The House and Senate have introduced 2,527 pieces of legislation this Session, and are also tackling a number of proposed budget amendments. If you read The Washington Post, you would think all of our bills are about guns and abortion. The facts are that 98.9% of our bills deal with everything but. The information included in this letter highlights just a few of the issues we have been working on so far!
THE BUDGET: REDUCING AND REPRIORITIZING SPENDING
Last year, like the rest of America, Virginia was in the third year of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Unlike the rest of America and the US Congress, Virginia solved its deficits by cutting spending. I did NOT participate in borrowing money to pay for ongoing government spending. Instead, I voted to cut spending by the billions. Today, the Commonwealth’s General Fund is back at 2007 levels. In fact, due to this frugal management of government, your state had a $545 million surplus in July 2011.
Are we home free now? No. Even though the economy is not still in freefall, there is little growth. Out of our existing funds, we need to find hundreds of millions of new dollars for Medicaid (see below). In addition, due to the fact that gas tax in not indexed to inflation, there is no money for re-paving of residential roads, nor is there one penny for construction and improvements on secondary roads (all roads other than highways like 95 or primary roads like Ox Road) .
ENCOURAGING JOB GROWTH
Government does not create jobs. Businesses create jobs. I really hate it when politicians talk about how they are going to “get government to create jobs.” If that worked, the Soviet Union would still exist. What government can do to help businesses create jobs is to stay out of the way and create incentives for businesses to locate here in VA. I don’t want to brag, but Virginia is doing just that. In 2011, we were ranked the #1 pro-business state by CNBC and Pollina Corporate Real Estate, Inc., and ranked #2 by Forbes Magazine.
How are we doing it? Governor McDonnell proposed this year to give tax credits to small business investors, extend the acceleration of the major business facility jobs tax credit, and budget $38 million to targeted programs that spur job creation, such as a biotechnology investment matching program that I am developing.
As we continue to consider this year’s budget, we will also carry on with our work to better fund job creating programs and initiatives, such as the Advanced Manufacturing Initiative, increased support for international marketing at the Economic Development Partnership and increasing funding at the Virginia Tourism Authority to market all the benefits that Virginia offers.
The House also passed a number of bills to help grow employment in the Commonwealth this Session. Below are a few of them:
Money to our State’s Flight Program (HB813): This bill allocates $15 million each year to the Commonwealth Space Flight Fund. These funds will go directly to the development of the NASA facility on Wallops Island, helping to make it the premier location for space flight in the Mid-Atlantic region. Alongside this development comes hundreds of jobs for Virginians, including all the jobs required to engineer the rockets and run the facilities. (House passed 100-0).
The Competitive Analysis of Virginia’s Space Industry, a study requested by Governor McDonnell, shows that Wallops Island has huge potential for growth. Our facility on Wallops Island, one of four Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spaceports in the US licensed to launch rockets into orbit, is particularly attractive to investors and private companies because its launch trajectory is directed over the ocean, avoiding populated areas and expensive liability. Because of this, companies feel more comfortable using our space facility, as it provides a much lower risk of potential life threatening danger during shuttle launch.
The National Reconnaissance Organization (NRO) headquartered in Chantilly also contributes to the promise of our facility on Wallops Island, as the NRO helps make Virginia the primary state for intelligence-related space funding and operations. This shows great promise for the future of the Virginia workforce, helping make Virginia currently rank first in the nation in the number of scientists and engineers as a percentage of the total work force.
Tax Relief for Businesses (HB 1153): This bill allows for the entire amount of the federal deduction, under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) for domestic production activities, to be deducted for Virginia income tax purposes. This will give much needed funds back to the businesses of Virginia for tax relief, to allow for flexibility in hiring new workers. (House passed 99-0).
Exemptions for Data Centers (HB 216): This bill allows a data center to qualify for the Retail Sales and Use Tax exemption by allowing new jobs created by tenants of the data center to count towards the threshold job creation requirement. This will give incentive to data centers in the Commonwealth to hire more skilled workers in order to meet the requirement needed for the tax exemption, helping put more Virginians back to work. (House passed 99-0).
Tax Credits for Investing in Small Businesses (HB 585): To promote the creation of more small businesses in the Commonwealth, House Bill 585 creates a 10% tax credit for qualified investments in a small business by an eligible investor. This will help support the creation of small businesses in Virginia, as well as create many job opportunities to accompany these new companies. (House passed 100-0).
Capital Gains Tax Exemption for New Businesses (HB 1013): The House also passed legislation (HB 1013) extending the current capital gains tax exemption for start-ups. This will continue to allow our small business job creators to expand investment in science and technology by exempting investment in business start-ups from capital gains taxes. (House passed 99-0, Senate passed 40-0).
TACKLING THE GROWING BURDEN OF MEDICAID FUNDING
A number of constituents have expressed interest in the current state of Medicaid, and I assure you we are doing the best we can to maintain funding. However, the costs of the program are unsustainable. Here is a brief synopsis of the current state of Medicaid in Virginia.
In 2001, 666,855 citizens were enrolled in the Medicaid program. In 2011, that number increased to 1,060,840, a 59% increase since 2001! This increase is due to a growing number of citizens who have a disability, as well as an expansion in children’s enrollment. While this enrollment increase definitely affects spending, economic changes (like health care cost inflation) and federally-mandated changes in the program have also forced Virginia to increase spending. Over the past ten years, Virginia expenditures on Medicaid have gone up 300%!
What’s the bottom line? When it comes to Medicaid, there is just not enough money to pay for everything everyone wants. With a 59% increase in the number of people on Medicaid and with a 300% increase in costs over the last decade, it is obvious that our present course is mathematically unsustainable. I have had many well-meaning letters requesting increased spending on Medicaid. I am very sympathetic and am doing my best to limit cuts to Medicaid. However, additions are going to be impossible.
Despite these costs, we are still trying to fund a number of health care programs. Safety net organizations have provided some of the most cost-effective health care to thousands of sick uninsured Virginians. That’s why we are working to restore funding to free clinics, community health centers and dental services provided through local health departments.
It is also imperative that we support funding for direct care to disabled in our communities. In light of the Department of Justice Settlement Agreement, Governor McDonnell has added $30 million to the trust fund, which along with the current $30 million in the fund, will provide essential funding for intellectually disabled (ID) and developmentally disabled (DD) waiver slots. These are called “waiver slots” because they waive institutionalization and instead put these individuals in community-based care to receive help in their home or in group homes. This funding will add each year over the next two years 160 new ID waiver slots to transition individuals from state training centers to the community, 225 new ID waiver slots to address the current community urgent care waiting list, and 22 new DD waiver slots. It will also serve 1,000 individuals through a new individual and family support program designed to keep them at home and avert the need for institutionalization.
FUNDING FOR FAIRFAX COUNTY SCHOOLS
Delegate Albo fights attempt to make the state school funding formula even worse for Fairfax: As you know, I am a graduate of our Fairfax County public schools (Rolling Valley Elem – WSHS) and my boy just started in our great public school system. Thus, maintaining the integrity of our school systems in Fairfax County is personally important to me. This session the Governor has proposed to eliminate Cost of Competing Adjustment (COCA) funding that sends state funds to high-cost localities, like Fairfax, to compensate us for our high cost of living. I am a big Bob McDonnell fan, but do not support him on this. The Governor proposed the elimination of this budget item. Eliminating it will cut funding for Fairfax by $11 million. I am willing to take my share of cuts in a Recession, but I am not willing to accept a permanent adverse change to a funding formula that already rips us off. I filed a Budget Amendment to restore this funding item.
The Good News—More Money to Fairfax Schools: The state’s school funding formula is called the Local Composite Index of Local Ability to Pay (LCI). The LCI is a result of a Virginia Supreme Court ruling, which stated that the Virginia Constitution requires all children to receive, to the extent practicable, an equivalent education. To accomplish this, the Court ruled that some funding formula must be used to direct money to areas that can’t afford to educate children. (The Court did not say what the formula has to be, only that some redistribution must occur). Consequently, the purpose of the LCI is to ensure less affluent localities are able to provide for their students. The LCI is essentially a formula with variables for number of students and ability of a locality to raise money from its citizens (e.g. real estate values, sales tax, etc.) The result of the formula sets a figure that determines how much a school system must pay for its own basic education. Since our area was hit by the crumbling real estate market worse than any other area, the re-calculated LCI says that we have a lesser ability to raise money. Thus, it commands the state to add $40 million more than we received last year.
The amount of new money our schools will receive is a moving target as the Session progresses. As you can tell, if the Cost to Compete changes are not defeated, this new $40 million will be reduced to $29 million. All I can tell you is that I am your soldier down here fighting to get what we deserve from the state.
19-YEAR LAW ON MULTIPLE GUN PURCHASES REPEALED (HB 940): One heavily debated bill this Session was House Bill 940 (Lingamfelter-Chief-Patron). This bill removed the limitation on purchasing more than one handgun in a 30-day period. It is a very controversial bill so I thought I better explain my vote.
The one-gun-a-month law first was passed in 1993, and in 1996, the Virginia Department of State Police conducted a study to determine the impact of the law. The State Police concluded that the one-gun-a-month law had seriously disrupted the illegal gun trade leaving Virginia in exchange for illegal drugs, “as weapons are often exchanged for drugs instead of money” (VA SCC Report). Also a Bureau for Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives study showed that Virginia-purchased guns recovered in criminal investigations in the Northeast Corridor (NJ, NY, CT, RI, MA) were reduced by 66% (VA SCC Report). The implementation of the one-gun-a-month law is the presumed cause of this reduction. In addition, very few Virginia residents were even subject to this law. A few years ago, I voted to allow all citizens who had a concealed carry permit to be exempted from the one-gun-a-month law. Since that time, I had not received one e-mail, letter or call complaining about an inability to buy more than one gun. For these reasons, I voted against the bill. (House passed 66-32).
PROVIDING MORE INFORMATION TO THOSE SEEKING ABORTIONS (HB 462): This session we saw another controversial bill (HB462 Byron-Chief Patron) on the House floor, dealing with the requirement of ultrasound as a component in the abortion process. This requirement will give doctors better knowledge about the safety of performing the procedure, as well as provide the woman seeking an abortion with the best information science has to offer. In my campaigns, I promise not to vote to regulate birth control, not to use taxpayer funds for abortions, and to give information to those seeking abortions. To stay consistent with promises I make on the campaign trail, I voted yes for this legislation. (House passed 63-36).
DELEGATE DAVE ALBO’S 2012 BILLS
I submitted 35 bills this session. Here are a few in which I thought you might be interested.
DECLUTTERING OUR ROADWAYS
Ending the Presence of Illegal Signs (HB 34: Albo Chief Patron): This past fall, we saw an unprecedented display of political signs crowding our medians and obstructing the vision of our drivers. Add to this the numerous “Work at Home”, “We Buy Houses”, “Weight Loss”, “Gutter Cleaning”, etc. signs, and our neighborhood looks like a third world country. Because of the mess these signs cause in our medians, and the dangers they pose to our drivers, I introduced legislation that will allow us to be included in the state-wide law banning signs on VDOT right-of-ways. This bill passed in the House unanimously and will now move to the Senate for a vote. Unfortunately, the Realtors have come out against it, so it may be tough to get this passed in the Senate. (House passed 100-0).
MORE MONEY FOR FAIRFAX COUNTY PARKWAY
Making the Parkway a Primary Road: Sometimes we’re able to accomplish things without having to introduce a bill. An example of this is our community’s achievement in getting Fairfax County Parkway re-designated as a primary road! Back in June 2011, I joined Supervisor Pat Herrity in contacting VDOT, and voicing my support for this reclassification, so I am very happy to hear that the change will finally occur. What does this mean for our area? Designating the Parkway as a primary road opens it up for repaving. Currently, Northern Virginia doesn’t have the money to repave its secondary road systems, meaning we never had the funding for repairs to the Parkway. However, its new status as a primary road will give it precedent for repaving needs!
PROTECTING OUR COMMUNITY
Harsher Punishments for Drunk Drivers (HB 49: Albo Chief Patron, HB 50: Albo Chief Patron): Did you know that approximately one person a day is killed by a drunk driver in Virginia? That’s why this year I decided to introduce legislation to make the punishment for drunk driving even stricter. HB 49 requires that any person convicted of manslaughter while driving under the influence must serve a mandatory prison sentence. HB 50 presents a similar requirement. Under this bill, any person convicted of maiming an individual while driving under the influence will be required to serve a mandatory prison sentence. (House passed HB 49 94-3). HB 50 was incorporated into a similar bill, HB 962. (Killed in committee).
Fighting a New Smuggling Industry (HB 479: Albo Chief Patron): A new smuggling operation has begun to grow in Virginia, with criminals smuggling our lower priced cigarettes across borders to sell at higher prices in high tax states such as New York. The profits of these sales are going to finance gangs and terrorist organizations. My bill will make possession of more than 25 cartons of cigarettes with intent to distribute a misdemeanor crime with civil penalties beginning at $5,000 for a first offense and increasing thereafter. (House passed 100-0).
HONORING LEGAL IMMIGRANTS – FIGHTING ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS
Virginia has a rapidly growing illegal immigrant population of about 295,000 persons, nearly tripling since 2000. Legal immigrants made this country great, but illegal immigrants cannot be afforded. Despite my law which passed five years ago denying adult illegal immigrants welfare and nonemergency taxpayer funded services, estimates show that Virginia pays approximately $1.7 billion for welfare and education costs to illegal aliens. That is $1.7 billion not going to lowering class sizes in our schools or expanding medical services to citizens and legal immigrants. Immigrants must enter the country legally, and then the taxpayers will welcome them with open arms.
No Tolerance for Criminal Illegal Immigrants (HB 89: Albo Chief Patron): Immigration is a hotly contested issue in our country. The one thing I hope we can all agree upon is that criminal illegal aliens cannot be tolerated. This bill builds upon my 2007 law, which requires all criminals placed in jail to be run through the immigration database to see if they are here illegally. HB 89 applies to criminals who were arrested but not placed in jail pending trial (e.g. they got bail). This proposed law requires a police officer, after arrest but before release, to inquire about the citizenship of the arrestee and report his findings to the Magistrate who can deny bail if it is determined that the criminal is illegally present in the US. This bill was incorporated into a similar bill, HB 958. (House passed 81-19).
Prenatal Coverage to Legal Immigrants (HB 183: Albo Co-Patron): This bill expands Medicaid coverage to eligible pregnant women during their first five years of lawful residence in the US. This will ensure that they get the proper prenatal care to give birth to healthy babies, who will go on to become citizens of our country. In the long run, this saves our state millions of dollars. (House passed 99-1).
MORE INTERESTING BILLS
In addition to the 35 bills I introduced, I also co-patroned 59 bills. Of those, I thought you’d be interested to hear about my involvement with the following bills.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS—MORE FUNDS TO LEARNING AND MORE FREEDOM IN SCHOOL START DATES
More Funds to go to Learning (HB 250: Albo Co-Patron): I believe we should ensure that funding for education should be spent in the classroom. This bill will require school boards to set aside 67% of their budget for instructional spending in the schools (House passed 85-14).
Freedom to Choose FCPS Start Date (HB 1063: Albo Co-Patron): This bill allows school boards to break away from the mandatory start date of after Labor Day, and gives them the opportunity to set their own start date (House passed 76-23).
HIGHER EDUCATION—GETTING MORE KIDS INTO STATE COLLEGES
Funding Projects at Virginia Universities (HB 54: Albo Co-Patron): This bill authorizes the Commonwealth to issue bonds to colleges and universities worth more than $130 million to pay for any revenue-producing projects at the institution. (House passed 100-0).
More Spots for Virginia Students in our Colleges and Universities (HB 1083: Albo Chief Co-Patron): Last year, we convinced Virginia Tech, UVA, JMU and William and Mary to add a total of 1,900 spots between them for Virginia students. Continuing my work to get more of our children into state colleges, this bill require that at least 75% of students admitted and enrolled into state colleges are Virginia residents. (Killed in Education sub-committee).
MORE MONEY FOR FAIRFAX ROADS
More Funding for Highway Construction (HB 477: Albo Co-Patron): Despite paying 40% of the taxes in the state, Northern Virginia only receives 14% of the statewide maintenance funding for roads. (We receive between 30 – 40% of the construction funds). I have been working for years to get more maintenance funding for our area. Presently, there is no formula for the distribution of maintenance funds. Rather, it is distributed based upon “need.” HB 477 requires that the Commonwealth Transportation Board show the public a comparison of how much funding each district would get if it was based on scientific facts instead of based on the current system of “need.” This should be easy to do. Virginia has an “Asset Performance Standard” already in place. This is a scientific measurement of the quality of pavement, bridges, and tunnels. Unfortunately, it is not presently used. This bill forces the state to distribute the money based upon science rather than politics. (House passed 73-27).
More Representation on the CTB (HB 864: Rust Chief Patron): The current system has representatives based upon “transportation districts” derived in 1930s. This system has resulted in western Virginia, middle Virginia and southern Virginia, who each make up about 5% of the population, having one vote each and Hampton Roads and NOVA, who each represent over 20% of the population, getting one vote each as well. The bill proposes to base representation on the CTB on congressional districts, which will have the effect of giving each CTB member an equal population of citizens to represent. (House passed 51-47).
More Money to Transportation (HB 1248: Albo Co-Patron): The problem with fixing our roads is that we don’t have the funding to do it. The Governor’s transportation bill will increase the amount of money allocated to transportation from the sales and use tax by transferring an additional $440 million over eight years. (House passed 63-35).
PROTECTING OUR CHILDREN
Banning Child Molester’s “Training Cartoons” (HB 964: Albo Co-Patron): Child molesters create cartoons to “teach” children to have sex with them. These extremely disturbing videos are presently not illegal because they are cartoons and do not depict a real person. This bill makes it a Class 6 felony to show minors a sexually explicit video of children or young adults, in an attempt to get a minor to engage in such activity. (House passed 100-0).
Life in Prison for Child Molesters who Commit Violent Sex Acts Against Children (HB 973: Albo Co-Patron): This bill makes it a mandatory life in prison for Child Molester who commit rape, forcible sodomy or object sexual penetration against a child under 13. (House passed 88-11).
I know this was a lot of information, but we have accomplished a lot so far in Richmond. Please contact me at email@example.com with your questions and concerns because my job is not to do what I want to do, but rather, to do what you want!