Bell Sounds from the 20th - Week 6

I hope that you are all staying warm and dry after this most recent snow storm!  Despite the weather, things continued as normal in Richmond this week.  

Tuesday was crossover day at the General Assembly – the halfway point of the 2014 Session.  At this point the House of Delegates has passed 944 pieces of legislation; the Senate has passed 696.  After crossover, each house in the General Assembly may only consider bills that originated in the other house.

Many long time observers in Richmond have commended the House for completing the first half of the Session’s work load in an extremely efficient manner.  In past years Session on crossover day has lasted well past midnight, however this year it lasted only a couple of hours.

This coming week we will work on the state budget. The House and Senate will report their separate budgets this Sunday, February 16. Once we release our budgets, we will vote for approval in our separate houses. After approval, 6 budget conferees from each house will work to negotiate a final budget that is presented to the Governor. Speaker Howell has appointed Majority Leader Kirk Cox, Delegates Chris Jones, John O’Bannon, Steve Landes, Tag Greason, and Johnny Joannou to represent the House.

Though it is hard to believe, there are only three weeks remaining in the 2014 Session. Let me give you an update on the happenings in Richmond for this Crossover week.

 Virtual Education

As I mentioned last week, I have been working on a piece of legislation that would help increase access to online programs for students across the Commonwealth.  I am pleased to announce that after three years of discussion and debate, Virginia is moving forward with legislation to give parents and students the tools needed to ensure that every child has access to cutting edge technology for virtual learning.

 This year I patroned House Bill 324, which establishes a new Virtual Virginia School and creates a Board of the Virginia Virtual School as a policy agency under the Secretary of Education (SOE). The School will offer both online classes and virtual school programs to all public, private, and home-schooled children in Virginia. The Virginia Virtual School will be responsible for all federal and state accountability requirements applicable to those students enrolled on a full-time basis.

We began working on Virtual Education legislation in 2010 when the General Assembly passed House Bill 1388.  House Bill 1388 required the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Board of Education to develop criteria for approving and monitoring multi-division providers of online courses and virtual school programs.  It also allowed localities to enter into contracts with approved private providers of such courses.

 Since 2010, we have worked tirelessly on legislation to help develop a way to allow all students in Virginia to have access to public virtual school programs. In previous years, however, this legislation has failed in the Appropriations committee due to questions about the funding formula.

 House Bill 324 was referred to the Committee on Education where it was reported and referred to Appropriations.  Appropriations reported the bill on February 7 with a vote of 18-3.  It passed in the House on a vote of 64-34.

Additionally, the House passed House Bill 1115, patroned by Delegate Tag Greason.  Delegate Greason’s bill would expand access to virtual classrooms by creating the “Virtual Virginia” program within the Department of Education. Virtual Virginia will facilitate the distribution of online classes throughout school divisions in the Commonwealth.

Delegate Greason’s bill focuses on a “blended learning” concept by pairing traditional coursework with online classes.  This bill would allow students to take individual online classes that their school systems may not offer.  For example, it would allow a student in Highland County to take a foreign language or advanced placement class that is offered in Fairfax County. It gives students and parents greater options in their course load that they may not have in their current school.

This is a tremendous accomplishment, and a huge step for school choice in Virginia. We have worked with educators, business leaders, parents, and students for four long years on this legislation, and it is wonderful to finally see it have the opportunity to be heard and discussed on the full House floor.

 There are many students in Virginia who thrive in the traditional classroom, but there are also many who do not.  There is a tidal wave of technology available to enhance learning options for these students.  I am pleased that the House of Delegates has come together to make sure that Virginia students are included.

 Every student in every corner of Virginia should be able to grow and learn in the environment that best meets their needs, and these opportunities should not be limited based on their zip code. Virginia is a leader in so many areas, and this should be one of them. This is a great step forward and I am looking forward to the Virginia Senate joining us.

The bill must now be passed by the Senate and signed by the Governor.  There is still a long road ahead, but I am optimistic that legislators will see the benefits of allowing students a virtual option.

Ethics Reform

Another hot topic of the 2014 General Assembly Session has been ethics reform.  The House of Delegates this week passed a bipartisan, comprehensive ethics reform bill with a vote of 98-1.

I chose to co-patron and support this legislation, which would reform and update Virginia’s ethics, transparency, and disclosure laws. House Bill 1211, patroned by Delegate Todd Gilbert, would impose a $250 gift cap, create a statewide ethics advisory council, update several aspects of the financial disclosure system, and implement a mandatory ethics training requirement for elected officials.

Over the last year, the confidence that Virginia’s citizens have in their elected officials has been shaken.  The issues that have been raised must be addressed in order for Virginians to maintain trust in their representatives.  For that reason, a bipartisan group of legislators have worked hard on this legislation to ensure that we promote greater transparency and strengthen accountability in Richmond.  

The bill we passed may not be a perfect bill, and it may not have solved all of the problems.  It is, however, a huge step in the right direction. More importantly, it strikes a good balance by enacting significant reform without penalizing honest public servants or discouraging our best citizens from seeking office.  

  Mental Health Reform

  In the last several years, Virginia has too often witnessed the devastating effects of gaps in mental health coverage.  The tragedy that has stricken the Deeds family has once again urged us to look closely at improving our mental health system.  

We’ve passed a strong package of mental health reforms to ensure all individuals and families experiencing mental health crises have access to needed services and support.  The legislation that we have advanced will give law enforcement greater flexibility to respond to mental health crises.  

 Additionally, legislation passed the House unanimously to establish a psychiatric bed registry. This online registry will provide real-time information on the availability of psychiatric beds for patients who need further treatment.   

 Focus has been on increasing capacity and availability of the many great Virginia resources and quality services.  I hope this legislation will continue to gain support in the Senate.

  My Legislation – Post Crossover

I’m pleased to report that this year I patroned 10 bills that passed in the House of Delegates.  Additionally, I was chief co-patron of one bill that passed in the House.  These bills are:

  •  HB 107 - makes the Highland County Maple Festival the official festival of Virginia.
  • HB 190 - allows athletic trainers to administer oxygen in emergency situations.
  • HB 264 - allows social service boards to get the proper legal representation they need.
  • HB 322 - makes changes to the charter of Monterey that they requested.
  • HB 324 - creates a Virtual School system that gives parents and children more options.
  • HB 520 - changes the make up of the Council for Comprehensive Services for At-Risk Youth and Families.
  • HB 521 - changes the terms that members can serve on the Council for Comprehensive Services for At-Risk Youth and Families.
  • HB 522 - changes the appeals process for families with at-risk children.
  • HB 1086 – allows students with special education needs to access virtual education options.
  • HB 1150 – allows distilleries to use copper or stainless steel pots.
  • HB 977 (Patron:Rust) - Extends from five business days to 10 business days the deadline for a teacher to request a hearing after receiving written notice of a recommendation of dismissal.

Detailed information on all of these bills can be found at virginiageneralassembly.gov.

It is truly an honor to see so many pieces of legislation gain support in the House of Delegates this year.  I hope they will continue to gain support as they work their way through the Senate.

 Visitors

Despite the weather we’ve had we were still fortunate to see a number of constituents in Richmond this week.

  Dr. John Downey and representatives from Blue Ridge Community College met with Savanna on Monday.  She was also able to meet with Marie Rothwell and student representatives from the Augusta County 4-H program.  

On Wednesday, we were able to meet with insurance agents William Weeks and David Johnson, who were in town for insurance lobby day.  We were also able to meet with representatives from the Greater Augusta Association of Realtors, as well as representatives from our local Farm Bureau. 
We enjoyed our time with Alan Richardson representing Invista in Waynesboro, as well as  Kathleen Heatwole and representatives from Augusta Health in Fishersville.

If you plan to be in Richmond over the next few weeks, you're welcome to stop by for a visit.
Though appointments are not required, they are strongly encouraged. To make an appointment please call Savanna at 804-698-1020.

Contact Us

While we are in Session, we will be operating out of our Richmond Office. To contact us in Richmond, please call 804-698-1020.  You can also reach us by email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.  If you would like to send written correspondence, you can mail it to Post Office Box 406, Richmond, Virginia 23218.  You can also fax it to 804-698-6720.

 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.

We look forward to hearing from you over the next few weeks!
As always, I thank you for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - Week 5

Though it is hard to believe, this coming Tuesday, February 11 will mark the halfway point of the 2014 Session, known as Crossover.  Crossover is the day that each body must complete the work that was filed in their respective houses.  Beginning next Wednesday, the House will only be able to consider Senate bills that have passed in the Senate, and the Senate will only consider House bills that have passed in the House.

This will certainly make for a long day on Monday and Tuesday, as we will have to be sure to work through all remaining legislation in the House.

I will now provide a brief update on a few items of interest that we have worked on thus far in the 2014 Session.

Standards of Learning (SOL) Reform

As I mentioned in a previous newsletter, one hot topic of this year’s session has been SOL Reform.  The new administration has stated that this is a priority for them, and it is something that many members of the General Assembly have made a priority as well.

When Virginia first adopted the SOLs a number of years ago, we were pioneers in assessment and accountability.  We set high standards, and created accountability among educators.

Though there was never anything but good intent, it has become clear over the last few years that changes are desperately needed.  For that reason, Delegate Tag Greason introduced House Bill 930.

House Bill 930 was the result of many months of collaboration between teachers, education leaders, parents, and legislators.  

This legislation has four main goals:

  • To reduce the number of SOLs in grades 3-8 from 22 to 17.  This is a 23% reduction in standardized testing.  At this time we did not address SOL testing for high school students, due to complications regarding SOLs as a requirement for graduation.

  • To improve the SOLs by requiring the Department of Education to evaluate the multiple-choice and memorization aspects of the current tests, and move toward more problem solving and critical thinking aspects.  

  • To allow teachers in subjects that do not require an SOL the flexibility to utilize performance assessments to locally evaluate how their children are learning.  

  • To establish a Standards of Learning Innovation Committee made up of stakeholders who will be tasked with evaluating our SOLs on an ongoing basis.

Over the last few years we have worked hard in Virginia to reform education.  We took significant steps in 2013 to increase teacher pay and promote greater accountability in our schools.  I believe that SOL reform is another critical step.  House Bill 930 certainly does not solve all of the problems with the SOLs in Virginia, but it is a critical first step.

Virtual Education

Another one of those critical reforms is Virtual Education. Throughout my time in the House of Delegates, virtual education has been one of my top priorities.  Though we passed legislation to promote virtual education in 2010, we have spent the last 4 years looking for a funding solution.

We are closer than we have ever come.  House Bill 324 establishes a new Virtual Virginia School and creates a board of the Virginia Virtual School as a policy agency under the Secretary of Education.  The School will offer full time online classes and virtual school programs to all public, private and home- schooled children in the state who wish to participate.   

There are many students in our Commonwealth that thrive in the traditional classroom setting.  There are also, however, many who do not.  My hope is that virtual education can be a great alternative for those students.  

This bill was initially referred to the Committee on Education, and then re-referred to the Committee on Appropriations. It reported out of Appropriations today on an 18-3 vote. This is the furthest we have made it with this legislation, and this is a tremendous accomplishment.  

House Bill 324 will now go to the House floor for debate and a final vote. I will report back next week with more information.

Prevention of Domestic Violence

Compared to other parts of the country, Virginia is on the right track towards reducing violent crimes. Between 2006 and 2010, overall homicides in Virginia declined by 8%. Unfortunately, however, there is a troubling trend of increased sexual and domestic violence across the Commonwealth with intimate partner homicides increasing by 65%.

At any given time, there are approximately 14,000 active protective orders on file in Virginia. These numbers highlight the adamant need for reform to improve access to critical intervention and prevention services.

This year the House is taking a two-fold approach to combat this problem. I am pleased to co-patron HB 1, a bill carried by Delegate Barbara Comstock, which will streamline existing and new funding for intervention, prevention, and counseling services. This legislation dedicates a funding stream for Sexual & Domestic Violence Agencies to increase access to the important treatment and crisis services they provide. The House Budget Proposal will include $10.6 million in new funding in 2015 for Virginia’s domestic and sexual violence treatment and crisis prevention centers.

I believe this legislation will better serve victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

Highland County Maple Festival

This March (March 8-9 and 15-16, 2014)the Highland County Chamber of Commerce will be hosting the 56th Annual Highland Maple Festival.  Maple syrup-making has long been a part of the heritage in Highland County.  Each year Highland County, with a local population of less than 2,500, welcomes upwards of 50,000 visitors to the festival.

The Highland Maple Festival is listed on the Southeast Tourism Society’s Top 20 Events, and has been designated a Local Legacy by the Library of Congress.

This year, I patroned House Bill 107, which would designate the Highland Maple Festival as the Official Maple Festival of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  I am pleased to report that this legislation passed unanimously in the House of Delegates on Thursday.  If it passes in the Senate, this would go into effect in time for the 2015 Maple Festival.  

Visitors

This week we had a number of visitors from home drop by for a visit.

We had the privilege of seeing Crista Cabe, Vice President for Public Relations at Mary Baldwin College twice this week.  On Monday she came by with Director of Admissions Roberta Palmer and 6 students who were there to thank the General Assembly for their Tuition Assistance Grants.  On Thursday she came by with Brigadier General Terry Djuric, commandant of the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership, as well as several VWIL students.

We also saw students from the Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School, as well as John Avoli and representatives from the Frontier Culture Museum. We met with Denver Riggleman and his wife Christine from Silverback Distillery in Nelson County.

We were also able to see David Blanchard representing Highland County, as well as Augusta County Administrator Pat Coffield and Supervisors Larry Wills, Michael Shull, and David Karaffa.

It is always great to see friendly faces from home. If you will be in the Richmond area over the next few weeks, we welcome you to drop by for a visit.

Though appointments are not required, we strongly encourage them.  To make an appointment call Savanna at 804-698-1020

Contact Us


While we are in Session, we will be operating out of our Richmond Office. To contact us in Richmond, please call
804-698-1020.  You can also reach us by email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.  If you would like to send written correspondence, you can mail it to Post Office Box 406, Richmond, Virginia 23218.  You can also fax it to 804-698-6720.

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.

We look forward to hearing from you over the next few weeks!

As always, I thank you for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - Week 4

With just one more full week left until Crossover we are busier than ever.  Our floor sessions are getting longer, as most committees have moved many of their bills through their dockets.

This week I had a very unique opportunity in the House. On Wednesday, I had the honor and privilege to deliver the opening prayer to the Virginia House of Delegates.  It could be a once in a lifetime experience, and I was very grateful and humbled to be asked.  If you’re interested, you can see the video of the opening prayer online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JwppAuziek.

Republicans Request JLARC Audit of Medicaid

As I have mentioned in previous emails, Medicaid has been one of the pressing issues over the last two Sessions. We have received numerous inquiries on the status of Medicaid expansion, as well as requests for my position. At this time I cannot support Medicaid Expansion, and I do not believe that a decision will be made this Session.

Let me first be clear about what expansion would mean for Virginia.  Medicaid could be expanded to cover an additional 400,000 new recipients in the Commonwealth.  The Federal Government has promised to cover 100% of expansion costs for the first 3 years, and 90% of costs after that.

Just last year, the General Assembly established the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission (MIRC) to review, recommend and approve innovation and reform proposals affecting Virginia’s Medicaid system. This Commission provided for legislative oversight in the process.

Over the last year, MIRC has held eight public meetings and worked to compile information on the current program’s operations and costs. In the most recent MIRC meeting, Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel reported 30% of all healthcare spending in Virginia is waste. Wasteful spending includes money spent on unnecessary services, excessive administrative costs, inefficient delivery services, and fraud.

In order to compliment the work of MIRC, Republicans have recently introduced the text of a resolution that would direct the Joint Legislative Audit Review Committee (JLARC) to complete a comprehensive financial and operational audit of Virginia’s Medicaid program.  JLARC was established to evaluate the operations and performance of state agencies and programs. Our hope is that a JLARC audit will provide insight on several intricacies of the program, including the “Fee for service” system that covers our high volume/high-cost Medicaid services and the long-term care program for the elderly and disabled. 

Virginia citizens deserve a more efficient, effective, and easily accessible Medicaid system. This audit would review a number of different aspects of Medicaid and provide members of both MIRC and the General Assembly a deeper understanding of the challenges we face with Medicaid reform.  It will also provide us with a better grasp on how we can improve the system.

I truly believe that it is important that we improve Medicaid before we even consider expansion.  Therefore it is imperative that we not rush the legislative process, nor put an arbitrary date on that decision. 

My Legislation

This week I had two of my own bills pass in the General Assembly.

House Bill 322 was brought to me by the Monterey Town Council.  The Town Council passed a resolution requesting that legislation be filed in the General Assembly to reduce the number of members on their town council.  This legislation would reduce the number of Town Council members from 7 to 4, effective in May of 2014.  It passed in the House on a vote of 99-0.

House Bill 1150 was brought to me by a local distillery in Nelson County.  Currently, Virginia law only allows a distillery to sell on site if they use a copper pot still.  This law would allow them to use a copper or stainless steel pot still.  If passed, this will broaden the ability of small farm and craft distilleries to have a substantial impact on the local and state economy. I am pleased that the bill passed in the House on a vote of 99-0.

Both of these bills will now move on to the State Senate for further consideration.   

Visitors

I failed to mention last week that Rachel Bavister and Alice Frick dropped by for a few minutes on Monday, January 27. 

Despite the cold and snowy weather, this week we had a number of visitors from home drop in to say hello.

Representing our local libraries Ruth Arnold (Staunton), Zahir Mahmoud (Waynesboro) and Diantha McCauley (Augusta) stopped by to speak to us about legislative and budgetary issues affecting Virginia’s public libraries.  Peter Agelasto from Nelson County stopped by representing the Virginia Conservation Network.

We were also able to spend time with representatives from Staunton, Augusta, and Waynesboro School Boards, as well as representatives from the Greater Augusta Chamber of Commerce. 

We were able to visit with representatives from local breweries, including Steve and Heidi Crandall from Devils Backbone, and Peter Ramsey and representatives from Blue Mountain Brewery.

Gayl Brunk as well as staff and supporters from Valley Associates for Independent Living (VAIL) braved the weather to visit us, as well as Mike Aulger, Myron Rummel, and representatives from the Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative. 

Last but not least, this morning I had the opportunity to spend some time with Dr. Bob Gunther. 

It is always great to see friendly faces from home. If you will be in the Richmond area over the next few weeks, we welcome you to drop by for a visit.

Though appointments are not required, we strongly encourage them.  To make an appointment call Savanna at 804-698-1020.

Contact Us


While we are in Session, we will be operating out of our Richmond Office. To contact us in Richmond, please call 804-698-1020.  You can also reach us by email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.  If you would like to send written correspondence, you can mail it to Post Office Box 406, Richmond, Virginia 23218.  You can also fax it to 804-698-6720.

 

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.

We look forward to hearing from you over the next few weeks!

As always, I thank you for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - Week 3

 

 

We have just completed our second full week of the legislative session.  Many bills have made their way through the committee process, and we are starting to see longer sessions on the House floor.

 

I’d like to give you a brief update on how things are progressing.

 

Sunday Hunting

 

As I mentioned in a previous email blast this week, a bill allowing limited hunting on Sundays advanced from the Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources.

 

I asked for your feedback and was overwhelmed by the response.  We received hundreds of emails from across the 20th House District from hunters and non-hunters alike.  I am so grateful to each of you that took the time to contact me with your thoughts on this issue, and I appreciate your interest and participation in the process more than you know. I truly believe that the participation of the people in the process is what makes our representative government the best in the world.

 

We are still monitoring the emails, but we will update you on the final tally next week.

 

My Legislation

 

Though we are still fairly early in the Session, I have already had five of my own bills advance through the process.

 

House Bills 520, 521, and 522, all legislation dealing with the Comprehensive Services Act for At Risk Youth and Families, passed in the House of Delegates.

 

House Bill 294, legislation requested by the City of Staunton that would authorize local boards of social services to employ in-house counsel, advanced in the House with a vote of 95-0.  Additionally House Bill 190, which would authorize athletic trainers to possess and administer oxygen for use in an emergency situation, advanced in the House on a 91-0 vote.

 

These bills are simple addendums to existing code that strengthen existing law and do not increase the size or the cost of government.  In these cases they simply clarify existing code.

 

Last Chance to Take the 2014 Legislative Survey!

 

If you haven’t already had a chance, please take our 2014 Legislative Survey.  You can find the survey online by clicking here.  The results of these surveys are immensely helpful to me in better representing you in Richmond. You are welcome and encouraged to forward the survey to any friends and family, as well as community, social, and/or church groups.

We will continue to run the survey through January 31, and will publish the results once we close the survey and tally the results.

Though we did our best to include a wide range of topics, we are unable to cover everything.  If there is an issue that is important to you that we didn’t include on the survey, please feel free to email or call us with your thoughts.

 

Visitors This Week

 

This week due to the weather at home, many of our constituents who had planned to visit were unable to do so.  We missed seeing local representatives from our credit unions, the Virginia Society of CPAs, and others.

 

We did have a few visitors from home that braved the weather to visit us this week.  We were able to spend a few minutes with Lisa Wooten from the Waynesboro Registrar’s office. Additionally we were able to see John Hill and David Ledbetter, as well as Dennis Baugh who was representing Valley Children’s Center.

 

Christa Pierpont was in town advocating for Just Children, and though we never had a chance to visit with him, I know that Bo Wilson of Dr. Pepper of Staunton dropped by as well.

 

We are always grateful to see friendly faces from home.  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 as possible. Though appointments are not required, they are strongly encouraged. To make an appointment, call Savanna at 804-698-1020.

 

Contact Us

 

While we are in Session, we will be operating out of our Richmond Office. To contact us in Richmond, please call 804-698-1020.  You can also reach us by email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.  If you would like to send written correspondence, you can mail it to Post Office Box 406, Richmond, Virginia 23218.  You can also fax it to 804-698-6720.

 

We look forward to hearing from you over the next few weeks!
As always, I thank you for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.

 

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Urgent - Your Input Is Requested Regarding Sunday Hunting Legislation!

Just today, House Bill 1237 was reported from the committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources with a razor thin 12-10 vote.

This legislation, if passed by both bodies and signed by the Governor, would allow for limited hunting on Sundays in the Commonwealth.  The bill only allows for Sunday hunting on private property, and prohibits hunting with deer or bear dogs.  It requires that the hunter have written permission from the land owner, except in cases where the land owner is immediate family of the hunter.  Additionally it prohibits hunting on Sundays within 200 yards of any church or other house of worship. 

Though there have been numerous Sunday hunting bills over the past few years, none have advanced beyond the Agriculture committee. Because I do not sit on the Ag committee, I have never had the opportunity to cast a vote either for or against any form of Sunday hunting legislation.

I am not a hunter myself, and therefore I do not personally have a strong position on the issue. For that reason,  I am asking for your feedback.

I would expect that discussion on the House floor could be as early as Friday, and this bill could be before the House for a final vote by Monday.  Therefore I need to hear from you as soon as possible.

Please email your thoughts on this legislation to us at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.  Because of the volume of email we receive during Session, we ask that you please put Sunday Hunting in the subject line to ensure that we view the email in a timely manner.

If you wish to see a summary and full text of the legislation, you can do so online at here.

Your immediate response will be greatly appreciated!

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - 2014 Session Week 2

This was the first full week of the 2013 General Assembly Session, and it was a busy one. Things are in full swing. The first committees began to meet this week, and legislation is working its way through the process.

This was also the first week of a brand new administration.  On Monday night, Governor McAuliffe addressed the House of Delegates and State Senate to outline his priorities for the Commonwealth.

Though there are some areas where I disagree with Governor McAuliffe, I believe there are also several areas where we will be able to work to find common ground. In his top priorities he included job creation, modernizing and reforming our K-12 education system, and workforce development.  These are priorities that I and my colleagues in the House have held for many years.  

Though we do not always agree on specifics, Republicans and Democrats can both agree that our K-12 education system needs reform.  We have made a lot of progress with K-12 over the last four years, and that work must continue.  On Tuesday, House Republicans outlined key elements of our K-12 Education Agenda.  
We already have legislation introduced that will reduce and improve Standards of Learning (SOL) tests, increase virtual education opportunities, and support career ladders for our teachers.

We know that in some ways SOL tests are a necessary evil.  They provide basic benchmarking and allow accountability.  At this time, however, the best students take 34 tests, starting at grade 3.  Those who do not pass the test and are required to retake it take more than 34.    There has been legislation filed that would reduce the number of tests to 26.  

Additionally this legislation establishes SOL “Revision Committees” that will be comprised of educators and experts of the various subjects.  They will work to incorporate more critical thinking and knowledge-application skills into the test. Our hope is this will better able Virginia students to thrive in the competitive business and college environments after they graduate.   

SOL tests have taken years to fully develop, and we will certainly not be able to reform everything in just 60 days.  While this is by no means a perfect solution, I do believe that it is a step in the right direction.  By reducing the number of tests, we hope to allow teachers to have a bit more flexibility, giving them the opportunity to promote critical thinking and problem solving rather than simply regurgitating information.  

Additionally, the House is focused on broadening access to virtual education across Virginia. Throughout my tenure in the House of Delegates I have been a strong advocate for virtual education, and that will continue.  Virtual education provides students the opportunity to create their own curriculum that meets their needs and allows them to achieve their educational goals.  They are not simply limited to the classes that their school offers.  I believe this will be especially beneficial for students in more rural areas of Virginia, where many school divisions cannot afford to offer a large number of elective classes. Virtual education also allows instruction to continue when school close due to bad weather or when students are home sick or serving suspensions.    

Legislation filed will also support the development of “Teacher Career Ladders” that will ensure we retain our best teachers in the classroom where they will have the greatest impact on student success.  Too often teachers must leave the classroom to find higher paying jobs.  This legislation will help keep our best and brightest teachers in the classroom, and help them move to better opportunities and higher paying jobs as they gain experience.

I believe our K-12 education reform proposals provide a solid base for House Republicans to work with the McAuliffe Administration to improve the Commonwealth’s K-12 education system for all our children.  I look forward to these continued discussions.

Medicaid Expansion

There are also areas where I must disagree with the Governor.  The first and most important among these is Governor McAuliffe’s call for a Medicaid expansion decision by the end of the 2014 Session. Medicaid expansion could have serious financial implications for the Commonwealth, and without reform, Virginians could be paying an additional $1 billion each year.

The Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission has been working to identify cost saving reforms in the way Medicaid is currently administered. These reforms include ways to recoup money and punish people who falsely claim Medicaid eligibility.

Putting 400,000 more Virginians in a broken program fraught with waste, fraud, and abuse will make things worse. The federal government has promised to pay for 100% of the cost of expansion for the first three years and 90% thereafter.
Unfortunately the federal government appears to be both broke and broken and the likelihood that they could keep that promise is slim. Even if they could, paying the 10% for an additional 400,000 enrollees plus current Medicaid enrollees spells deep fiscal trouble for the Commonwealth.

Governor McAuliffe believes that expansion is a money maker for Virginia.  However, promises concerning the Affordable Care Act have already been broken.  With the federal government $17 trillion in debt, it is unreasonable to commit Virginia taxpayers to federal promises that could easily be broken.

Your Inquiries

As with previous sessions, our office receives calls and emails to inquire about certain bills.  As your representative, it is vital that we have an open exchange.  This is a cornerstone of our representative government and it is a responsibility that I do not take lightly.

With the election of our new Governor, this year the legislation is slanted towards his agenda.  He and his supporters are pushing for an expansion of Medicaid that forces us closer to Obamacare.  I cannot impress upon you enough that I believe this would be detrimental to Virginia, to our families, and to the quality of health care in general.  

The supporters of these changes are in Richmond in full force and my attention is focused on the legislation they hope to get passed.

If we are not careful, the very important gains we have made will be lost.

One of the most difficult things to manage during the General Assembly Session is the volume of legislation that is considered in such a short amount of time.  As I send this, there are over 2000 bills, not including resolutions, already submitted and there are still more coming.

While we work on the major issues, the day to day business of the House continues. I have introduced several bills, resolutions and budget amendments thus far in support of our veterans, mental health services, K12 education reform and workforce development/job expansion. I have also asked the budget be amended to reflect a raise for Virginia State Police officers who were left out of the budget left behind by Governor McDonnell.

2014 Legislative Survey

If you haven’t already had a chance, please take our 2014 Legislative Survey.  You can find the survey online by clicking here.  The results of these surveys are immensely helpful to me in better representing you in Richmond. You are welcome and encouraged to forward the survey to any friends and family, as well as community, social, and/or church groups.
We will continue to run the survey through January, and will publish the results once we close the survey and tally the results.
Though we did our best to include a wide range of topics, we are unable to cover everything.  If there is an issue that is important to you that we didn’t include on the survey, please feel free to email or call us with your thoughts.

Visitors This Week

This week we were able to meet with a few folks from home.  We met with Edward Misker, who was here for the Military Officers Association of America Storm the Hill Day.  

While I was in committee, my assistant, Savanna, had the opportunity to meet with Justin Beard and a group of representatives of the Staunton Professional Fire Department.  She also was visited by Dr. John Downey and a group of students from Blue Ridge Community College.

Just Yesterday I was visited by Dr. Don Henry, who was in Richmond representing the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association.

We are always grateful to see friendly faces from home.  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 as possible. Though appointments are not required, they are strongly encouraged. To make an appointment, call Savanna at 804-698-1020.

Contact Us

While we are in Session, we will be operating out of our Richmond Office. To contact us in Richmond, please call 804-698-1020.  You can also reach us by email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.  If you would like to send written correspondence, you can mail it to Post Office Box 406, Richmond, Virginia 23218.  You can also fax it to 804-698-6720.  

We look forward to hearing from you over the next few weeks!

 
As always, I thank you for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.
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Bell Sounds from the 20th - December 13

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family, and that you are enjoying the countdown to Christmas.  It is always a busy but wonderful time of year.   

 Let me start by thanking each and every one of you for the support you gave us in the recent election.  Although I was unopposed, I still received a humbling outpouring of support from across the 20th District.  Anne and I are continually grateful for your continued support.

As Christmas approaches, so does the 2014 General Assembly Session.  We convene on January 8, 2014 for what is scheduled to be a 60 day Session.  With a new administration, 14 newly elected members of the House of Delegates, and 7 new House committee chairman, it is sure to be a learning experience for all of us.

Joint Town Hall Meeting

Delegates Landes, Cline, and I will once again be hosting a pre-session Joint Town Hall meeting this year.  This meeting will be held at 7:00 pm on Tuesday, December 17 at Guy K. Stump Elementary School in Stuarts Draft.  

 We will be providing an overview of what is expected for the 2014 General Assembly Session, and taking your questions and comments on the issues that are important to you.

I hope to see many of you there!

Legislative Survey

 Each year I conduct a legislative survey to help me stay attuned to the policy positions of those I represent in Richmond.  We are working on the survey now, and hope to have it out to you via email within the next week or so. 

Please keep close watch over your email inbox over the next couple of weeks for this survey. The results are extremely helpful to me, and allow me to better represent you in Richmond.

Where to Go From Here

Like myself, I know that many of you are disappointed with the results we saw at the polls in November.  Though we held a strong majority in the House of Delegates, I know we will feel the losses of the Governorship and Lieutenant Governorship for some time.  Recounts are underway for the Attorney General race, and my hopes are that we will prevail.

 After any political loss, it is natural to look back and see what we could’ve done differently.  It is also natural to look to what we can do in the future to prevent this from happening again.

Recently, I received an email from a constituent. I believe he made some good points on the need for unity in our party and the need for a stronger campaign message going forward into 2014.

In November of 2014 the country will once again face an important choice.  The status quo is not working, and we must work together to offer a clear and unified alternative.              

With his permission, I have pasted his email below.  I hope you will take a look at this and consider his words. 

 

It’s a simple phrase, one the Democrats understand and one for which the Republicans, Tea Partiers, Libertarians and Conservatives have not a clue. “What’s in it for me?” Democrats recognize this and apply Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” and the technology of “The Victory Lab” to carry this marketing message to their base. Republicans only offer, “the roses smell sweet, smell them.”

So, what is the Republican etal’s campaign message? What are they trying to sell? The answer today is they are against, not for, and they lose elections. If it were not for the Obamacare, Benghazi, Syria, NSA and IRS scandals, Obama would have already been crowned king.

Establishment Republicans cling to their place in a strong national government almost as a “Rite of Passage”. But, the “Right” is no longer theirs. Libertarians do not understand that they are really “States’ Righters” but their message is akin to that of the two national political parties. Conservatives seem not to understand their genesis and get mired in anti-abortion and some vague fiscal restraint rhetoric. The Tea Party echoes the outpouring of Boston Harbor in that something is wrong with the tenets of government but they fail to articulate what.

Republicans speak to a strong national defense without considering what that defense should be. Do we need tanks and supersonic fighter aircraft in this day of cyber warfare, intercontinental missiles and a clandestine enemy? Every man woman and child in the nation owes our debt holders some $60,000 each just to pay off the current national debt. Deficit spending runs unabated, the Fed keeps cranking out paper money, inflation looms and all we can say is “more”.
What’s that Republican 2014 campaign message again?

 Contact

As the session approaches, I look forward to hearing from many of you regarding the issues that matter most to you.  I encourage you to contact us by email at deldbell@house.virginia.gov, or by phone at 540-448-3999.

 Please be aware that this is an extremely busy time of year for us, and the email volume increases drastically. We do our best to respond to each email as quickly as possible, and appreciate your patience.

As always, I thank you for allowing me to serve as your delegate.

 

 

 

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - October 11, 2013

Let me start by thanking all of you who took the time to come out to our annual Barbecue and Bluegrass event a couple of weeks ago.  We had beautiful weather, and it was a great time all around.   Anne and I appreciate your continued support, and it was so great to see so many of you. 

Despite the turmoil coming out of Washington over the past two weeks, we have had some great news here in Virginia.  Forbes.com has named Virginia the Best State for Business in the US.  This is up from our second place rankings over the past three years.  Virginia was also the only state to rank in the top five in four of the six categories, receiving first in the regulatory environment category.  Additionally, a report was recently released that shows Virginia's film industry employment has increased by 15.7% from 2011. 

This shows us that the efforts that the General Assembly and Governor have made over the last few years are working, and we are continuing to receive recognition across the country for our sound business policies.

In addition, the College Board recently announced that, despite the national average falling, Virginia students have seen an increase in their SAT scores in all three testing categories.  This is great news for our students, and proves that the vast majority of Virginia schools are doing an excellent job preparing our students for college.

We must not, however, take these successes for granted.  In order to maintain these high national rankings, we must have strong leadership.

We are just under four weeks from the 2013 General Election, and it is not too late to get involved. I would like to share with you a few upcoming events in our area, as well as a few ways you can help our candidates and ensure that your vote counts this November.

Join Congressman Goodlatte for Barbecue

Those of us that live in the 6th Congressional District are extremely blessed to be represented in Washington by my good friend, Congressman Bob Goodlatte.  Amidst the turmoil in Washington, Bob is a constant.  He has stood strong for fiscal responsibility and fought for our shared values. 

This Sunday, October 13, Congressman Goodlatte is hosting his 5th Annual Barbecue at 3:00 pm at Rockingham Fairgrounds (4808 S. Valley Pike, Harrisonburg). 

This event is free to the public, but reservations are requested.  To RSVP to this event, please email campaign@bobgoodlatte.com or by phone at (434)209-5404.  If you are so inclined, feel free to bring a dessert to share.
Anne and I have enjoyed attending this event over the past few years.  It is a great family friendly and budget friendly event, with activities for all ages.  I hope to see you this Sunday!

Super Saturday   

This Saturday, October 12, will be the last Super Saturday event prior to the November election.  Ken Cuccinelli, E.W. Jackson, and Mark Obenshain can’t win this November without our help.  They need folks to knock on doors and make phone calls in order to get their message out. 

Additionally, Ken Cuccinelli will be stopping by the Augusta Republican Headquarters at 11:30 pm on Saturday.  We would like to have a strong crowd to show our support for Ken and the Republican ticket, so please come out on Saturday if you can. 

If you are interested in volunteering for Super Saturday, please contact Matt Hudgins at 804-539-9767 or mhudgins@rpv.org.

If you can’t volunteer for Super Saturday, but are interested in volunteering at another time, please contact Matt and he will be happy to help you.

Voter Registration and Absentee Voting

The deadline for voter registration is quickly approaching.  If you are not registered, or if you have moved since the last election, you must register by October 15, 2013 in order to be eligible to vote in the election in November.  (Please note, this is not a postmark deadline. They must be in hand on October 15.)

In order to register you can stop by your local registrar’s office, or mail in this registration form to the address listed below.  For the first time this year, you can also register online at https://www.vote.virginia.gov/.  If you are unsure about your registration, you can check the status online here.

For those of you who are registered but plan to be away on November 5, Virginia does allow absentee voting under certain circumstances.  You can download an absentee ballot application here. You can also fill out an application online at vagopabsentee.com.

Virginia also allows those voters who qualify to vote absentee to vote in person.  For more information or for the hours of in person absentee voting, I would encourage you to contact your local registrar.

Augusta County

Augusta County Government Center P.O.   Box 590 Verona, Virginia 24482 (540)245-5656

Highland County

P.O. Box 386 Monterey, Virginia 24485 (540)468-2013

Nelson County 571 Front Street Lovingston, VA 22949

P.O. Box 292 Lovingston, Virginia 22949 (540)292-1162

City of Staunton Staunton City Hall P.O. Box 58 Staunton, Virginia 24402 (540)332-3840

City of Waynesboro 250 S Wayne Avenue Waynesboro, Virginia 22980 (540)942-6620  

Our Campaign

Though I am up for re-election, I am fortunate enough to not have an opponent this year.  While Anne and I appreciate your continued support, we encourage you to stay focused on the efforts of our Republican ticket this year.

If you would like to put up a yard sign or bumper sticker for our campaign, they are available at the local Republican headquarters.  If you aren’t able to make it out to the headquarters, I am more than happy to bring a sign to you or mail you a bumper sticker.

Additionally, we are working to try to cover the polling locations in our District on Election Day.  If you would like to volunteer to cover a polling location, or if you would like a yard sign or bumper sticker, please email us at dickie@bellfordelegate.com.

Although I don’t have an opponent we still require campaign funds to help spread our message.  Additionally, campaign funds finance many of the mailings we do during Session to keep our constituents informed of the happenings in Richmond.  Therefore, we appreciate any donations to our campaign that you may be able to make. 
If you’d like to donate online, you can do so at bellfordelegate.com.  You can also mail a check to P.O Box 239, Staunton, Virginia24402. Thank you for your support!

Email Problem

We recently realized that we had a forwarding issue with one of our email addresses.  Due to a computer glitch, we were not receiving all emails that were sent to dickie@bellfordelegate.com.  If you sent an email to this address over the last few months and did not get a response, it was likely due to this error.  We have fixed this glitch, and this email address is now working properly.  We make every effort to respond to our emails as promptly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused.

Contact Us

We always love hearing from our constituents.  If you had a problem with state government, or would like to voice your opinion on a matter that affects Virginia, please do not hesitate to contact us.  You can reach us by phone at 540-448-3999 or by email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - August 2, 2013

I hope you’re continuing to enjoy your summer!  I have had the privilege of seeing a great number of you out at the Waynesboro Extravaganza, America’s Birthday Celebration, and the countless other events that we’ve made it out to this summer. 
I would like to take a few minutes of your time to provide you with a couple of updates about the happenings in the 20th House District, as well as the Commonwealth.

Barbecue and Bluegrass

We will be hosting our annual Barbecue and Bluegrass event at 6:00 pm on Thursday, September 26.  It is sure to be a great event. We will have Mrs. Rowe's Barbecue and music by FlattBroke.  Please see below for more information.

If you have additional questions, or to RSVP to the Barbecue, please contact Anne at mrsrbellcoach@comcast.net or by phone at 540-448-4617.
 
Join Delegate Bell for an Evening of Barbecue and Bluegrass
 
With confirmed guests

Mark Obenshain, Candidate for Attorney General

Bob Goodlatte, Congressman

And invited guests

E.W. Jackson, Candidate for Lt. Governor

Ken Cuccinelli, Candidate for Governor

Thursday, September 26th, from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

 Shenandoah Harley Davidson

213 Rolling Thunder Lane

Staunton, Virginia 24401

Please RSVP by September 18th to 540448-4617 or by email at mrsrbellcoach@comcast.net

“casual attire”

 Yes, I will join Delegate Bell for Bluegrass and BBQ Sept. 26th at the following level:          $1000 Platinum Level

        $500 Gold Level         _      $250 Silver Level

          $100 Bronze Level

           $25 per person to attend (no Press passes)

Yes, I support Delegate Bell. However, I cannot attend the event but please accept my generous donation of $          to show my support!

Please make checks payable to “BELL FOR DELEGATE”

2620 Eston Drive Staunton, VA 24401

NAME(S) ________________________________________________________________
Company Name
___________________________________________________________
Address
___________________________________________________________________ Phone___________________________Email_____________________________________

Occupation____________________________Employer____________________________

 Political Contributions are not tax-deductible. Paid for by Bell for Delegate. Corporate Contributions are accepted. State law requires employer and occupation information for contributions over $100 in a calendar year.

 

Augusta County Fair

The Augusta County Fair kicks off on Tuesday, August 6th and will go through Saturday, August 10th.  The fair is always a great event for our community, and I hope you will be able to make it out.  For more information about the vendors and entertainment that we’ll see at the fair this year, you can visit the fair’s website at http://www.augustacountyfairva.com.

The Staunton and Augusta County Republican Committees will be hosting a booth at the fair this year to help spread the word about our GOP candidates.  If you make it out to the fair please stop by to pick up a bumper sticker and yard sign.

If you’re available to volunteer your time at the booth, please let us know, and we will get you into contact with the appropriate people.

Valley Business Summit

On Monday, August 12 area legislators along with several local business and economic development organizations are joining together to host a Valley Business Summit event at the Robert Plecker Workforce Center at Blue Ridge Community College. This event is FREE to attend and open to anyone interesting in learning more about resources available for starting and growing a business.

 In addition to a keynote address from Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, Todd Haymore, there will be several breakout sessions for participants to attend, along with a feedback forum at the conclusion of the event for state legislators (including myself) to hear your suggestions and concerns related to the business climate in the Commonwealth.

The Business Summit will begin with registration from 7:30 am to 8:00 am and is set to conclude around noon. Again, it's free to attend, but an RSVP is requested by Monday, August 5. Please click here to learn more.

 Highland County Fair The Highland County Fair will kick off on Saturday, August 24th, and again on Wednesday, August 28th – Saturday, August 31st. We will be over on Wednesday night to participate in the parade, and hope to see you there. 

For more information on the Highland County Fair, or for a detailed fair schedule, visit their website at www.highlandcountyfairva.com.
Republican Headquarters
 
Our local GOP headquarters is open and ready for business.  The headquarters is once again located at 700 Richmond Avenue in Staunton.  Please feel free to stop by to pick up your yard signs, stickers, and literature.
 
They are also looking for folks to knock on doors and make phone calls. If you’re interested in helping out, please contact Ben Weeda at bweeda@rpv.org.
Virginia Sales Tax Holiday for School Supplies and Clothing
 
Each year many families across the Commonwealth struggle to afford school supplies for their children.
To make this time of year a bit more bearable, Virginia is once again holding a Back to School Sales Tax Holiday. 
The Holiday will start Friday, August 2nd and go for three full days through Sunday, August 4th.
 
This is one small way that we can try to make school supplies more affordable.  I encourage each of you to take advantage of this opportunity.
 
You can save on all school supplies (priced at $20 or less per item) and clothing and footwear (priced at $100 or less per article of clothing or footwear) for three full days.  There is no limit on the number of items that may be purchased tax-free.  Additionally, some retailers will voluntarily absorb the sales tax on other items in their stores for these three days.
All residents, not just those headed back to school, qualify for the tax exemption.  You can find a complete list of exempt items, as well as guidelines for the sales tax holiday and a set of frequently asked questions, online at http://www.tax.virginia.gov/salestaxholiday.
Online Voter Registration
 
Just a couple of weeks ago, the State Board of Elections launched a new way to register to vote.  You can now register or update your registration online.
 
If you are not registered, or have moved since the last election, please log on to https://www.vote.virginia.gov/ to update your registration information. 
 
I would encourage you to share this with any friends or family members who may find this information useful.
Donate
 
We have accomplished a lot over the last few years, but there’s still a lot more that needs to be done.  In order to continue our work at decreasing the size of government and preserving our shared Valley values, we need your help! 
 
Your donation, in any amount, is extremely helpful in allowing us to spread our message. It also helps us reach out to our constituents about the issues that matter most to them.
 
You can donate online at bellfordelegate.com, or you can send your donation to Post Office Box 239, Staunton, Virginia24402. 
Thank you for your continued support. 
 
Contact
 
We love to hear from our constituents.  If you have a state issue that you are concerned about, or a state agency that you need our help with, please do not hesitate to contact us.  You can reach us by phone at 540-448-3999 or by email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov
 
You can also stay updated by checking out our website at www.bellfordelegate.com, or by following us on facebook and twitter.
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Bell Sounds from the 20th - July 3, 2013

I hope you are enjoying your summer and looking forward to the long holiday weekend!  I wanted to take just a few minutes to give you a couple of updates on the happenings in the 20th House District as well as the Commonwealth of Virginia!
America’s Birthday Celebration!
 
If you haven’t already made plans for Independence Day, I would encourage you to come by Gypsy Hill Park tomorrow for America’s Birthday Celebration! I will be out there tomorrow with a number of other candidates and many of our supporters.  We will be kicking off the day at 10:00 am with the parade, which goes through Gypsy Hill Park.  
In addition to the parade, there will be games, crafts, exhibits, food, and other entertainment.  It’s a great way to celebrate the holiday and spend time with your friends and family.  They will conclude the celebration with fireworks at approximately 10:00 pm.   For more information and a schedule of events, please visit www.americasbirthdaycelebration.com.

Waynesboro Generals
 
This Friday, July 5, we are sponsoring the Waynesboro Generals Game versus Strasburg.  I will be throwing out the first pitch, and will be at the game with information about my re-election campaign. The game starts at 7:00.  I hope to see a number of you out there on Friday! 
New Laws in the Commonwealth
As you are likely aware, on Monday July 1 a number of new laws that were passed during the 2013 General Assembly Session went into effect that may affect your day to day activities. 

Each year, the Virginia Division of Legislative Services publishes a list of this legislation.  This list is in no way intended to be comprehensive, and there may be laws that have gone into effect that are not included in this publication.  If you have questions regarding these or any other new laws, please do not hesitate to contact our office, and we will do our best to assist you in any way that we can.  You can find this publication online here.    
Upcoming Events
 
Here are a few events coming up that may be of interest to you.  
 
The annual Stuarts Draft Lawn Party will be taking place this year from July 10-July 13.   This includes a parade, which will take place on Friday night at 6:30 pm. For more information on the schedule of activities for the Stuarts Draft Lawn Party, visit them online at http://sdvfc.homestead.com/lawnparty.html.
The 34th annual Waynesboro Extravaganza will be held on Saturday, July 13
This is always a great event, and I hope that I will see many of you out there.  For more information and the schedule of events, please visit http://www.waynesboro.va.us/pr-summerextravaganza.php.
 
The Churchville Volunteer Fire Department will be hosting their annual Fireman’s carnival from July 31 – August 3.  This includes a parade, which will line up at 3:00 pm on August 3. For more information, please visit http://www.churchvillefirerescue.com/
Legislative Savings in the Commonwealth 
 
Just a few days ago, Speaker Bill Howell announced over $1.8 million in savings in the Virginia legislative branch that were to be returned to the general fund at the end of the fiscal year on June 30. 
This included $1.6 million in savings by various legislative branch agencies.  That includes $900,000 from the Auditor of Public Accounts, over $100,000 from the Division of Legislative Services and over $250,000 from the Capitol Police. This also includes over $200,000 dollars in unused House of Delegates salaries and expenses.
 
These savings represent the continued commitment by House Republicans to lower the costs of government to the taxpayers.  The taxpayers of Virginia have to live within their means, and they have a reasonable expectation that their government will do the same.  I’m pleased that it that we are continuing to take steps in the right direction.
Veterans Information 
 
I would like to pass along some information that has been shared with me that concerns Virginia’s Veterans. 
Electronic Return of Military Personnel's Ballots
 
Senate Bill 830 authorizing military personnel stationed overseas to return election ballots by electronic means was the number one JLC priority for the 2013 Session of the General Assembly.
 
Due to the number of issues raised during committee hearings (security of the ballot, prevention of fraud, and State Board of elections detailed procedures), the House Committee on Privileges and Elections referred the Bill to the Joint Commission on Technology and Science for additional study and recommendations.
 
Even though the General Assembly is not in session, the Joint Commission continues to work the issues. During a meeting on June 5, Senator Puller clearly stated that the intent of her bill was the electronic return of the serviceman's ballot and not internet voting. The Commission's staff will enter into discussions with the State Board of Elections to resolve security issues, control of the ballots, and use of the official DoD .mil email system to return the ballots.
 
The staff will report back to the full Commission at the next meeting on July 15. The Commission will then make a final decision on whether or not to support the bill and/or to make changes to the wording of the bill to address the issues that have been raised during General Assembly Committee hearings. The objective of this effort is to ensure military members can cast votes in a timely manner and be tabulated on Election Day.
Donate 
 
We need your help to continue working to decrease the size of government and fight for our shared values.  You can donate online at bellfordelegate.com, or you can send your donation to Post Office Box 239, Staunton, Virginia 24402. 
 
Thank you for your continued support. 
Contact 
 
We love always love to hear from our constituents.  If you have a state issue that you are concerned about, or a state agency that you need our help with, please do not hesitate to contact us.  You can reach us by phone at 540-448-3999 or by email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov
 
You can also stay updated by checking out our website at www.bellfordelegate.com, or by following us on facebook and twitter.
 
As always, thank you for allowing me to represent you in Richmond.  
 
Please have a safe and happy Independence Day weekend.
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