I-95 HOV Lane Closures

I wanted to keep you updated on some lane closures since I’m sure many of you are heading down to the beach for summer vacation.

This weekend (July 12-13) the HOV lanes (I-95/I-395) will be closed, beginning tonight. To accommodate some traffic, at 8AM tomorrow the sections of the HOV lanes from the Pentagon to Turkeycock, and the section just south of the Franconia-Springfield Pkwy to Dumfries, will open for traffic southbound.

However, the mid-section from Turkeycock to Franconia-Springfield Pkwy (Rt. 289) will remain closed. At 2PM tomorrow (Saturday) these open lanes will switch to northbound travel. Saturday night (after 11PM) the entire road will be closed for the overnight hours as usual. By 8AM Sunday morning, all construction will be cleared and the lanes reopened (HOV heading northbound).

Please visit www.511Virginia.org for “real-time” traffic maps and www.vamegaprojects.com or 95ExpressLanes.com for more information.

 

Dave

Today – New Laws in Effect

Today is the start of a new fiscal year in Virginia. In other words, the laws passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor are now in effect. You can learn more about these new laws by following the link below:

http://dls.virginia.gov/pubs/idc/idc14.html

My Visit to Silverbrook Elementary

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Silverbrook Elementary School to talk to the fourth graders about government and my job in the House of Delegates.

I was so impressed by how much the kids knew about their state government and how it affects them! I had the kids split into groups for a mock-general assembly session and they argued, and eventually passed, an actual bill that I had sponsored years ago. The bill states that it is illegal to manufacture goods with dog or cat fur. The fourth graders had wonderful comments and questions about what happens in session and why I wanted to be a Delegate. I had a great time talking with them!

Back in 1974, when I was in 6th grade at Rolling Valley Elementary, my own delegate visited my class and it’s important to me that I do the same! I hope that I can help these kids learn and gain an interest in government like my delegate did for me years ago.

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South County Little League Hot Rods

This spring, I was able to sponsor a South County Little League T-ball team, the Hot Roads. Coach Jorge Torres, Erick and Elan came to visit me today to present me with an honorary plaque. This is one reason why I love my job. Thanks for coming to see me!

scll picture

 

Virginia General Assembly Passes Biennial Budget

On Thursday evening, my colleagues returned to Richmond after a three-month stalemate and passed a responsible biennial budget.

The budget that the Virginia General Assembly sent to Governor McAuliffe closes a two-year $1.5 Billion+ budget deficit with no tax increases and no accounting gimmicks.  This was no small task given the fact that we unexpectedly found ourselves in a huge deficit.  Virginia’s economy has plummeted in just the past few months.  Many economists believe this is due to expiration of the tax cuts implemented by President Bush and the new tax increases for the Affordable Care Act. These two factors have caused hiring to drop and the economy to slow.   In addition, Virginia is being hit even harder than other states because of the slowdown in federal government spending.  With sequestration cuts and defense cuts due to the cessation of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, many citizens are losing their government contracting jobs.  Consequently, they are sending less income tax and less sales tax to the State Capitol.  Because of this, Virginia tax revenues are predicted to be down this year by $870.9 Million out of a $17.165 Billion yearly Discretionary Budget.

The good news is that the Virginia legislature has saved a lot of money in the Rainy Day fund, and we can use $470 Million of this to help close the deficit.  The bad news is that we still had to find the remaining $400.9 Million in cuts ($870.9 Million – $470 Million = $400.9 Million).

The House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees went back to the drawing boards.  The Committees “level-funded” our budget at every level of government. This means we did not increase any funding and, on top of that, cut hundreds of millions out of the Governors’ proposed spending.  These cuts were in every area of government.   Some examples include a 16% cut in Administration, Finance, Legislative, and Judicial areas; significant cuts to funds that are given to businesses to move to Virginia; and killing new education and health and human services programs.  (E-mail me if you want a full list).

While we had to make these tough cuts, we were able to free up enough money to fund priority projects.  Here are the areas for which we actually added money in the budget. (Note: These are rounded numbers and not a full list, just ones I thought you would be interested in.)

  1. As required by Federal Law, we have to pay $280 Million in new dollars to fund our existing Medicaid.
  2. We fully funded K-12 Education “re-benchmarking” (the infamous school funding formula that sends direct dollars to school systems to help them run their schools).  This resulted in an additional $18,633,000 for our Fairfax Schools.  That equals $104.24 per student!  This is a huge achievement for our schools, especially in a year where there is a deficit.
  3. $184 Million to our Virginia Colleges and Universities. This includes $6.2 Million to add more than 1,700 new in-state slots at W&M, UVA, JMU and VT.  (Note: This has been a top priority for me.  When I found out that students with over 4.0 GPA’s could not get into UVA, W&M and VT, I set out to do something about it.  Delegate Hugo (Clifton), myself, and others have been pursuing this with the Colleges, the Universities, and our colleagues for over five years.  It is great to see this come to fruition.)
  4. $37 Million to fund improvements in Virginia’s Mental Health system.
  5. $56 Million in Medicaid “Waivers” to help those with both intellectual and physical disabilities move to group homes. This is required by a recent court case that states these citizen must be moved from institutions into group homes.
  6. $97.6 Million to continue to fully fund Virginia’s State Employee Retirement System. (Note: This is significant because other states’ pension systems around the country are on their way to bankruptcy.  Two years ago, we canceled pension for new state employees and replaced it with a 401K type of investment.  We are now adding money to the fund, so that our system will be fully solvent in a few years.)

A key highlight of the budget, is that we struck out Medicaid Expansion.  While there is much to discuss on the issue, simply said, everyone – Republicans & Democrats & Independents – all think it would be nice to take care of everyone.  But from the Republican side, we realize that there is a limit to the amount of money the government has.  Virginia had trouble funding our existing Medicaid which just this year cost an additional $280 Million.  The House Republicans (including me, of course) did not want to expand Medicaid and thus obligate Virginia to pay even more money in the future.  (Note:  Medicaid gives government paid healthcare to poor children, elderly and disabled.  The Democrats want to give free health insurance to poor adults who are working age (ages 19-64).  While the Federal Government would pay 100% for three years, eventually the State share would be 10%.  And just the 10% is predicted to cost $240 Million/year.  With medical inflation, it would be $480 Million/year in just ten years.)   The Republicans successfully struck this free health insurance to adults 19-64 out of the budget.

While it took 96 days after the normal March 8th due date, my colleagues and I were able to deliver a balanced budget without a tax increase!  It took some time and compromise, but that is how you get things done.  Our responsibility is to run our government.  That means build roads, get your kids into college, fund our public schools, catch criminals and keep the violent ones in prison for a long time, and take care of people who are unable to care for themselves.  To be honest, there is a lot in this budget I don’t like.  Due to the Recession that never seems to end, tough cuts had to be made.  However, making tough decisions and compromising when it is needed, is how you get things done.  We fulfilled our responsibility to you.

To view the entire bill that was passed by the Senate and House on June 12, 2014, click here.

http://leg2.state.va.us/MoneyWeb.NSF/sb2014a

Dave Albo

DMV to Implement Legislative Changes Effective July 1, 2014

Friends,

The DMV just released a press release with their important legislative changes that will go into effect on July 1st. You can view the entire press release here but I’ve copied three new laws below that I thought you might find the most interesting.

Hybrid Vehicle License Tax Repeal

  • Effective July 1, 2014, the $64 annual hybrid vehicle tax will be repealed. The hybrid tax is still required to be paid on all registration periods due prior to July 1, 2014. Owners of hybrid vehicles with registrations expiring on or before June 30, 2014 are required to pay the $64 hybrid tax. The tax will also be assessed on hybrid vehicles purchased and registered between now and July 1, 2014.
  • Customers who renewed their hybrid vehicle registrations for multiple years are entitled to a refund of prepaid hybrid taxes for registration years beginning July 2014 and after. There will be no prorated refunds for time periods prior to July 1. Starting in July, refund checks will be issued to the primary owner’s mailing address currently on file with DMV.

Medical Indicators

  • Current law allows DMV customers to indicate a hearing or speech impairment or a condition of insulin-dependent diabetes on their driver’s licenses. Starting July 1, 2014, drivers may also designate an intellectual disability or autism spectrum disorder on their drivers’ licenses, and holders of identification cards may also designate any of these conditions on those cards as well.
  • Customers requesting one of these indicators on their credential must present a signed statement by a licensed physician confirming the applicant’s condition.

Vehicle Inspection for Military Members

  • Effective July 1, 2014, active military members residing in Virginia and returning from an official absence have 14 calendar days to obtain a current vehicle safety inspection sticker. Under current law, updated inspection stickers are due within five business days.

Should you have any questions – please do not hesitate to contact me.

Dave

State Budget Amendments

As I travel to Richmond today to hopefully vote on a state budget, I wanted to provide two very useful links.

Proposed Senate Amendments to HB 5002

http://leg2.state.va.us/WebData/14amend5002.nsf/SenHB+List?OpenForm

Hotlink to Main HB 5002 Budget Page (with legislative history; aka “how we got here” over time)

http://leg2.state.va.us/MoneyWeb.NSF/Bud2014a

FCPS Considers Later High School Start Times

Last night, FCPS hosted an information and community involvement meeting at West Springfield High School to discuss the options for later high school start times. If you were not able to make it, I have pasted some information below to keep you informed. You may also visit the Fairfax County website at http://www.fcps.edu/news/starttimes.shtml and fill out an online form to share your opinions.

From www.smartschoolstart.org

Sleep in Teens

  • Biological changes in sleep and in circadian rhythms occur in all teens during puberty, resulting in naturally-occurring delays in (later) fall asleep and wake times. On a practical level, this means that it’s almost impossible for adolescents to fall asleep much before 11 pm.
  • Scientific studies have shown that the average adolescent needs 8 1/2-9 1/2 hours of sleep per night. Thus, teens are biologically programmed to wake at around 8 am.
  • The average adolescent in the US gets about 7 hours of sleep per night, creating a chronic sleep “debt” of 10 hours/week.
  • Adolescents often sleep in on weekends in an attempt to make up for this school day sleep debt. However, this practice does not improve alertness during school and may actually worsen the circadian phase delay, pushing their biological bedtimes even later. Most adolescents exist in a chronic state of “jet lag” (like flying from DC to LA and back every weekend!).

Consequences of Insufficient Sleep

Impact on School Performance

  • Shortened attention span, decreased higher level cognitive skills, reduced ability to learn and remember new information, decreased efficiency in completing tasks, slowed reaction time
  • Lower standardized test scores, decreased school achievement

Impact on Mood and Behavior

  • Increased rates of depression and suicidal thoughts
  • Difficulty regulating emotions
  • Poor impulse control

Impact on Health and Safety

  • Impaired immune function
  • Increased use of caffeine and other stimulants, which is associated with increased rates of tobacco, alcohol and substance us
  • Higher risk of automobile crashes due to “drowsy driving”
  • Increased risk of sports-related injuries
  • Increased long-term risk of obesity, metabolic dysfunction (diabetes) and cardiovascular problems (high blood pressure, stroke)

Later Start Times

Middle and high school start times earlier than 8 am are associated with:

  • Chronic insufficient sleep and sleepiness
  • Higher rates of tardiness and absenteeism, increased drop-out rates, more behavior problems in school, lower academic performance
  • Higher rates of driving citations and car accidents in teens

Students in schools with later school start times (8 am or later):

  • Sleep more (ie, they do not stay up later and they do sleep later in the morning)
  • Are less likely to be depressed or have thoughts of suicide
  • Get better grades and perform better on standardized tests (like SATs)

Since 1996, dozens of school districts across the US have successfully delayed their school start times, with substantial benefits to students. None of these schools have gone back to an earlier start time.

In a 2011, the Brooking Institute reported that delaying school start times was one of the three top strategies for improving student achievement. The report estimated that higher test scores associated with delaying middle and high school start times by one hour changes translates to an increase of $17,500 in additional lifetime earnings per student.

 

Here are the four options that are being considered by FCPS:

OPTION #1 – Middle School “Late”

  • Tier Start End
  • High School 8:30 a.m. 3:20 p.m.
  • Middle School 9:30 a.m. 4:20 p.m.
  • Elementary School 7:50 – 9:15 a.m. 2:25 – 3:50 p.m.
  • Approximate Cost: $7,645,208
  • Buses Added: 60

OPTION #2 – MS “Early” / ES 15 Min Earlier

  • High School – 8:10 – 8:20 a.m. to 3:00 – 3:10 p.m.
  • Middle School – 7:20 a.m. to 2:10 p.m.
  • Elementary School – 7:45 – 9:10 a.m. to 2:20 – 3:45 p.m.
  • Approximate Cost: $4,665,128
  • Buses Added: 38

OPTION #3 – MS/HS “Flip”

  • High School – 8:00 – 8:10 a.m. to 2:40 – 2:50 p.m.
  • Middle School – 7:20 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
  • Elementary School – 8:00 – 9:20 a.m. to 2:40 – 4:00 p.m.
  • Approximate Cost: $5,583,005
  • Buses Added: 46

OPTION #4 – High School Later

  • High School – 9:15 a.m. to 4:05 p.m.
  • Middle School – 8:20 – 8:30 a.m. to 3:10 – 3:20 p.m.
  • Elementary School – 7:40 – 9:15 a.m. to 2:20 – 3:50 p.m.
  • *One middle school at 9:00 a.m. – 3:50 p.m.
  • Approximate Cost: $2,759,749
  • Buses Added: 25

Medicaid Expansion – A Nationwide Issue

Below are three recent articles that I have found interesting regarding the expansion of Medicaid. Please take a moment to read them if you have the time.

What is the key message in these articles?

Many legislators want to improve care under the Affordable Care Act, but many are also hesitant to expand under a broken system with problems..

Here’s an example of an on-going problem:

Information from a recent poll suggests that over 2.9 million Americans who have signed up for Medicaid coverage, have not had their applications even processed. States are supposed to process Medicaid applications within 45 days, but here in Virginia, 45% of the applications that have been submitted from healthcare.gov, are past the 45-day limit.

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Join me on June 25th for Dance for a Cure!

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