Progress on State Budget as Session Draws to a Close
During this final week of the 2012 General Assembly Session the main focus has continued to be on the ongoing budget impasse. We did see some progress when House Budget Conferees met with members of both parties from the Senate Finance Committee to begin to work out the budget differences between the two chambers. Senate Democrats participation in this process is certainly a positive sign.
We are all hopeful that the meetings over the past few days will help pave the way for the Senate to use the House budget (the only budget bill alive) as a starting point for a final budget. When comparing the House budget with the Senate proposal that failed in the Senate, it is clear that the differences are not as large as they have been in prior years. This is a promising sign that, if other non-budgetary considerations among the Senate Democrats are set aside, we will be able to reach a budget agreement in a timely manner. Unfortunately it will likely not be until after the 2012 Regular Session has adjourned. Some challenges still remain, however, as Senate Democrats earlier in the week released a list of proposed programs they want to fund. Their proposals add approximately $450 million in new spending, and do not provide new revenue in suggested cuts to other areas to balance the budget.
Capitol Visitors Come to Urge Passage of the Budget
This week many groups came to the Capitol or wrote letters urging the passage of a budget. Some of these groups include veterans groups, law enforcement departments, local government officials, and local chambers of commerce. As mentioned last week, our schools, local governments, and police departments muse see the Commonwealth’s budget before they can produce a budget of their own. When we delay it also delays them. I believe that these important visits have also made every Delegate and Senator acutely aware of the consequences of this budget delay for those we represent at home.
Supporting Our Capitol Police
I would like to publicly thank the men and women of the Virginia Division of Capitol Police who work to keep all visitors, staff, and elected officials safe every day. Over the course of the 2012 Session, we have seen numerous groups visit the Capitol to voice their support and concerns about a wide range of bills. As a whole, these groups have abided by the rules of the Capitol and have had positive and productive visits. Unfortunately, a small minority of these visitors have come here with other intentions, and the Capitol Police have handled these situations with distinction and honor. Though we have seen some harsh rhetoric this year, I have never felt unsafe or insecure in the Capitol thanks to these fine men and women. We are all very grateful for their sense of duty and professionalism.
As this Session draws to a close, I would like to thank everyone who has called, emailed, written, or visited me in Richmond. Your guidance and support helps me to effectively serve as your voice in the House of Delegates.
Additionally, we have mailed thousands of letters to constituents around the district to report on the progress of numerous bills during this Session, including legislation I have introduced. While we have done our best to answer every letter and email during the session, we have not been able to respond to everyone and will be working on replies until everyone has received a response.
I will also be visiting and speaking with the many organizations in the district that have invited me to give them a post session report.
Finally, I would like to thank my staff for all of their hard work throughout the Session. They do a lot of heavy lifting around the office and help me to serve you to the best of my ability.
This weekend we will be returning home to the 20th District. Because the 2011 redistricting expanded the size of our district, we feel that it is no longer practical to expect people to come to Staunton to meet with me or my staff. Sometimes it will simply be easier for us to come to you. Therefore we have made the decision to close the office in Staunton, and operate on a more mobile basis.
Rather than office hours, we will operate by appointment. My aide, Savanna, will still be working 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Monday – Friday. Our new phone number is 540-448-3999. Our email address will stay the same, and you can continue to reach me at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov. You can also write to us at Post Office Box 239, Staunton, Virginia 24402.
Thanks again for allowing me to serve as your Delegate. I look forward to seeing you when I return to the 20th District.