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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Bell Sounds from the 20th - May 24

As you’ve likely heard by now, this past weekend we officially nominated Ken Cuccinelli for Governor, E.W. Jackson for Lt. Governor, and the Shenandoah Valley’s own Mark Obenshain for Attorney General.  I would like to congratulate all three of these men on their nominations, and I look forward to working with them this fall as we push forward to victory in November.   

Now, a few quick updates on happenings in the 20th District and our Commonwealth.

I hope each of you have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend!

Please Save the Date!

Please mark your calendars for Thursday, September 26. We will be hosting our annual Barbecue and Bluegrass fundraising event at 6:00 at Shenandoah Valley Harley Davidson in Staunton.

Invited guests include:

Republican nominee for Attorney General, Senator Mark Obenshain,

Republican nominee for Lt. Governor, E.W. Jackson

and Republican nominee for Governor, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

More details will be provided as we get closer to the date, but please save the date!

Important Fundraising Deadline is Quickly Approaching

As summer approaches, so does campaign season.  Not only do we elect a Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General in Virginia this year, but all 100 members of the House of Delegates are up for re-election.

I want to keep serving the 20th District in the House of Delegates, however, I cannot do this without your help. Campaigns are costly, and we must be prepared to identify and contact supporters.

May 29 marks a very important fundraising deadline, and it is extremely important that we make a strong showing.  Any amount that you can provide would be greatly appreciated. You can donate online at www.bellfordelegate.com, or by clicking here. You can also mail your donation to Bell for Delegate, Post Office Box 239, Staunton, Virginia 24402.

Hurricane Preparedness Tax Holiday

I would like to remind you of a sales tax holiday which begins on Saturday, May 25, 2013 and runs through Friday, May 31, 2013.

This sales tax holiday offers you a chance to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season while getting a break on the sales tax.  During this holiday, certain items including; batteries, flashlights, bottled water, and first aid kits will be exempt.  In addition, certain bigger-ticket items are also exempt, e.g., generators priced at $1,000 or less.

Virginia also has two additional sales tax holidays - one for school supplies and clothing in August, and one for Energy Star and WaterSense products in October.  I will be sure to notify you of those sales tax holidays as they approach.

To view a full list of the items that are included in the sales tax holiday, answers to frequently asked questions and guidelines for consumers and retailers, click "Sales Tax Holiday"

Several prominent independent weather organizations have already predicted that the 2013 Hurricane Season is going to be busier than normal. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management has provided you this LINK to their website so you can stay up to date on weather developments in our area.

While this is Hurricane Preparedness Week, the unfortunate and tragic events in Oklahoma demonstrate that severe weather can hit anywhere. These past several years here in the Commonwealth we have witnessed earthquakes, tornados, blizzards, floods and hurricanes that have caused extensive damage. Please take advantage of this sales tax holiday and be prepared for all emergencies.

Contact

We 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.

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - May 3

Just last month I announced my intention to seek a third term in the Virginia House of Delegates. We’ve made a lot of progress during my first 4 Sessions, but there is still a lot that needs to be done. I have truly enjoyed serving the people of the 20th District in the House of Delegates over the last 4 years, and I look forward to continuing my service. Anne and I are extremely grateful for your continued support.

I would like to take this time to provide you with a few updates of things that are happening with us and within the 20th District.

Appointments

Over the last few weeks I have been honored to receive two important appointments from Speaker Howell. 

The first was an appointment to the Southern Regional Education Board Legislative Work Conference, to be held in New Orleans June 22-24.

The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works with 16 member states to improve public pre-K-12 and higher education.  At this conference legislators from the member states gather to discuss education policy. 

I was privileged to attend the SREB Work Conference in 2010, and I am looking forward to having this experience again in 2013.

Additionally, I’ve been appointed to the National Governors’ AssociationCenter for Best Practices Three Branch Institute on “Child Social and Emotional Well-Being”.  This is a collaborative partnership between the Virginia Commission on Youth, the Virginia Department of Social Services, the Virginia Office of Comprehensive Services, and the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia.

I am grateful to Speaker Howell for providing me with these opportunities to better serve the 20th District.

Students at Ware Elementary Memorize the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence

Some time ago, Krista Smith, a teacher at A.R.Ware Elementary School in Staunton reached out to me with a request.  Her students were learning about the Declaration of Independence, and she encouraged them to memorize the Preamble.

Students who successfully memorized the preamble would have the cost of the class field trip to Monticello paid.  I was asked and agreed to cover the cost of the field trip for each child that succeeded.

Last month, I had the opportunity to go to A.R. Ware and visit the students who recited the preamble.  I am pleased to report that 53 of these students were successful, and will have their field trip paid. 

It is important that these students become familiar with the documents and texts that are so vital to our nation’s founding, and I am pleased that I was able to have a small part in this activity.  Congratulations to those 5th graders at Ware who completed this task! 

 Upcoming Events

Below is a list of events that I will be attending throughout May. As you can see it is a busy time. As part of my public service I would like to extend an offer to you to speak to your church and school groups, as well as civic groups and other organizations. 

We make every attempt to honor all requests to speak. There is never a fee or charge for these appearances.

 If you have an upcoming event or group meeting, and would like me to speak, please contact us by email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov, or by phone at 540-448-3999.  We will do our best to accommodate as many of these meetings and activities as possible.

 

  • May 4 – Delegate Bell to present Memorial Resolution at Staunton Police Department’s Tom Larner 5K

 

  • May 7 – Disabled American Veterans meeting at Waynesboro Golden Corral at 5:30 pm.

 

  • May 8 – Legislative Breakfast hosted by Nelson County Chamber of Commerce at Rockfish Community Center at 7:30 am.

 

  • May 9 – Delegate Bell to present Commending Resolutions for Deborah Lane and Staunton Public Works at Staunton City Council Meeting at 7:00 pm.

 

  • May 11 – MADD Event at StuartsDraftHigh School at 10:00 am; Waynesboro Motor Sports Event in Downtown Waynesboro at 12:00 pm.

 

  • May 13 – Delegate Bell Speaking at Staunton Kiwanis Luncheon at 12:00 pm.

 

  • May 15 – Staunton/Augusta Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast at Legacy at 8:00 am.

 

  • May 16 – Presentation of Memorial Resolution honoring Dr. Patricia Menk at MaryBaldwinCollege at 9:00 am.

 

  • May 20 – Model General Assembly at Augusta County Government Center in Verona, Virginia at 8:15 am.

 

  • May 27 – Memorial Day.  Our District office will be closed.  Delegate Bell to attend Veterans’ Observance at Gypsy Hill Park Bandstand at 10:00 am.

Donate

Though it feels as if we’re still recovering from the last election, it is time to gear up for the 2013 Elections.  This year in Virginia we elect a Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General.  Additionally, all 100 members of the House of Delegates are up for re-election.

I want to keep serving the 20th District in the House of Delegates, however, I cannot do this without your help.  Campaigns are costly, and we must be prepared to identify and contact supporters. 

 Any amount that you can provide would be greatly appreciated.  You can donate online at www.bellfordelegate.com, or by clicking here.  You can also mail your donation to Bell for Delegate, Post Office Box 239, Staunton, Virginia24402.

Waynesboro Learning Tree High Tea Fundraiser

IT’S TEA TIME AGAIN!

You are cordially invited to the 2nd Annual “High Tea” Fundraiser 

for the

Waynesboro Area Learning Tree

Community Technology Training Center

Saturday, May 11th

Three o’clock in the afternoon

Fairfax Hall Grand Ballroom

1101 Reservoir Street

Waynesboro, Virginia

 

Tickets are now on sale - $30.00

Call (540) 943-4457

 

HOSTED BY: SOUTH RIVER DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION

 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. 

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - February 25, 2013

 

The 2013 General Assembly Session adjourned sine die at 5:21 pm on Saturday, February 23.  Fortunately we adjourned as scheduled, saving the Virginia taxpayers the cost of additional days.   One of the most important pieces of legislation that we deal with each Session is the biennial budget.  Therefore, I wanted to provide a brief update on the budget proposal that passed both bodies on Saturday.   

FY 2013-2014 Biennial Budget

On Saturday the Virginia House of Delegates adopted a series of changes to Virginia’s biennial budget. Among other key investments, the conference report we passed on Saturday includes a series of targeted investments in K-12 education, as well as Virginia’s Rainy Day fund and other savings accounts.

This budget includes a $95 million investment in the Rainy Day fund and $30 million for the Federal Action Contingency Trust Fund.  The FACT fund is set up to help Virginia prepare for sequestration and other cuts that could come from the Federal Government.

Additionally, this budget compromise includes a series of important investments in K-12.  This includes a fully funded pay raise for teachers and support staff, as well as funding for a strategic compensation model for local leaders to use to help reward outstanding teachers.  Additionally, it funds the Opportunity Education Institution, designed to help rescue failing schools, and dedicates money to reading and algebra improvement initiatives.    

Unsurprisingly, one of the major items considered in the budget this year was Medicaid expansion.    

The budget adopted on Saturday does not expand Medicaid.

Medicaid is a struggling system, which is wrought with waste, fraud, and abuse.  In fact, a 2010 JLARC study found nearly $90 million in waste that we unfortunately cannot stop due to strict regulations from the federal government.  There is too much money at stake here to expand without reform.  The passage of this budget guarantees that Virginia will not consider Medicaid expansion without first enacting a series of reforms. 

Medicaid is the fastest growing single expenditure in Virginia’s budget.  We are doing a disservice to those who depend on Medicaid if we do not look to improve the system. The costs are spiraling out of control, and without this reform we will end up with a broken program and a gap in our budget that we cannot fill.  This budget requires reforms of how we provide Medicaid services to reduce costs and prevent fraud.  Additionally, it requires that we implement reforms that encourage cost sharing and coordinated care.  Our hope is that this will lower costs and improve patient health. 

Finally, this budget language requires that we seek waivers from the federal government to allow Virginia to implement innovative models of care and care delivery.  We know that we cannot save money within the inflexible bureaucracy of the federal government.  These waivers will give us the flexibility to implement new and innovative care that works for Virginia.   

This budget also contains language to establish the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission. That commission will be made up of 5 Senators and 5 Delegates. That commission is tasked to determine if the reforms made to Medicaid are strong enough for Medicaid expansion to go forward.  To do this, they will have to determine if Medicaid expansion saves Virginia money (estimates now say it could cost $700 million or more) and if the federal government is going to provide us with the flexibility to determine how we provide care.

Appropriations Chairman Lacey Putney announced the House of Delegates’ appointees to the Commission yesterday.  They are Delegates Steve Landes (R-Augusta), Jimmie Massie (R-Henrico), Beverly Sherwood (R-Frederick), John O’Bannon (R-Henrico) and Johnny Joannou (D-Portsmouth).  Each of these legislators have previously indicated that they too are opposed to expansion without reform.  

It is important to note that the passage of this budget language guarantees that a future Governor cannot act unilaterally to expand Medicaid.  Though Governor McDonnell has said that he does not support expansion without reform, there is no guarantee that a future administration would feel the same.  The passage ensures that the final authority for reform and expansion stays with the General Assembly.

Medicaid expansion without reform could destroy Virginia’s financial system.  By passage of this budget we have taken a step to guarantee that Medicaid expansion in Virginia will not happen without first enacting serious reforms and without absolutely ensuring that it will not cost Virginia taxpayers.

Contact Us

Thank you to all of you who visited us in Richmond, and to those of you who have called, written, and emailed us over the last few weeks.  We are still in the process of responding to our emails, and we appreciate your patience.

Now that Session is over, we are now once again operating out of the district.  You can now reach us by phone at 540-448-3999.  You can continue to reach us by email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov, and by mail at Post Office Box 239, Staunton, Virginia 24402.

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

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Bell Sounds from the 20th -Statement from Delegate Bell regarding Transportation

Over the past few weeks a number of you have contacted me regarding your thoughts on Governor McDonnell’s transportation plan.  At a time when our transportation infrastructure is preventing businesses from coming to Virginia, and families from settling in Virginia, something must be done.  I supported Governor McDonnell’s initial plan, because I believed that it was a plan that would benefit all Virginians.  Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about the plan that came out of the conference committee.The bill that was reported from the conference committee is a totally different piece of legislation than the proposals made by Governor McDonnell earlier this Session.  This new legislation involves a series of massive tax increases that I simply cannot support.

We received this 109 page bill late yesterday evening, and to my knowledge it is still not available to the public.

I supported Governor McDonnell’s plan because I generally favor the idea of moving away from the gas tax and towards other forms of revenue to solve our transportation problems.  Because motor vehicles are becoming more and more fuel efficient, the use of the gas tax for transportation funding is unsustainable long term.  The legislation proposed by the conference committee would replace the current 17.5 cents per gallon flat tax on gasoline with a 3.5% wholesale sales tax.  It also adds a 6% wholesale sales tax on diesel fuel.  This wholesale sales tax will be passed onto consumers, and will continue to be a declining revenue source as Virginians continue to buy less gasoline.  I do not believe that the move from the current gasoline tax to the wholesale sales tax on gasoline will guarantee lower fuel prices at the pump.

I also supported the Governor’s plan because I support using general fund dollars to help maintain transportation.  This plan decreases the amount of general fund dollars we will use as compared to the Governor's plan.  Additionally, it will increase the sales tax in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads to 6% and to 5.3% for the rest of the state.  It will increase the 3% tax on the purchase of motor vehicles to 4% in 2014 and it will continue to increase each year until 2015 when it will be 4.3%.  This increased tax is extremely harmful to both consumers and our local auto dealers. 

It will also add a 3% occupancy tax for hotels in Northern Virginia, as well as a cost of an additional 25 cents for every hundred dollars on the sale of a house.  Like the Governor’s plan, it still included a $100 annual fee on alternative fueled vehicles, including hybrids.

The legislation will increase the personal property tax from 3.5% to 4.3% and increases the tax on vending machine sales from 4.5% to 6% in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia and 5.3% everywhere else in Virginia.  It also increases the tax on heavy equipment used for contracts on road construction, railroads, docks, etc. from 3.5 to 4.3%. 

Finally, if Congress passes the Marketplace Equity Act (proposed legislation to require online businesses to collect sales taxes) 22.2% of the proceeds will go to transportation.  If they do not pass this act, Virginia would add an additional 1.6% to the wholesale gas tax.  There is no provision in the law to revert back to 3.5% wholesale gas tax should Congress pass the internet tax law after 2015.
 
Every Virginian will pay an increased sales tax under this plan, while continuing to pay taxes on gasoline.  Families and businesses in Virginia are already under a threat of new taxes from Washington, the fiscal impact of the federal health care law, and the rising gas prices.  Virginia’s taxpayers are already tightening their belts, and I do not believe that in these tough economic times they should be expected to shoulder this enormous tax increase.  Additionally, this legislation offers no safeguard that a future General Assembly will not come back in the future and reinstate the gas tax on top of these other taxes. 

I have read through the details of this legislation, and talked to a number of folks on each side.  I ultimately feel that this legislation is not good for the 20th District or rural Virginia.  I recognize the importance of solving our transportation problems, but I believe that in the rush of getting something passed we have produced legislation that does more harm to our citizens than good.  And for that reason I simply cannot support it.

I encourage you to stay in touch with my office if you have other questions or comments about this or any other issue. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - February 15, 2013

 

It’s hard to believe, but we are nearing the end of the 2013 General Assembly Session. This week, we are working to reach agreement on several major initiatives, including transportation. The last two weeks are always among the busiest of the Session as we sprint to the finish line.

Medicaid Expansion

As we near the end of session, one of the major issues before us is Medicaid expansion. Medicaid provides quality health care to hundreds of thousands of low-income individuals, most of whom would not have any other way to receive needed medical care.

Over the past few months we have received seemingly limitless information both in favor of and opposed to Medicaid expansion.  There are many potential benefits to expansion; however we must also be careful to weigh the potential costs.  This year, my House Republican colleagues and I have focused on a “reform first” approach to Medicaid.

Last year, Virginia’s taxpayers spent $7 billion on Medicaid.  If we opted to expand Medicaid, it could potentially add over 250,000 new enrollees to the system.  This would further drive up the costs if we do not implement reforms.  By reforming Medicaid, we would lower costs and be able to use these cost savings to focus on providing better care for both current and new enrollees.

The House Budget directs the Department of Medical Assistance to seek authority for reforms from the federal government.  Currently, our hands are tied, because the federal government clearly defines how Medicaid must be run.  If we were able to receive a waiver from the federal government, however, we may be able to implement a number of cost saving reforms focused on eliminating fraud, waste, and abuse. After those reforms are implemented, DMAS may ask the General Assembly for final authority to expand Medicaid.

Few will disagree that the Medicaid system desperately needs reform.  It is the fastest growing single line item in the Virginia budget, and the cost is becoming more than we can bear. Federal regulations further drive up costs due to the lack of flexibility in coverage policies.

In a 2010 JLARC study, they found that nearly $90 million of our taxpayer dollars are wasted due to fraud, abuse, and error.  This is unacceptable, and will only be further exacerbated if we add more to the system without first implementing reform.

If we were able to get a waiver from the federal government, we would have the flexibility to implement much-needed cost saving reforms. These savings could then be used for the purpose of Medicaid expansion.

Some have called for a simultaneous expansion and reform of Medicaid.  Those calling for this approach also claim that the expansion would mostly be covered by federal funding. I remain skeptical of federal programs that claim to save money, particularly given the current state of Washington’s budget.  We have a promise from the federal government, but it is a promise that I fear they will not have the resources to keep.

If we proceed with Medicaid expansion without reform, I fear that our hardworking Virginian taxpayers could be stuck with a big bill.  Perhaps of greater concern, I fear that Virginia could become mired in an inefficient, ineffective program, without the authority to fix it.  Therefore I believe that reform must come first.

Simply put, Medicaid is too important of a program, and there is too much at stake, not to make needed reforms as we consider expansion.  We are doing the hundreds of thousands of Virginians who depend on Medicaid a disservice if we do not ensure that we are providing the most efficient, most effective program possible.  If we can strengthen Medicaid, we will strengthen our safety net.

Medicaid reform is the most responsible solution to Medicaid expansion in the Commonwealth.  It also provides a pathway to Medicaid expansion that all Virginians can agree on.

Concealed Carry Legislation


One piece of legislation that a number of you reached out to me about in the past week was Mark Obenshain’s Senate Bill 1335.  Both the House and Senate have now voted to end public disclosure of conceal carry permit holders’ personal information.

In 2007, a Virginia newspaper obtained and published a list of all Virginia concealed carry permit holders.  In response, the General Assembly prohibited the State Police from releasing the conceal carry permit list. Circuit Court Clerks, however, could still make the list available to the public.

In the wake of a newspaper outlet in New York publishing a similar list, many believed now was the right time for Virginia to close the availability of the list. I voted to close access to this list and help protect law-abiding citizens from personal attacks and threats simply because they choose to exercise their Second Amendment rights.  

Moving Forward on Transportation

I am happy to report that some progress was made on transportation this week.  Unfortunately, no agreement has been made yet, but we have taken steps in that direction.  On Wednesday, the State Senate passed House Bill 2313, with amendments.  By passing their version of the transportation plan, they moved the discussion forward.  The House of Delegates rejected the Senate amendments, and requested a Committee of Conference. The conference committee will be working over the next few days to come up with a transportation plan that members of both chambers can agree upon.

I assure you that I will update you on the details of any agreement made by the conference committee as they come to me.

My Legislation

I’ve been very fortunate to have a number of bills pass in both bodies this year.  I filed 12 bills and 1 resolution this session.  Of those, 8 bills have already passed in both the House of Delegates and the Senate.  One more will be voted on for final passage on Monday.

House Joint Resolution 536, a resolution that seeks to amend the Constitution of Virginia to include Right to Work, failed in the Senate today with a vote of 22-18.  Though we were unsuccessful, the Senate floor is the farthest this legislation has ever gone. The right to work is a basic and fundamental right, and should be part of the Virginia constitution to ensure that it is permanent.  I believe this fight will continue.

A couple of other noteworthy bills that have passed this week include House Bill 2151 and House Bill 1344.  

House Bill 2151, the Educator Fairness Act, is a bill that I have mentioned numerous times over the course of the 2013 General Assembly Session.  It passed in the Senate on Wednesday with a vote of 32-8.  This legislation is a huge step for education in Virginia, and will help ensure the integrity of the education system.  I hope that it is also a step towards paying teachers like the professionals that they are. I would like to thank all of those who have worked so hard to help this legislation become the best bill it could be.

House Bill 1344, the Deaf Child’s Bill, is also a bill that was a priority for me during the 2013 Session.  It was brought to me by a group of constituents from the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind, and will help ensure that the communication needs of deaf and hard of hearing students are considered as part of their IEP.  I believe this bill will help us ensure that deaf and hard of hearing students in Virginia receive the greatest education possible in their least restrictive environment.  I’m pleased that this bill maintained broad bipartisan support, and am thankful to those from the Staunton community who traveled to Richmond to testify for the bill.       

Visitors

As Session is winding down so are the visitors we receive here in Richmond.

As always, I was pleased to see students from the Augusta and Highland County 4-H programs.  Several members of the Waynesboro City Council stopped by, as well as President John Downey and several students from Blue Ridge Community College.

We only have one week left, but if you haven’t made it in to see us yet we would still love to see you.  If you plan to be in Richmond next week, please stop by and say hello. We are in room 517 in the General Assembly Building.   

Contact

My staff and I are here in Richmond to serve you. We would love to hear from you regarding legislation before the House, or if there's anything we can do to help you in dealing with a state government agency.

While we are in Richmond, we can be reached by phone at (804) 698-1020 or by email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.

Please note that while we appreciate your feedback, while we are in Session we often receive hundreds of emails a day. We work hard to provide a response to all inquiries, but it takes time to respond to everyone so we are often a few days behind. Thank you for your patience.

Thank you again for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - February 8, 2013

Before I discuss this week in Richmond, I would like to give you one final reminder that I will be holding a Dutch Treat Town Hall Breakfast at 8:00 am tomorrow, Saturday, February 9 at Mrs. Rowe’s in Staunton (74 Rowe Road).


Due to space constraints, an RSVP is required. If you plan to attend and haven’t already let us know, please email Savanna at Savanna@BellforDelegate.comat your earliest convenience.

House Passes Fiscally Responsible, Structurally Sound Budget

On Thursday, the House of Delegates voted to pass the House budget with bi-partisan support. The House budget is a fiscally responsible, structurally balanced budget. It includes key investments in core government functions. This includes nearly $100 million into the Rainy Day Fund.

To help promote private sector job growth, the House has included funding to create a cyber accelerator in Northern Virginia, a first in the nation program to attract cyber security companies. We have also increased the cap on the angel investor tax credit to $500,000. Raising this cap will help startup companies attract new investors and the capital needed to help them grow and thrive.

For our K-12 public schools, we have provided funding for the state’s share of a 2% pay raise for teachers and support staff and for a grant program that will help localities improve school safety.

In the area of higher education, our budget includes the funding for additional slots at our universities and to increase Tuition Assistance Grants from $2,800 to $3,100 per student.

House Republicans are also committed to ensuring the health care safety net for our most vulnerable citizens. Our budget includes funding for an additional 200 Intellectual Disabilities and 50 Developmental Disabilities Medicaid waivers.

Now that each body has passed a budget, we will be able to move forward. A conference committee will work together to hammer out the differences in each budget. As the conference committee begins their work, House Republicans will remain committed to enacting a structurally balanced budget that includes targeted funding in the core areas of government.

Cracking Down on the Sale of Synthetic Drugs

One area that we’ve been working on over the past few years is cracking down on synthetic drugs such as synthetic marijuana and bath salts. This week House Bill 1941 was passed by the House. This bill criminalizes the sale of additional synthetic drugs, also known as “Spice”. Over the past few years, the House has passed several bills that criminalized the sale of these synthetic drugs; however, some have continued to try to find loopholes in the law.

A 2012 University of Michigan study found that Spice is one of the most popular illegal drugs among high school students. These are dangerous drugs that can cause hallucinations and even heart attacks. On Tuesday, the House unanimously passed a bill to further restrict the sale of Spice in Virginia. This legislation will likely pass the State Senate as well and be signed into law by Governor McDonnell.

My Legislation

Now that we are past crossover, I want to take just a few moments to update you on how my legislation has fared so far. I have had eight bills and one resolution pass in the House. Two of these bills have already passed in the Senate. The others are still working their way through the committee process.

House Bill 1335 would require localities to temporarily designate someone to fill the position of an appointed officer in the case of an absence or disability. Currently, such authority is optional. Also, in the case of an emergency, the Chief Judge of the Circuit, or his designee, may appoint a temporary member to the electoral board in the event of one member's temporary absence or disability.

This legislation comes from a situation we had in Augusta County, where an electoral board member was injured prior to Election Day. The electoral board was unsure of the procedure for temporarily filling that absence. This bill is designed to help the locality understand the proper procedure in this type of situation. House Bill 1335 passed out of the House of Delegates with a vote of 99-0, and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections.

House Bill 1344 permits local school divisions to ensure that Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams consider the specific communication needs of children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing and address those needs as appropriate in the child's IEP. This legislation is designed to be sure that all students who are deaf and hard of hearing can get the best education possible in the least restrictive environment. House Bill 1344 passed out of the House of Delegates with a vote of 99-0. It was referred to the Senate Committee on Ed and Health, where it was reported out unanimously.

House Bill 1349 updates the definitions of "dental hygiene" and "dental hygienist". The bill also clarifies the licensure requirement for a dental hygienist of graduation from a dental hygiene program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation and offered by an accredited institution of higher education. This bill passed out of the House of Delegates with a vote of 99-0. It has been referred to the Senate Committee on Education and Health.

House Bill 1406 requires each school board to annually provide parent educational information on eating disorders for public school students in grades five through 12. The bill also requires the Department of Education and the Department of Health to develop and implement policies for providing parent educational information on eating disorders. My hope is that this legislation will save lives by arming parents with the tools necessary to help identify eating disorders in their children. It passed in the House with a vote of 99-0. It was reported out of the Senate committee on Education and Health unanimously.

House Bill 1440 simply updates the town charter of Monterey, Virginia in Highland County. It passed in the House of Delegates unanimously, and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Local Government.

House Resolution 536 would establish Virginia’s Right to Work laws as part of the Virginia Constitution. In order for the constitution to be amended, this resolution will have to pass both bodies of the General Assembly twice, with an election year in between. It will then go before the voters of Virginia as a referendum. It passed in the House of Delegates with a vote of 69-30. It has been referred to the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections.

House Bill 2151 I have mentioned a number of times in previous newsletters. This bill, named the “Educator Fairness Act” makes several changes to the processes by which teachers and certain administrators are evaluated. The bill requires teachers and some administrators to be evaluated every year, and for academic progress to be a significant component of the evaluation. The bill allows local school boards to increase from three years to five years the term of probationary service required before a teacher becomes eligible for a continuing contract.

The bill also changes the grievance procedure for teachers by giving local school boards the option to assign a grievance hearing to be heard by an impartial hearing officer designated by the local school board and by removing the option for a grievance to be heard in front of a fact-finding panel. It has passed in the House with a vote of 84-14. It has been sent to the Education and Health committee, where it has been reported out with a vote of 11-2.

House Bill 1646 provides that foster care services shall include independent living services provided to a former foster child who is over the age of 18 years but who has not yet reached the age of 21 years, and that a former foster child receiving such services shall be eligible for funding through the Comprehensive Services for At Risk Youth and Families program. House Bill 1683 adds community-based mental health services to the list of services for which expenditures must be reported by the Office of Comprehensive Services for At-Risk Youth and Families. These bills are meant to ensure that funds that are used as part of the Comprehensive Services acts are spent appropriately. Each of these bills have passed both bodies, and will now be sent to the Governor for a signature.

Visitors

Once again we saw a number of folks from home this week. I was happy to see Augusta County Sheriff, Randy Fisher, and a number of deputies from the Sheriff’s department. We also were able to meet with a large group of realtors from the Augusta County Realtor’s Association, as well as a group of our local friends representing Virginia Regional Transit.

Blayne Weeks and John Lasher of Erie Insurance in Waynesboro came by to chat, as well as local nurse, Jenny Dixon. I was also able to see former Highland County Supervisor Robin Sullenberger and Dr. Nancy Armstrong from the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind. We were able to meet with Kathleen Heatwole and Mary Mannix, and several members of the Augusta Health Board of Directors.

Meg Shrader stopped by representing the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation, and a number of local constituents came by for United Methodists Day at the Capitol. Mark Daugherty of the SVTPP visited, and we were also able to spend a bit of time with Staunton and Augusta County’s economic development representatives, Dennis Burnett and Amanda Glover, as well as Randy Smith and Connie Vaughan from McKee foods.

If you’re in Richmond over the next couple of weeks, we’d love for you to stop by. We are in Office 517 in the General Assembly Building. Though we do not require appointments, appointments are encouraged.

Contact Me

My staff and I are here in Richmond to serve you. We would love to hear from you regarding legislation before the House, or if there's anything we can do to help you in dealing with a state government agency.

While we are in Richmond, we can be reached by phone at (804) 698-1020 or by email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.

Please note that while we appreciate your feedback, while we are in Session we often receive hundreds of emails a day. We work hard to provide a response to all inquiries, but it takes time to respond to everyone so we are often a few days behind. Thank you for your patience.

Thank you again for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - 2/1/13

Although in many ways it feels like Session just began, we are actually near the halfway point. This week was the final week before Crossover and, as always, it was a frenzy of committee activity and long floor sessions.

Before I discuss this week’s happenings in Richmond, I would like to remind you that I will be holding a Dutch Treat Town Hall Breakfast at 8:00 am on Saturday, February 9 at Mrs. Rowe’s in Staunton (74 Rowe Road).

I mentioned it last week; however, we have received very few RSVPs. We want to be able to ensure that there is enough interest for the event.

Therefore, if you plan to attend, please RSVP to Savanna at Savanna@BellforDelegate.com by Wednesday, February 6.

We must have an RSVP so that we can provide a final count to the restaurant.

Additional K-12 Reform Bills Pass the House of Delegates

Once again this week the House of Delegates passed several more crucial pieces of Governor McDonnell’s “All Students” K-12 Education Agenda.

The bills passed this week reward teachers, lift several mandates on our local school divisions, and promote early reading and math initiatives.

Some of the K-12 education reform bills that passed this week include:

  • House Bill 2066 will remove certain Standards of Quality staffing requirements to give local school leaders more flexibility over staffing in schools and classrooms.
  • House Bill 2068 will expand the early intervention reading and mathematics program to help students in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade.
  • House Bill 2083 will establish a fund for localities to establish a strategic compensation grant and reward their hardworking teachers. The locality will set the requirements on the teacher bonus. The Governor has committed $15 million to the fund that would give additional $5,000 bonus to as many as 3,000 teachers.
  • House Bill 2098 will make it easier for school boards to receive waivers from state regulations.

House Republicans remain committed to enacting these and other important reforms to ensure that every child in the Commonwealth has the opportunity to receive a top notch education.

Tort Reform

Today we passed a number of pieces of legislation that deal with Tort Reform in Virginia. The package of legislation is the result of a major compromise between businesses and the medical and legal communities, and makes a number of changes to key areas of Virginia’s tort laws. Our hope is that this legislation will help protect the dignity of the tort system while reducing costly lawsuits, streamlining the litigation process, and reducing legal costs for many of Virginia’s businesses.

Legal costs are significant to businesses, and often are a major obstacle to job creation and economic growth. Our hope is that today’s actions by the House are a major step forward in decreasing the overall cost of doing business in Virginia.

The final package includes six bills:

  • House Bill 1618 was carried by Delegate Todd Gilbert and will reduce “forum shopping,” which is the practice of picking a Court system most favorable to one party.
  • House Bill 1708, carried by Delegate Greg Habeeb, will allow the limited use of depositions for summary judgment motions. The hope is that this legislation will provide businesses and business owners with a mechanism to dispose of frivolous lawsuits early on in the litigation process.
  • House Bill 1709, also carried by Delegate Habeeb, clarifies that costs associated with cases nonsuited during the trial are to be borne by the plaintiff. It also streamlines the process for recovering these costs.
  • House Bill 2004, carried by Delegate Ben Cline, codifies the current state of Viginia’s trespass liability case law. It will protect businesses and individuals from lawsuits based on an injury that occurs while an individual is illegally trespassing.
  • House Bill 1477, carried by Delegate Dave Albo, clarifies Virginia’s deadman’s statute allowing for a business record to corroborate the testimony of an interested party.
  • House Bill 1545, carried by Delegate Sal Iaquinto, allows a Court to review expert witness certification in medical malpractice cases for good cause shown.

Transportation

This week, the House Finance Committee reported out the Governor’s Transportation Package with a bipartisan vote of 14-8.

The Virginia’s Road to the Future transportation plan, House Bill 2313, is estimated to provide over $3.1 billion in additional funding over the next 5 years. The key components of the legislation are: 1) repealing Virginia’s 17.5 cents per gallon motor fuels tax on gas, while leaving the diesel tax unchanged; 2) replacing the gas tax with a 0.8% increase in the sales and use tax; 3)increasing motor vehicle registration by $15; 4)imposing a $100 alternative fuel registration fee on electric and hybrid-electric vehicles; and 5)dedicating a portion of existing but currently uncollected sales tax revenues to transportation, public education, and Virginia’s localities.

While this legislation is in no way perfect, right now it is our only vehicle for transportation reform. When businesses are passing Virginia by as a place to do business as a result of our transportation infrastructure, we can no longer afford to kick the can down the road for a future administration to deal with. The time to act on transportation is now.

This legislation is a still a work in progress, and will likely continue to change and evolve as it moves through the process. A number of changes have already been made, including:

  • Clarifying that the $100 alternative fuel vehicle applies only to those vehicles that are not subject to federal gas per gallon equivalent taxes
  • Enabling drivers of diesel fueled passenger vehicles to claim a refund for diesel taxes paid, similar to the refund for non-road uses of diesel fuel
  • Contingent on the passage of the transportation plan, placing a stay on tolling on Interstate 95 south of Fredericksburg until a determination can be made whether toll revenues are still necessary.


Though there are several components of this legislation that I am still concerned about, I still believe it is important that we work across the aisle to solve our transportation challenges.

While I generally am opposed to tax increases, l believe that swapping the gas tax for a slight sales tax increase actually favors rural Virginia. Additionally, I feel that if we fail to find a solution under this administration, it is increasingly possible that our next Governor and General Assembly will attempt to change the current funding formula, and that would be disastrous for us in rural Virginia.

Again, I welcome your feedback on Transportation and encourage you to contact us with questions, concerns, and ideas.

My Legislation

Following crossover next week I will share with you a full list of my own legislation that has passed in the House of Delegates this Session. With just a few days to go before crossover, I’m pleased to have 9 pieces of my legislation passed out of the House. This legislation will now be sent to the Senate for consideration.

This week I was pleased to see the Right to Work Amendment pass in the House of Delegates with a vote of 69 – 30. The Right to Work law is vital to the success of Virginia’s workforce, and is an important factor in Virginia’s continued high rankings as one of the best states for business. By adding the existing Right to Work law to the Constitution of Virginia, we are ensuring that it will stay part of Virginia law for many years to come. You can see my testimony to the amendment online here.

Additionally this week, I had two pieces pass in the House relating to education.

House Bill 1406 is a bill that I put forth relating to students with Eating Disorders. Unfortunately, eating disorders are a silent killer among young people. Many parents do not know what to look for, and therefore their children go undiagnosed and untreated. This legislation, which has undergone a series of amendments, encourages local schools to provide educational information (most likely through their website) to parents of students grades 5 – 12 regarding the diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders. Our hope is that this information will arm parents with the information and tools necessary to help detect eating disorders in their children. This early detection and early intervention could lead to saved lives. House Bill 1406 passed out of the House of Delegates yesterday with a vote of 99-0.

House Bill 1344, the Deaf Child’s Bill, requires local school divisions to ensure that Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams consider the specific communication needs of children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing and address those needs as appropriate in the child's IEP. This legislation was brought to me by a group of constituents, and will help ensure that Virginia students who are deaf or hard of hearing receive the best education possible. It advanced out of the House of Delegates with a vote of 99-0.

Visitors

Once again this week we were very happy to see a number of friendly faces from home. Nelson County constituents Eleanor Amidon and Jane Taylor stopped by, as well as Peter Agelasto and his wife Betsy, to lobby on a number of environmental issues including Uranium Mining.

Visitors from Staunton included my good friend Rev. Steve Paulus. I also spent a few moments with Justin Reiter of the Heifetz Institute, and John Avoli of the Frontier Culture Museum. We were also able to spend a good deal of time with Augusta County Administrator Pat Coffield and several members of the Augusta Board of Supervisors.

Mike Aulger and a number of local folks from Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative visited with us on Monday. We also had the opportunity to see folks from the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party and Americans for Prosperity who came to Richmond for AFP Lobby Day.

My staff was able to meet with members of the Augusta Education Association, and saw Marcia Elliot and Bea Morris who also stopped by to lobby on issues related to education in Virginia. Staff was also able to meet with a number of local members of the Virginia Young Democrats. Dean Welty of the Valley Family Forum also dropped by for a visit.

Additionally, we had students and staff from several of Virginia’s colleges and universities this week. We saw students from Radford University, James Madison University, Eastern Mennonite University, Virginia Tech, and Danville Community College.

If you find yourself in Richmond over the next few weeks we would love to see you. Please call ahead for an appointment, or feel free to drop by room 517 in the General Assembly Building.

Contact Me

My staff and I are here in Richmond to serve you. We would love to hear from you regarding legislation before the House, or if there's anything we can do to help you in dealing with a state government agency.

While we are in Richmond, we can be reached by phone at (804) 698-1020 or by email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.

Please note that while we appreciate your feedback, while we are in Session we often receive hundreds of emails a day. We work hard to provide a response to all inquiries, but it sometimes takes awhile to respond to you. Thank you for your patience.

Thank you again for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - 1/25/13

Before I discuss what’s going on in Richmond this week, I want to let you know that I will be holding a Dutch Treat Town Hall Breakfast at 8:00 am on Saturday, February 9 at Mrs. Rowe’s in Staunton. (74 Rowe Road). This will be right after crossover, so I will be able to give you an update of my legislation, as well as other key legislation that is making its way through the General Assembly.

In order for us to provide Mrs. Rowe’s with an accurate count, we are asking that you please RSVP to Savanna by email at savanna@bellfordelegate.com by Wednesday, February 6.

House Republicans Advance K-12 Education Reform Agenda

Governor McDonnell, my House Republican Colleagues, and I are all committed to advancing reforms that will empower teachers, increase accountability in our schools, and increase flexibility for localities regarding state funding.

This week, the House of Delegates passed several important K-12 education reform bills.

  • The Teach for America Act (HB 2084) passed the House of Delegates with unanimous support. This bill will bring the Teach for America program to the Commonwealth and allow participants in the program to teach in Virginia schools. Currently, 300 of Virginia’s brightest recent college graduates who participate in Teach for America are sent to classrooms in other states. This bill will allow these individuals, along with any other Teach for America participant, to teach here and work to make a difference in our schools. Teach for America recruits are often in the top 10 percent of their college classes or hold student leadership positions. Before they start teaching in the classrooms, they must complete an intensive training course that involves practice in a classroom setting, community integration, and professional development.
  • Local School Division Charter School Approval (HB 2076) would reduce barriers to creating charter schools in Virginia.
  • High School to Work Partnerships (HB 2101) passed with unanimous support. This bill will make sure all high school graduates are college or career ready when they graduate.
  • The Educator Fairness Act (HB 2151), which I will talk a bit more about later, passed with solid bipartisan support.

House Bill 2151 – The Educator Awareness Act

This week the Educator Fairness Act passed in the House of Delegates with broad bipartisan support.

As I mentioned last week, House Bill 2151, makes a number of changes to the processes to which teachers are evaluated. It requires teachers and administrators to be evaluated every year, and included academic progress as a key component of this evaluation. The legislation includes a measure that gives local school boards the option of extending the probationary period for a new teacher from three to five years to allow more time to evaluate performance. It does NOT, however, eliminate the continuing contract.

Perhaps most importantly, the legislation streamlines the grievance process for teachers by making a series of changes to the hearing process. It includes a shortened timeframe and the appointment of a single impartial and true- neutral hearing officer instead of the three-member panel currently in place. The hearing officer will preside over an administrative hearing and issue a written recommendation to the school board. The grievance procedure also allows for an expedited decision to inform the teacher of their employment status.
Finally, the passage of this legislation will result in a 2% pay increase for teachers. Governor McDonnell has already included the state’s portion of the pay increase in the budget.

This legislation resulted from a collaborative effort of all stakeholders, including the Virginia Education Association (VEA), Virginia School Boards Association, Virginia Association of Superintendents, the Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals, and the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals, all of whom support and endorse the bill. Additionally it gained the support of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership.

I am thrilled to see this legislation pass with bipartisan support. The extensive involvement of the education community has helped make this possible, and through their cooperation and advice, we have made this legislation the best possible.

My hope is that this legislation will allow Virginia to recruit and retain the best educators, and help ensure that our educational system continues to rank among the nation’s best. I believe this is a big step towards treating and paying educators like the professionals that they are.

If you’d like to watch video of my floor speech, you can do so by clicking here.

An Update on the 2% Pay Raise for Teachers

After the initial announcement of the 2% teacher pay raise proposal, many localities raised two concerns that could prevent them from being able to offer the raise to their teachers. I fully understand these issues, and we are working hard to find solutions to ensure our teachers get the pay raise they deserve.
The first issue for many localities is the teacher pay raise proposal does not include funding for pay raises for the support staff. This includes bus drivers, secretaries, and many other staff members who work to keep our schools running. Many localities have a policy that requires them to give pay raises to all school employees, and therefore would be required to pay the full cost of the pay raise for this staff. However, the House Appropriations Committee is working to find funding to provide the state share of funding for a pay raise for support staff in the House budget as well.
The second issue localities highlighted was their need for additional time to provide their share of funding for the teacher pay raise. Because teachers are local employees and not state employees, localities must cover a portion of the funding for the pay raise on top of the state funding. Many localities are concerned that they will not be able to find the local funding needed for the pay raise by the July 1, 2014 deadline as required by the original proposal. The House appropriations committee, however, intends to propose language in the House budget to extend the deadline for localities to provide the pay raise.
I am confident that the House Appropriations Committee will be able to work with localities to find a solution that will give the teachers the pay raise they deserve without causing undue burden on local governments.

House Bill 1856

A number of you, particularly those of you who are EMT or other emergency professionals, have contacted me regarding your opposition to House Bill 1856. When this legislation was first heard in subcommittee on Monday, there was a great deal of concern that the legislation limited the ability of local or regional medical directors to control the practice of their own providers. For this reason, I opposed the legislation.
However, when the bill was brought before the full committee a substitute bill was offered that solved many of the problems with the first bill, while still accomplishing the goals of the bill patron. This substitute version received no opposition, and was reported out of the committee with a vote of 22-0.

House Bill 1926

A number of you have contacted me regarding your opposition to House Bill 1926. It appears that there is a great deal of misinformation circulating regarding this bill and I will try to help clear that up.
Currently in Virginia there are three ways to appoint a school board. The locality has the option to allow for direct election of school boards, or have the school boards appointed by members of the local city council or board of supervisors. The third option is to have the school board appointed by a school board selection commission. House Bill 1926 removes the option of the school board selection commission from the code.
The school board selection commission is a non-legislative, non-elected body, and therefore there is no way for the public to have any say in the appointment of their local school board. Therefore, by passing House Bill 1926, we guarantee that all school boards will be accountable to the people.

Visitors

This week we had a number of familiar faces stop by our office here in Richmond. Several folks stopped by from Coca Cola, and we were also pleased to see Bo Wilson and Bruce Thompson from Dr. Pepper in Staunton.
Mark Daugherty and several members of the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party dropped by, as well as some local members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League from Staunton, Augusta County, and Nelson County.
As always, I was delighted to see some friends from the Nelson, Highland and Augusta County Farm Bureaus, as well as Debbie Williams from Blue Ridge Medical Center.

Contact Me

My staff and I are here in Richmond to serve you. We would love to hear from you regarding legislation before the House, or if there's anything we can do to help you in dealing with a state government agency.


While we are in Richmond, we can be be reached by phone at (804) 698-1020 or by email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.

If you are planning to visit Richmond during Session, I encourage you to visit me in Room 517. We certainly do not require appointments, but if you know ahead of time that you’re planning a visit, appointments are encouraged.

Thank you again for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.

Delegate Richard Bell

http://www.bellfordelegate.com/

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