $9.8 billion and 115,000 jobs out of the Virginia economy.  Income tax collections are down, even with 2.6% job growth last year, because new jobs do not pay as much as the jobs we have lost.  Commercial office vacancies are still at record highs in Northern Virginia. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Weekly Column: Legislature Needs to Examine UVA’s $2 Billion Cash Reserve

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and The Potomac-Stafford Local in the week of August 8, 2016.

Legislature Needs to Examine UVA’s $2 Billion Cash Reserve
In July, it was revealed that the University of Virginia had managed to retain over $2 billion of excess revenues – exclusive of their $5 billion endowment maintained by their foundation.  An outgoing member of the Board of Visitors called it a “slush fund.” 
This was very concerning to me for several reasons.  First, UVA has increased its tuition by nearly 100% in the last ten years.  UVA’s debt at graduation is up by over 50% in the last years to over $23,000.    Tuition has been exploding in Virginia while UVA has been pocketing over $2 billion of excess revenue. 
Second, while every school needs working capital and a modest financial reserve to operate, I do not believe any school needs to keep cash reserves on hand that amount to $50,000 per student.  UVA is a public school – not a private university.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Supreme Court of Virginia: PWC School Board Must Choose Replacement

Last month, the elected member of the Brentsville District on the Prince William County School Board, Gil Trenum advised his colleagues that he had received orders to report for active duty service for twelve months.  However, he attempted to condition his notice on being able to choose his temporary successor.

Virginia Law provides that when any local government official is called into active duty, they do not forfeit their position for serving our country, but only take a temporary leave of absence.  Confusion arose as to whether Mr. Trenum could select his replacement or the School Board could choose.

In light of the confusion about the process, I requested an Attorney General's opinion.   You can read my request and the response below.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

3 Quick Steps to Goose the VA Economy

Potomac Local asked me to comment on Virginia dropping to the 13th "Best State for Business" in CNBC's annual rankings. 

Here's my comments:
Virginia's rank dropped to thirteenth largely due to weakness in the Virginia economy relative to other states.  Our economy is lagging because our largest source of business - The Federal Government - has imposed across-the-board spending cuts via the Sequester.  This economic weakness was predicted two years ago.  There are three quick ways we can ramp up the Virginia economy. 
#1 - Raise The Minimum Wage
There are some small short term steps we can take here at home to fix this.  First, raising the minimum wage would help to stimulate more economic activity by giving millions of Virginians more money to spend - 6 of 12 states ranked higher than Virginia (CO, MN, WA, MI, FL, NE) have higher minimum wages than we do here in Virginia.  
#2 - Expand Medicaid
Second, Virginia needs to expand Medicaid.  Virginia has left $4 billion on the table so far.  Numerous studies predict that Medicaid expansion would create 30,000 jobs in Virginia, about 2,000 jobs in Prince William and Stafford Counties, save Virginia taxpayers $180 million per biennium that could be spent elsewhere, and provide healthcare to 400,000 people including at least 20,000 in Prince William and Stafford Counties..
#3 - Clean Up Coal Ash
Third, cleaning up coal ash would generate at least a billion dollars in new spending right here in Virginia and clean our environment.  If the average coal ash job pays $50,000/year, $1 billion in coal ash remediation spending equates to at least 20,000 new jobs and would cost the average rate payer less than $1 per month.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Weekly Column: Summer Is Here: Time to Visit Your State Parks!

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and The Potomac-Stafford Local in the week of July 4, 2016.
Eighty years ago this month, Virginia created the first state park system in the United States.   With 35 miles of Potomac River frontage in the 36th Senate district, our community is lucky to have access to many natural resources, including our state parks. 
Our state park system has its origins in the Great Depression.  In 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built numerous park and recreational areas throughout the nation, as well as in Virginia. My grandfather grew up in Franklin County, Virginia, a county with no public high school so he had an eighth grade education and when he turned 22 in 1933, no job.
He enrolled in the CCC and was directed to report to the Arlington County “countryside” (yes, countryside).  Every day, he walked through farm fields to construct trails and plant trees on Analostan Island in the Potomac River, which had recently been renamed Teddy Roosevelt Island next to Rosslyn.  The CCC also helped build the George Washington Memorial Parkway.   

Monday, June 13, 2016

Public Comment Deadline on Route 1 Widening!

On Tuesday (6/14) at 6:30 p.m., there will be a public hearing at the South County Government Center regarding allocating $267 million of annual funding for transportation in projects in Northern Virginia possibly including Route 1. 

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) has $267 million to spend this cycle.  Multiple jurisdictions submitted funding requests.  Fairfax County submitted requests for funding seven projects - (1) I-66 and VA-28 interchange, (2) Frontier Drive extension near Springfield Mall, (3) VA-7 widening in Great Falls, (4) Braddock Road HOV, (5) Fairfax County/Dulles Toll Road widening, (6) VA-28 widening from Prince William to U.S. 29, (7) widening U.S. 1 from Woodlawn to Napper Road (Hybla Valley).

Last year, the NVTA funded $10 million for project design and environmental compliance work for this project.  Delegate Paul Krizek and I submitted over 430 comments in support of the project. 

The NVTA recently announcing scoring for each of the submitted projects.   The NVTA scoring criteria focuses on congestion relief and projects that are shovel ready, and the U.S. 1 widening scored 20th out of 24 projects  because other projects were proposed to be completed earlier.   

Excerpt from Project Description Form Submitted
By Fairfax County
This year's NVTA project application submitted by Fairfax County staff stated that construction will start in 2023 and the project will be open for traffic in 2025

The main reason U.S. 1 in Fairfax County scored low was because of the proposed construction timetable as compared with other projects Fairfax County (and other jurisdictions) submitted.  The NVTA is required by law to give greatest priority to the projects that will give the greatest congestion relief the soonest.

For example, the two U.S. 1 projects submitted from Prince William County scored #6 and #13 on the list. 

Clearly, I am very disappointed both that current planning has this project going scheduled for completion in 2025 and that it is not looking good for getting NVTA funding this round.  I have been a staunch advocate for widening Route 1 and construction bus rapid transit and a Yellow Line extension as soon as possible - not in decades!

The public comment deadline is this Friday.  I have included a form below where you can provide public comments that I will deliver to NVTA on Friday. 

Last year, Delegate Krizek and I delivered a petition with 430 comments to NVTA.  We need to do it again -  Please explain why we need to fund Route 1 improvements now and how congestion on Route 1 is affecting your quality of life today. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Constitution Contemplates Mass Civil Rights Restoration

Governor McAuliffe Signs Order Restoring
206,000 Virginians' Voting Rights
Today, I read that several members have hired counsel to litigate the constitutionality of Governor McAuliffe's decision to restore the civil rights of 206,000 Virginians.  Some are questioning whether he has that power. 

I think he does.  Here's why. 

While prior Governors have not chosen to exercise the authority to restore civil rights in the same way as Governor McAuliffe, prior Governor's practical application is not binding on a court.  What matters is legal authority.

The primary legal argument I have heard is that some claim the second sentence of the Constitution only contemplates individual restorations.  After about twenty minutes of legal research, I do not read it that way.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

2016 Little Hunting Creek Cleanup!

With the weather warming up and the flowers blooming, it can only mean one thing: it is time for the 2016 Little Hunting Creek Cleanup! In coordination with the Friends of Little Hunting Creek, Delegate Paul Krizek and myself, I am excited to say that we will be hosting our annual cleanup on Saturday, April 9th. 

Details are are follows:

           2016 Little Hunting Creek Clean Up
                               April 9th
                           11 a.m. - 5 p.m.


Dubbed "Fairfax County's Trashiest Steam," back in 2007, Little Hunting Creek has seen continuous pollution due to the significant retail presence, inefficient storm water management systems, and unregulated waste disposal. In the past, volunteers and I have collected a total of 8,500 pounds of waste, 186 grocery carts, over 50 tires, a dozen bikes, multiple car seats and one .22 caliber rifle. 

We have three sites staged for the event:

  • Janna Lee Avenue BridgeFrom Route 1, turn west on Buckman Rd, Right on Janna Lee Ave., to the bridge over little Hunting Creek  

  • Creekside Village Apartments: Take Janna Lee Avenue all the way through Creekside Village Apartments, until it dead ends at the end of the parking lot 
  • Mount Vernon Shopping Plaza Near the Duron Store: Meet on Fordson Rd., beside the Duron Store at the northeast corner of Mount Vernon Plaza. Parking is available behind Shopper's Food Warehouse and the post office, or on Cyrene Drive in South Meadows Condos. DO NOT park in the limited parking in front of Duron and neighboring stores. Be sure to wear rubber boots- the easiest access is to walk in the channel. 

We have a responsibility to help ensure the quality of our environment and protect the health of our local watershed and it is a great opportunity for young adults to gain community service hours, learn about local ecosystems impairments and what they can to to improve them.

Again, please pick a site and volunteer by clicking the link provided below:


Please note that all volunteers are strongly encouraged to wear close-toed or sneakers. Additionally, we will be providing water, light snacks and pizza for all those who come out and volunteer!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Government ID's For All Virginian Residents

Supporters at Senate Committee Hearing On SB390
(Photo Courtesy Bob Brown, Richmond Times Dispatch)
In August of 2014, I organized a Hispanic Town Hall Meeting in Hybla Valley.  I spent the first hour going over issues with constituents. 

Then, I asked attendees for feedback - what was the #1 issue?  Lack of government identification.  Attendees said that they and their friends and family were weary of obtaining ID's from Maryland or not having them at all.

At the beginning of this session, I was approached by Virginia New Majority and the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACALAO) about working together to bring this issue forward.  I introduced Senate Bill 390 that would have allowed the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue a temporary driver's visitor's driver's license or identification card to anyone who met the following requirements:
  • Must show have lived in Virginia for one year.
  • Must file a Virginia tax return or claimed as a dependent on a Virginia resident's tax return.
  • Must pay a $53 fee for the initial card and $20 for every year thereafter.
These licenses would be conspicuously marked with language stating "NOT FOR FEDERAL USE" so it is clear that they are not compliant with the Real ID Act.  

Monday, March 28, 2016

Weekly Column: Proffer and Firearms Reforms; the Electric Chair Returns

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and The Potomac-Stafford Local in the week of March 28, 2016.
Proffer and Firearms Reforms; the Electric Chair Returns
In the past two weeks, I reviewed action on my legislation and the state budget.  This column covers some of the major bills to pass the state legislature.
We passed legislation to reform the proffer process for residential rezoning.  Many localities have abused the process by requiring builders to make flat cash payments as high as $40,000 per home instead of improvements linked to increase infrastructure demands created by a specific rezoning.  This practice abuses the intent underlying the proffer process, drives up the cost of housing and lacks any meaningful accountability in Virginia’s courts. 
Going forward, for rezonings, proffers must be tied to an infrastructure impact specifically caused by the proposed development.  Additionally, the law completely excludes commercial rezonings and at the request of Fairfax County, excludes rezonings in tax districts servicing Metro stations and land zoned for higher densities adjacent to transit facilities – e.g. most of Route 1.   These changes will incentivize local governments to zone future development as mixed-use, higher-density, “smart growth” instead of more sprawl. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Nine Days in Bavaria & Austria

The Surovell Family at Neuschwanstein Castle
(aka "Cinderella Castle")
A few days after session ended, I headed off to Germany and Austria with the family to unplug a bit, experience some new countries, and reconnect.

I had not been to Germany since I backpacked it back in 1995 a few years after the wall fell.  Even then, I only spent about twelve hours in Berlin, an evening in Frankfurt, and some time in Strasburg and hiking around the Alps in Innsbruck.  This time, I really got to see things. 

We spent most of our time around Bavaria: two days in Rottenberg, two in Bachrach (Rhine Valley), two days in Reutte, Austria on the border, two days in Salzburg, Austria and the last two days in Munich itself. 

Last night, I asked everyone in the family to tell me what differences they noted between Germany/Austria and Virginia.  Everyone's lists had to be mutually exclusive. My kids' lists are first and mine is last.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Weekly Column: The State Budget: More for Schools, the Disabled, State Troopers

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and The Potomac-Stafford Local in the week of March 14, 2016.
The State Budget: More for Schools, the Disabled, State Troopers
Last week, I covered the good news in the state budget for the 36th Senate District.  This week, I am detailing some of the important features of the state budget that help the entire state.
First, the budget restores some honesty to the budgeting process.  During the McDonnell Administration, the state skipped state employees' retirement plan contributions for two years and then promised pay missed contributions over a 10-year period with interest.  I repeatedly voted “no” on those budgets, in-part, because they were an end run around our state constitution's requirement for a balanced budget.  The proposed budget prepays all of the entire remaining obligations and funds 100% our recommended pension obligations for this biennium. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Weekly Column: Over $210 Million in New Funds Coming to the 36th District

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and The Potomac-Stafford Local in the week of March 14, 2016.
Over $210 Million in New Funds Coming to the 36th District

The last week of the 2016 General Assembly session brought a flurry of activity on some of our most difficult bills, along with approval of a state budget.   
In this column, I will detail highlights in the final budget affecting our area.  Next week, I will report on other important budget items.  In the near future, I will cover some of the more important legislation that we considered and the fight over the state Supreme Court.  I will also let you know about my eight bills the Governor has signed or are awaiting his signature.  
The legislature approved a final budget, including two of my amendments.  First, I advocated for an additional $100,000 to fund the Virginia Star Program which provides refurbished computers to low-income, public school students.  Prince William County’s public schools are using this program extensively in the U.S. 1 corridor.  The final budget includes my complete request.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Weekly Column: Bills Becoming Law As Session Ends

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and The Potomac-Stafford Local in the week of March 5, 2016.
Bills Becoming Law as Session Ends
The eighth week of the General Assembly session brought a few vetoes and heated debates as the most contentious bills of the session moved toward final passage.

Eight of my bills have either been signed into law, passed by both houses or are on Governor Terry McAuliffe’s desk awaiting signature.  My legislation to revive the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) cleared a final hurdle.  FOIA applies to all state and local agencies, from the governor to local  school boards and is how citizens can ensure their government is operating openly and fairly.  

Last year, the Supreme Court of Virginia held that government agencies rarely have a duty to redact documents if the documents contain even the smallest amount of information that is exempt from FOIA and that agencies can withhold entire documents.  The court also held that government officials’ decisions to withhold documents should receive “great weight” during court reviews.  

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Voter ID Disenfranchises

Tonight, I received the following email from a former 44th District constituent.

Tonight at Paul Springs a women was turned away because her Virginia drivers license was expired.  I approached the poll worker who told me the law is the license can't be more than 12 months expired. The poll worker pointed out a sheet with the rules in Virginia. I was furious, I asked if the women could be given a provisional ballot and the poll worker said not in a primary. She apologized and said she wished things were different . I just wonder how many other people were turned away today.

Voter identification rules disenfranchise voters.  If one person was turned away at every precinct in Virginia, it would negate over 5,000 votes. 

Monday, February 29, 2016

Weekly Column: The Senate Budget Emerges

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and The Potomac-Stafford Local in the week of February 16, 2016.
The Senate Budget Emerges
This week, the seventh of this session of the Virginia General Assembly, both the Senate and House of Delegates are considering the state’s two-year budget. After each house passes a budget, a joint conference committee resolves the differences. The Senate budget has good news and bad news.
Good News
Revenues have increased more than expenses for the first time in seven years, offering opportunities to address unmet needs.  The Senate Budget makes significant investments in education including an additional $80 million for Fairfax County, $32 million for Prince William County and $22 million for Stafford County over last year’s appropriations including $16 million for a program called “Cost to Compete” which is supplemental funding for high-cost areas like Northern Virginia to pay teachers and support staff.  The plan also includes a two-percent salary increase for all elementary-secondary school teachers.  

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Supervisor Dan Storck 2016 Town Hall Report

Today, I attended Supervisor Dan Storck's Town Hall which is the 29th we've had in Mt. Vernon.  The town hall is always the best place to find out what's going on in Mt. Vernon and what's coming in the next twelve months.
Fairfax County
First, we heard from Board Chairman Sharon Bulova.  Chairman Bulova said that schools were the County's top priority.  She talked about the County's attempting to prioritize shifting to diversion for mental health crises instead of jail. 

Next, we heard from Ed Long. 
  • County tax revenue has started to grow again albeit not at our historical rates due to lagging job growth.
  • Strong schools are the County's top priority
  • Recommended a $0.04 advertised tax rate although did not explain why given that was $68 million short of FCPS' request. 

LAST DAY for In Person Absentee Voting

Today is the last day for in-person absentee voting for the Democratic and Republican Presidential Primaries.

You can vote at one of eight locations in Fairfax, five in Prince William and one in Stafford.  Click below for the locations.

Make sure you vote and your voice is heard!