Category Archives: Health

Explanation of Federal Repeal and Replace of the Affordable Care Act

Here is a message from the House Appropriations Committee Chairman Chris Jones on how the federal government plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act:

Chairman Jones Memo Regarding Federal Health Care Reform

2017 Crossover Update

                             ENCOURAGING JOB GROWTH                                 

Virginia is still a leading job creator in the United States, and ranks in the top 10 in the country for:

  • “Best State for Business” by Forbes Magazine
  • “Best States to Make a Living” by Business Insider and Money-Rates.com
  • “The Top States for Higher Education” by com
  • “The K-12 Achievement Index” by Educational Week and Quality Counts
  • “NAEP Combined Proficiency Rate: 4th and 8th Grade Reading and Math” by Educational Week and Quality Counts

More importantly, we have lowered our unemployment rate by 2.5% between 2012 (6.9%) and 2017 (4.4%) and have the 8th lowest combined state and local tax burden in the country!

However, things are not all roses and puppy dogs.  For decades, the economy in Northern Virginia has benefited from Federal Government spending, but with the recent cuts and the sequestration, our once invincible economy is starting to stammer.  Currently, Fairfax County has a 0% growth rate.  This is a big problem.  In order to create more jobs and increase economic growth, we need to reduce our dependency on the Federal Government and diversify our NOVA economy.  For this reason, I have invested a great deal of time in helping Fairfax INOVA start their Translational Medicine Institute right here in Fairfax County.  The institute combines gene mapping, massive computing power, and clinical trials to develop medications based on a person’s individual DNA code.  Personalized medicine could be an economic game changer.  I even took an online class to further my knowledge on genetics and DNA!  By making our County a national leader in the field of genetics, I hope to make Fairfax County the world’s center for personalized medicine, and therefore create an economic engine in NOVA for years to come.

DELEGATE ALBO’S BILLS

Getting Our Kids into VA Universities:

HB 1410 – Educational institutions, certain; designation of governing boards. (Albo Chief Patron) For years, I have been working with a bipartisan group of Delegates to make colleges more affordable and accessible to our Virginia students.  My HB 1410 does three things.  First, it creates a study so that colleges can eventually stop using tuition from one Virginia student to provide financial aid for another student.  This practice is unfair to students working a job after classes to pay their way through school, and to parents who are working hard to provide for their kids.  Their hard earned money should be used solely for their education or their child’s education.  Second, it creates an incentive for colleges to have at least 70% in-state student enrollment rates, and requires any tuition earned from out-of-state students over the 30% limit be used to lower in-state tuition.  Lastly, it mandates the Board of Visitors to complete training to remind them that their duty is primarily to the people of Virginia.

Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House.

Protecting Our Environment:

HB 1423 – Potomac River Watershed; DEQ to identify owner of any combined sewer overflow outfall, etc. (Albo Chief Patron) This bill would direct the DEQ to identify the owner of any combined sewer overflow outfall that gets into the Potomac River Watershed and to determine how the owner can bring the outfall into compliance with Virginia law, the federal Clean Water Act, and the policy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  My idea was incorporated into Delegate Lingamfelter’s HB 2383.

Albo voted “YES”. HB 2383 passed the House.

Helping Families Going Through Divorces:

HB 1456 – Custody and visitation orders; use of term parenting time. (Albo Chief Patron) I have seen many divorce cases argued in court, and know that it must be a stressful time for parents and children.  This bill provides that the court, in its discretion and in referring to a parent, may use the phrase “parenting time” as synonymous with the term “visitation” in a custody or visitation order.  The option to use the term “parenting time” would ensure that no one parent is made to feel less important than another during this already difficult time.

Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House and the Senate.

Developing Our Area’s Culture and Arts:

HB 1486 – Arts and cultural districts. (Albo Chief Patron) This bill would allow two or more localities to join together to create an arts and cultural district.  We are trying to combine the Lorton Workhouse Arts Center with the events and art in Occoquan with this legislation.

Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House.

Protecting Your Purchases:

HB 1825 – Rights to resell tickets; civil penalty. (Albo Chief Patron) As a citizen legislator, I bring my own experiences with me to the House of Delegates.  This past year, I splurged on two tickets to see Iron Maiden, only to learn that they conflicted with my family’s vacation.  Because of the restrictions on ticket resale imposed by Ticketmaster, I couldn’t resell the tickets, had to miss the show, and lost my money.  This bill would end those restrictions.  Under HB 1825, any ticket vendor would be prohibited from imposing any rules that would create a substantial obstacle to the ticket holder’s resale of the ticket.

Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House.

_________________________________________________________

OTHER BILLS OF INTEREST

EDUCATION

Making Sure Virginians are Running our Virginia Schools:
HB 1402 –  Higher educational institutions, public; certain positions require residency of the Commonwealth.
This bill would require each chairman, vice-chairman, rector, and vice-rector of public Virginia colleges to be a Virginia resident.

Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House.

Helping Our Students Grow in the Computer Science Field:

HB 1663 – Computer Science for All Virginia Students Advisory Committee, etc.; established. Through the establishment of a public-private partnership, this bill encourages and helps fund computer science training and professional development for public school teachers throughout Virginia.  HB 1663 works to improve computer literacy for children and adults in public schools across the Commonwealth.

Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House.

Keeping Parents Informed About Their Kids’ Education:

HB 2191 – School boards; procedures; sexually explicit instructional materials or related academic activities. (Albo Chief Co-Patron) I co-authored this bill, because parents should have all the information available when it comes to their kids’ education.  This bill would require schools to notify parents when students are required to read sexually explicit material and to offer an alternative reading if it is requested.  The bill would not ban any books from schools, it would simply notify parents if a reading has sexually explicit content.

Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House.

VA COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES

My aforementioned HB 1410 is intended to increase the number of in-state slots, but some schools are already moving in the right direction!  Virginia Tech added 507 in-state slots for the 2016-2017 school year.  The University of Virginia added 843 in-state slots in the last five years, increasing its percentage of in-state students from 67.2% to 69%.  James Madison University increased its percentage of in-state students from 72.2% in 2012 to 74.5% this year.  Some schools have been lacking, though, as William and Mary only added 103 in-state slots over the last five years.  I am glad to see that most of our universities are supporting our Virginia students, but there is more work to be done!

K-12 EDUCATION

Funding for our Schools:

The House proposed budget for July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018 delivers $21,871,425 MORE to Fairfax County Public Schools.  That is an increase of over $115 per student.  Over the past five years we have delivered $353/student/year more to our Fairfax County Public Schools!

HEALTHCARE

Providing Women’s Healthcare:

HB 2267 – Health benefit plans; coverage for hormonal contraceptives. (Albo Co-Patron) This bill states that health plans that provide hormonal contraceptives must provide a 12-month supply to the patient.  It does not mandate that it all be provided at once, but that women have annual access to this healthcare.

Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House.

Monitoring Opioid Prescriptions:

HB 1885 – Prescription of opioids; limits. This is one of the bills put forward to combat the opioid epidemic in Virginia.  The epidemic is partly enabled by the difficulty in tracking and monitoring prescriptions.  This bill would require a prescriber registered with the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) to request information about a patient from the PMP before prescribing them any opioids.

Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House and the Senate.

PUBLIC SAFETY AND TRANSPORTATION

Enforcing Federal Immigration Law:

HB 1468 – Compliance with detainers; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This bill would prohibit a jail or law enforcement agency from releasing a person who is incarcerated and is an illegal alien when the jail has already received a lawful detainer order from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  This legislation would simply ensure that our state agencies comply with existing federal law.

Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House and the Senate.

Prosecuting Drunk Drivers:

HB 2327 – DUI; implied consent; refusal of blood or breath tests. This bill was offered in response to a recent Supreme Court decision that ruled that criminal penalties for refusing a blood alcohol content test for a DUI was unconstitutional.  HB 2327 changes the penalties associated with refusal for repeat DUI offenders to make it constitutional.

Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House.

Protecting Virginians from Fraud:

HB 2417 – Department of Medical Assistance Services; fraud prevention; prepayment analytics. (Albo Co-Patron) HB 2417 creates a computer monitoring system aimed at reducing fraud with payments made through the state program for medical assistance.

Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House.

Combatting Terrorism in Virginia:

HB 2410 – Providing support to terrorist organizations; penalty. Our code previously lacked provisions that specifically punished those associated with terrorism when the actual act of terror occurred outside of Virginia.  Under this bill, any person who knowingly aids a terrorist organization will be guilty of a Class 3 felony.  If the assistance results in someone’s death, that charge is increased to a Class 2 felony.

Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House.

Keeping Our Kids Safe from Sex Offenders:

HB 1485 – Sex offenses prohibiting proximity to children; penalty. (Albo Co-Patron) In order to protect our children, this bill prohibits those who have been convicted of sex offenses in other states or foreign countries from residing or being in places where children frequent.  The bill applies to anyone who has been convicted of an offense that is similar to the any of the offenses qualified as sex offenses in Virginia.

Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House.

LOCAL NEWS

Commemorating Women’s Right to Vote:

HB 2348 – Women’s Right to Vote, Commission for the Commemoration of the Centennial of; established. (Albo Co-Patron) This bill creates a commission to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote.  2017 marks 100 years since the turning point of the Suffrage Movement.  The Turning Point Suffragist Memorial will be built in Occoquan Regional Park, where the Occoquan Workhouse was located.  Scores of suffragists were unjustly imprisoned in the Workhouse.  The national memorial will educate, inspire, and give people the opportunity to reflect.  My grandmother was a suffragette, and I remember her telling me stories about it when I was a kid.  This bill will help to commemorate her and all the women who fought for their right to vote.

Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House.

WSHS Renovation Begins:

West Springfield High School is in the midst of a renovation.  Drive by when you get a chance to see the progress on the building!

                                               ________________________________

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 (703) 451-3555 with any questions or concerns.  You can also view updates on my blog, www.delegatedavealbo.wordpress.com.  After all, my job is not to do what I want to do, but rather, to do what you want!

The 2017 Proposed Budget

The Virginia House of Delegates Appropriations Committee is expected to vote on a proposed two-year state budget this Thursday, February 9. The budget is fiscally conservative, responsible, and balanced. General spending, adjusted for inflation and population, has decreased by 5% over the past 10 years. The budget prioritizes public safety, primary education, economic development, combating domestic violence, healthcare, and wage increases for state employees. In keeping with the conservative principles from the House of Delegates, the Budget does not include any fee or tax increases. The budget manages to promote funding for core government programs while expanding transparency for government’s economic development.

Education

The Budget invests in primary and second education, funneling nearly $15 million to education for grades K-12. It also includes funding to make college more affordable for all Virginians, and prioritizes in-state students.

Public Safety

$1.5 million is allocated to programs that support victims of Domestic Violence, including preventative measures. It also raises the salaries of the Virginia State Police and provides adjustments for the salaries of Capitol Police and in sheriff’s offices and regional jails.

Healthcare

Obama’s Medicaid expansion is not included in the proposed budget. Instead, the House decided to use $28.5 million to construct a better safety net, which includes funds for programs that assist, among others, substance abusers and the mentally ill.

Supporting State Employees

            The House is proud to support a 3% pay raise for state employees in the proposed budget, which is twice that which Governor McAuliffe proposed. It also proportions funds to assist in a statewide study on pension reform and retirement plans.

Transportation

            Transportation is funded by money directed specifically to transportation (e.g. gas tax, car titling tax, etc). You can look on my website at http://www.davealbo.org/ to see the projects that we are currently working on.

Overall, myself and the House of Delegates has the utmost confidence that this budget will responsibly increase spending and accountability in the most important areas of our government without taking more from the taxpayers.

JLARC Report on Virginia’s Medicaid Program

The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) released a report on Monday about the cost-effectiveness of Virginia’s Medicaid program. You can find JLARC’s full report here.

The Virginia Medicaid program provides medical, long-term care, and behavioral health services to over a million individuals in the Commonwealth each year. The General Assembly asked JLARC to look into the program’s cost-effectiveness because Medicaid’s spending increases have outpaced total state budget growth over the past 10 years, and now require more of Virginia’s budget resources.

The report indicates that Medicaid general fund spending has increased by approximately nine percent annually over the last 10 years. In fact, Medicaid spending alone made up 22 percent of the general fund budget in 2016. This makes funding education and other programs more difficult.

JLARC believes a lot of these expenses are preventable and that there are other ways to provide more cost-effective long-term services and care without using so much of Virginia’s budget. JLARC has outlined a series of recommendations, which can be found here.

Please be aware that I am not writing this in opposition to Medicaid. If we can afford it, I want to take care of as many people as possible who are unable to care for themselves. I just think it is important that we implement reforms to save enough money so that Medicaid does not cost us any more than we are currently paying.

Richmond Times Dispatch Editorial: “Medicaid spending soars beyond projections – again”

In the General Assembly, there has been a long standing debate over whether Virginia should accept the “Obamacare” program where poor people who are of working age (19-64) should get free medical insurance via Medicaid.  The Federal Government is going to pay 90% of the bill.  Generally speaking, Democrats wanted to accept it and Republicans did not.  Democrats argued that it would be a nice thing to do and that the Federal Government is going to pay 90%.  Republicans, including me, (1) Pointed out that already all poor people who are 18 and under, 64 and older, disabled or pregnant already get Medicaid, (2) Agreed that it would be a nice thing to do, but (3) Argued that we cannot afford it.  We pointed out that if Virginia expanded Medicaid to include all poor people ages 19-64, just Virginia’s 10% share would cost $320 million per year.  And with Medicaid costs rising, in 10 years we would expect it to rise to $720 million/yr.

Here is an article to show you that our fears of rising Medicaid costs were not unfounded: http://www.richmond.com/opinion/our-opinion/article_bb21ce3b-5a13-5478-b9c4-016caf41cb17.html

 

Washington Post Letter to the Editor

Here is what Mrs. Teresa Champion wrote to the editor of the Washington Post regarding my bill, HB 1213. This bill would allow children who are developmentally delayed (e.g. those who have autism) and are prone to outbursts at school to present evidence in Court that proves the child’s behavior is out of their control.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/virginias-appalling-prosecution-of-disabled-children/2016/03/10/c12d9706-e62d-11e5-a9ce-681055c7a05f_story.html

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!

2015 VCTA Interview

I was recently interviewed on VCTA Cable Reports. If you don’t have the time to watch the entire interview, here are some of the key points discussed:

Economy:
Northern Virginia’s economy is struggling. In large part this can be attributed to the federal government’s federal spending cuts and the sequestration. Our economy has become overly reliant on federal contracts. We need to diversify our economy by supporting the private sector and bringing innovative companies and industries into Northern Virginia.

Bills:
HB1445 seeks to provide medicinal marijuana to help people with intractable epilepsy, glaucoma or cancer. I want to emphasize that I am not attempting to legalize marijuana.
HB1499 seeks to give mothers the option to breast-feed on public property. This is already a law in 47 other states, even Texas!

Education:
The Composite Index of Local Ability to Pay determines how much state money goes to Fairfax schools. It costs much more to live and work in Fairfax County, so the Composite Index formula has a portion in it that sends more money to high cost of living areas. This is because we have to pay teachers and support staff more than other areas of the state. People outside of NOVA have tried to reduce the amount of money that goes to high cost areas by striking this out of the Composite Index. If this is done, we would lose a substantial amount of funding. But we won’t let them. My Northern Virginian colleagues and I (on both sides of the aisle) are working tirelessly to keep this factor a part of the equation.

Hot Lanes:
Some Virginians are upset by having to pay toll on the new beltway and 95 HOT Lanes. 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 and we could not borrow it. So the only options were do nothing, raise taxes 12 cents a gallon on gas, or do it as a toll road. I never choose to do nothing, few people wanted to raise the gas tax, so we built these as a toll road. We decided to do it through a private company because we did not have the ability to borrow $2.5+ Billion. And if the tolls do not raise enough 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.

If you would like to watch the full interview, here is the video:

Medical Marijuana for Epilepsy

This morning, two colleagues and I gave a press conference on our medical marijuana bills. I was joined by the families of Tommy Elder (age 22) and Haley Smith (age 14) as well as the supporters of Virginia Parents for Medical Marijuana.

Tommy Elder and Haley Smith have both suffered from severe epilepsy episodes since infancy. Their parents have found that cannabis oil dramatically reduces the number of seizures they have and helps them cognitively function much better.

My bill seeks to legalize medical marijuana specifically for people who deal with epilepsy, cancer, and glaucoma. Here is a brief summary:

HB 1445 Possession or distribution of marijuana for medical purposes; epilepsy. Allows a person to possess marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinol and allows a medical doctor or pharmacist to distribute such substances without being subject to prosecution if a doctor determines in the course of his professional practice that such substances should be used for the treatment of the person’s epilepsy. Currently, the use of medical marijuana is allowed only for the treatment of cancer and glaucoma. The bill also provides that a valid recommendation from a medical doctor that medical marijuana be used for treatment is a necessary prerequisite for the immunity from prosecution for the possession or distribution of such substances to apply. The current law requires a valid prescription from a medical doctor. The bill also clarifies that the penalties for forging or altering a recommendation for medical marijuana or for making or uttering a false or forged recommendation are the same as the penalties for committing the same acts with regard to prescriptions.

I want to emphasize that I am NOT trying to legalize marijuana. Rather, I am trying to find a way to help these kids with their ongoing seizures.

Here is a link to WUSA9’s coverage of the story:

http://www.wusa9.com/story/news/local/virginia/2015/01/22/medical-marijuana-virginia-cannabis-oil-epilepsy/22181119/

DA MJ for E

Medicaid: “The 800-Pound Gorilla”

Last month, State Legislatures magazine ran the article “The 800-Pound Gorilla”, discussing Medicaid, its growing costs, and what state policymakers nationwide are trying to do to maintain the program. Since this issue is also extremely important to Virginia as well, I thought you may like a summary of the article, informing you about the challenges each state is facing when dealing with Medicaid and federal health care reform.

Medicaid has been around for 46 years and cost state and federal governments nearly $400 billion in 2009. In virginia, Medicaid costs have increased three hundred percent over just ten years due to the rising costs of health care and the growing number of people eligible for the program. This is mathematically unsustainable. With federal health care reform, an additional 16 million are expected to enroll in the next three years, adding to the program’s costs.

Because of the huge dent this program makes in our budgets, states across the county are looking towards reforming the system to create “a less expensive, better, more ‘sustainable’ health care system for the poor and disabled”. However, states need more flexibility from the federal government in order to make these reforms. The article puts forth a few states that have attempted different approaches to the management of their Medicaid programs. All these options will need federal approval, but this can be a lengthy process. However, as federal health reform continues to threaten state budgets, the urgency for change will grow greater.

The rest of the article is worth the read because it contains important information on how Medicaid works and discusses some options on how to keep Medicaid costs down. To read the article in full, visit http://www.ncsl.org/?tabid=23689