General Assembly Update (2/25/11)
With the General Assembly session scheduled to end on Saturday, February 26, we are awaiting a final compromise budget agreed upon by the House and Senate conferees. I remain concerned about education funding for Albemarle and Charlottesville and continue to advocate for additional monies for our schools.
This week we debated a resolution to Congress about climate change and clean air. The majority party in the House proposed a resolution (HR 72) asking Congress to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from taking any further action on climate change. The resolution would have prevented the enforcement of many reasonable regulations under the Clean Air Act (CAA), in addition to climate change mitigation. The CAA has been an effective vehicle for environmental protection and has dramatically reduced noxious pollutants in the atmosphere like lead, mercury, and chemicals which cause acid rain. During the debate, I took to the floor to argue against this short-sighted measure. You can see video of some of the debate on my Facebook page. Proponents of the resolution suggested that theories about climate change are based on fraudulent data. One delegate even went so far as to say that CO2 is not a pollutant. The resolution passed by a 64-33 margin, an indication of the amount of the work that we need to do to educate people about the reality of climate change.
Over 1450 people participated in my 2011 Constituent Survey by mail or online and these responses guided my decision-making during this General Assembly session.
Large numbers indicated they oppose cuts in K-12 education (85%), higher education (76%), Medicaid (76%), health services other than Medicaid (70%), public safety (71%) and veterans services (76%). 66% of respondents indicated that Virginia should raise taxes to fill any budget holes. I opposed the House budget proposal which, despite increased revenue estimates from the governor, cut K-12 education by almost $50 million and cut the Medicaid provider reimbursement rate.
51% of respondents opposed redirecting part of the General Fund (GF) to fund transportation and I voted against the House’s proposal to take $150 million out of the GF to fund the governor’s Transportation Infrastructure Bank. I expect to vote for a bill that will include new monies for transportation, but this spending will not be at the expense of education. A majority also opposed the privatization of the state-run Alcoholic Beverage Control retail operation, and this bill was defeated when the Republicans in the House refused to have it taken up in committee.
Survey responses on immigration were more mixed. 49% felt that individuals should be required to show proof of U.S. citizenship before receiving state and local services; 46% opposed this and 5% had no opinion. 53% opposed requiring local and state police to attempt to verify the citizenship of all who are arrested, and 59% indicated that they support this citizenship verification only of those accused or convicted of violent crimes. While I voted for HB 1468, which would require verification of the legal presence of an applicant prior to receiving public benefits, I opposed most of this session’s anti-immigration bills, including Arizona-style bills that dramatically broaden the power of law enforcement to demand identification any time a person is stopped for an offense and a bill that would bar young persons from attending public colleges or universities if their parents are undocumented.
The full survey results are now available.
I hope to have more information to you about the budget soon.
Please feel free to contact my office any time with questions, concerns, or suggestions. My number in Richmond is (804) 698-1057 and you may reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to serving you in the coming weeks.