Congrats to my former intern, Emma!

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Here is Emma with a Three Star General in the Army. He helped present Emma with her scholarship at the George Washington Chapter of the US Army’s scholarship luncheon. Emma will be heading to the University of Virginia in the fall!

Update on FBI Headquarters Relocation

Springfield is moving up on the list of locations for the new FBI Headquarters!

A recent analysis shows that the Springfield location is the quickest commute compared to two other locations in Maryland, even for those who live in Maryland. The analysis took into account travel times to each of the three locations from 20 different locations in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Final results showed that the Springfield location would cut 3-4 hours from the commuters’ monthly drive. In addition, the Franconia-Springfield metro station would make it increasingly easy for anyone to get to the headquarters using transit systems. The Springfield location is also closer to the FBI training center in Quantico than either Maryland locations.

Overall, the choice is easy; Springfield is the best option for the FBI Headquarters. The newly renovated Springfield Town Center and metro station provide an ideal atmosphere for the facility, and it would bring jobs and profit to our community. The plan has been backed by Gov. McAuliffe, Senators Warner and Kaine, and by our local Congressmen and woman Don Beyer, Gerry Connolly, and Barbara Comstock. They all agree that Springfield offers the best location for the FBI, and so do I!

You can read the full article here: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/chairman/news/all-roads-lead-to-springfield.htm

Transurban’s “First-Time Forgiveness” Program

Friends and neighbors,

I wanted to share some news from Transurban, the operator of the 495 and 95 Express Lanes. They have recently announced that their “First-Time Forgiveness” program. This program forgives penalties that customers owe if the penalty exceeds $2,200. In addition, it will now apply to those affected before the program was put into place on October 27, 2014.

In other words, this means that drivers who mistakenly used the lanes without an EZ-Pass or who did not know the balance of their pass when traveling on the lanes, will not be penalized for their first mistake. Also, those who made the mistake in the past will either have their penalties dropped or refunded. Transurban urges anyone who receives their first unpaid toll invoice to contact the company and inquire if they apply for the program. For more information, you can visit ExpressLanes.com or call (855) 495-9777.   I have also placed a copy of their press release below:

Transurban Extends First-Time Forgiveness Program’s Cap Retroactively for Unpaid Toll Cases

Jun 8, 2015

Alexandria, Va. – Transurban, the operator of the 495 and 95 Express Lanes, announced today that its First-Time Forgiveness program’s self-imposed cap on fees and penalties will be applied retroactively to individuals impacted before the program was put into place on October 27, 2014.

Although Virginia law prescribes violations with much higher penalties, Transurban is forgiving any penalties that individual customers currently owe that are in excess of $2,200, not including the cost of their missed tolls and court fees.  Further, Transurban will provide individual customers with a refund for any penalties paid over this same amount.

“We are seeing tremendous results since the program was implemented last fall,” stated Nic Barr, Vice President of Operations at Transurban.  “We have listened to our customers and are using their feedback to make improvements.  Making the First-Time Forgiveness program’s cap on fees and penalties retroactive was the logical next step.”

More than 2,700 customers have benefited from the program in helping them avoid potential fees and civil penalties from the program’s inception to April 30, 2015.  The vast majority of customers continue to avoid unpaid tolls by traveling with a properly mounted and funded E-ZPass.  Approximately 96 percent of Express Lanes trips are paid or exempt at the time of travel with less than 0.1 percent of trips ending up in court.

“We will continue to look at how we can adjust our operations to meet the needs of travelers and expect to implement additional refinements over the coming months,” said Barr.  “As a reminder, we ask any traveler who receives their first unpaid toll invoice to contact us immediately to see if they qualify for the program.”

Transurban will send letters to all impacted customers over the next week.  In the meantime, customers should visit ExpressLanes.com for more information or call (855) 495-9777.

About the Express Lanes

The 495 and 95 Express Lanes operate on I-495/Capital Beltway and I-95 to provide drivers with faster and more predictable travel options in Northern Virginia.  Together the 495 and 95 Express Lanes create a region-wide network of free-flowing lanes for nearly 40 miles from the Dulles Toll Road to Stafford County.  Delivered through a public-private partnership between the Virginia Department of Transportation and Transurban, the Express Lanes give drivers reliable travel choices on two of northern Virginia’s most congested roadways.  For more information, please visit ExpressLanes.com.

State Per Pupil Spending

The Great Recession forced the General Assembly to make tough budgetary decisions in order to pass a balanced budget. One area in particular that has been impacted is funding for K-12 education. Roughly 95% of Virginia schools have had their funding decreased… but not Fairfax County!

My fellow Northern Virginian legislators and I have increased funding for education in Fairfax County. Over the past five years we have delivered $816/student/yr. more to our Fairfax County Public Schools! We worked tirelessly to have the tax dollars generated in Fairfax County kept here for our schools despite numerous attempts to divert the funds to other parts of the state.  I thought you may be interested in seeing the data yourself:

Financial Year Funding per student
2006-2007 $2,854
2007-2008 $2,876
2008-2009 $2,928
2009-2010 $2,555
2010-2011 $2,837
2011-2012 $2,896
2012-2013 $3,271
2013-2014 $3,263
2014-2015 $3,371

Update on Education in Virginia

As Session has come to an end and the Governor has signed most bills into law, I wanted to share a number of bills and budget amendments that were passed relating to K-12 and higher education.

Among the budget amendments are pay increase for teachers and funding for more in-state slots for in-state students to attend Virginia’s colleges and universities. . Here are some of the bills that I voted for and were signed into law. You can find more information and the full text of the bill at lis.virginia.gov. Just type the bill number into the search box.

HB 1307 – Requires that students’ social security number be kept confidential.

HB 1320 – Permits teachers seeking licensure renewal to satisfy renewal requirements in ways other than taking a university course.

HB 1334 – Protects student privacy by ensuring that personally identifiable information about students collected by public schools, in addition to social security numbers, is kept confidential.

HB 1351 – Requires the Board of Education to establish (starting with high school seniors graduating in 2016) criteria for awarding a diploma seal of biliteracy to any student who demonstrates proficiency in English and at least one other language.

HB 1490 – Provides for expedited retakes of certain SOL tests in all grade levels.

HB 1615 – Permits the state Board of Education to design SOL tests to include multiple subject areas.

HB 1616 – Requires localities to align the curriculum in career and technical education classes with the appropriate national certification requirements. The aim is to ensure that high school graduates who graduate with a technical education are certified so that they have a better opportunity to secure employment.

HB 1672 – Revises the planned School Report Card so that it expresses school performance for each school using several factors rather than a single letter grade.

HB 1674 – Allows some schools to be reviewed for accreditation every three years rather than annually.

HB 1675 – Permits the state Board of Education to waive requirements for a specific number of hours in class for a student to earn graduation credits, provided the student has demonstrated he or she has learned the course material.

HB 1698 – Requires that parents must be given advance notice anytime a school plans to use a student survey that includes questions pertaining to mental health, medical information, controlled substance use, or questions of a sexual nature.

SB 1286 – Requires local school budgets to be published online in detailed, line item form.

HB 1336 – Requires all public colleges and universities in Virginia to provide the same credit toward graduation when credit is given for certain classes and test taken in high school.

HB 1715 – Requires public colleges and universities to notify parents, according to certain procedures, when a student has been evaluated for suicidal tendencies.

HB 1785 – Provides for better coordination between campus law enforcement personnel and local law enforcement agencies related to investigating sexual assault crimes.

HB 1930 – Clarifies the process for reporting sexual assault at public and private colleges and universities and includes provisions for victim support services.

On another note, you may have heard in the news about the challenges that face local school budgets. I’d like you to know that the state is providing record levels of funding for local school divisions again this year and next year. In Fairfax, state funding for K-12 public education has increased 24% in four years, meaning an addition $534 per student of state funding.

As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns at DelDAlbo@house.virginia.gov or (703) 451-3555.

Dave Albo

NVTA Adds the Widening of Rolling Road to List of Recommended Projects

Following a review of the public comments, three candidate projects were added to the list of recommended highway projects, for a total of 21 recommended highway projects:

  • Project 5C (Fairfax County) Rolling Road Widening from Old Keene Mill Road to Franconia Springfield Parkway
  • Project 8R (Fairfax County) Frontier Drive Extension and Braided Ramps
  • Project 8S (Fairfax County) Richmond Highway (from Mt. Vernon Memorial Highway to Napper Road)

You can view these additions here – http://www.thenovaauthority.org/PDFs/Meetings/2015/4.23.15/VII%20%20Adoption%20of%20the%20FY2015-16%20Two%20Year%20Program.pdf.

I know that the Rolling Road project will be of interest to many Springfield residents. Once I receive specific information about the project, I will be sure to share it with all.

NOVA Six-Year Improvement Program Public Hearing TONIGHT

As a reminder, the Northern Virginia hearing for the Six-Year Improvement Program is at 6 p.m. TONIGHT, Tuesday, April 28th at VDOT’s District Office (4975 Alliance Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030).

If you cannot make it, you can watch the meeting live here – http://www.windrosemedia.com/windstream/vdot-specialprojects/

The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) released on April 15 the draft Six-Year Improvement Program (SYIP), which allocates $12.9 billion to transportation projects over the next six fiscal years beginning July 1, 2015.  Projects include highway, road, bridge, rail, transit, bicycle/pedestrian paths and other transportation improvements across the state. To see a list of the draft projects, go to http://syip.virginiadot.org/Pages/allProjects.aspx

You can also submit your comments by email or mail by May 22, 2015.

Six-YearProgram@VDOT.Virginia.gov

Infrastructure Investment Director

Virginia Department of Transportation

1401 East Broad St.

Richmond, VA 23219

Richmond Times-Dispatch – Medicaid to claim higher education resources

medicaid pacman

I wanted to share an article from the Richmond Times-Dispatch that describes how Medicaid spending is crowding out funding for other state services, specifically higher education. The report’s authors describe Medicaid spending as “the Pac-Man of state government.”

Report: Medicaid to claim more of Va. higher-education resources

Richmond Times-Dispatch

Medicaid costs will consume an increasing share of state resources, making it difficult to sustain funding levels for higher education and other discretionary programs over the next decade, a study by the University of Virginia’s Miller Center concludes.

The report released Tuesday by the center’s new National Commission on Financing 21st Century Higher Education projects “a dismal outlook” for public higher education funding largely because of “the continued crowding-out of discretionary budget categories by Medicaid.”

“This is going to be a problem. We need to start working on it now,” said Ray Scheppach, the commission’s director and a senior lecturer at the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.

The report was the first by the commission, a nonpartisan effort launched by the Miller Center last month to study alternative funding models.

Medicaid was selected for the first study, Scheppach said, because it is required spending that is like “the Pac-Man of state government.”

“Medicaid is the driver,” he said.

The report projects slower economic growth over the next decade and rising Medicaid costs through 2024.

Nationally, Medicaid spending accounted for less than 10 percent of state-sourced funds 30 years ago. In fiscal 2013, the share grew to more than 15 percent, with a resulting squeeze on higher education, according to the study. Higher-ed funding has fallen from around 14 percent of state-sourced spending in the late 1980s to just under 13 percent today.

The analysis, which was conducted for the commission by Moody’s Analytics, found state-by-state results vary significantly.

In Virginia, Medicaid’s share of total state spending was 11 percent in fiscal 2013, while higher education’s share was 14.1 percent. By 2024, higher education’s share is projected to be 13.5 percent and Medicaid would account for 14.3 percent.

The projections are based on the current number of states opting for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act — Virginia has not — although the report expects more will opt in.

If Virginia opts in, higher-ed’s share of state spending would be 13.5 percent in 2024; Medicaid’s would be 14.9 percent.

Nationally, the analysis predicts Medicaid spending will grow between 6 and 8 percent per year over most of the decade then accelerate after 2020 as the federal share of Medicaid declines.

National state Medicaid spending is projected to reach 17.9 percent by fiscal 2024.

“That equates to as much as $60 billion spent on Medicaid over the next decade that previously would have been available for discretionary items such as higher education,” the report says.

Higher-education spending will grow less than 4 percent per year. Except for a few states, the share of total state spending for higher education will decline between .25 and .50 percentage points over this period.

Peter Blake, director of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, said by email the report is based on “a number of assumptions — all of which will change over the next 10 years or so.”

The “crowding out” impact already has been felt in Virginia as state funding has declined over the past generation, he said.

But he added “investment in an efficient system of higher education will contribute to a stronger economy. It is one strategy that can reduce financial pressures on other public services.”

Scheppach said without greater investment the nation risks losing its competitive edge, citing estimates that 60 percent of working-age adults will need a postsecondary credential by 2025.

“If we don’t increase the number we will have a serious competitive problem in the world economy,” he said.

Last week I had the pleasure of teaching a class to fourth graders at Cardinal Forest Elementary. I have been doing this presentation for over 15 years and it is still one of my favorite lessons to teach!

I speak about the three branches of Virginia Government and the functions of each. In addition, I try to spice it up by bringing a picture of the Chamber, copies of some bills the kids can understand, and a few copies of the actual Code of Virginia.

I had a great time! Thanks for having me CFES!

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South County Pyramid Art Show

A couple weeks ago, I stopped by the Lorton Workhouse Arts Center to view the new art exhibit. Wow! I never cease to be impressed by how talented our local students are. I hope you had an opportunity to visit!

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