The 2015 Budget

As the General Assembly’s 2015 session comes to a close, I would like to share some exciting news with you. On February 26, the General Assembly passed amendments to improve the Commonwealth’s current two-year budget. And we did this 2 days early!

Here are a few important points from the agreement:

  • Budget does not raise taxes
  • Eliminates $33 million in debt proposed by Governor McAuliffe
  • Sets aside $129.5 million for a rainy-day fund deposit in 2017
  • Eliminates $11.7 million in fees proposed by Governor McAuliffe
  • Rejects Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion
  • Restores 94% of cuts to higher education adopted by the supplemental budget
  • Gives an extra $60 million to K-12 education
  • Provides $132.9 million for the healthcare safety net

Click here to watch my brief floor speech on the budget bill (HB 1400).

For more in-depth information on the budget, here are a few links you may find interesting:

My brief explanation of the 2015 Budget Bill

BudgetBill2015

 

Click here to view the video. 

VDOT Traffic Alert – Franconia Road

All lanes of eastbound and westbound Route 644 (Franconia Road) at the I-95 interchange will intermittently close between 9:00 p.m. Thursday, February 26 and 5:00 AM Friday, February 27. Each closure will last up to 30 minutes.

Motorists will still be able to access both I-95 North and South, as well as the 95 Express Lanes.

More information can be found here.

Session Update #6

It’s week six of the General Assembly’s seven week legislative session, and I’m pleased to report that my following bills passed the Senate:

  • HB 1635: Defamation, Statute of Limitations for Suits on the Internet.
  • HB 1445: Medical Marijuana for Epilepsy.
  • HB 1499: Right to breast-feed in public places.
  • HB 1628: Virginia Public Procurement Act; contract modification.
  • HB 1439: Alcoholic beverage control; regulations. (Approved by Governor)
  • HB 1440: Alcoholic beverage control; ABC Board markups. (Approved by Governor)

The House and Senate have been meeting in conference to resolve differences in our budget. Speaker Howell incorporated a rules change for the budget this year so that it will be posted for the public and the press to view at least 48 hours before we vote on it. The Richmond Times-Dispatch praised the new policy earlier this year, saying that “the move will increase public access.”

Once the budget conferees finish their work, you can find their budget online at http://leg2.state.va.us/MoneyWeb.NSF/sb2015.

Other Legislation

Governor McAuliffe has begun to sign legislation that’s passed both the House and Senate. This week, he signed Delegate Tom Rust’s bill to let Uber, Lyft and other transportation network companies to operate in Virginia. The Charlottesville Daily Progress wrote an editorial in support of the legislation: “Bill strikes balance on governance

Legislative Survey

Thank you to everyone who participated in my survey. I received over 800 responses! Your commentary was much appreciated because it helps me do my job here in Richmond. If you left a specific comment or question, please know I am working on getting back to you as quickly as I can.

Here is a brief summary of the survey results:

  • 73.73% of respondents feel that government is already big enough, should not raise taxes, and just live within its means, while 26.27% of respondents feel the federal government should raise taxes to provide more services.
  • 69.76% of respondents oppose Medicaid expansion in Virginia.
  • 81.28% of respondents believe state government has a role to play in incentivizing job creation through the use of tax credits and economic development incentives.
  • 66.01% of respondents think they pay about the right amount in Virginia’s taxes, while 20.08% believe they pay too much, and 13.91% think they pay too little.
  • 73.78% of respondents support mandatory reporting policies for sexual assault on college campuses.
  • 51.40% of respondents believe children of illegal immigrants should be allowed into Virginia colleges if they meet the following requirements: have been here for more than five years, graduated from high school, been accepted to a state university, and plan to apply for permanent residency.
  • 61.13% of respondents support efforts to make the birth control pill available over the counter.
  • 50.47% of respondents oppose voter registration by political party.
  • 64.07% of respondents support a “Convention of States” to enact a balanced budget amendment while 35.93% do not.
  • 70.94% of respondents support giving school boards the ability to begin classes before Labor Day and set their own academic calendars.
  • 69.04% of respondents support efforts to allow home-school kids to participate in public school sports programs.

When asked to put the core services provided by the state government in order of importance (1 being the most important), the top three responses ranked in the following order:

  1. Cutting wasteful government spending
  2. Creating jobs and improving the economy
  3. Improving transportation

Highlights of the Week:

Students on House Floor

On Monday, President’s Day, students and their families from the district visited me at the Capitol. These inspiring artists were nice enough to lend me their artwork to hang in my office during the 2015 session. While they were here I took them onto the House floor and we all pretended to vote on a bill in Mr. Jefferson’s Capitol. I am always amazed at how talented our young students are! I want to thank all my visitors for making the trek to Richmond despite the inclement weather.

Article on my ABC Authority bill:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/va-legislature-unanimous-in-effort-to-dilute-alcohol-control-board-politics/2015/02/16/8e7f63dc-b5de-11e4-aa05-1ce812b3fdd2_story.html

As always, my staff and I are here in Richmond to serve you. We want to hear what you think about the legislation pending before the House, or if there’s anything we can do to help you in dealing with a state government agency. My office can be reached at (804) 698-1042 or via email at DelDAlbo@house.virginia.gov. If you are planning to visit Richmond during Session, I encourage you to visit me in General Assembly building room 529.

Dave Albo

 

February 16, 2015 – Winter Storm Warning

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning that will be in effect until tomorrow, February 17. Possible snow accumulation for our area could be up to 10 inches! I encourage everyone to please stay safe in your daily travels during this storm. Here are some useful links that will keep you updated on the storm and road conditions.

Roads & VDOT:

VDOT Plow Tracker- After two inches of snow, you can track the snow plows in your neighborhood and see their progress. Please follow this link: http://vdotplows.org/.

Check the real-time video feed of road conditions before you decide to drive at http://www.511virginia.org/.

Governor McAuliffe has already released a statement saying that VDOT is, “ready to go to treat and plow roads.” At the height of a statewide storm such as this one, 2,500 additional workers take shifts to clear the roads and remove the snow.

Power Outages:

Downed Trees:

Please report downed trees you see appropriately, if trees fall in your neighborhood, here’s who to call regarding removal:

  • Adjacent to Public Roads
    • Contact Virginia Department of Transportation at 1-800-FOR-ROAD, TTY 711.
  • On County Parkland
    • Contact Fairfax County Park Authority at 703-324-8594, TTY703-324-3988
  • Posing Hazard to Public Areas
    • Contact Fairfax County Urban Forestry at 703-324-1770, TTY703-324-1877
  • Private Property
    • Removal is the property owner’s responsibility.

Washington Gas

If you smell gas, or in the event of a natural gas emergency, leave the area immediately and call 911 and Washington Gas at 703-750-1400 or 1-800-752-7520.

VDOT and the National Weather Service is emphasizing the extreme wind chill that will be accompanying this storm, so be sure to wear multiple layers if you have to leave your home during the storm. Stay safe, warm, and dry!

 

Session Update #5

This week we made it to crossover in the General Assembly. I’m pleased to report that my following bills passed the House:

  • HB 1503: Driving after forfeiture of license; blood alcohol content.
  • HB 1635: Defamation, Statute of Limitations for Suits on the Internet.
  • HB 1445: Medical Marijuana for Epilepsy.
  • HB 1499: Right to breast-feed in public places.
  • HB 1469: Marriage certificates; listing parties as spouse, bride, or groom.
  • HB 1628: Virginia Public Procurement Act; contract modification.
  • HB 1439: Alcoholic beverage control; regulations.
  • HB 1440: Alcoholic beverage control; ABC Board markups.
  • HB 1776: Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority; eliminates ABC Board.
  • HJ 537: Drug trafficking; interstate cooperation.

Highlights of the Week

Republican Crossover Speech

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I was asked to participate in the Republican Crossover press conference. Here is a segment of my speech:

“House Republicans led efforts this year to make state government work more efficiently. Our ABC reorganization bill structures the Alcoholic Beverage Control more like a business, with more accountability and less political influence. House Bill 1887 reforms the way we fund transportation, making the funding more transparent and responsive to local needs. And we passed legislation that prevents state agencies from spending beyond their means with IOUs or debt that bypasses General Assembly approval. The result of these policies is a more accountable, efficient state government.”

After giving our presentation to the Senate Courts of Justice committee, Andi Geloo and I stepped outside to discuss House Bill 1635. I am happy to say that our hard work is paying off. The bill passed the committee and is now being read on the Senate floor.

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On Tuesday, I was photographed during one of my many speeches on the House floor. I still look forward to these moments after 21 years of service! The legislative process never fails to excite me.


In case you have not read my 2015 Session Crossover letter yet, here is the link: https://gallery.mailchimp.com/36ccf7936aeb7c78af6449937/files/Crossover_Online_Final_Version.pdf

As always, my staff and I are here in Richmond to serve you. We want to hear what you think about the legislation pending before the House, or if there’s anything we can do to help you in dealing with a state government agency. My office can be reached at (804) 698-1042 or via email at DelDAlbo@house.virginia.gov. If you are planning to visit Richmond during Session, I encourage you to visit me in General Assembly building room 529.

Dave Albo

 

 

2015 General Assembly Session Crossover Summary

Virginia is still a leading job creator in the nation. Virginia ranks in the top 10 in the country for:

  • “Best State for Business” by Forbes Magazine
  • “America’s Top State for Business” by CNBC
  • “Best Per Capita Income” by Business Facility
  • “Best States to Make a Living” by Money-Rates.com
  • “Best Overall Education System” by Education Week and Quality Counts
  • “Best Place for Children to Succeed from Childhood to Adulthood” by Education Week

More importantly, we have lowered our unemployment rate from 5.9% to 5.5% and have the 8th lowest combined state and local tax burden in the country!

For decades, the economy in Northern Virginia has benefited from federal government spending. However, with the federal government’s recent cuts and the sequestration, our once invincible economy is starting to falter. The long-term solution is obvious, we must diversify our NOVA economy.

With that in mind, I am happy to announce that INOVA Hospital in Fairfax has purchased the ExxonMobil campus (it was vacated with Mobil’s move to Texas). They decided to transform ExxonMobil’s old headquarters into the INOVA Center for Personalized Health, which will specialize in genomic science and bioinformatics. The abundance of massive computing power, top-rate university researchers, and a highly advanced healthcare system, makes Northern Virginia the perfect location for this futuristic field.

Diversifying Virginia’s economy is vital if we want NOVA to continue to have some of the best jobs in the world. Northern Virginia was the home of the Internet. Now let’s make Fairfax the world’s leader in bio genomic research and translational medicine!

Delegate Albo’s Bills

Stopping Drunk Drivers: HB 1503: Driving after forfeiture of license; blood alcohol content.

When a person gets convicted of DUI, he/she loses his/her license for a year but can drive to and from work and to take care of his/her kids, provided that he/she has no alcohol on their breath. If such person is caught driving after drinking any alcohol, by the time he/she is arrested and taken to the police station for a breath alcohol test, that test ends up being administered about an hour after the offense occurred. Prosecutors have a difficult time proving that the alcohol level was over the limit at the time the person was driving. This bill creates a presumption of what the breath alcohol test level was at the time the person was driving.
Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House.

Arresting Drug Dealers: HJ 537: Drug trafficking; interstate cooperation.

Heroin has become an enormous problem in Virginia and much of it is coming over the border from Maryland. When a police officer catches a drug dealer in Virginia and that dealer says that he got the drugs from someone in Maryland, the police officer cannot take action because he has no jurisdiction in Maryland. This resolution requests the Governor of Virginia to initiate a memorandum of agreement with the Governor of Maryland to mutually assist each other in the investigation and arrest of illegal trafficking of controlled substances across state lines.
Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House.

Helping Professional Women Defend Their Careers from Internet Defamation. HB 1635: Defamation, Statute of Limitations for Suits on the Internet.

The increased use of the internet has given us access to vital information at the click of a button. But this technology comes with new problems that must be tackled by lawmakers. This bill came to my attention when a professional working woman (a fellow attorney that I know from the Fairfax Courthouse) was defamed on the internet. The attackers targeted her both personally and professionally, trying to ruin her career. She came to me asking for help in fixing a problem she encountered when she tried to sue these people in order to protect her professional reputation.

In case you have not noticed, people can post outrageous statements on the internet and never use their names. Thus, those seeking to defame the character of an individual can now hide behind a computer screen with an anonymous name, making it highly difficult to identify a perpetrator.

Currently, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s statute of limitations on defamation is one year. In other words, in order to file a lawsuit, a person must file it against a named individual within one year of the defamation. When attempting to uncover the identities of those that are responsible for online defamation, internet service providers must be subpoenaed in order to find out the name of the individual who posted the defamatory statements. This process often takes longer than a year, and thus, people cannot protect themselves against defamation on the internet.

This is the problem that my colleague experienced. Anonymous online users attacked her with racial, sexual, and professionally demeaning comments. In response to learning about the online comments, she filed a defamation lawsuit.

Her suit was dismissed because she did not know the actual names of those responsible. Though she took the steps necessary to find out the true names of those involved, the process took longer than a year, and consequently, the statute of limitations was exceeded. When the courts were unable to give her justice, she reached out to me for help. Together, we drafted House Bill 1635, which says that if a person files a suit within a year, but is unable to know the identities of the defendants, the suit will not be dismissed while he/she await the information from the internet service provider.
Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House.

Helping Mothers Care for Handicapped Children: HB 1445: Medical Marijuana for Epilepsy

My neighbor’s son, suffers from intractable epilepsy. He is now 22 and has been plagued with often up to 100 seizures a day since infancy. Her son has been administered 16 different medications but they have been largely ineffective. He has even been placed on life support 37 times. Having almost exhausted herself of treatments, and having spent millions of dollars on medical bills, my neighbor found medical studies showing that cannabis oil has reduced seizures in 1/3 of patients with intractable epilepsy. (Note: This oil cannot give you a high, but since it is derived from the marijuana plant, it is still illegal under the current law.) With nowhere else to turn, she and other mothers with children similarly afflicted with this horrible sickness contacted me for help. After I was convinced that the medical science does show that the oil can help reduce seizures, I drafted HB 1445 which bars prosecution for the possession of marijuana for people who have a doctor’s certification. This certification must say that they have intractable epilepsy and that in the doctor’s medical opinion, the use of the oil will help alleviate the symptoms. The purpose of this bill is to help people who have hundreds of seizures a day. I am NOT legalizing marijuana. Rather, I am passing a bill that says Virginia will not make a criminal out of a mother who is trying to find a way to help her ailing child.
Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House.

Helping Women Care for Their Children No Matter Where They Are: HB 1499: Right to breast-feed in public places.

A few months ago, a constituent/mother contacted my office to voice her concerns with the breast-feeding laws in Virginia. She was upset that numerous women have been denied the right to breast-feed their child in public places. She informed me that there is already a law dealing with this matter in 47 other states, even Texas! After hearing this, I decided to step in. Current law states that no person may bar another from any area open to the public based upon their race, religion, sex, age, national origin or disability. This bill adds to that list by stating that a mother may breast-feed in any place where the mother is lawfully present. The purpose of this bill is pretty simple – to give mothers the ability to nourish their child wherever and whenever they may need to.
Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House.

Helping Parents Afford College

In just this past year, in-state undergraduate tuition and mandatory fees have increased by an average of $461 (6.8%) at four-year institutions and $180 (4.6%) for the Virginia Community College System. These stark cost increases are troubling for students and their families. To alleviate the financial burden that higher education has become for many Virginians, your House of Delegates passed the following bills:

Four-year public institutions of higher education; alternative tuition or fee structures. HB 1692: This bill gives four-year public institutions an incentive to offer a “Flat-Fee Degree,” (a single/discounted tuition and fee) for students seeking degrees that prepare them for employment in high demand fields. To receive these benefits, students will be required to commit to a degree program early in their academic endeavors and to finish within four years. For example, it could include training in growth employment sectors such as nursing, business administration and other high demand fields.
Albo voted “YES.” This bill passed the house.

Increasing Online Education. HB 2320: This bill establishes a degree program whereby an undergraduate student in Virginia may earn a bachelor’s degree online at a tuition cost not to exceed $4,000 per academic year, or a total of $16,000.
Albo voted “YES.” This bill passed the house.

Getting our Kids into a Virginia College or University. More In-state Slots at Our Virginia Colleges and Universities. HB 1400 (Budget Bill):

We are funding 1,700 more in-state slots at UVA, W&M, JMU, and Virginia Tech! It is frustrating for students to work so hard yet not be able to attend their desired school. This is why this has become one of my top priority projects year-in and year-out. Despite the tight budget (we are still crawling out of the worst Recession since the Great Depression), the House Budget has kept the funds set aside for increased new in-state slots.

Acquiring More Funds for Our Children’s Classrooms – More Funding for Fairfax County Schools HB 1400 (Budget Bill):

Due to the greatest Recession since the Great Depression, schools other than Fairfax have been cut dramatically state-wide. However, in Fairfax County we have actually gained over $400 per student since 2010. To continue on this trend, it is vital that our hard earned dollars stay within Northern Virginia. Legislators from other parts of the State are fighting to remove the “cost to compete” component. My fellow NOVA colleagues, both Democrat and Republican, are fighting together to make sure this does not happen.


OTHER BILLS OF INTEREST

SEXUAL ASSAULT ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES

Statistics show that 1 in 5 women currently in college say that they have been the victims of sexual assault. The General Assembly has working on a myriad of bills dealing with this difficult issue. For example, what if the victim does not want the police to know? What if the crime is reported to only campus police? Will they try and prosecute it or will they try and keep it quiet? When a victim comes to a school administrator, is that administrator properly explaining all the options, including reporting the crime to the police?

On one hand, some believe that mandatory reporting to the police will cause many victims to not get the help they need. They argue that if victims believe that once they report to any college official that the police will be involved, some victims will not report and thus not receive the medical and psychological treatment they need. On the other hand, others point out that not reporting the perpetrator to the police endangers others because the criminal is still at large on the campus. Also, the delays in reporting to the police can ruin a case because physical evidence and toxicology are only reliable for up to five days. For victims who want to press charges, timely reporting to the local police and/or Commonwealth’s Attorney is crucial for their case.

In the House Courts of Justice Committee (I am the Chairman), these competing views were extensively debated. In addition, the committee learned that Federal Law states that if victims want to keep the assault confidential, they have the absolute right to unless the school finds that there is an immanent danger (e.g. the perpetrator is a serial rapist).

As you can tell, there were many conflicting opinions and the Federal law extremely limits what the Commonwealth can do. In the end, the House decided that it would be best to empower the victims to make their choice, but ensure they are given all the information in an unbiased manner. Our bill states that when a victim reports a sexual violence offense to the school, the administrator must explain all options: (1) Go to the police and prosecute, and/or (2) Keep the victim’s situation private.

TRANSPORTATION

Transportation Funding
With the passage of the 2013 transportation funding bill, which I co-authored, we finally have a reliable funding stream to repave our roads, build and widen new roads, and improve mass transit. The current estimate of revenues available for new transportation construction projects just in Fairfax County over the next five years is $1.4 Billion.

The transportation bill has three basic sources of construction revenue. First, is the State (to fund roads of state-wide significance), second is money directed to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (to fund roads of significance to NOVA), and the third is Fairfax County (to fund small local projects). This year we concentrated our efforts to make sure this new money is spent wisely. Below is a bill I co-sponsored that will ensure that the outlined construction funds are allocated to Northern Virginia.

Use of revenues by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. HB 1470 (Albo Co-Sponsor): Requires that 70% of the revenues received by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority be used solely to fund transportation projects selected by the Authority that are contained in a regional transportation plan and that have been rated according to how much congestion the project reduces. This makes sure that 70% of the money spent is concentrated on large regional projects that reduce the most congestion. The remaining 30% can be spent on smaller projects that reduce congestion in our neighborhoods, such as important turn lanes and stop lights. Remember, sometimes a new turn lane or stop light in your neighborhood is what you need.
Albo voted “YES.” This bill passed the house.

Repaving. Prior to the transportation bill becoming law on July 1, 2013, there was not even one penny to re-pave any road that was not a highway. The transportation bill finally supplies funds for re-paving, but after years of neglect, it will take a while to get Virginia roads back to a reasonable quality. But progress can be seen! For example, this past year, we have seen some of these local projects come to fruition, such as the repaving of Old Keene Mill road. So far, roughly half of Old Keene Mill has been repaved. Repaving will continue once the weather warms up during the spring. Asphalt cannot be laid efficiently in cold temperatures.

The 495 and 95 Express Lanes
Some residents are upset about having to pay tolls on the 495 and 95 Express Lanes. Like them, I wish the lanes were free, but that was not a viable alternative. The Beltway lanes cost $1.5 Billion and the 95 lanes cost over $1 Billion. Virginia did not have that kind of money, nor did it have the debt capacity to enable it to borrow that much money. Therefore, the only options were (a) do nothing, (b) pay for them by raising taxes to the equivalent of 12 cents a gallon on gas in NOVA, or (c) pay for them by charging a toll. I never choose not to do anything and few people wanted to raise the gas tax, so we built it by using tolls. By using a private contractor, Virginia avoided having to borrow $2.5+ Billion. The other advantage of the private contractor method is that if the tolls do not raise enough money to fund the project, the private contractor has to pay the difference, not the Commonwealth of Virginia. The financial risk is completely on the company, not on the taxpayers.

Uber, Lyft and Taxis – Transportation network companies. HB 1662: Transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft are changing the way we travel. These pioneering companies utilize modern technology to provide more efficient transportation options for citizens. Delegate Tom Rust’s HB 1662 establishes safety and operating guidelines for these ride-sharing companies. The bill requires background checks on the drivers and requires the drivers to be covered by a specific liability insurance policy.
Albo voted “YES.” This bill passed the house and the senate.

ETHICS REFORM

Ethics Reform. HB 2070 (Del. Albo Co-Sponsor and Co-Author): 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 legislative business or education, and allows legislators to attend civic association/charitable organizations where they may receive a gift of a meal.

HOUSE BUDGET

We are currently in the second year of the 2014-2016 Budget. The following summary lists key amendments proposed by the House to the second biennium of the Budget for 2015-2016:

Conservative Budget

  • Sets aside $99.5 million for the “Rainy-Day Fund” (essentially a savings account), which will bring the balance back to $400 million.
  • Eliminates $42.5 million in debt proposed by Governor McAuliffe.
  • Eliminates $10.2 million in fees proposed by a Governor McAuliffe. The fees eliminated are:
    • Restaurant Inspection Fee
    • VDACS Inspection Fee
    • Weights & Measures Fee
    • Underground storage cleanup deductible

K-12 Education

  • State funding for 1.5% teacher pay raise.

Compensation

  • Provides 1.5% across-the-board raise for state police and state employees.
  • Restores $4 million in previous cuts to state police overtime.

Higher Education

  • $19.8 million for enrollment at colleges and universities. This includes the 1,700 new in-state slots at UVA, W&M, JMU, and VA Tech.
  • $100 million for capital construction projects at James Madison, Virginia Tech, Longwood, Radford, and Virginia Commonwealth University.
  • $1 million for cancer research at VCU and $1 million for cancer research at UVA.

Healthcare Safety Net

  • $124.5 million for the healthcare safety net.
  • Funding to provide targeted services to 29,000 seriously mentally-ill patients, including a prescription drug benefit.
  • Nearly doubles operational funding for free clinics- total of $6 million in funding.

DELEGATE ALBO’S STUDENT ART PROGRAM

When I first became a member of the House of Delegates in 1993, I was only 31 years old. My legislative office had bare walls, as I did not have any grand photographs of me next to my WWII tank, or pictures of my many years of service in the House. Therefore, I came up with an idea. I decided to ask my local elementary school teachers to send me art created by students in my district and display in my Capitol office. Thus, began a 22 year tradition. Once the artwork is in the office, I take a picture of myself standing next to the drawing and send it to the young artists. Many of my young constituents come to Richmond with their parents to see their art in person, tour the Capitol, and learn more about state government. This winter when I was at an event in Springfield, a young lady about 28 years old came up to me and said, “You put my art up at your office when I was in 4th grade!” It made me feel like a million dollars that she still remembered it from 18 years ago.

I know this was a lot of information, but we have accomplished a lot so far in Richmond. Please contact me by email at deldalbo@house.virginia.gov, or by phone at (804) 698-1042 with any questions or concerns. After all, my job is not to do what I want to do, but rather, to do what you want!

My bill, HB 1445 (Marijuana; possession or distribution for medical purposes, treatment of epilepsy) passes the House today 98-0!

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Dominion Virginia Power Planning Major Expansion of Solar Energy in the Commonwealth

Dominion has released plans to build 400 megawatts worth of solar panels in the state. All projects will be built in Virginia with the involvement of Virginia-based companies and are expected to be operational by 2020. With this new plan, the Commonwealth of Virginia will become a leader in the emerging energy economy. Solar costs have continued to decline, making this a cost-effective alternative for the citizens of the Commonwealth.

Currently, Dominion is working to find sites around Virginia that they believe would fit the necessary guidelines for solar panel installation. It is expected that in total, $700 million will be invested into this new project.

This is not Dominion’s first experience with solar power in Virginia. Last month, an application to the Virginia State Corporation Commission was placed in order to build a 20-megawatt project near Remington Power Station in Fauquier County.

For more information, you can view the entire article here: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/dominion-virginia-power-planning-major-expansion-of-large-scale-solar-in-virginia-300031472.html

 

Session Update #4

This week is crunch time for all legislators here in the General Assembly. Next Tuesday is Crossover, where all of the bills from the House of Delegates move over to the Senate, and all of the Senate Bills come over to the House of Delegates. We are all putting forth our greatest effort to be prompt and assure that all of the bills reported out of House committees are carried to the floor for a vote. Here are some of the highlights from this past week:

Getting more In-State Slots at VA Colleges and Universities and making them more affordable

We have excellent colleges and universities in Virginia. In fact, Virginia has 4 public universities in the top 30 for “Best College Values” in the United States according to Kiplinger. For too many Virginians though, high costs put higher education out of reach. That’s why we passed two important bills this week that give Virginia families more affordable options. House Bill 1692 gives students pursuing degrees in high-demand fields the option of a more affordable “flat-fee degree.” House Bill 2320 establishes a new cooperative bachelor’s degree program in Virginia that lets students earn a bachelor’s degree for just $4,000 per year, through a combination of online, community college, or college or university courses and we are entertaining to fund 1,700 new slots at UVA, VA Tech, JMU, and William & Mary.

K-12 Education Reforms

We have passed a number of important education reforms that build on our efforts in recent years to reward good teachers, increase accountability in our schools, and to give students more pathways to success. I’ve helped pass legislation that simplifies the process for students to retake the SOL test that protects our students’ privacy, establishes innovative virtual schools as an option for students, and standardizes the system for giving college credit for advanced high school courses. Additionally, we will be targeting more money to the classrooms with a teacher pay raise, to help ensure that Virginia can continue to attract and retain the best and brightest educators.

Transportation

I supported two important transportation accountability bills that will help make sure that money devoted to transportation actually goes to projects that will make a difference and that will make funding decisions more transparent and responsive to local needs. House Bill 1470 builds on last year’s transportation accountability legislation by requiring transit projects to meet the same rigorous standards that we applied to road projects last year. Those standards require projects to be selected by how much they reduce congestion (e.g. science not politics). House Bill 1887, which also passed this week, simplifies Virginia’s complicated and outdated transportation funding formula into three simple funding streams that increase transparency and give localities a greater say in how their transportation dollars are spent. We also passed legislation this week that allows transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft to operate in Virginia.

Property Rights

I have been a strong defender of our constitutionally protected property rights. House Bill 1287, which I helped to pass this week, safeguards against abuse of civil asset forfeiture by requiring a criminal conviction before any property used in connection with a crime could be forfeited. This measure will guard against potential abuse of asset forfeiture laws and help protect innocent people from losing their property.

Jobs

The best social welfare program is a good-paying job. I’ve been working on legislation that will let more people find or keep good-paying jobs in Virginia. Small businesses account for more than half of new job creation in Virginia, and this week the House passed HB 1360, which makes it easier for small and new businesses to raise money through “crowdfunding.” I’m also happy to report that the House will be eliminating more than $10 million in new fees on Virginia families and small businesses that were included in the Governor’s budget. Our House budget will find the money to fund the core functions of government without looking to taxpayers for more of their hard-earned money.

Health Care

This week, the House passed “Right to Try” legislation that gives terminally ill patients better access to potentially life-saving treatments that haven’t yet been approved by the FDA. We also rolled out budget proposals that would strengthen Virginia’s existing health care safety net and increase our support for free clinics. This is a conservative plan that would help Virginians who are most in need without dumping thousands of Virginians into the Obamacare Medicaid expansion or creating a massive new entitlement program, as the Governor proposed.

Status of my Legislation

HB 1445 Possession or distribution of marijuana for medical purposes; epilepsy: The bill was unanimously reported from the Courts of Justice committee with substitute.

HB 1503 Driving after forfeiture of license; blood alcohol content: The Courts of Justice Criminal Law subcommittee unanimously recommends reporting the bill.

HB 1635 Defamation; statue of limitations: The House unanimously passed the bill.

HB 1499 Right to breast-feed in public places: The House unanimously passed the bill.

HJ 537 Drug trafficking; interstate cooperation: The bill is currently being heard in the Committee on Rules.

HB 1343 Campus police departments; sexual assault reporting: The bill has been tabled until next year.

On a lighter note, some of my constituents were kind enough to pay me a visit this week:

In case you have not completed my survey here is the link to it: http://survey.house.virginia.gov/Survey.aspx?s=0e2175fa7be345e38bbc050212f63693

As always, my staff and I are here in Richmond to serve you. We want to hear what you think about the legislation pending before the House, or if there’s anything we can do to help you in dealing with a state government agency. My office can be reached at (804) 698-1042 or via email at DelDAlbo@house.virginia.gov. If you are planning to visit Richmond during Session, I encourage you to visit me in General Assembly building room 529.

Dave Albo