This is our first full week and the 2015 General Assembly Session is in full swing. Legislation is working its way through the committee process and we’re starting to see more legislation on the floor. As bills continue to progress our floor sessions and committee meetings will undoubtedly go longer as we work to get all legislation through the house before crossover.
Though most bills are still working their way through the committee process, some key pieces of legislation have already made it to the floor for a final vote.
This year one of the top priorities of many in the House is to focus our efforts on making College more affordable. It’s becoming more and more difficult to save enough to pay for college and Virginia students now borrow more than $1 billion every year to pay for school.
House Bills 1895 and 1896, patroned by House Majority Leader Kirk Cox, are two bills aimed at reducing the cost of higher education for our students.
House Bill 1895 would grant several of Virginia’s smaller and mid-sized public colleges and universities additional administrative authority regarding information technology, procurement, and capital projects. This would give these schools more administrative flexibility and hopefully help reduce costs.
House Bill 1896 would limit the amount of athletic revenue that colleges and universities collect from mandatory student fees. The caps would apply differently to Virginia’s Division I, Division II and Division III schools. Institutions would have five years to incrementally reduce mandatory student fees as a percentage of overall athletic revenue.
I was pleased to support and co-patron each of these bills, both of which passed unanimously in the House of Delegates this afternoon.
We are always looking at unique and creative ways to make college more affordable for Virginians. While this legislation doesn’t solve all problems I definitely believe it is a huge step in the right direction. I know that there are other bills out there that also look to address the rising costs of college, and I look forward to continuing these discussions.
Although we are still very early in the session I have already had the opportunity to present a couple of my own bills in committee.
On Wednesday I presented House Bill 1438 to a Counties, Cities, and Towns subcommittee. House Bill 1438 would give our localities alternatives to local newspapers for publication of legal ads and other public notices and would provide a lot of flexibility to the locality on how they publicize these notices.
Each year our localities spend tens of thousands of dollars in advertising costs to publish these notices in local newspapers as required by state law.
As more and more Virginians gain access to internet and as fewer Virginians receive a daily newspaper, I believe that we could save our local governments and their taxpayers thousands of dollars per year by allowing them some flexibility in how they publish these notices.
My legislation would require the locality to publicize the notice using any two of the following mediums, and the legislation requires that they choose the manner that is gauged to ensure the maximum number of residents are likely to be informed.
Their options are:
(i) in a newspaper of general circulation in the locality, including such newspaper's online publication, if any; (ii) on the locality's website; (iii) on any public access channel operated by the locality, to be aired during prime-time programming and at least two other times during the day; (iv) using any automated voice or text alert systems used by the locality; or (v) posting at the local public library established pursuant to § 42.1-33, if any.
In addition, the bill includes a provision that requires that any resident of the locality annually filing a written request for notification with the locality be provided notice by the locality in a manner mutually agreed upon by the locality and that resident. This should ensure that those residents who are particularly interested in these notices can guarantee that they will always have convenient access to this information.
Although it got a great hearing, this bill was unfortunately defeated in subcommittee on a vote of 4-7. I was particularly disappointed that this bill did not advance because it would be so beneficial to our local governments.
I believe that by allowing the locality this flexibility they can provide these notices to the public in a way that best meets the needs of their citizens.
In some localities, including some areas that I represent, widespread access to the internet is still limited. In those areas, a newspaper may be the best option for publicizing these notices.
Those localities still have the option of utilizing newspapers for those advertisements. In localities where most do have internet access, however, it may make more sense for the locality to post it to their website, or to the website of a local newspaper.
Every locality has a unique constituency, and by requiring that these advertisements be publicized in the newspaper we are applying a one size fits all policy. I believe by allowing the locality the discretion to choose from these options how best to advertise, we are enabling them to more effectively reach their varying constituencies in the most economically efficient way possible.
I’m disappointed that the members of the subcommittee did not trust their localities to know how to best meet the needs of their citizens with respect to these notices.
To follow more of my legislation for the 2015 Session click here.
Take My 2015 Legislative Survey!
I need to hear from you, so that I know how I can best represent you in Richmond. Each year I conduct a legislative survey featuring a few important public policy issues which may be considered by the General Assembly. Your opinion is very important to me, so please take a few moments to let me know where you stand on these issues.
Feel free to share this survey with your friends and family who live in the 20th District!
You can take the survey online here.
We were fortunate to see many friendly faces from our area in Richmond this week! Laura Logie, Kaylene Seigle, and Joshua Huffman stopped by on Monday. We also got to spend some time with Dan and Hannah Moxley. While I was in committee, my aide Savanna was able to meet with local representatives from the Virginia Young Democrats.
On Wednesday I met with Bruce Thompson and Bo Wilson from Dr. Pepper of Staunton. Savanna was able to meet with Gayl Brunk and representatives from the Valley Associates for Independent Living, as well as Debbie Perdue of the Highland Medical Center and Peggy Whitehead, Deborah Williams, and Okey Norcutt of the Blue Ridge Medical Center. She was also visited by Justin Beard and several members of the Staunton Professional Fire Department.
Lisa Wooten, our Waynesboro Voter Registrar stopped by, as well as local representatives from the school nutritionists association.
On Thursday we were visited by Blue Ridge Community College President John Downey and a group of BRCC students. We were also visited by Virginia Association of Junior Volunteer Rescue Squads President Victoria Gaudin, a Waynesboro resident, and Vice President of the Virginia Association of Volunteer Rescue Squads, Kim Craig.
If you plan to be in Richmond over the next few weeks, we would love for you to drop by.
Even with the tight committee schedule, we do our best to see as many constituents in as possible. Though appointments are not required, they are strongly encouraged.
To make an appointment, call Savanna at 804-698-1020.
Session Contact Information
While we are in Session our contact information will be a little different than it is while we are in the District.
Although we will still monitor voicemail on the phone in our district office, the quickest way to reach us by phone is 804-698-1020.
You can continue to reach us by email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.
If you would prefer to send us written correspondence, you can do so at Post Office Box 406, Richmond, Virginia 23218.
While we do our best to respond to every email and voicemail as quickly as possible, during Session we get sometimes hundreds of calls and emails each day. Therefore, it can often take some time to filter through everything. We appreciate your patience and understanding, and assure you that we will work to get back to you as promptly as possible.
As always, I thank you for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.