As we wind down the third week of session, there is a piece of good news that I would like to highlight. As a result of our conservative budgeting and Virginia’s improving economy, we just received news from our Appropriation Committee that Virginia’s revenue has increased beyond our initial expectations.
The House Budget proposal has not yet been finalized but my hope is that the additional revenue headed into FY2016 will allow us some flexibility to put forth the best budget possible. I am confident that we will use this modest increase in revenue to eliminate fees, protect our AAA credit rating, protect tax incentives that work for families and businesses, and provide pay raises for our state employees, state police, and teachers. Additionally, I am confident that we will be able to spare K-12 and higher education from painful cuts.
Convention of the States
This week, the House Rules Committee passed two resolutions calling for an Article V convention of the states. These resolutions represent Virginia’s formal application to Congress for a convention of the states to consider amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
HJ 497 would call a convention of the states to consider amendments to the U.S. Constitution that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress. HJ 499 would call a convention of the states to consider a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Like many Virginians, I believe that our nation is headed in the wrong direction and that we desperately need to change course. Undoubtedly spending is out of control and the federal government has gone unchecked for too long. A constitutional convention, however, could be very dangerous and could cause many more problems than it solves.
We have received numerous emails and phone calls both in favor of and opposed to the Article V convention. I have met with many on both sides, and I have ultimately decided that I will oppose these resolutions.
The possibility of a runaway convention deeply concerns me. While Delegates Lingamfelter and LeMunyon put protections into their legislation that would hopefully help prevent this, we cannot control what protections other states have. I am not convinced that a convention could limit the topics considered and I fear that that we could end up with a much different-looking Constitution than the one we have today. One can only imagine what would happen if New York or California hijacked these conventions.
I expect that the final vote on these measures will be early next week.
Most of my legislation is still working its way through the committee process. I had several education pieces reported out of subcommittee this week that will be heard in full committee next Monday. I will report on those in the next edition of Bell Sounds.
House Bill 1696 would make public service corporations subject to the public records provision of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act with respect to any project or activity for which it may exercise the power of eminent domain and has already filed or pre-filed for a certificate or other permitting documents. Unfortunately, the House Commerce and Labor Committee chose to table the bill and kill it. Delegate Ben Cline was one of only two votes in favor of this measure.
I am disappointed that the Commerce and Labor committee did not see fit to advance this legislation. This was a common sense measure that would have increased the transparency of the eminent domain process. Our citizens have the right to know what is being done on or with their property. It seems only fair and right that when the authority of the government is given to a private entity that they be subject to the same oversight and accountability.
For a more detailed explanation of this bill check out my op-ed in the News Virginian.
For more information on my other 2015 Legislation please click here.
Take My 2015 Legislative Survey!
In order to best represent you in Richmond, I need to hear from you. If you’ve not already taken my 2015 Legislative Survey please do so by the end of next week. 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.
This week despite winter weather in the Shenandoah Valley and Richmond we still had a number of visitors drop by from home. On Monday we saw Crista Cabe and several students from Mary Baldwin who visited the General Assembly to thank them for their Tuition Assistance Grants. General Djuric and several VWIL cadets joined them later to testify for a budget amendment to maintain funding for VWIL. Glen Slack and several reps from the Arc of Augusta visited as well.
Peter Agelasto met with Savanna this week, as did Laura Kleiner, member of the Staunton City School Board. Charlie Obaugh also met with Savanna, as did representatives from CATS. William Weeks and Jon Hanna visited for Property and Causality Insurance Lobby Day as well. We were visited by Marcia Elliot on three different days this week.
We were visited by several representatives from the Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative, as well as members of the Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce.
For Virginia Municipal League Day we were visited by Staunton City Manager Steve Owen and assistant City Manager Steve Rosenberg, as well as Mayor Carolyn Dull and council members Jim Harrington, Erik Curren, Terry Holmes, Walter Obenschain, and Andrea Oakes. We missed them but I understand that Waynesboro City Manager Michael Hamp and representatives from the Waynesboro City Council were also in town for VML Day.
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 is 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.