After our first full week of the General Assembly session, I’m happy to report on the progress of my key priorities including supporting our veterans, making college more affordable, and a budget that funds the core functions of government without raising taxes.
Making College More Affordable
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to save for and pay for college, with Virginia students now borrowing more than $1 billion every year to pay for school. In his State of the Union Address, President Obama outlined a tax scheme that includes targeting 529 college savings accounts for taxation, which would make it even more difficult to save. I’m supporting legislation that makes college more affordable by capping expensive athletic fees. I’m happy to report it passed unanimously out of committee this week. Also, we are working on a bill that sets flat fees for college tuition for high demand majors. You can read about some of the bills to hold down college costs at CBS6 at http://wtvr.com/2015/01/19/panel-oks-bills-aimed-at-college-affordability/
While many think of it as an issue in remote parts of the world, sex trafficking is a growing problem in Virginia. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, an estimated 100,000 children are trafficked for commercial sex every year and human trafficking is the second fastest growing criminal industry. I’m supporting legislation this year that would give prosecutors additional tools to combat sex trafficking in Virginia. NBC29 reported this week on our efforts.
Virginia is home to more than 780,000 veterans. In just Springfield alone, there are 2,264 veterans, and there is a critical need for more veterans care centers in Virginia to support them. As Del. Chris Stolle noted, “Maine has one bed in a veterans care center for every 200 veterans in the state. Virginia has a bed for every 2,000 veterans.” I’m pleased to report that legislation to fund new care centers in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads advanced from committee this week. These two new 230-bed centers would not only provide valuable services to veterans in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, but they would also allow the existing centers in Richmond and Salem to better meet the need in those regions.
Status of my Legislation
HB 1445 Possession or distribution of marijuana for medical purposes; epilepsy: The bill is currently being heard in the Courts of Justice committee.
WUSA9 aired a segment on the medicinal marijuana bills last night. You can view the coverage at: http://www.wusa9.com/story/news/local/virginia/2015/01/22/medical-marijuana-virginia-cannabis-oil-epilepsy/22181119/
HB 1503 Driving after forfeiture of license; blood alcohol content: The Courts of Justice subcommittee: Criminal Law unanimously recommends reporting the bill with amendments.
HB 1635 Defamation; statue of limitations: The Courts of Justice subcommittee: Civil Law unanimously recommends reporting the bill with amendments.
HB 1499 Right to breast-feed in public places: The bill is currently being heard in the Health, Welfare, and Institutions subcommittee #2.
CBS6 interviewed me to hear my thoughts on the bill. You can read the article at: http://wtvr.com/2015/01/20/virginia-breast-feeding-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 is currently being heard in the Courts of Justice subcommittee: Civil Law.
HJ 499 United States Constitution; Amendment: The bill is currently being heard in the Committee on Rules.
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.