The first full week of the 2012 Session is now in the books, and we have begun to make our way through more than 2,000 bills and resolutions that have been introduced. The vast majority of the legislation is still in committees and subcommittees, but we have already taken a handful of crucial floor votes.
Uranium Mining Throughout the summer and into the fall a number of you contacted me with regard to your concerns about Uranium mining. I heard many mixed views on this, and continued to closely monitor the debate. Though we have continued to get feedback on this issue no legislation was filed. Yesterday, Governor McDonnell asked the General Assembly to keep the moratorium in place for the 2012 Session. He asked that the moratorium stay in place until a pending a comprehensive study of the issue is completed by a newly-created multi-agency state workgroup. While uranium mining offers a potential positive economic impact for Southside and the entire state, more time is needed to ensure that the uranium can be mined safely. I believe this is a wise decision at this time and I applaud Governor McDonnell for continuing to gather information so that we can make a fully informed decision on this important issue. You can read more about the Governor’s announcement online here. Local Mandates Task Force On Monday, Governor McDonnell announced the findings of a task force aimed at reducing mandates on localities. Having served on Staunton City Council for a number of years, I understand the difficulties that these mandates can often cause to our localities, and I appreciate the Governor and his team taking a hard look at this. The task force has recommended the removal of twenty mandates. My colleagues in the House of Delegates and I often criticize federal mandates that are forced upon the states by Washington. Therefore I believe it is important for us to take a close look at the mandates we place on localities to ensure they are necessary, and to remove those that impose an undue burden. To see a complete list of the mandates that have been recommended for removal, please click here. Governor Unveils 2012 Public Safety Agenda Another key priority for the House Republicans and Governor McDonnell this year is public safety. Highlights of the Governor’s agenda include legislation to provide tough mandatory minimum sentences for repeat drug dealers, and life sentences for sex offenders who prey on children; further protect victims of crime; streamline procedures for Virginia's asset forfeiture laws; and, strengthen the response to emergencies and ensure maximum protection for victims. You can read more online here. Poll Question As many of you are already aware, a key issue this Session is Sunday hunting. Currently Virginia law prohibits hunting on Sundays, but there are several bills that would lift this ban, either across the board or on private property only. I have been continually gauging the views of 20th District residents on this for some time, but would still like to hear from you. Please email me your comments on this important issue at email@example.com. Your prompt response is needed since these bills will soon be heard in committee. My Legislation Though we are only one full week in, I have already had a number of my bills heard in committee, and on the floor of the House. House Bill 74, which would reduce the time limit for reporting suspected child abuse or neglect by mandated reporters from 72 hours to 24 hours, passed in the House of Delegates today with a vote of 96-0. I am pleased that this bill was so successful, and believe it is a first step in helping quickly remove children from dangerous environments. I hope it continues to be successful when it goes to the Senate for debate. House Bill 577, which clarifies that teachers of online courses provide consent to obtain a search of the registries of founded complaints of child abuse and neglect as a condition of their employment, advanced from the education committee unanimously this week. This simply brings policies for instructors of online courses in line with the policies of traditional classroom teachers. It was heard on the floor today, and I anticipate that the vote for final passage will be on Monday. We have a number of other important pieces of legislation moving through the various committees. You may follow their progress on line at http://legis.virginia.gov. Visitors We were very busy this week and we were very happy to see a number of visitors from home. I would like to thank all of you who stopped by. I would like to thank the local members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, Virginia Young Democrats of Staunton, Augusta, and Waynesboro, and the Nelson County American Legion for stopping by this week. I would also like to thank Mark Daugherty and other members of the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party, as well as Dean Welty, Laura Logie, and the Valley Family Forum. It is always nice to hear from you. We were also visited by some friends from the Blue Ridge and Highland Medical Center, as well as local dieticians from Staunton, Augusta, and Waynesboro. Last, but certainly not least, I would like to thank Dr. John Downey and the students at Blue Ridge Community College, Robin Sullenberger and Dennis Burnett, Dr. Don Henry, Rick Shifflett, and Erik Curren for taking the time out of their schedule to visit our office. Thanks again and please do not hesitate to stop by if you’re in Richmond over the next few weeks! Contact Us Our office is currently operating out of our Richmond Office for the entirety of the 2012 Session. You can contact us here by phone at 804-698-1020, or by email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov. If you're in the Richmond area we’d love to see you. We make constituent visits a priority and do our best to meet with as many as possible. In order to help us accommodate you we encourage you to call and make an appointment. We hope to hear from you while we are here. If you have any questions or concerns, or would like to voice your opinion on key pieces of legislation that may impact the District or the Commonwealth, please do not hesitate to contact us. Thanks again for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.