General Assembly Update (11/16/10)
Two weeks after the election, many are still shocked at the result of what many of us have been feeling and hearing about for almost a year: the anger and anxiousness of the American people. Many incumbents, including our own Tom Perriello were caught in this maelstrom of discontent. To have come so close in this environment and this district is testimony to Tom’s integrity and hard-work. Even his opponents have grudgingly admitted that he said what he believed and worked hard to engage his constituents. I hope you will join me in thanking Congressman Perriello for his service.
During the election, we often heard candidates claim that it was time to “take our country back.” This demand resonated with many voters who perhaps yearn for a simpler time when opportunities seemed endless and the United States had few economic rivals. But our world and country have changed, and leaders at all levels of government must rise to the challenge of increased global competition and a group of emerging economic powers who are not playing for second place.
At the state level, we will enter the 2011 legislative session confronted with budgetary challenges not dissimilar to last year. State revenues have recovered somewhat as we emerge from the most serious economic downturn since the Depression, but they still lag behind previous years. In this environment, remaining committed to our priorities — both short and long-term — will be important.
Certainly, one of the top priorities is job creation, and we will likely see many proposals in the upcoming session designed to recruit new businesses to Virginia and retain existing ones. These will cost money in a year when there is still not much money to go around, so it will important that we have ways to measure the success of these initiatives and their value to taxpayers. I believe we should concentrate significant efforts in the energy sector, by providing block grants to localities which would use local contractors to retrofit homes and businesses. This would both create jobs right away and help people save money and energy.
Educational funding will continue to be a major issue. A strong educational system is the way we will keep our global competitive edge, and it is important to guard against the kind of budget cuts we saw last year. We must reward teachers who work hard and gain results. We need to increase our investment in our institutions of higher education — such as UVA and PVCC — which have been woefully underfunded over the last decade. But educational change is more than just about adequate funding; we need reform as well. We need to consider extending the school year. Among the advanced industrialized nations, we have children in school fewer days than almost any country. We need initiatives to produce more mathematicians, engineers and scientists. We need to give local school divisions greater ability to innovate, so that accountability will not be determined simply on the basis of “high stakes” testing and the regimen of “No Child Left Behind” but on giving students the skills necessary for them to compete in an increasingly challenging global environment.
During this next legislative session, beginning January 12, I will offer legislation to encourage greater use of renewable sources of energy, to expand opportunities for adoption, and to enhance budget transparency, among others. Please feel free to contact me with additional legislative ideas you may have.
Finally, for those who missed my cable show on Energy entitled “Plugging the Leaks”, you can find the viewing times City of Charlottesville website. Please check it out if you have time; it has much useful information on energy and money-saving programs and ideas.
It is a pleasure to represent the 57th District, and I appreciate your input and support.