Category Archives: Environment

Joe Chudzik Wins Fairfax County Volunteer Citizen of the Year

This weekend I presented the  Fairfax County Volunteer Citizen of the Year Award to Mr. Joseph Chuzik. Joe has been working tirelessly for years to keep our community clean, and I am glad I got to take part in honoring him with this award. Here we are with his wife, Faith.

Dave and Joe Chudzik

Advertisements

Letter to the Editor on Highway Trash Cleanup

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

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

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

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

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

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

hwy-trash-cleanup

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!

Virginia Outdoor Foundation Conservation Efforts

When I first moved to West Springfield in 1970, our community was on the edge of Northern Virginia. Much of what has become neighborhoods was only woods when I was a kid.  It disappears quickly and that is why I have dedicated myself to preserving what we have.

One of my greatest accomplishments in this field was re-writing the Land Conservation Laws for Virginia in order to be more effective in preserving land. There are basically two ways to do it. First, that state buys from the owner the developmental rights so that the land will remain in its natural state, or second, the state gives the owner a tax credit to promise never to build on the land.  To ensure that the owner or any successive owners never break that promise, a “Conservation Easement” is filed in the land records at the courthouse.

I point this out because Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF), a group that oversees these Conservation Easements, released their Spring 2012 newsletter. In 2011, the VOF preserved 39,000 acres in Virginia thanks to this system of Conservation Easement! This group now protects 650,000 acres in Virginia; that’s half the size of Delaware! Add to that all the other land Virginia has preserved through all its different programs, as of July 2011, we have preserved 3.7 million acres statewide!

Virginia Leads the Southeast in Land Conservation

Preserving our state has always been important to me. In fact, I was a leader in introducing Conservation Easement to our area, a program where the state buys the developmental rights while the landowner still maintains the title to the land. This lowers the cost for the owner but limits their ability to develop on it, thereby conversing the area. By taking the concepts generated in the Land Conservation Easement method, the General Assembly and I increased its effectiveness by combining it with tax credits in 1999.  After this tax credit bill went into effect, land preservation in Virginia exploded!  The result — Virginia has increased land preservation by 583%!

That’s why it pleases me to hear that a new Land Trust Alliance report revealed that land trusts in Virginia conserved more land between 2005 and 2010 than any other state in the Southeast! Between those years the Virginia Outdoors Foundation conserved 314,225 acres alone while private land trusts conserved another 78,678 acres. That works out to about seven acres preserved every hour!

These efforts are extremely important in the preservation of our nation’s land and I’m proud that Virginia can be a leader in these efforts!

Road Closures Due to Flooding

Due to the relentless weather throughout the day, people are being advised to stay off the roads to avoid flash floods. If you must drive, please use caution. Already, a number of roads in the area have been closed/expect delays.  These include, as of 8:15 pm:

  • Beltway I-495 closed at Mixing Bowl; no traffic allowed east on I-495; traffic being rerouted.
  • Beltway I-495 closed in both directions over Cameron Run due to high water. Traffic will be detoured.
  • I-66 west bound by exit 57, to route 50,  has been closed due to standing water
  • In Springfield, there have been closures at:
    • Guinea Rd/Braeburn Rd
    • Byron Ave by St. Bernadettes
    • Woodburn Rd/Spicewood
    • Hooes/ Furnace Rd
    • Burke/ Rolling Road
    • Roberts Rd/Glenmere Rd
    • Braddock Rd/Roberts Rd
    • Olley Rd/Braeburn Rd
    • Burke Lake Rd closed 7100 to 123

    More up to date alerts can be found on the Fairfax County government website. Stay dry!

UPDATE: Hurricane Irene

Virginians are now cleaning up after Hurricane Irene. Governor Bob McDonnell had declared a state emergency so funds and resources are being directed to help the affected area.  The worst hit areas are along the coastlines so drivers should take care if traveling to the eastern parts of the state.

As of this morning, 945,000 customers are without power in Virginia. Currently around 238 state maintained roads are closed.  To check on these closures visit www.511virginia.org.

To report storm debris in the roadway, visit VDOT’s website.

For questions regarding tree and debris removal, visit Fairfax County’s website.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Dave Albo

 

Del Albo on the Ramp at Pohick Bay

I recently received a response from the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority about the condition of the boat ramp at Pohick Bay.  The Park Authority agrees with my constituents about the need for repairs and has set aside $250,000 to fix the ramp over the next year.   A new plan is in works and they are working with engineers to make sure all of the issues are addressed.

If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know and, as always,  if I can be of any other assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours for good government,

David B. Albo

Delegate Albo on Mowing

Many of you have contacted Delegate Dave Albo’s office about the recent need for mowing along the medians and sides of the road.  Because of VDOT’s budget shortfalls,  Delegate Albo,  Supervisor Herrity, and many others hit the streets themselves to mow the grass. Check it out in the Springfield Connection.

Dear Constituent,

I recently received a response from the Virginia Department of Transportation regarding the mowing along Old Keene Mill Road along with the medians throughout my district.  Unfortunately, VDOT has new maintenance policies due to their recent budget shortfalls.  Now, only safety issues will be addressed instead of also addressing aesthetic issues, such as long grass on the medians.

The good news is that Old Keene Mill Road is scheduled for mowing during the week of August 24, 2009.  This will solve the issue of long grass for awhile.

If I can be of any other assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours for good government,

David B. Albo

Please contact Delegate Dave Albo if there is a certain stretch of road that needs attention by calling (703) 451-3555.

Albo on Uranium Mining

Many of you have written about your concerns on uranium mining and any bills lifting the ban on uranium mining.

Dear Constituent,

Thanks for writing about your opposition of mining for uranium. I have not seen any bills this session about this subject. In 2008, there was a Senate bill proposing a commission to study the risks and benefits of uranium mining but it was never passed out of committee and thus, I was unable to vote on the bill.

If there is a certain bill concerning uranium mining this session, I have yet to come across it. I would appreciate it if you could send me the bill you are referencing. I also am curious about any information about the dangers of this type of mining. So far, I have been unable to find concrete evidence supporting the dangers or the safety. I would be interested in receiving any material if you have about mining for uranium.

Thanks again for writing! I always like hearing from my constituents. If I can be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours for good government,

Dave Albo

If you are curious about other environmental issues, log onto Delegate Dave Albo’s page to find more about the environment.