As your voice in the Virginia House of Delegates, I believe it is important for you to know where I stand on the issues affecting our community. Even more, I believe that action speaks louder than words. Please see below for my priorities and the legislation that I have introduced or supported to turn these priorities into reality.
The General Assembly has an obligation to use your tax dollars wisely and efficiently. Virginia has a AAA bond rating because of our reputation for fiscal responsibility. In these economically challenging times, it is critical for Virginia to continue this tradition. I am proud that Virginia’s Constitution requires a balanced budget and that the General Assembly has worked together in a bi-partisan manner to do this in a fiscally responsible manner.
As a member of the House of Delegates, I have supported several initiatives to streamline the delivery of services. In 2010, I spearheaded successful legislation (HB 208) that eliminated a half-dozen outdated or redundant school reporting requirements to ensure that funding goes where it belongs — in our classrooms. In 2012, I supported and was appointed to the conference committee for HB 1295, which eliminated several outdated mandates on local government and regional government entities. Also in 2012, I sponsored successful legislation (HB 1164) that eliminated redundant review of many local road projects — a practice that had resulted in significant delays of much needed local improvements.
Traffic congestion threatens our economy and our quality of life. As the parent of three children, I know the frustration of being late for that important recital or evening sports practice. I have consistently supported common-sense measures to provide much needed transportation funding for the Northern Virginia region. This year, I supported the comprehensive transportation package that passed the General Assembly on a bi-partisan basis. While this wasn’t a perfect package, it will result in substantial new revenue that will go toward our region’s most pressing and aggravating problems, including regional projects like the I-66 corridor and local bottlenecks. Overall, the package will generate about $800 million annually state-wide, including $200 million that will be dedicated to transit, and an additional $300 million annually to be used here in Northern Virginia for local and regional priorities. For additional details, click here.
In addition, I will continue to advocate for changes in the way that transportation funding is distributed to make it more equitable for Northern Virginia. I spearheaded efforts to change the transportation maintenance formula (HBs 389, 6011, 1993, 1491, and 477) and in 2013 co-patroned legislation to provide Northern Virginia with more representation on the Commonwealth Transportation Board (HB 864). Getting our fair share will continue to be one of my top priorities.
Additional priorities include:
- Repeal the punitive “hybrid tax” that was enacted with the transportation bill in 2013.
- Increase our investment in transportation technology, including telework, “smart highways,” and better synchronization of our traffic lights.
- Help get people out of their cars by making strategic investments in bike paths and walking trails.
- Continue to expand transit options and adequately fund the Virginia Railway Express and Metro.
- Enact a constitutional amendment to create a transportation trust fund “lock box” that will ensure revenue dedicated to transportation is not diverted for other purposes.
As the proud parent of two children who attend Fairfax County Public Schools, I know first hand the importance of quality public education. I was proud to accept the Virginia Education Association’s “Solid as a Rock for Public Education Award” for my efforts on the House Education Committee in 2011. This year I introduced legislation (HB1674) to provide our localities with more flexibility to innovate while maintaining high standards of accountability. I also spoke on the House Floor against attempts by the Governor to take away education funding for Northern Virginia that recognizes that our cost of living is by far the highest in the state. Finally, I was a co-sponsor of legislation (HB 1871) to enhance efforts to fight bullying in our schools.
As your delegate, my priorities include:
- Keep class size low in order to maximize the ability of teachers to provide individualized attention to students.
- Retain and recruit highly qualified teachers and support staff.
- Provide students with modern educational facilities that maximize the use of technology.
- Promote parental involvement in our schools as a key component to learning.
- Continually look for opportunities to streamline operations and assess the effectiveness of existing programs.
- Revise the State’s Composite Index so that our schools get a fair share of funding. Fairfax County currently received only 26% of its base-funding from the State, while the City of Fairfax only receives 20%.
Jobs and Economic Growth
While there are signs of improvement, much more needs to be done to reduce unemployment and spark economic growth. This requires investing in our transportation infrastructure and education, fostering an environment that rewards creativity and innovation, and reducing regulatory burdens to starting and running a business. In particular, Virginia needs to increase investments in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and our community college system. We also need to reform and streamline our tax system while ensuring that sufficient revenue is generated at the state and local levels to provide needed services. For instance, the BPOL (business, professional, and occupational license) tax presents a barrier to starting a small business by taxing gross receipts even if a business doesn’t make a profit. Similarly, the Machinery and Tools tax, which made sense when Virginia had a thriving manufacturing sector, now serves as a disincentive to investing in new manufacturing tools. I supported House Joint Resolution 755 to work with our local governments and other stakeholders to find a revenue neutral, responsible replacement for these outdated taxes.
Whether you are concerned about the impacts of climate change or the threat to national security posed by our dependence on foreign energy sources, sustainable energy is one of our nation’s greatest challenges. In 2011, I introduced successful legislation that will position Virginia to be a leader in the area of electric plug-in vehicles by eliminating regulatory hurdles that would stifle entrepreneurialism (HB 2105). In 2009, I also successfully passed HB 1994 to increase Virginia’s renewable energy goal to 15% by the year 2025. This legislation, and others like it, will protect consumers in the long-run from volatile energy prices caused by our reliance on fossil fuels.
I will continue to work hard to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels while keeping energy affordable. My priorities include:
- Invest in clean, renewable sources of energy. Virginia has enormous potential to be a leader in renewable energy. This is good for the environment and our economy. I support: harnessing our tremendous off-shore wind resources; providing incentives for the production of biofuels that do not compete with our food supply; increasing our investment in research at our universities; and, other innovative approaches, such as harvesting methane from landfills and agricultural operations.
- Empower residents to conserve energy. This is win-win for the environment and the consumer. I support: expanding smart meters so that consumers have better information about their energy consumption; exploring public-private partnerships to retrofit existing buildings; assisting low income families with weatherization; and, providing tax incentives to encourage investment in solar and wind power.
- Encourage more efficient cars and reduce our reliance on the automobile. Automobiles account for more than a third of our greenhouse gas emissions. Nationally, we must continue to increase fuel efficiency standards. Here in Virginia, we need to encourage land use patterns that promote walking and biking and take advantage of public transit.
Virginia is blessed with an abundance of natural resources. As an environmental planner by profession, I consider it a special responsibility to fight for the environment in the General Assembly. I am proud to have been designated as a Legislative “Hero” or “Leader” by the Virginia League of Conservation Voters for the past eight years.
As your delegate, I have successfully spearheaded legislation to:
- better coordinate drinking water supply planning and permitting (HB 1158);
- require the leak-plagues Pickett Road Tank Farm in the City of Fairfax to bring their above ground storage tanks into conformance with modern industry standards (HB 2103);
- strengthen solid waste planning in Virginia (HB 421);
- better protect our Potomac River water supply during drought conditions (HB 2487); and,
- increase the penalties that local governments can use against developers that violate our water quality regulations (HB 392).
I also successfully fought for new legislation to help local governments in Northern Virginia preserve mature trees during development (HB 1437). Mature trees not only increase property values and beautify our neighborhoods, they also help to clean the air. In recognition of this achievement, I was proud to accept the 2008 Fairfax County Friends of Trees Award.
Health Care/Mental Health
Today, approximately one million Virginians lack health insurance, which means that our emergency rooms provide the primary source of health care for many of these individuals. As a result, the financial burden of this care is shifted mainly to those with private insurance in the form of higher premiums. Under the federal health care law, Virginia has the option of expanding Medicaid coverage to those with income under 133% of the federal poverty level, which represents more than 300,000 people. For the first three years of the program, the federal government will pay 100% of the cost. The federal share will then be slowly reduced to 90%. This is expected to save Virginia significant money by making the system more efficient and ensuring that more people get preventative health care. This is one of the reasons why expansion is supported by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce. I was proud to support budget language during the 2013 session that will put Virginia on a path for Medicaid expansion and make sure that Virginia doesn’t leave over $3 billion on the table that could go to the improving the health of our citizens.
As a member of the General Assembly’s Joint Commission on Health Care, I have worked closely with Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel on a wide range of health care and mental health issues. My priorities include:
- Mental health reform. In the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy, the General Assembly made important reforms to our mental health laws and increased the resources available to courts and case managers. We need to continue to refine these reforms and ensure that funding is not cut to these critical services.
- Autism spectrum disorder. I co-patroned the successful effort to require health insurers to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder. The benefits of early intervention are enormous, not only to the child, but also in terms of the long-term cost savings to the state. No family should be put in the position of having to decide if they can afford appropriate treatment.
- Smoking in restaurants ban. As a member of the General Laws Committee, I helped to pass the landmark legislation in 2009 that protects both the health of customers and workers by significantly limiting smoking in restaurants.
We enjoy one of the lowest crime rates of any major metropolitan area in the nation. Let’s keep it that way! I am proud to support those who protect us every day – our police, firefighters, and emergency personnel. In 2010 I was named the Virginia Professional Fire Fighters “Legislator of the Year.”
I have patroned or co-patron several successful efforts to strengthen Virginia’s public safety laws. Some of these efforts included:
- Strengthening the ability of our law enforcement agencies to combat child exploitation and human trafficking (HB 1200 and HB 2061)
- Protecting our children from sex offenders by requiring offenders to register their email addresses and/or screen names (HB 2749) and by creating mandatory-minimum sentences for the production and distribution of child pornography (HB 2755).
- Making the practice of texting and driving a primary offense and increasing penalties (HB 1883).
Supporting Our Veterans
As the son and grandson of veterans, I am thankful for the sacrifices our veterans make to protect our freedoms. I have been proud to support Virginia’s Wounded Warriors Program as both a member of the House of Delegates and as a Board Member of Brain Injury Services, Inc. During the 2011 session, I had the honor to serve as chief co-patron of successful legislation (HB 1691) designed to help veterans who have fallen on tough times. Based on successful programs in New York and Pennsylvania, the legislation allows local courts to establish special dockets for veterans and active military service members who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury and run into trouble with the law. According to a 2008 RAND Corporation study, nearly 20 percent of our service men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Many more suffer from traumatic brain injury – both diagnosed and undiagnosed. Fewer than half of these individuals actually seek treatment for PTSD or depression. Unfortunately, while trying to recover, some of these veterans fall into drug and alcohol abuse or commit minor crimes and end up in the criminal justice system. It is during these trying times that our veterans need our assistance the most. The premise behind HB 1691 is to provide alternatives to incarceration when possible and to ensure that judges are aware of the rehabilitative programs offered by state and federal agencies as well as local veterans organizations. I was proud to work with the Joint Leadership Council of Veterans Service Organizations, which represents over two dozen veteran service organizations in Virginia, on this effort.
As our community relies more and more on electronically stored data, the opportunity for personal information to reach the wrong hands also increases. Identity theft can have a devastating impact on both individuals and families, and Virginia must vigorously pursue and prosecute anyone who steals or misuses personal information.
That is why I worked with the Secretary of Technology to introduce HB 390 the “Compromised Data Disclosure Act” during the 2008 General Assembly Session. My bill was ultimately rolled into HB 1469, which was signed by the Governor. As a result, any time personal information is accessed by an unauthorized person, the keeper of the information, whether business or government, must notify the individual and the Office of the Attorney General that a breach has occurred. I was also proud to support legislation to allow any consumer to freeze access to his or her credit report (HB 1311) to ensure that the information cannot be accessed without the consumer’s explicit authorization.
Finally, I introduced successful legislation in 2010 (HB 210) to strengthen Virginia’s extortion statute and to close a dangerous loop-hole that would have allowed someone to threaten to sell personal information for financial gain.
While I am pleased with the progress we have made to protect our citizens from identity theft, much work remains to be done. Sensitive personal information can still be obtained all too easily, including from publicly available land records and legal proceedings. Protecting our citizens from identity theft will continue to be one of my top priorities.
Northern Virginia is a rich tapestry of people of different cultures and backgrounds – and it makes our region truly special. As a nation of immigrants, we must do everything possible to ensure that our legal immigrants have every opportunity to succeed.
At the same time, our quality of life relies on respect for our laws. While immigration is a federal responsibility, illegal immigration has a profound impact on our schools and social services, as well as employee protections such as workers compensation. I have consistently supported common-sense measures to strengthen penalties against businesses that knowingly violate our immigration laws and to ensure that our State agencies are sharing information on immigration status – especially when a violation of our laws has occurred. I will also continue to support measures to train our State Police so that they can work as partners with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Land Use and Growth
No amount of transportation funding can overcome poor land use planning and growth that exceeds our capacity to serve it with public infrastructure. My priorities are to strengthen the ability of our local governments to manage growth responsibility and to strengthen regional coordination of land use planning. In 2013, I introduced successful legislation (HB 2326) that provides our regional planning agency, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, with the authority to develop a regional strategic plan to help better coordinate growth and regional service delivery.
We are all consumers and deserve to be protected from unscrupulous and predatory business practices. Bad businesses also make it harder for good businesses to compete. As former chairman of the Fairfax County Consumer Protection Commission, I have introduced a number of bills aimed at enhancing consumer protection in Virginia. In 2012, I introduced legislation (HB 429 to provide consumers with more tools to prevent the practice of “cramming” on telephone bills. Cramming is the practice of placing misleading or deceptive charges on your telephone bill without authorization. Often, these are small charges with generic names in the hope that they won’t be noticed. Since introduction, federal regulations were passed that achieved the goals of my proposed legislation.
Open and Accountable Government
As your voice in Richmond, I am accountable to you for my votes and strive to make government more open and accessible. Open and accountable government starts right here at home. Each year I hold a town hall meeting during session, mail constituents a Report from Richmond to summarize issues tackled by the General Assembly, conduct a Constituent Survey, and host a series of “informal office hours” where residents can stop by to chat and provide feedback on community issues. Each spring I also send a letter to all community/civic association presidents offering to speak at meetings and attend community events.
Finally, I believe that voters should choose their representatives – not the other way around. Our current system of redistricting results in too many non-competitive districts that are drawn for political purposes. I have supported numerous efforts to establish a non-partisan Virginia Advisory Redistricting Commission. While these measures failed, I will continue to be a strong advocate for this very important electoral reform.