Second Week of 2017 Session

We hung artwork from elementary schools in my district around the office this week. Thank you to the art students that created these beautiful pieces for us! We are excited to have some color on our white walls!

Legislative Updates

All fifteen of my bills have been assigned to a committee and sub-committee, and are being discussed there. You can see the committees that they have been referred to, and follow the status of all of my bills by clicking here.

This week, my bills HB 1456, HB 1486 and HB 1526, passed in their respective subcommittees. The summaries of the bills as introduced are as follows:

HB 1456: Custody and visitation orders; use of term parenting time. Provides that at the request of a parent to such case or proceeding, the court shall use the phrase “parenting time” instead of the term “visitation.” The bill does not apply to any case or proceeding where a court has found a history of family abuse or sexual abuse or has otherwise found that a child subject to the case or proceeding is an abused or neglected child.

HB 1486: Arts and cultural districts. Provides that arts and cultural districts may be created jointly by two or more localities.

HB 1526: Alcoholic beverage control; mixed beverage performing arts facility license. Revises the annual mixed beverage performing arts facility license to allow any person operating any performing arts facility to sell, on the dates of performances and one hour prior to any such performance and one hour after the conclusion of any performance, alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption in areas upon the licensed premises approved by the Board.

The Richmond Times Dispatch wrote an article about my bill, HB 1825. The bill protects consumers’ rights by making it illegal for companies issuing tickets to inhibit purchasers from reselling tickets. You can read the Richmond Times Dispatch article here, and the full text of the bill here.

Things will get crazy next week, as all the bills have to be voted on by February 4th.

UVA to increase in-state slots

On Tuesday, the University of Virginia announced two of their new efforts to make the school more accessible for Virginia residents.

The first of their efforts was the authorization of the “Cornerstone Grant,” which expands UVA’s financial aid program for qualifying, full time Virginia students from middle income families.

Starting this fall, first and second-year Virginians from families earning less than $125,000 (who do not receive grants or scholarships from other sources) will be eligible to receive a $2,000 Cornerstone Grant. Qualifying third-year students will be eligible to receive a $1,000 grant.

The board also announced that they would be increasing enrollment for Virginians, and that half of the 100 new slots would go to first-year students. The remaining half of the slots will go to a variety of students, including transfers, distance learners and first-year students starting in the spring or summer.

While UVA still has too many out of state students, I am pleased that they have responded to the pressure we have been putting on them and continue to add more in-state slots. The recently added 100 in-state slots will make total of approximately 1,000 new in-state slots over the past 5 years.

The 2016-2017 incoming class at UVA was made up of 66.9 percent of in-state students and 33.1 percent of out-of-state students. This announcement, which will make attendance at UVA more financially attainable and will increase the number of slots for Virginians, is a step in the right direction. You can read the full text of the news release here.

This session, I am the chief patron of HB 1410, which would require that at least 75 percent of the undergraduate students enrolled must be Virginia residents. The full text of the bill is as follows:

HB 1410: Certain educational institutions; designation of governing boards; financial assistance; enrollment. Renames as boards of trustees the boards of visitors of certain educational institutions in the Commonwealth, including baccalaureate public institutions of higher education. The bill prohibits public institutions of higher education from using (i) tuition revenue from any Virginia student to provide financial assistance to any Virginia student or non-Virginia student and (ii) more than five percent of tuition revenue from non-Virginia students to provide financial assistance to non-Virginia students. The bill also requires the governing board of each public institution of higher education, except the Virginia Military Institute, Norfolk State University, and Virginia State University, to ensure that at least 75 percent of the undergraduate students enrolled at the institution have established domicile in the Commonwealth. The bill requires the governing boards of public institutions that do not meet such 75 percent threshold to submit to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia a plan to incrementally increase enrolled undergraduate Virginia students each academic year to ensure compliance no later than the 2020-2021 academic year.

The bill was referred to the Committee on Education and is currently being discussed in the Higher Education subcommittee. If you would like to track the progress of the bill, just click on the “Track Legislation” link and then type the bill number (HB1410).

Student Debt in Virginia

There’s no question that student debt affects a significant number of Virginians each year. Beyond increasing an individual’s financial burden, student debt negatively impacts the Virginia economy. According to studies conducted in the past three years, people with student debt are less likely to buy a home, start a new business, or save for retirement.

Below are some graphics that depict some of the impact of student debt, as well as information on the tuition increases in recent years. Virginia universities must work to decrease the amount of debt for their graduates. I’m working hard to introduce and sponsor bills that would alleviate student debt by reducing tuition for Virginia students.

student-debt-1student-debt-2student-debt-3student-debt-4

Legislators Tour Improved Roads

On January 5th, a group of legislators had the opportunity to witness the lasting effects of HB 2313 on a bus tour through Fairfax County and Northern Virginia. The bill, which I supported, has funneled more than $1.2 billion into transportation improvement projects in the Northern Virginia region since its passage in 2013. During the tour, members of the General Assembly climbed aboard a bus and did a “rolling” tour of the revamped roads.

Fairfax County alone has received an estimated $274 million in new transportation funds as a direct result of HB 2313. Many of Northern Virginia projects that have benefited from the revenue may be familiar to my constituents. The Fairfax Connector added new bus bays, allowing for quicker bus maintenance and bus storage. The I-66 “Outside the Beltway” project, which expands the highway to three general lanes, and two express lanes, could not have been begun nor completed without the financial support from HB 2313. HB 2313 has assisted in the expanding Route 28 from 2 to 6 lanes, a project expected to be completed in summer of 2017. The increased number of lanes is expected to postiviely affect the experience of nearly 125,000 drivers a day. Now it is widening Rolling Road.

HB 2313, the result of bipartisan cooperation, has also led to transjurisdictional transportation partnerships, encouraging Northern Virginia districts to work together to ease the burden on commuters. More broadly, the bus tour demonstrated how HB 2313 established a cohesive strategy for transportation, which is crucial for Northern Virginia moving forward.

First Week of 2017 Session

The 2017 General Assembly Session has begun!

The 2017 General Assembly session opened on Wednesday, January 12. I’m looking forward to a productive session working for you in Richmond this winter!

On Wednesday, Session began with the Richmond Symphony singing the National Anthem, which was followed by the swearing in of one new member, Rocky Holcomb (R). Delegate Holcomb will be representing District 85.

Later that evening, Governor Terry McAuliffe delivered his annual State of the Commonwealth address to the Joint Assembly of the House of Delegates and Senate. You can view a video recording of the evening here. The transcript of the Governor’s address can be read here. Delegate Villanueva and Senator Dunnavant delivered the Republican Perspective on the State of the Commonwealth. You can read the text of their remarks here.

Budget

In August of last year, Governor McAuliffe announced over a $1 billion shortfall. The shortfall is a result of a lagging economy that generated less tax revenue than expected. Virginia’s economy has lost more than 4,000 jobs, weekly wages are down, and part-time employees are up by more than 20,000 since 2015.

However, unlike Washington, Virginia’s constitution requires a balanced budget. Last month Governor McAuliffe unveiled his proposed budget to the General Assembly. The Governor’s budget proposal is just the first step in a long process. It is now time for the House to develop our budget. Our goal is to craft a responsible, conservative budget that strategically invests in the core functions of government while protecting precious taxpayer resources. We will invest in key priorities, but we must do so in a fiscally prudent manner.

Pre-Session Survey

As we start the General Assembly, I encourage you to fill out my session survey. Many of you may have already received it in the mail, but I encourage you to fill it out on my website http://www.davealbo.org/. Please share the survey with your friends and neighbors in the 42nd District to fill it out as well. Your thoughts on important issues like ways to make college more affordable and suggestions on how to stimulate our economy drive my work in Richmond. Please make sure you complete and send in your survey by January 18th.

Delegate Albo’s 2017 Legislation

I have filed a few bills that you may find interesting. To follow any other legislation or to read these bills in full, please visit http://www.lis.virginia.gov

HB 1410: Educational institutions, certain; designation of governing boards. Renames as boards of trustees the boards of visitors of certain educational institutions in the Commonwealth.

The bill prohibits public institutions of higher education from using tuition revenue from any Virginia student to provide financial assistance to any Virginia student or non-Virginia student and more than five percent of tuition revenue from non-Virginia students to provide financial assistance to non-Virginia students.

The bill also requires the governing board of each public institution of higher education (except VMI, Norfolk State, and VSU) to ensure that at least 75 percent of the undergraduate students enrolled at the institution have established domicile in the Commonwealth. The public institutions must be compliant no later than the 2020-2021 academic year.

HB 1423: Potomac River Watershed; DEQ to identify owner of any combined sewer overflow outfall, etc. Directs Department of Environmental Quality to identify the owner of any combined sewer overflow outfall that discharges into the Potomac River Watershed and to determine what actions by the owner are necessary to bring the outfall into compliance with Virginia law, the federal Clean Water Act, and the Presumption Approach described in the CSO Control Policy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

HB 1456: Custody and visitation orders; use of term parenting time. Provides that at the request of a parent to such case or proceeding, the court shall use the phrase “parenting time” instead of the term “visitation.” The bill does not apply to any case or proceeding where a court has found a history of family abuse or sexual abuse or has otherwise found that a child subject to the case or proceeding is an abused or neglected child.

HB 1486: Arts and cultural districts. Provides that arts and cultural districts may be created jointly by two or more localities.

I encourage you to keep in touch with me and my office over the rest of session! I value the feedback you provide as it helps me to a better job of representing you. You can email me at DelDAlbo@house.virginia.gov or call me at (804)-698-1042. You can also join the conversation on our Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DaveAlboVA

Links of Interest

My Web Site: www.DaveAlbo.org

Legislative information system: http://www.lis.virginia.gov

Live session video and archived session videos: http://virginia-house.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=3

New members of the House and Senate: http://www.vpap.org/general-assembly/new-faces/

Speaker Howell announces standing committee assignments: http://www.vpap.org/updates/2439-2017-house-committee-assignments/

Governor McAuliffe’s State of the Commonwealth address: http://virginia-house.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=3907

Transcript of the State of the Commonwealth address: https://governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/newsarticle?articleId=18925

Transcript of Delegate Villanueva and Senator Dunnavant’s Republican Perspective on the State of the Commonwealth: http://virginiahouse.gop/2017/01/11/delegate-villanueva-and-senator-dunnavant-deliver-republican-perspective-on-the-state-of-the-commonwealth/

JLARC Report on Virginia’s Medicaid Program

The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) released a report on Monday about the cost-effectiveness of Virginia’s Medicaid program. You can find JLARC’s full report here.

The Virginia Medicaid program provides medical, long-term care, and behavioral health services to over a million individuals in the Commonwealth each year. The General Assembly asked JLARC to look into the program’s cost-effectiveness because Medicaid’s spending increases have outpaced total state budget growth over the past 10 years, and now require more of Virginia’s budget resources.

The report indicates that Medicaid general fund spending has increased by approximately nine percent annually over the last 10 years. In fact, Medicaid spending alone made up 22 percent of the general fund budget in 2016. This makes funding education and other programs more difficult.

JLARC believes a lot of these expenses are preventable and that there are other ways to provide more cost-effective long-term services and care without using so much of Virginia’s budget. JLARC has outlined a series of recommendations, which can be found here.

Please be aware that I am not writing this in opposition to Medicaid. If we can afford it, I want to take care of as many people as possible who are unable to care for themselves. I just think it is important that we implement reforms to save enough money so that Medicaid does not cost us any more than we are currently paying.

2016 Public School Quality Report

Dear friends,

I would like to make you aware of a new tool provided by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) that provides useful information regarding the status of public schools and local school divisions throughout the Commonwealth. You can find the detailed “School Quality Profiles” that VDOE provides here.

These profiles cover many topics, such as:
• Student achievement
• College and career readiness
• Program completion
• School safety
• Teacher quality

A lot of this information can also be found in the Virginia Board of Education’s recently released 2016 annual report. This report is released every year to highlight what our schools are doing well and to outline ways in which public K-12 education can be improved, and I want to share some things from the report that stood out to me.

First, this year’s report reaffirms what many of us already know – that Virginia has some of the best public K-12 schools in the country! Our children are scoring above the national average on tests like the SAT and ACT, and over ninety percent are graduating from high school on time. However, the Board thinks improvements can be made to better prepare students for life after high school. After speaking with higher education institutions, businesses, and the military, the Board believes students will benefit from having more technical skills training and other career exploration opportunities incorporated into the K-12 curriculum.

While it’s clear that our students are performing well on tests and receiving a quality education, the report indicates that there are currently not enough teachers in Virginia, particularly for subjects and areas like special education, math, and social studies. If I recall correctly, in 2015 Fairfax County had over fifty teacher vacancies in special education alone. To address this issue, the Board is looking into reforming Virginia’s licensing process with the hope of recruiting more teachers, and is looking into providing more employee benefits to help keep the teachers we have so they don’t move to other school systems.

These are some of the key points from this year’s report that I thought were important to share with you. You can click here for the full report. As a parent, I also encourage you to visit SchoolQuality.Virginia.Gov if you have children who are attending public schools, or are looking for more information on public schools and school divisions.

Letter to the Editor on Highway Trash Cleanup

On Saturday, the newly combined West Springfield and Burke Rotary Clubs cleaned up trash on the Fairfax County Parkway, and I joined them to help out. (No, it was not court-ordered! We were just doing it because this is one of the Rotary’s local philanthropic projects.)

I have probably done almost 100 volunteer trash pickups, and every time I do it, this question comes to mind: What kind of person throws trash out of a car window? I don’t get it.

Here is a list of the things I had to pick up:

  • Cigarettes, cigarettes, cigarettes (So, these cigarettes are so wonderful that people suck them into their lungs, but are so smelly and disgusting that the leftover butts can’t stay in the car?)
  • Aluminum soda cans
  • Beer bottles
  • Fast food meal bags
  • An American flag
  • A medical face mask
  • Frozen dinner packages
  • An empty airline bottle of liquor (I guess this person did not know drunk driving was against the law)
  • A “Vote for Meals Tax” road sign (I guess this person did not know that Supervisor Herrity and I made road signs illegal about five years ago)
  • A Pittsburg Steelers flag (A Redskins fan would never litter)
  • Halloween candy wrappers
  • A spit-filled water bottle with leftover chewing tobacco slime
  • Latex gloves
  • A box of fine wine (It probably wasn’t Châteauneuf-du-Pape, or have a Wine Spectator rating of 95)
  • A used adult diaper (I am not kidding)

I’m sorry to vent, but I just don’t get it. Maybe a reminder is in order here. Most people don’t know littering is a Class 1 misdemeanor, and that there are judges in Fairfax County who will literally send people to jail for it.

Thanks to the West Springfield and Burke Rotary members! You all help make Springfield the best place to live. Here’s a photo of me working with Ann Burton and Ed Robertson.

hwy-trash-cleanup

Rolling Road Turn Lane Options

I want to make you aware of an issue that has come up on Rolling Road re-design and ask for your comments.  Residents on Rolling Road want the project to include a mutual turn lane in the middle, and residents who do not live on Rolling seem to want a raised median with cut outs for turn lanes.

Maybe a picture describes this idea better.  Here is a picture of a road with a mutual turn lane:

two-way-lane-4

Here is a picture of a road with raised medians with cut outs for turn lanes:

median-road

To me, the raised medians are much more attractive aesthetically. But safety is most important.  Having oncoming traffic without a barrier, in my opinion, is a safety concern. The raised medians provide the barrier, and the cut outs for the turn lanes get turning cars out of the way so passing traffic can proceed through.

The raised medians will increase the width of the road by 15 feet at its widest point.  The mutual turn lanes increase the width by 12 ft.  But if we make the bike paths go from 10 feet to 8 feet, the impact of the raised medians will only be 1 foot.  While taking an extra foot of our Rolling Road neighbors’ property is not desired, it is my opinion that it is worth it to improve the safety of the roadway.

This is why I am e-mailing you. VDOT has received written requests from the people who want mutual turn lanes, but they have not received requests from people who want raised medians.  It is my impression that the vast majority of those who do not live on Rolling want raised medians with turn lanes, but I could be wrong. That is why I am writing.

Please log onto this site http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/northernvirginia/rolling_rd_widening.asp and tell VDOT if you want the raised medians or the mutual turn lanes.  Even if you disagree with me, you should write.  I am not your Delegate to do what I want to do; I am elected to do what you want. Please let VDOT know what your preference is. You can email comments directly to VDOT at meetingcomments@vdot.virginia.gov.

Amendments to the Virginia Constitution

Recently I have been asked by many constituents to explain the two 2016 ballot proposed amendments to the Virginia Constitution.  I will explain them, but I am not here to tell you how to vote.  A long time ago I learned that I am no smarter than my constituents.  In fact, at every meeting I go to, there is always one person who knows more than me on the topic I am explaining.  With that in mind, let me try to explain these amendments and both sides of the arguments for and against.

First, it may be useful to understand how an amendment gets on the ballot.  Other states have procedures where citizens can collect a number of signatures and get a proposed law on the ballot.  That is how marijuana has been legalized in many states.  In Virginia, all laws are passed by the General Assembly and not the public, except for Constitutional Amendments.  To get the Constitution amended, a bill must pass.  Then there must be an intervening election, and the exact same bill (not even a comma can be changed) has to be passed.  And then, it has to be voted on by a majority of the citizens voting in the next election.

We have two proposed amendments: (1)  Right to Work and (2) Allowing local governments to exempt property taxes for spouses of Police and Firefighters killed in the line of duty.

(1)  Right to Work

This amendment would guarantee in the Virginia Constitution a citizen’s right to hold a job without being required to join a labor union. For decades the Virginia Code has included a law which declares that no one can be forced to join a Labor Union (pay a fee) in order to work.  So, contrary to popular belief, Labor Unions are not illegal in Virginia.  The law simply means that union membership must be voluntary and not compulsory.

The practical effect of this is that Labor Unions have a great difficulty forming in Virginia because why would someone join a Union when others don’t have to join and pay?

Even though this concept is already in the law, this proposal seeks to move it to the Constitution so that it will be very difficult to repeal it.  (As stated earlier, to repeal, the same law would have to pass twice with an intervening election and then be approved at the ballot box).

Proponents say:

“There is also a practical issue. As you many know, many states are not right-to-work states. For many jobs in many parts of the country, people can be forced to join a labor union against their will just to hold a job. A nearby example of an organization that is not “right-to-work” is the  Metro.

When major businesses in the United States expand or relocate, a key factor in their consideration is locating in a place that has strong right-to-work laws. “By placing this provision in the state Constitution, Virginia would send a strong signal nationally that we want businesses to locate, expand, and create jobs in our state.”  (This is an excerpt of an e-mail written by Delegate Jim LeMunyon)

Opponents say:

“It is already in the Code.  This is just politics.”  Also, they point out that it is not fair that some people have to pay to get the benefits of being in a Union (e.g. negotiated wages and benefits with the government and private businesses), and others get to be “freeloaders” by getting the benefits without having to pay.

(2) Allowing local governments to exempt property taxes for spouses of Police and Firefighters killed in the line of duty.

This is not as controversial as the other amendment.  This proposed amendment allows, not requires, local governments to exempt from property tax the homes of a surviving spouse of a law enforcement officer or other emergency responder who is killed in the line of duty. A similar provision already exists for surviving spouses of members of the armed forces who are killed in the line of duty or are permanently disabled.

Proponents say that approval of this amendment is one way of showing our support for people who risk their lives every day to keep us safe.

Opponents don’t seem to be against this, but they point out that as more and more groups seek similar exemptions, our tax base begins to deteriorate.  And every person who gets exempted must have their share of taxes be made up by other citizens who have to pay property taxes.

I wanted to provide an explanation that is non-partisan and consists of just the facts.  Please let me know if you have any questions.  If you want my opinion, just e-mail me at  dave@davealbo.com and I would be happy to share it.

Governor McAuliffe Announces Budget Shortfall

Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that Virginia’s budget shortfall is about $1.5 billion. The fiscal year 2016 budget shortfall is about $279 million, the fiscal year 2017 budget shortfall is about $564 million and the fiscal year 2018 budget shortfall is about $630 million. This is the result of a lagging economy that generated less tax revenue than expected. Our economy is replacing high paying full time jobs with lower paying part time jobs. However, Virginia’s constitution requires a balanced budget. When the General Assembly returns to Richmond for Session in January, we will balance the budget. We will do this while working to preserve K-12 funding, protect our investments in higher-education, and maintain our commitment to fully-funding the state pension system. This shortfall backs the General Assembly’s decision not to expand Medicaid. It proves that Virginia cannot afford new long-term fiscal obligations like Medicaid expansion. Since 2008, the Republican-led General Assembly has closed three budget shortfalls totaling $8.6 billion without raising taxes. Over the last 15 years, Virginia has seen four budget shortfalls. But each time, we have met our constitutional obligation to balance the budget.

  • In 2008 we closed a $665.4 for FY2008 shortfall without raising taxes.
  • In 2009 and 2010 we closed a $6.1 billion shortfall for FY09-10 without raising taxes. Governor Tim Kaine’s plan to raise taxes did not receive a single vote in the legislature.
  • In 2014 we met in a special session to address an unexpected shortfall of $1.9 billion.

That being said, while budget shortfalls are never good, my fellow legislators and I have seen them before and we will work to balance this one just as efficiently as in previous years.