Which NOVA transportation projects will be funded?

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) held a packed public hearing in Fairfax on which projects will receive funding in fiscal years 2015 and 2016 from a pot of approximately $350 million.

The widening of Rolling Road in Springfield did not make the cut.

Watch this short clip from last night’s meeting.

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VDOT Shares News on Paving and Pothole Repairs

Within just a few weeks, VDOT crews have filled more than 10,000 potholes in NOVA. You can continue to report potholes online at http://www.virginiadot.org/travel/citizen.asp  or to operators 24/7 at VDOT’s Customer Service Center at 800–FOR-ROAD (367-7623).

While they will continue this patching effort in full-force throughout the spring, there’s more good news!

Next month, the Virginia Department of Transportation kicks off $168 million worth of paving to further improve our roads! It is estimated that crews will place approximately one million tons of asphalt and four million linear feet of pavement.

This includes 31 lane miles of interstates, almost 50 lane miles of primary routes as well as extensive paving on secondary roads and neighborhood streets of almost 1,000 lane miles. You can check out the roads scheduled for paving statewide at www.virginiaroads.org.

It is important to note that none of this work could be possible without the generation of funds from the passage of the 2013 Transportation bill (HB2313).  I helped write this monumental transportation package and made sure there was a provision included which I call the “kill-switch.” This non-negotiable rules states that all money raised in NOVA must stay in NOVA. I call it the “Kill Switch” because it kills the revenues sources if any of the money is spent on anything other than transportation, or outside of NOVA.

Prior to this bill’s passage, there is not one penny of money to repave any roads in Springfield, Fairfax Station, Lorton, Mason Neck, South County, Mt. Vernon… in fact, there was no money to repave anywhere else in VA. There was not a penny for one stop light in all of Virginia. And by 2017, there was not going to be even one penny for constructing any road that was not partially federally funded.

Now, we can finally see some of the money that has been generated from this bill! It has taken some time to “fill up the bucket” again, but this paving kick-off is exactly what we need to get our Virginia roads back on track!

Delegate Albo announces his Campaign for Reelection

Springfield, VA- On March 18th, 2015, Delegate Dave Albo submitted the required documents to run in the Republican primary, confirming that he will seek reelection as Delegate of Virginia’s 42nd House District. Del. Albo has served in the House of Delegates since 1994 and currently serves as the Chairman of the House Courts of Justice Committee.

Del. Albo grew up in West Springfield and currently lives in the South County area with his wife Rita and their 9 yr. old son Ben. Del. Albo stated, “I decided to run again because I still enjoy helping people where I grew up and have lived for the past 45 years.”

During his time at the General Assembly, Del. Albo has addressed the concerns of his constituents. These concerns have ranged from fixing small everyday problems to solving the most vexing issues facing Virginia.

Some of Del. Albo’s significant achievements:

  • Removed illegal signs from roadways
  • Made restaurants smoke-free
  • Banned commercial trucks from parking on residential streets
  • Invented the financing system that built South County Secondary School
  • Created more in-state slots for his constituents by adding 1,700 in-state slots at Virginia’s top universities
  • As Chairman of the Courts of Justice, Del. Albo oversaw the development of every new criminal and civil law in the past decade
  • Authored of most of Virginia’s Anti-Gang Crime and Anti-DUI Laws
  • Co-authored of Virginia’s Internet “Spam” Crimes Act and the Uniform Computer Internet Transactions Act
  • Co-authored the 2013 Transportation Bill that delivers Billions of new revenue for roads and rail, under the non-negotiable rule that the money raised in Northern Virginia stays in NOVA and 100% has to be used for transportation projects

Del. Albo’s effectiveness continues to be amongst the top in the House. Just this past session, Del. Albo was the chief patron of legislation that protects people from internet-defamation, allows mothers to breast-feed in public areas, and decriminalizes the possession and use of Cannabidiol and THC-A oil to treat patients and children with intractable epilepsy.

Albo’s legislative work always emphasizes making our government live within its means, improving upon our transportation, reforming our education system, and protecting our families from violent criminals, child molesters, and drug dealers.

“One of my proudest achievements is being on the team that during the Great Recession cut government spending to 2007 levels and saved money for the Rainy Day Fund,” said Del. Albo.

Del. Albo looks to build on these accomplishments in 2016 and to continue to serve the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Automatic 0-50% for all FCPS Students (Part II)

Check out this letter from Steven A. Lockard, Ph.D. Deputy Superintendent Fairfax County Public Schools. Not only is he proposing no zero grades (e.g. even if the kid never comes to class and never does any work he gets a 50% — see previous blog and Fox News Article), but no test is a final test.  He is proposing mandated test retakes. Young students in Fairfax County who are not yet self-motivated will never study for an exam because they could just retake it.  Now as an adult, I know what happens in the real world.  In my career as an attorney, if I show up unprepared, I can ruin my clients’ entire life.  There are no retakes in Court, and no retakes in life. This is the kind of Liberal education philosophy that will ruin our nationally recognized schools and could even ruin our economy.  What company wants to open up in an area where their future employees think they can receive a 50% for doing nothing and re-do a project after failing?

Here is the letter:

Dear Middle and High School Teachers,

I am reaching out to you, the members of the secondary teaching community, to share information about work that must begin in our division.  It is time to examine our current grading policies in an effort to ensure that we have consistent and equitable practices throughout our middle and high schools.

You may be wondering why we feel it is important to address this topic at this time.  Our middle schools and some of our high schools have moved towards implementing research-based grading policies that strive to ensure that grades accurately represent student achievement.  These policies include practices that encourage students to continue learning for demonstration of mastery. I commend these schools for their work in this area and recognize that steps forward in parts of the division create inequity when viewing the entire school system – that is something we can and must address.  In addition, engaging in this work will provide us the opportunity to ensure that we are all utilizing reasonable and consistent grading policies as we fully implement the SIS ParentView and open our gradebooks to parents. 

As a school system, it is imperative that all of our students are afforded sound and equitable practices and therefore the time is now to engage in these complex conversations and begin to consider change.  We are striving for transparency in the process and need as much perspective as possible. 

The work ahead requires our school system to consider long range and short term recommendations to the following grade-related concepts/topics:

  • Examine and make recommendations for eliminating or limiting the use of “zeros” in the 100 point marking system.
  • Examine and make recommendations for assessment retakes with associated guidelines.
  • Examine and make recommendations for separating work habits and achievement.
  • Examine and make recommendations regarding the “maximums” and “minimums” grades can carry; i.e., tests count for “X”% of grade, participation “X”%, etc.
  • Examine and make recommendations regarding the formulation of “final” course grades.
  • Make recommendations regarding minimum number of grades per grading period.  As it relates specifically to the electronic gradebook, examine and make recommendations regarding reasonable turnaround time(s) for grades to be posted to the electronic gradebook.

These are large and complex concepts so it is important that we take our time, get the necessary input and perspective and be careful and purposeful as we move forward.  While there is no set timeline for any changes, our hope is that over the remainder of this school year, through the feedback we gather, that we will be able to determine what, if any changes to grading policies could be considered for the 2015-16 school year and beyond.  It is critically important that teacher perspective and input are heard and valued as we plan this change.

I have convened a central oversight committee consisting of principals and other members of division leadership. In addition, we will be asking each middle and high school principal to select two teacher representatives to participate in focus groups that will meet over the next several months. We will also be asking our teacher associations to provide teacher representatives for the focus groups.  The role of these teachers will be to provide input to the committee as they consider and make any recommendations for short and long term change to the Leadership Team and School Board. 

 I encourage us all to educate ourselves on current research and engage in conversations with our colleagues as we pursue consistent and equable grading practices on behalf of our students. As always, I am incredibly appreciative of the work that you do each and every day for our students.

Sincerely,

Steve

Steven A. Lockard, Ph.D.

Deputy Superintendent

Fairfax County Public Schools

8115 Gatehouse Road

Falls Church, VA 22042

571-423-1020

Twitter: @SteveLockard1

This will create an environment where no child can possibly fail. But how will anyone know the opposite, when a student truly excels? How will colleges and universities know who to accept?

My prediction is that if this goes into practice, it won’t be there for long. Parents are not going to like no grades, hence no grade-point average.

Dave Albo

Automatic 0-50% for all FCPS Students (Part I)

Fairfax County Public Schools plans to give students an automatic 50% for doing nothing, rather than receiving a 0. If you think I am making this up, click on this story:

http://video.foxnews.com/v/4121287578001/should-schools-eliminate-zeroes-from-grading-policy/?#sp=show-clips

If this proposal in enacted, FCPS is will ruin what makes our schools so great. They will not give a single zero. Students will receive 50% for absolutely NOTHING.  I cannot help but think this is crazy. This sounds like an “Everyone Gets a Trophy” school system.

Everything I have in my life can be traced back to my parents or the great education I received at Rolling Valley Elementary, Washington Irving Middle School, and West Springfield High School.

Making a 50% the new floor instead of zero essentially cuts the requirements to achieve in half. This is insanity and if I can do anything to defeat this, I will!

2015 VA General Assembly Session Legal Related Bills

Here is a list of the legislation that passed this year and I expect that the Governor will sign into law (perhaps with clarifying amendments).   All become effective July 1, unless otherwise stated.  These are not all the laws passed. – just the ones I thought were interesting.  For the full web site of all laws, log onto: http://leg1.state.va.us.

Note:  Italics indicates new language we are adding to existing law, and strikethrough indicates language we are deleting from the existing law.

Civil Legislation
PI /Worker’s Comp /Med Mal. Law

  • HB 1350: Personal injury or wrongful death action; appointment of administrator.
  • HB 1476: Nurse practitioners; expert witness testimony, added to definition of health care provider.
  • HB 1486: Workers’ compensation; exclusivity of remedy.
  • HB 1610: Punitive or exemplary damages; consistency provided by changing references to damages.
  • HB 1775: Medical malpractice proceedings; health care providers; expert testimony.
  • HB 1819: Motor vehicle accidents; underinsured motorist claims, settlement procedures, subrogation.
  • HB 2016: Personal injury or wrongful death action; qualification of fiduciary.
  • SB 761: Personal injury and wrongful death actions; disclosure of address of alleged tortfeasor, etc.
  • SB 845: Volunteer first responders; immunity from civil liability when in route to an emergency.

 Family Law

  • HB 1397: Divorce; evidence by affidavit.
  • HB 1601: Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA); amends Act to modify current version.
  • HB 1951: Child support; proportionate share of health insurance premiums.
  • HB 1783: Child support; arrearage.
  • HB 2383: Child support; disabled child over the age of 18.

Estate Planning

  • HB 1657: Advance directives; directions about life-prolonging procedures during pregnancy.
  • HB 1798: Fiduciary; qualification without security, issuance of certificates of qualification.
  • SB 1064: Administration of estates; liability of heir or devisee for real estate conveyed.

Property

  • HB 1794: Foreclosure sale by trustee in execution of deed of trust; advertisement of time-share properties
  • HB 1905: Landlord and tenant law; retaliatory conduct by landlord.
  • HB 2080: Condominium Act and Property Owners’ Association Act; notice of sale under deed of trust.
  • SB 762: Tenancy by the entireties; property held in trust.

Construction

  • SB 891: Mechanics’ liens; subcontractor’s waiver of lien rights.

Civil Pro

  • HB 1610: Punitive or exemplary damages; consistency provided by changing references to damages.
  • HB 1635: Defamation; statue of limitations, actions involving Internet.
  • HB 1767: Unlawful detainer proceedings; satisfaction of judgments.
  • HB 1984: Judges; increases mandatory retirement age from 70 to 73.
  • HB 2048: General district court or circuit court; payment of funds.
  • HB 2172: Courts of record; submission of trial court record to appellate court.
  • HB 2355: Electronic communication service or remote computing service; obtaining records, real-time data
  • SB 1085: Value of property; enforcement of liens.

Criminal Legislation

  • HB 1287: Forfeiture of property used in connection with commission of crimes; conviction required.
  • HB 1308: Wire, electronic, or oral communications; civil action for unlawful interception, disclosure, etc.
  • HB 1353: Sex offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry; Supplement to Registry.
  • HB 1355: Photo monitoring; use of systems to enforce traffic light signals, appeals.
  • HB 1367: Temporary injunction; affidavit or verified pleading
  • HB 1500: Overdoses; definition, safe reporting by individual.
  • HB 1506: Deferred and installment payments; condition of all agreements for fines, costs, etc., posting.
  • HB 1611: Assault and battery; felony when committed against certain persons.
  • HB 1639: DUI; persons convicted under laws of other states or federal law.
  • HB 1764: Criminal history record information; dissemination, etc., civil actions.
  • HB 1927: Criminal cases; venue for prosecution.
  • HB 1928: DNA; analysis upon conviction of certain misdemeanors.
  • HB 1946: Administrative subpoenas; electronic communication services.
  • HB 1957: Juvenile records; DMV information released to certain persons.
  • HB 1964: Commercial sex trafficking; penalties.
  • HB 2040: Prostitution, pandering, etc.; violation of certain provisions is punishable.
  • HB 2043: Incarcerated persons; transfer to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
  • HB 2120: Strangulation; alleged victim is a family or household member, admission to bail.
  • HB 2228: Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry; registration verification.
  • HB 2286: Firearms or ammunition; possession by convicted felons, restoration of rights, etc.
  • HB 2049: Preliminary hearing; certification of ancillary misdemeanor offenses.
  • SB 709: Computer and other crimes; venue for prosecution.
  • SB 720: Arrest photos on Internet; penalty.
  • SB 721: Seizure of property; receipt required.
  • SB 794: Judicial personnel; testimony of certain personnel.
  • SB 832: Blood samples; person authorized to take samples pursuant to a search warrant, immunity.
  • SB 855: Capital cases; determination of mental retardation.
  • SB 892: Overdoses; establishes an affirmative defense to prosecution of an individual, etc., safe reporting
  • SB 908: Police and court records; expungement, court may order without conducting a hearing
  • SB 915: Indecent liberties; venue.
  • SB 918: Sex offender registration; verification.
  • SB 919: Administrative subpoenas; electronic communication services, sealing of subpoena.
  • SB 961: Juvenile Justice, Department of; access to criminal history record information.
  • SB 1056: Child pornography and obscenity offenses; penalties.
  • SB 1290: Criminal cases; venue for prosecution.
  • SB 1307: Search warrants; collection of evidence from computers, computer networks, or other device.

Transportation Committee Bills

  • HB 1342: Driver of motor vehicle following too closely; includes non-motor vehicles.
  • SB 1411: Court costs; agreement with DMV authorizing collection of payment.

End of 2015 Session Summary

Some have characterized the 2015 legislative session as ‘boring’ due to the lack of controversial issues that have marked sessions in the past. While this may be true, boring is good because we are getting the people’s business done. For starters, we passed a budget! This is noteworthy considering that the federal government has been unable to do so in 7 years. It has been a bipartisan effort and I am proud to say that my colleagues and I have accomplished many of our goals.

Here is a brief outline of the 2015 Session accomplishments:

  • Autism Insurance: Health insurers will be required to provide diagnosis and treatment for children with autism from ages 2-10. State law currently mandates coverage for children until the age of 6.
  • Right to Try: Terminally ill patients gain access to experimental drugs that have not yet received FDA approval. The bill seeks to give these patients every opportunity to extend their lives.
  • Opiates and Prescription Drugs Prevention: Prescription drug and opioid abuse has dramatically increased in the inner city, rural areas, and suburbs of Virginia. Moreover, the increase in usage has led to an increase of overdose related deaths. To combat this growing problem, we passed the following legislation:
    • Reporting: Many overdoses could have been prevented if the proper authorities were informed in a timely matter. We passed a bill that encourages this action. The bills states that a person will not be prosecuted for minor possession and intoxication, if he reports the overdose to police and stays with the overdosed person until the authorities arrive.
    • Overdose-Reversal: A pilot program will be expanded to enable law enforcement agencies to use naloxone. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that counteracts the effects of a prescription opioid or a heroin overdoes.
    • Probation Monitoring: Probation officers gain access to Virginia’s Prescription Monitoring Program to confirm that their probationers are not obtaining unauthorized opioid prescriptions.
  • Drones: Law enforcement will be required to obtain a search warrant before using flying drones. A search warrant will not be required for certain emergencies and training activities.
  • Surveillance: Law enforcement will be limited to retaining information collected from license plate readers for 7 days. The bill does not apply to ongoing criminal investigations.
  • Uber and Lyft: The legislation establishes safety and operating regulations such as background checks and specific insurance requirements for drivers of the innovative transportation network companies.
  • Ethics Reform: This bill establishes a cap on all gifts to any public official of $100, bans travel unless the travel has been determined by an ethics panel to be for education or legislative business, and allows legislators to attend civic association/charitable organizations where they may receive a gift of a meal.
  • Voting: New legislation will require registered voters to provide photo identification during the absentee ballot application.
  • Veterans: Many outstanding bills were passed this legislative session to help our veterans in Virginia. Here are some of my favorites:
    • College Credits: Virginian veterans can now receive academic credit for qualified training and educational programs that he or she completed during their service in the Armed forces.
    • Real Property Tax: The surviving spouse of a United States military member who was killed in action will be exempt from paying property taxes. The exemption ceases if the surviving spouse remarries.
    • Federal Aid for Public School: The Department of Education will track students with a parent in the military. Schools with 20 percent or more students from military families can receive federal aid. The students’ identities will remain anonymous.
    • We did not create a “Veterans Court” because it is already authorized under existing law. In fact, Fairfax started one this year. This does not reduce punishments or let people off their charges just because of military service. The law in the Commonwealth and the US is blind. However, it does coordinate treatments so that veterans with illnesses such as PTSD will receive the treatment they deserve and need.
  • Official Virginia songs: The traditional state song will be “Our Great Virginia” and the popular song will be “Sweet Virginia Breeze.” (Note: Some have written to me asking why we are “wasting time” on things like this. I assure you that this bill took no more than 3 minutes to discuss on the House Floor.)
  • Eugenics Compensation: Victims of Virginia’s eugenics program will each receive $25,000 in compensation. The state program was authorized to perform forcible sterilizations from 1924 to 1979. While monetary means will not make up for the injustice and suffering that the estimated 8,000 victims experienced, I hope this measure provides some level of comfort and healing.

2015 Budget 

Below is a list of a lot of new spending items, but rest assured, the only reason there is new spending is that your General Assembly did the heavy lifting in previous years. We have cut Billions since the Recession started in 2007. In fact, in just the past two years, we cut $1 Billion in general funds from the original budget proposed in Dec of 2013.

Budget Agreements

  • Does not raise taxes
  • Spends $1 billion less in general funds than the originally adopted 2-year budget proposed. Virginia’s General Fund (Discretionary) budget is at 2007 levels. We control spending and put ½ of all surpluses into the Rainy Day fund. Unlike states like Maryland, with extra income taxes on people making more than $100,000, taxes on flushing the toilet, and even grocery bags, by not expanding government, we don’t have to raise your taxes. Virginia lives within it’s means.
  • Eliminates $11.7 million in fees proposed by Governor McAuliffe
    • Restaurant Inspection Fee
    • Weights & Measures Fee
    • VDACS Inspection Fee
    • Underground storage cleanup deductible
    • Saltwater License Fee
  • Eliminates $33 million in debt proposed by Governor McAuliffe
  • Provides $43 million in new funding to make sure that the Virginia Retirement system will be fully funded. Many state’s systems are going bankrupt. We eliminated the full pension three years ago and went to a 401K type plan. So our state employee retirement system will be fully funded in the future.

K-12 Education

  • 1.5% pay raise to teachers and support staff
  • An overall increase of $60 million for K-12 education. Our Fairfax County School students are receiving $144 MORE in state money than in 2013.

Higher Education

  • Includes an additional $42 million for higher education, restoring 94% of the recent cuts that were adopted last year when we had a huge budget shortfall.
  • $19.8 million to incentivize enrollment. This includes my project to increase the number of in-state slots by 1,700+ at UVA, JMU, W&M and VA Tech.
  • $10.1 million for financial aid
  • $5 million for research
  • 2% faculty pay raise
  • $132 million for capital construction projects at Virginia Tech, James Madison, Virginia Commonwealth University, Longwood, Radford, and Danville Community College. Virginia will only use cash to fund all college capital projects

Compensation

  • 2% across-the-board raise for state police and state employees, including compression for senior classified employees
  • $4 million to rollback cuts to state police overtime
  • 2% pay raise for state-supported local employees

Local Government

  • Restores $30 million in funding cuts adopted by the supplemental budget to address shortfall
  • 2% pay raise for state-supported local employees
  • Deposits $193 million into teacher retirement fund, saving localities over $30 million in required teacher retirement costs

Healthcare Safety Net

  • $132.9 million for healthcare safety net
  • Funding to provide targeted services to 22,000 seriously mentally-ill patients, including a prescription drug benefit
  • Nearly doubles operational funding for free clinics – total of $6 million in funding
  • Funds behavioral health community services including three new PACT teams and six new drop-off centers
  • Increases funding for children’s psychiatry and crisis services

Other Items

  • $27 million in funding for the Governor’s Opportunity Fund; earmarks $4 million for Jefferson Lab Ion Collider efforts
  • Authorizes bonds to construct two new Veterans Care Centers, one in Northern Virginia and one in Hampton Roads
  • $9 million for housing & homelessness
  • $8 million deposit into the Housing Trust Fund
  • $1 million for rapid rehousing efforts, including $500,000 specifically for veterans

Some of Delegate Albo’s Bills:

  • Medicinal Marijuana: The bill decriminalizes the possession and use of THC-A oil to treat intractable epilepsy.
  •  Breastfeeding in Public: My bill enables mothers to breastfeed in public places. Previously, the law only protected mothers to breastfeed on state property.
  • Internet Defamation: My bill extends the statue of limitations until the identity of the publisher is discovered in lawsuits pertaining to anonymous Internet defamation.
  • Marriage Certificate: My bill provides for the options of spouse, groom, or bride on the marriage license application. The bill also requires the clerk of court to retain one copy of the completed marriage license and give another copy to the State Registrar of Vital Records.
  • Building Roads and Rail based on Science: (HB 1915 Delegate Albo Co-Patron) Delegate LeMunyon’s transportation bill requires the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to use scientific research during the planning process of road construction (e.g. congestion reduction).
  • Missing persons search and rescue: The bill provides that all local law enforcement agencies may not maintain or establish a policy that requires a waiting period before accepting a critically missing adult report. A law enforcement agency that receives such a report must begin an investigation within two hours after receiving the report. My 2014 bill created the study. I was the co-patron this year.
  • College Campus Sexual Violence: (HB 1930 Delegate Albo Chief Co-Patron) Delegate Bell’s bill ensures that victims have access to the information regarding their options and available support services. The bill also establishes a procedure to handle sexual assault charges for higher education institutions.

Overall, I am very pleased with the headway we made during the 2015 General Assembly. We covered a wide ground of issues and were able to pass a variety of bills and a balanced budget. Working together led to a very efficient session that will surely benefit the commonwealth.

I wanted to share a recent article from Forbes titled “Learn From Other States’ Experience: Don’t Expand Medicaid.”

Click here to read the entire Forbes article

Lucys storyxIf you have a few minutes to spare, please watch this video about a young girl named Lucy. She is one of many who will benefit from the passage of my bill, HB 1445. This bill allows for the use Cannabidiol oil and THC-A oil by patients who suffer from persistent epileptic seizures.

Click here to watch the video.

 

VA House of Delegates passes reforms to Ethics Laws

Last year, the House wrote and passed legislation to significantly strengthen our ethics laws. We created an independent commission to review and advise members and the public on ethics laws, required mandatory training for elected officials, required all disclosure forms to be posted online, increased the frequency of filing and required legislators to report gifts to family members.

This year, we built on that work by creating a $100 hard gift cap, requiring legislators to have travel pre-approved by an independent commission, and prohibit the Governor from accepting campaign contributions from businesses that are seeking money from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund.

These are meaningful steps that will improve transparency, hold elected officials more accountable, and hopefully restore some of the public’s trust in government.

Here is some background information on the bill that was passed by the General Assembly this past Friday.

Creates $100 gift cap on all gifts

This lowers the gift cap from $250 to $100 and eliminates the distinction between tangible and intangible gifts. Put simply, this bill makes it illegal for lobbyists, their clients and persons seeking to do business with the state or a local governments to give an elected official a gift worth more than $100. Elected officials must report gifts over $50.

Decreases Advisory Council Members 

This bill decreases the number of members on the Conflict of Interests Advisory Council from 15 to 9. The speaker, Senate Committee on Rules and the Governor will each appoint three members. The Speaker and Senate Committee on Rules will each appoint one member from each party and a retired judge from a court. The Governor will appoint a designee from the Virginia Association on Counties, the Virginia Municipal League and a retired judge from a court of record.

Widely-attended event exception

This will create an exception to the gift cap for “widely attended events” that will allow elected officials to attend public events without potentially violating the law. This is similar to Congressional rules and Governor McAuliffe’s executive order.

Requires pre-authorized travel

This bill requires travel to be pre-approved by the Conflicts of Interest Advisory Council and requires travel to have some reasonable nexus between official duties and purpose of travel. Statutory travel related to service on a board or commission is exempt. Political travel is exempt from the pre-clearance requirement, but must still be reported on campaign finance filings. Travel will be reviewed based on the length of the trip, location of the trip, the value of the trip and any patterns of travel. The council has five days to approve or reject the travel. Officials may re-apply if the travel is rejected.

Codifies check-writing practice

Often elected officials will write a check for a gift they receive that exceeds the cap. This is a longstanding practice, most recently exercised by Governor McAuliffe. This simply codifies it in the Conflict of Interest Acts.

Mandates online filing  

Elected officials must file disclosure forms online, which the Conflict of Interests Acts Council would post in a transparent, online, searchable database. Forms will be posted online six weeks after filing to allow for review and amendments of good faith errors.

Class 5 felony for disclosure form violations

This creates a class 5 felony for knowing gift-reporting violations. Previously, disclosure forms were required to be signed by a notary public. Falsifying a form with a notary public is a class 5 felony. In order to allow online filing, the notary requirement was removed. The end result is that the penalty is the same.

Investigatory & subpoena powers

The investigatory and subpoena powers remain entrusted to the Senate and House Ethics Advisory Panels. Commonwealth Attorneys remain empowered to investigate violations of these laws.

Commonwealth Opportunity Fund

The bill prohibits the Governor from knowingly accepting campaign contributions from companies seeking grants from the Commonwealth Opportunity Fund.

Clarifies definitions

Certain definitions and aspects of the 2014 law are clarified, including limiting the “personal friend” exemption to exclude those seeking business with state or local government.