Bell Sounds from the 20th - 1/18/2013

Today marks the end of the first full week of the 2012 General Assembly Session. We are in full swing and many bills have begun working through the committee process and onto the House floor.

 

Let me take this time to update you on what’s going on in Richmond.


A Long-Term Fix for Transportation

First let me thank you for the many suggestions and ideas we have received regarding the Governor’s proposed Transportation Plan. They are very helpful. I believe we have reached a point in time where simply being “for” or “against” the plan is not good enough and we must all try to find solutions to our transportation issues in a good bill.

Personally there are parts of the bill that I like, and other parts that I am less excited about. I will offer you my thoughts in this statement, but I can tell you there is much to do yet before a bill comes before us for a vote.

Nothing we do will produce perfect legislation. There are no easy answers and no silver bullet solutions. Any real fix will require some tough decision making and a bold course of action. With state revenues at 2008 levels, I believe any solution will have to be a blended formula that creates new revenue AND uses existing revenues.

While I am generally opposed to raising taxes I believe swapping out the gas tax for a slight sales tax increase actually favors our district and rural Virginia. In rural Virginia commutes are generally longer and distances between most points are usually longer than in urban areas. Yet with the gas tax in place for everyone at the same rate we end up paying proportionally more than drivers in those urban areas because we buy more gas and drive more miles. In the absence of the gas tax, price per gallon gasoline should fall. We can’t guarantee that because we can’t determine the level of corporate greed that exists, but even if it doesn’t you will be buying more gasoline for your money.

The sales tax increase will impact everyone, but the tax does not include food or prescription medicine, and most of us in the rural districts will likely not increase spending to the degree that a 0.8% sales tax increase will be burdensome. In addition, because spending in the urban areas of the state far exceeds that of rural Virginia, sales tax revenue should increase significantly. That means that places like Northern Virginia and Tidewater will be paying for their transportation improvements largely with their own money instead of allowing us the privilege of helping pay with ours.

There is one other important point to consider. Although transportation may not be the number one priority in our area, it poses significant problems for the Commonwealth that must be addressed. Our failure to find a solution in the final years of this Governor’s administration leaves open the possibility that the next Governor and General Assembly will attempt to change the current transportation funding formula, and that could be disastrous for us in rural Virginia where the present formula is actually favorable to us.

I am in favor of using General Fund money to help fund transportation. Transportation is a core function of government, just like education and public safety, and that’s what we use general funds (tax revenue) for. But the General Fund alone will not suffice, and so we must find other sources of revenue as well.

I also believe that one of the items that must be negotiable is the remaining tax on diesel fuel for passenger vehicles. In the interest of fairness I feel the gas tax must be removed for diesel owners as well.

Pro-Jobs Agenda

House Republicans are dedicated to creating an environment that helps small businesses create new jobs and opportunities. With the announcement that Virginia’s unemployment rate is now the lowest in the Southeast after falling to 5.5%, it is another sign that Virginia’s economy is moving in the right direction.

Though it would appear that the economy is improving, we must not let our guard down. There is still a lot of uncertainty, and we must continue to work to ensure that we are putting Virginian’s back to work. Therefore we will continue to focus on legislation that fosters and incentivizes job growth in the Commonwealth. We can do this by decreasing the taxes and regulations on small businesses, and rewarding those corporations and small businesses that bring jobs to Virginia.

This is one of the reasons that I proposed House Bill 1370. House Bill 1370 is a bill that would create an individual and corporate income tax credit beginning January 1, 2013 for small businesses creating new full-time jobs in the Commonwealth. The credit would equal $1,000 for each new job created, and a small business would be allowed the credit for an aggregate of 50 jobs. Under the provisions of this bill there is no actual cost to the Commonwealth unless the concept works, and then it would pay for itself in payroll taxes and sales taxes resulting from the new paychecks and income.

Though I do not believe that it is the government’s role to create jobs, I do believe that we can provide incentives for job creation by rewarding businesses that bring new jobs to the Commonwealth. I believe this type of legislation is innovative, and will help our unemployment rate continue to fall.


My Legislation

Though we are still early in the Session, several of my bills have already been heard in subcommittees, full committees, and on the House floor.

Two pieces of legislation that I am carrying for the administration deal with the Comprehensive Services Act. They are House Bills 1646 and 1683. This legislation was reported out of the Committee on Health, Welfare, and Institutions on Tuesday unanimously. Both passed today before the full House by a vote of 98-0.

House Bill 1646 clarifies eligibility requirements for funds from the state pool of funds for comprehensive services for at-risk youth and family. 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. Both of these pieces of legislation are designed to ensure that the money that is spent under the Comprehensive Services Act is spent wisely and properly. I hope this legislation will continue to gain support when it crosses over to the Senate.

Additionally, I have two education bills that were heard in sub-committee this week. The first was House Bill 1406. House Bill 1406 requires each school board to annually provide parent educational information or screen public school students in grades five through 12 for eating disorders. This legislation was reported out of the subcommittee on Students and Early Education unanimously, and is expected to be heard in full committee on Monday. My hope is that this legislation will allow earlier detection of eating disorders, and result in saved lives.

The second education bill in subcommittee this week was House Bill 2151. This is a heavily amended version of the teacher contract legislation I proposed in 2012. The bill as currently written makes a number of changes to the processes to which teachers are evaluated and to the grievance process. It requires teachers and administrators to be evaluated every year and includes student academic progress as a component. The legislation includes a measure that gives local school boards the option of extending the probationary process for a new teacher from three to five years to allow more time to evaluate performance. Perhaps most importantly, the legislation streamlines the grievance process for teachers by a series of changes to the hearing process. It includes a shortened time frame and the appointment of a single impartial hearing officer instead of a three-member panel. The passage of this legislation will result in a 2% raise for teachers.

We began work on this bill immediately after the 2012 Session. We brought ALL stakeholders to the table and, after a great deal of hard work, were able to come up with a bill that all the stakeholders could agree to support. We were pleased to work with the Virginia Education Association, the School Boards’ Association, and the Superintendents’ Association to bring forth a bill that will be beneficial to teachers, administrators and, most importantly, the students.

House bill 2151 was reported out of the Teachers and Administrative Actions subcommittee yesterday on an 8-0 vote. It will be heard in full committee on Monday.

Visitors

We were delighted to see several familiar faces from home this week. We were visited by local voter registrars, Lisa Wooten from Waynesboro and Jacqueline Britt from Nelson County, who came to the General Assembly to lobby us on legislation that affects our voting and elections processes. Lynn Downs dropped by to meet with us regarding our local March of Dimes.

As always, I was happy to see Linda Hershey and several members of the Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce, as well as members of the Staunton Professional Fire Department. We were also visited by John Downey and a group of Blue Ridge Community College students, Dr. Don Henry, a local veterinarian, and Monte Skall, a Highland County resident and representative of the National Capital Lyme Disease Association.

If you find yourself in Richmond over the next few weeks, please drop by and say hello! Our room number in the General Assembly Building is 517. If you know that you’re coming, we encourage you to email or call us ahead of time to set up an appointment.

Contact Me

My staff and I are here in Richmond to serve you. We want to hear what you think about the legislation pending before the House. In order ensure that we are able to respond to you in as quickly of a manner as possible, we ask that you please send ALL email inquiries to DelDBell@house.virginia.gov. We can also be reached by phone at 804-698-1020.

Please understand that we value your input and feedback, however, due to the volume of email and phone calls that we receive, we may not be able to get back to you immediately. However we assure you that we will respond to all of our emails and voicemails as quickly as possible. Please use the official Delegate email and office phones to reach us. If you are attempting to reach me through personal email or phone your message may be lost. Be aware that we also have a sensitive “spam” filter that traps many emails and we sometimes miss getting them. We sincerely appreciate your patience and understanding.

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

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - January 12

The 2013 General Assembly Session began Wednesday with what hopefully is the start of a new tradition- the Richmond Symphony Chorus singing a beautiful rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner.

 

Wednesday evening, Governor McDonnell delivered his annual State of the Commonwealth address.

 

The Governor began his speech by reminding us how far the Commonwealth has come over the past three years.  Our unemployment rate is now the lowest in the southeast at 5.6%.  Additionally, we have created 150,500 net new private-sector jobs. Our public schools continue to rank among the nation’s best, and we have balanced our budget without any tax increases on Virginia’s families or businesses.  This is clear evidence that under Governor McDonnell, we are on the right track.

 

In his speech, Governor McDonnell laid out a bold agenda for his final legislative session that focuses on the issues that matter most to Virginians. The Governor’s legislative priorities are to improve our schools, create new opportunities for small businesses, and help ensure that we are able to find a long term solution to improve and maintain our roads. My House Republican colleagues and I share Governor McDonnell’s commitment to finding solutions to these key issues, and I look forward to working across the aisle to ensure that this gets done.

 

I encourage you to read the full text of Governor McDonnell’s speech online here

 

I am honored to be carrying one of the Governor’s education bills that he has made a top priority for this Session.  As Governor McDonnell mentioned during his annual State of the Commonwealth address, I am carrying House Bill 2151.  This legislation is much improved over the Teacher Contract legislation that I carried last year.

 

In addition to a 2% raise for all teachers, House Bill 2151 makes several changes to the processes by which teachers and certain administrators are evaluated and to the grievance procedure process. The bill requires teachers, assistant principals, and principals to be evaluated every year, either formally or informally, and such evaluations will include student academic progress as a significant component and an overall summative rating. The bill increases from three years to five years the term of probationary service required for a teacher before becoming eligible for a continuing contract, and requires local school boards to provide a new principal with a mentor. The bill does not eliminate the contuinuing contract.

 

The bill also changes the grievance procedure for teachers. It gives local school boards the option to assign a grievance hearing to be heard by a hearing officer designated by the local school board. The option for a grievance to be heard in front of a fact-finding panel would no longer be available.

 

I am honored to be carrying this important part of the Governor’s Education package, and I look forward to the conversation we will have with teachers, administrators, and school boards regarding these improvements.

 

My Legislation

 

In addition to House Bill 2151, I am carrying 11 other bills and one house joint resolution.  You can see my entire slate of legislation online here.

 

Of this legislation, there are a couple of pieces that I would like to highlight.

 

House Bill 1344 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 is an important piece that was brought to me by a constituent who sits on the Board of Visitors at VSDB.  It is to help ensure that students who are deaf and hard of hearing can get the best education possible in Virginia.

 

House Bill 1370 creates an individual and corporate income tax credit beginning January 1, 2013, for small businesses creating new full-time jobs in the Commonwealth.  I believe this is a great incentive for job creation in the Commonwealth.

 

House Bill 1406 requires each school board to annually provide parent educational information or screen public school students from 5th to 10th grade for eating disorders.  Eating disorders are a growing problem among teens, and are often undetected for far too long.  My hope is that this legislation will allow for earlier detection of eating disorders and result in more lives saved.

 

House Bill 1469 directs the State Inspector General to conduct a comprehensive financial audit of Virginia's four-year public institutions of higher education, to be completed by July 1, 2015, and report the findings to the General Assembly.  My hope is that this audit will reveal areas of cost savings, and help our institutions get the most for their money.

 

House Bill 1555 will establish the Virginia Statewide Virtual School and establish a Board of Visitors for the Virginia Statewide Virtual School. We established virtual education in Virginia in 2010, and this will help solve the funding questions that local school divisions have. There are many parents across Virginia that find that the traditional classroom is not meeting their needs. Our hope is that through allowing students to take virtual classes, public schools will be more able to meet the needs of those students.

 

House Joint Resolution 536 is an amendment to the Virginia Constitution establishing the Right to Work laws as part of our constitution. Right now Virginia has great right to work laws on the books. Making these laws a part of the constitution will make it much more difficult for a future legislature to remove them from our code. Once the right to work amendment becomes part of the constitution, the only way to change it would be by referendum of the voters of Virginia.

 

Transportation 

 

As you are likely already aware, this week Governor McDonnell unveiled his transportation plan. The key feature of his proposal is a plan to eliminate the 17.5 cents gas tax and replace it with a 0.8 cent increase to the Sales and Use Tax (SUT) dedicated to transportation.

 

I encourage you to check out the components of the transportation plan online here.

 

I would like to get as much feedback as possible from my constituents regarding this bill before it is brought before me for a vote.  If you could please email me your comments at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov, I would very much appreciate it.
I also welcome any suggestions that you may have on how to improve the proposal.

 

 

Weekly Visitors

 

It was a short week but we still were able to see a few friendly faces from home. Thursday was “Banker’s Day” in the Capitol, and I was pleased to see Greg Godsey drop by to share with me the concerns of bankers in Virginia.

 

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.

In addition to email and phone, we also encourage you to track us throughout this Session on social media.  You can find me on facebook, or follow me on twitter at @DelDickieBell. 

Thank you again for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.
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Bell Sounds from the 20th-December 20

Bell Sounds from the 20th

It's 5 days until Christmas!  It is also just under three weeks until the start of the 2012 General Assembly Session.  I want to take just a few minutes of your time to provide a couple of updates to you regarding the 2013 Session.

  Before I begin, however, I would like to express my deepest sympathy to the victims, their families, and to all who were affected by the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut.  This was an unthinkable national tragedy, and Anne and I have this community in our continued thoughts and prayers.

Events like this remind us of how fragile life really is. This tragedy is an important reminder of why we must continue to focus on improving access to mental health services in the Commonwealth.  I’m certain that as we approach the 2013 Session we will continue the discussion on how this type of tragedy can be prevented, and as always I welcome your feedback.

Dutch-Treat Town Hall Breakfast Meetings

As I’ve done in the past, this year I will be hosting two dutch-treat town hall breakfast meetings.

The first will be held on Saturday, December 29 at 8:30 am at Mrs. Rowe’s Restaurant in Staunton (74 Rowe Road).

The second will be held at 8:30 am on Saturday, January 5 at Golden Corral in Waynesboro (51 Apple Tree Lane).

I have already received RSVPs from a number of you. If you have not RSVP’d and plan to attend one or both of these breakfasts, please let us know no later than Wednesday, December 26.  We need to have an accurate count to give the restaurant.  You can RSVP to Savanna by emailing her at savanna@bellfordelegate.com, or by phone at 540-448-3999.

Joint Town Hall Meeting

In addition to the Town Hall breakfast meetings, Delegate Landes, Cline, and I have decided to host a joint town hall meeting.  We will be providing an overview of the 2013 Session, as well as taking your questions.  The meeting will be held at 7:00 pm on Thursday, January 2 at Guy Stump Elementary in Stuarts Draft.  We hope to see you out!

FY2012-FY2014 Budget

This week, Governor McDonnell announced his amendments to the FY2012-2014 Budget.  It is important to note that this is in no way a final product.

Given the uncertainty we currently see with the economy, and in particular the uncertainty we see in Washington right now, it is very important that we exercise restraint and work with the Governor to produce a fiscally sound budget.

Just last year, we produced a balanced budget that had key investments in the core services of government. We reduced unfunded liabilities for the state pension plan by $9 billion, included over $500 million in new funding for K-12 education, invested over $100 million to moderate tuition costs, and invested over $44 million for the health care safety net.

This year, Governor McDonnell has proposed spending increases that focus on six major “themes”.

These themes include:

 

  • To provide adequate funding for core services and reduce structural imbalances and gimmicks
  • To increase liquidity to guard against future economic uncertainty and the potential impact of federal spending reductions
  • To increase support for instructional spending on public education
  • To continue investments in higher education
  • To improve funding for transportation
  • To improve support for localities

While I do not believe this budget is perfect, I believe it is a good starting point. I look forward to continuing this conversation once we get to Richmond.

For more information on the Governor’s proposed budget amendments,  please see that Governor’s press release at http://www.governor.virginia.gov/News/viewRelease.cfm?id=1559.

Holiday Hours

Our office will be closed for Christmas from Friday December 21, 2012 through Wednesday, December 26.

Additionally, we will be closed on January 1, 2013 for New Years.

E-mail

This time of year is a particularly busy time of year for us, and our email volume increases substantially.  Occasionally, our spam filters will block email that we would not consider to be spam.  This happens particularly often with email that is forwarded, email that does not have a subject in the subject line, and some “form letters”.  Please take this into consideration when sending us email.

We make an effort to look through our spam folder to ensure that nothing has been captured that is not spam, however unfortunately sometimes we are unable to catch everything.

We do our best to respond to your emails in as timely of a manner as possible. However as Session grows closer, and the volume of email we receive increases, it sometimes takes us a few days to get back to you.  We appreciate your patience and understanding.   

Donate

As you are likely aware, 2013 is an election year, and I will be up for re-election. December 31 marks an important campaign finance deadline, and it is important that we make a strong showing.   

I need your help to do this.  We would greatly appreciate your donation of any amount.

Virginia state law requires legislators to suspend our fundraising efforts while we are in session, but our campaign for re-election will begin immediately after session adjourns.

We need to be ready to hit the ground running.  We would greatly appreciate your donation of any amount. In order to be counted for the December 31 deadline, we must receive the donation by 11:59 pm on December 31.

You can donate online at www.bellfordelegate.com, or you can mail a donation to Dickie Bell for Delegate, Post Office Box 239, Staunton, VA 24402.

Contact

If you are unable to attend one of the town hall events, but would like to provide feedback on one or more issues for the upcoming session, we encourage that feedback. You can reach us by phone at 540-448-3999, or by email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.

On Monday, January 7 we will begin operating out of our Richmond office.  The phone number in Richmond is804-698-7618.

 

I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and a prosperous New Year!  I hope that you enjoy spending time with family and friends!

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - 12/2/2012

Bell Sounds from the 20th

 

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and that you are enjoying the beginnings of the Christmas season!  While we’re busy getting ready for Christmas, we are also busy getting ready for the 2013 General Assembly Session, which convenes January 9, 2013.  I want to take a few moments and provide a few updates, as well as ask for some feedback from you about the upcoming session.

 

Dutch Treat Town Hall Breakfast Meetings

 

As the Session approaches, I will be looking for feedback from you on important issues that are expected to come up over the Session.  Therefore, I will be hosting 2 dutch-treat town hall breakfast meetings here in the district before we head off to Richmond.

 

The first will be held at 8:30 am on Saturday, December 29 at Mrs. Rowe’s Restaurant in Staunton (74 Rowe Road). 

 

The second will be held at 8:30 on Saturday, January 5 at the Golden Corral in Waynesboro (51 Apple Tree Lane).

 

In order to attend the breakfast, you must RSVP by email Savanna at savanna@bellfordelegate.com by December 22.  An RSVP is very important, so we can be sure that the restaurants are set up for the correct number of people. 

 

Survey

 

As I mentioned before, your feedback is extremely important to me, and enables me to better represent you in the General Assembly.  I have compiled a list of questions regarding issues that will likely come up during Session.  I would greatly appreciate it if you would take the time to look over the questions and respond to me via email.  You can email your responses to DelDBell@gmail.com.

 

1)   Do you support lifting the moratorium on Uranium Mining?

2)   Do you support drug testing for recipients of welfare programs, such as TANF?

3)   Do you support increasing the gas tax in order to fund transportation?

4)   Do you support the use of tolls in order to fund transportation?

5)   Do you favor using general fund dollars to fund transportation as a core service of government?

6)   Do you support changing the teacher contract system from the continuing contract system which is currently in place to a term contract?

7)   Do you support an audit on public higher education in Virginia?

8)   Do you support legislation to allow students who are home schooled to participate in public school sports?

9)   Do you support expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act?  This would expand Medicaid access to all residents who fall under 133% of the poverty line.

10)               Do you support the privatization of the Virginia International Terminal in Hampton Roads, Virginia?

 

2013 Virginia Legislative Issues Brief

 

Each year the Virginia Division of Legislative Services compiles a thorough brief of the issues that are expected to arise during Session.  You can find the 2013 Virginia Legislative Issues Brief online at http://dls.virginia.gov/pubs/briefs/Brief56.pdf.

 

I encourage you to look over this, and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.

 

State Employee Bonus

 

Today, state employees received a 3 percent bonus as a result of the increased revenues and agency savings, which brought us to a third consecutive budget surplus. 

 

The surplus was driven by $187 million in savings from state agencies, $132.3 million in unspent higher education and other non-general fund sources and $129.2 million in increased revenue from tax collection that exceeded budget forecasts.

 

I commend the Governor for seeing that state employees, who have not seen a pay increase in a number of years, benefit from the FY2012 surplus.  I am glad that it comes just in time for the Holiday season.   

 

Donate

 

As you are likely aware, I will be up for re-election again in 2013.  We are required by law to suspend our fundraising efforts while we are in session, but our campaign for re-election will begin immediately after session adjourns.  We need to be ready to hit the ground running immediately, and we need your help to be able to do so.  We would greatly appreciate your donation of any amount.  We may accept donations until 11:59 pm on Tuesday, January 8.

 

You can donate online at www.bellfordelegate.com, or you can mail a donation to Dickie Bell for Delegate, Post Office Box 239, Staunton, VA 24402.   

 

Contact Me

 

The previously listed issues are certainly not the only issues that will come up over the next few weeks as we lead up to Session.  While we are still in the district you can reach me by email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov, or by phone at 540-448-3999.  I look forward to hearing from you!

 

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your delegate.

 

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Vote Tomorrow!

This is a final reminder that Election Day isTOMORROW, November 6.  The polls will be open from 6:00 am – 7:00 pm.

If you do not know where you vote, you can find that information on your voter registration card. It is listed under“Voting Location” and will provide the name and address of your polling place.  You can also find it online by clicking here.

Like me, I’m sure you’ve all grown tired of the seemingly endless phone calls and commercials, but we only have one more day. Virginia is a critically important state this year, and every vote will matter.  This nation is dependent on Virginia, not only to help send Mitt Romney to the White House, but also to help secure a Republican-controlled Senate.

This election in Virginia is going to be a close one right to the end, and we need your vote to send George Allen to the U.S. Senate and bring new leadership to Washington.

George Allen has a record of working hard for the people of Virginia, and he will continue to build on that record in Congress.  As Senator, he will make sure that his number one job is fighting for yours, and that is the kind of representation we need.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, as well as George Allen, Bob Goodlatte, and Robert Hurt are counting on your supporttomorrow.

Please remember to go vote and encourage your family and friends to join you.  Together, we can be the change Virginia needs.

Please see below for additional information regarding tomorrow’s election.  Please forward this to any friends or family members you believe would find it helpful.

Acceptable Forms of Identification       



During the 2012 General Assembly Session, changes were made to Virginia’s voter identification laws.  Virginia law now requires all voters to provide an acceptable form of identification at the polls.  Voters arriving to the polls without ID will be required to vote a provisional ballot and will have until noon the Friday after the election to deliver a copy of identification to their locality’s electoral board in order for their provisional ballot to be counted.

Acceptable forms of identification are as follows:

  • Virginia voter registration card
  • Valid Virginia driver's license
  • Military ID
  • Any Federal, Virginia state or local government-issued ID
  • Employer issued photo ID card
  • Concealed handgun permit
  • Valid student ID issued by any institution of higher education located in the Commonwealth of Virginia
  • Current utility bill, bank statement, government check or paycheck indicating the name and address of the voter
  • Social Security card (*please see below as the social security card does not satisfy special federal ID requirements)
  • For more information about the new voter id requirements, please click here.

Constitutional Amendments

You are no doubt aware that this year elections are being held for President and Vice President, Senate, and Congress.

Don’t forget that there are also two proposed amendments to the Virginia constitution also on the ballot this year.

Amendment 1

Amendment 1 is the more substantive of the two.  It will read:

Shall Section 11 of Article I (Bill of Rights) of the Constitution of Virginia be amended (i) to require that eminent domain only be exercised where the property taken or damaged is for public use and, except for utilities or the elimination of a public nuisance, not where the primary use is for private gain, private benefit, private enterprise, increasing jobs, increasing tax revenue, or economic development; (ii) to define what is included in just compensation for such taking or damaging of property; and (iii) to prohibit the taking or damaging of more private property than is necessary for the public use?

I strongly encourage you to supportthis amendment.

In a 2005 case from Connecticut (Kelo vs. New London), the United State Supreme Court upheld the taking of private property and its transfer to a private business for economic development purposes, and also said that states could restrict the use of eminent domain.

Two years later, the Virginia General Assembly enacted Section 1-29.1 of the Code of Virginia, and set limits on the use of eminent domain powers.  The proposed constitutional amendment takes it a step farther.  Amendments to the code by the General Assembly can be changed by any future General Assembly. However if the proposed amendment passes, it can only be changed by a future constitutional amendment approved by voters.

The proposed amendment includes the following:

  • The right to private property is a “fundamental” right.
  • The taking or damaging of private property must be for a “public use”.
  • No more property may be taken or damaged than is necessary for the stated public use
  • A “public service company, public service corporation, or railroad exercises the power of eminent domain for public use when such exercise is for the authorized provision of utility, common carrier, or railroad services.” Elimination of a public nuisance may be a public use. It is not considered public use if the “primary  use is for private gain, private benefit, private enterprise, increasing jobs, increasing tax revenue, or economic development.”
  • Just compensation for property taken is expanded and defined to be“no less than the value of the property taken, lost profits, and lost access, and damages to the residue caused by the taking.”
  • The burden of proof lies on the entity condemning the property, who must prove that the property is being taken for public use.

I believe that property rights are foundational rights, and I believe this amendment takes a huge step in protecting those rights in Virginia. If you agree, I hope that you will join me in votingYes” on Amendment 1.

Amendment 2

Amendment 2 is more technical in nature. It will read:

Shall Section 6 of Article IV (Legislature) of the Constitution of Virginia concerning legislative sessions be amended to allow the General Assembly to delay by no more than one week the fixed starting date for the reconvened or "veto" session when the General Assembly meets after a session to consider the bills returned to it by the Governor with vetoes or amendments?

At the end of every legislative session, the General Assembly is required by the Constitution to meet again or reconvene in a “veto” session.  The only bills that the General Assembly can consider in a veto session are bills that passed during the legislative session and that the Governor has sent back to it with his vetoes or suggested amendments.

The constitution now requires that the veto session must begin on the sixth Wednesday following the end of each session.  The veto session usually lasts for only one day, and cannot last more than ten days.

The proposed amendment gives the General Assembly the flexibility to delay the start of the veto session for up to one week.  This will enable the General Assembly to avoid possible scheduling of the veto session on a religious holiday such as Passover.  The proposed amendment does not change the present limits on the business that can be considered or the length of the veto session.

I would encourage you to join me in votingyes” on this amendment.

Local Registrars’ Offices

If you have additional questions about thetomorrow’s election I would encourage you to contact your local registrar.

Augusta County – (540) 245-5656

Highland County – (540) 468-2013

Nelson County – (434) 263-4068

City of Staunton – (540) 332-3840

City of Waynesboro – (540) 942-6620


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Important Information Regarding Hurricane Sandy

As you are likely aware, Hurricane Sandy is already beginning to bear down on the East Coast.  Here in the Valley, we are already seeing the effects of Sandy, and it is forecasted to only going to get worse over the next 48 hours or so.  I wanted to take a few minutes to share with you information that will be beneficial to make note of as we begin to feel the strongest impact to our area.  Though the "eye" of the storm may not pass through the Valley, this does not mean that we won't be significantly impacted by Sandy. Regardless of exactly how the storm tracks, we are still expecting long periods of high winds, significant rainfall, and depending on where you’re located, possibly snowfall.

With expected high winds, power outages will be likely...

  • Charge your cell phones and laptops now so you will still have battery power in the event of a power outage.
  • Turn refrigerator and freezer to maximum cold and keep closed.
  • Using a flashlight is safer than using a candle for lighting.
  • Place generators far enough away that Carbon Monoxide won't enter the home.
  • If you have a land line, use a phone that does not require electricity so that you will still have phone service even if you lose power.
  • If you lose power, be sure to report the outage to your respective provider.

                  Dominion - 1-866-366-4357

                  Shenandoah Valley Electric Coop. - 1-800-234-7832

                  Central Valley Electric Coop. - 1-800-367-2832

 

Please be sure to use 9-1-1 only for true emergencies.

To check road conditions, you can call 511 or go to www.511virginia.org

For general information about the storm and the response effort, dial 211 or visit www.vaemergency.gov

By now, I hope you have made your necessary preparations. Please stay tuned to local media for the latest updates and information. Avoid driving or going out into the storm if at all possible.

Stay safe!

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Important Information Regarding the 2012 Election

We have just over a week until the 2012 Election!  Like many of you, I’m very encouraged by the recent trends in polling, as well as Governor Romney’s performance in the debates.  However we must not take anything for granted.  The only “polling” that really matters is that which occurs on November 6.

I just want to take a few minutes to provide you with some important information about the upcoming election.  I hope you will find this information helpful, and I encourage you to pass it on to friends and family who may not be on this email list.

Hours and Polling Locations

In Virginia, all polls will be open from 6:00 am –7:00 pm on November 6.

If you do not know where you vote, you can find that information on your voter registration card. It is listed under“Voting Location” and will provide the name and address of your polling place.  You can also find it online by clicking here.

Voting Absentee

If you will be unable to vote on Election Day, it is not too late to apply for an absentee ballot.

The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is quickly approaching, though.  In order to request an absentee ballot you can download an application hereor contact your local Voter Registration Office to request an absentee ballot application. In order to have your absentee ballot mailed to you, your absentee ballot application must beRECEIEVED by your local registrar’s office by 5:00 pm eastern standard time on the Tuesday prior to the Election Day (Tuesday, October 30).

After receiving your absentee ballot in the mail, your completed absentee ballot must be received by an election official by 7:00 pm on Election Day in order to be counted.

Virginia also allows in person absentee voting for those who qualify to vote absentee.  In order to vote in person, you must complete an absentee ballot application at the registrar’s office and present an acceptable form of identification.  You will then be able to cast a ballot at the registrar’s office. The deadline to vote in person absentee is Saturday, November 3 at 5:00 pm.

For more information on absentee voting, including information on who is eligible to vote absentee please click here.

                               Acceptable Forms of Identification       
During the 2012 General Assembly Session, changes were made to Virginia’s voter identification laws.  Virginia law now requires all voters to provide an acceptable form of identification at the polls.  Voters arriving to the polls without ID will be required to vote a provisional ballot and will have until noon the Friday after the election to deliver a copy of identification to their locality’s electoral board in order for their provisional ballot to be counted.

Acceptable forms of identification are as follows:

  • Virginia voter registration card
  • Valid Virginia driver's license
  • Military ID
  • Any Federal, Virginia state or local government-issued ID
  • Employer issued photo ID card
  • Concealed handgun permit
  • Valid student ID issued by any institution of higher education located in the Commonwealth of Virginia
  • Current utility bill, bank statement, government check or paycheck indicating the name and address of the voter
  • Social Security card (*please see below as the social security card does not satisfy special federal ID requirements)

For more information about the new voter id requirements, please click here.

What’s on the Ballot?

You are no doubt aware that this year elections are being held for President and Vice President, Senate, and Congress.  I encourage you to support Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan for President and Vice President, George Allen for Senate, and Robert Hurt and Bob Goodlatte for Congress.

You may not be aware, however, that there are also two proposed amendments to the Virginia constitution also on the ballot this year.

Amendment 1

Amendment 1 is the more substantive of the two.  It will read:

Shall Section 11 of Article I (Bill of Rights) of the Constitution of Virginia be amended (i) to require that eminent domain only be exercised where the property taken or damaged is for public use and, except for utilities or the elimination of a public nuisance, not where the primary use is for private gain, private benefit, private enterprise, increasing jobs, increasing tax revenue, or economic development; (ii) to define what is included in just compensation for such taking or damaging of property; and (iii) to prohibit the taking or damaging of more private property than is necessary for the public use?

I strongly encourage you to support this amendment.   

In a 2005 case from Connecticut (Kelo vs. New London), the United State Supreme Court upheld the taking of private property and its transfer to a private business for economic development purposes, and also said that states could restrict the use of eminent domain.

Two years later, the Virginia General Assembly enacted Section 1-29.1 of the Code of Virginia, and set limits on the use of eminent domain powers.  The proposed constitutional amendment takes it a step farther.  Amendments to the code by the General Assembly can be changed by any future General Assembly. However if the proposed amendment passes, it can only be changed by a future constitutional amendment approved by voters. 

The proposed amendment includes the following:

  • The right to private property is a “fundamental” right.
  • The taking or damaging of private property must be for a “public use”.
  • No more property may be taken or damaged than is necessary for the stated public use
  • A “public service company, public service corporation, or railroad exercises the power of eminent domain for public use when such exercise is for the authorized provision of utility, common carrier, or railroad services.” Elimination of a public nuisance may be a public use. It is not considered public use if the “primary  use is for private gain, private benefit, private enterprise, increasing jobs, increasing tax revenue, or economic development.”
  • Just compensation for property taken is expanded and defined to be“no less than the value of the property taken, lost profits, and lost access, and damages to the residue caused by the taking.”
  • The burden of proof lies on the entity condemning the property, who must prove that the property is being taken for public use.

I believe that property rights are foundational rights, and I believe this amendment takes a huge step in protecting those rights in Virginia.  I hope that you will join me in voting“Yes” on Amendment 1.

Amendment 2

Amendment 2 is more technical in nature. It will read:

Shall Section 6 of Article IV (Legislature) of the Constitution of Virginia concerning legislative sessions be amended to allow the General Assembly to delay by no more than one week the fixed starting date for the reconvened or "veto" session when the General Assembly meets after a session to consider the bills returned to it by the Governor with vetoes or amendments?

At the end of every legislative session, the General Assembly is required by the Constitution to meet again or reconvene in a “veto” session.  The only bills that the General Assembly can consider in a veto session are bills that passed during the legislative session and that the Governor has sent back to it with his vetoes or suggested amendments.

The constitution now requires that the veto session must begin on the sixth Wednesday following the end of each session.  The veto session usually lasts for only one day, and cannot last more than ten days.

The proposed amendment gives the General Assembly the flexibility to delay the start of the veto session for up to one week.  This will enable the General Assembly to avoid possible scheduling of the veto session on a religious holiday such as Passover.  The proposed amendment does not change the present limits on the business that can be considered or the length of the veto session.

I would encourage you to join me in voting“yes” on this amendment.

Local Registrars’ Offices

If you have additional questions about the upcoming election I would encourage you to contact your local registrar.

Augusta County – (540) 245-5656

Highland County – (540) 468-2013

Nelson County – (434) 263-4068

City of Staunton – (540) 332-3840

City of Waynesboro – (540) 942-6620

Final Thoughts

I would like to thank all of you who have taken time to volunteer for our candidates. I know that many of you have made phone calls, knocked on doors, and manned the headquarters.

We are in the home stretch now, but we cannot stop yet. We must keep working to help carry our team across the finish line.  If you’re willing to knock on doors or make phone calls, contact Joe Russo at the Harrisonburg Victory office and he will let you know how you can get involved. You can reach Joe by email at JRusso@rpv.org, or by phone at (540) 221-1503.

Additionally, I know that our local committees are looking for folks to volunteer to hand out sample ballots at the polls on Election Day. If you’re willing to sign up for a shift, contact your local committee chair, who will point you in the right direction.

Thanks again, and as always, thanks for allowing me to serve as your delegate.

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - July 27

I hope you are enjoying your summer.  Though the House of Delegates is not in session, I’ve been busy traveling throughout the 20th District participating in numerous parade, lawn parties, and other area events.  I’ve had the pleasure of seeing many of you out, and I’m hopeful that I will continue to see some of you out and about at the various celebrations throughout the district.

 I want to take a few minutes to give you an update on what’s going on in the Commonwealth and here in the 20th District.

Churchville Volunteer Fire Department’s Annual Carnival

This weekend the Churchville Volunteer Fire Department is hosting their annual carnival.  It started on Wednesday,July 25 and will go through tomorrow, Saturday July 28, andwill take place at the Churchville Elementary School.  Tomorrow nightI will participate in the Churchville Fireman’s Parade at 5:00 pm. Ihope to see you out at the parade and carnival!

Augusta County Fair

The Augusta County Fair is just around the corner. The fair will kick off on Tuesday, August 7 and go through Saturday,August 11. The gates will open at 6:00 pm on Tuesday through Friday,and at 1:00 pm on Saturday.

For more information about the Augusta County Fair,visit their website at http://www.augustacountyfairva.com.

The Augusta County and Staunton City Republican Committees will be working together to sponsor a booth for our Republican candidates.  Please stop by to say hello, and pick up your yard signs, bumper stickers, and other literature.

If you’re interested in volunteering for the booth please let me know, and I would be happy to pass it on to the appropriate person.

Highland County Fair

The Highland County Fair will kick off on Saturday,August 25, and will be in full swing from Wednesday, August 29 –Saturday, September 1. I will be over on Wednesday night to participate in the parade, and I 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.

Make a Difference in 2012!

The 2012 Election is only 101 days away!  This is the most important election of our lifetime, and the visions for leading America could not be more different.  I strongly support Mitt Romney for President, George Allen for United States Senate, and Bob Goodlatte and Robert Hurt for United States House of Representatives.

 Virginia is a battleground state, and crucial to victory for Mitt Romney.  The polls have all races extremely close,and every vote will make a difference.

If you want to makea difference during this crucial election, I would encourage you to volunteer at our local Victory Headquarters.  The headquarters in Harrisonburg is already open and they need volunteers to make phone calls and knock on doors for our Republican candidates.

The headquarters is located at 182 Neff Avenue, Suite S13 in Harrisonburg.  They are open from 9:00 am - 9:00 pm, Monday - Friday and 9:00 am - 5:00 pm on Saturdays.  If you'd like to volunteer please contact Joe Russo.  The phone number for the headquarters is 540-221-1503, or you can contact them by email at HarrisonburgHQ@rpv.org.

There will be a headquarters opening in Staunton very soon. Please stay tuned for more details.    

Save the Date - Barbecue and Bluegrass with Delegate Bell  

Please mark your calendars for the evening of October 5.   We willbe hosting our annual Barbecue and Bluegrass event at Shenandoah Harley Davidson in Staunton. We will be sending more details as the date gets closer.

 Back to School Sales Tax Holiday

 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 3 and go for three full days through Sunday, August 5.

 This is one small way that we can try to makeschool 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 pair of footwear) for three full days. There is no limit on the number of items that may be purchasedtax-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 toschool, qualify for the tax exemption.  You can find a complete list of exempt items, as well as guidelines for the sales tax holiday and aset of frequently asked questions, online at http://www.tax.virginia.gov/salestaxholiday

 Women’s Monument on Capitol Square

 The Virginia Women’s Monument Commission is currently seeking proposals for a site specific sculpted design to beerected on the grounds of capitol square.  Recently, there have been a number of conversations held across the Commonwealth regarding the possibility of a permanent tribute to Virginia women on Capitol Square. The Commission is planning for a monument to be erected that will stand as a constant reminder of the key role that women have played in the History of the Commonwealth.   They hope the monument will inspire the women of today, while recognizing the struggles and accomplishments of the women of our past.

 For more information on the monument, or forinformation on how to submit proposals or provide feedback, please see Governor McDonnell’s Press Release.

 Governor McDonnell Signs Legislation to Strengthen Penalties for Repeat Drug Dealers

 This week, Governor McDonnell signed legislation from the 2012 Session that would strengthen penalties for repeat drug dealers.  Among the legislation were measures to increase the mandatory minimum sentences for repeat drug dealers, criminalize the illegal distribution of new synthetic cannabinoids and hallucinogenic bath salts, strengthen procedures to combat the use of methamphetamine and establish a Substance Abuse Recovery Grant Program.

 One of the fundamental obligations of the government is to provide safety for its citizens.  Each year,thousands of Virginians suffer from the effects of drugs and addiction, yet dealers continue to provide these illegal products. The consequences of this extends beyond the individual, and impacts families and our community as a whole.  Therefore I’m pleased that Governor McDonnell signed this legislation and showed Virginia’s commitment to decreasing the spread of illegal drugs here in the Commonwealth.

For more information about this, please see the Governor’s Press Release.

 Donate

Though there’s no election for the House of Delegates this year, the need for money is still very real.  We must spread our positive message of small government, fiscal responsibility, and valley values across Virginia.

I would like to continue this work as your Delegate and promote this message, but I cannot do this without your help.   I would sincerely appreciate your donation of $25, $50, $100, or whatever you can afford. You can donate online here or you can send a check to Dickie Bell for Delegate Post Office Box 239, Staunton, Virginia 24402.

As always, thank you for your generosity.

Contact

Please do not hesitate to contact my office if wecan be of any assistance to you. 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 - April 18, 2012

I am pleased to report that the State Senate passed the biennial budget just a few hours ago. It took the courage of one Democratic Senator, Chuck Colgan.  Senator Colgan acted with true statesmanship, and voted against his party to bring certainty to our localities, school divisions, state employees, and all of Virginia.

Like every other budget before it, this budget contains numerous compromises.  Unfortunately, however, some Senate Democrats spent the entire 2012 Session making excuses as to why they could not support it.

Fortunately, however, many other leaders came to the table willing to compromise, and built a strong, structurally sound budget that will  make critical investments in K-12 and higher education, reduce of our unfunded liabilities in VRS, and promote stability and job development as the economy continues to remain uncertain.

Virginia’s economy is continuing to improve, and more and more Virginians are finding jobs and going back to work.  However, the General Assembly plays a critical role in this continued recovery.  We must continue to foster economic growth by adopting responsible fiscal policies that promote job creation and keep taxation to the minimum.  In this vote today we made a big step in ensuring that we are able to do this.

I would like to again thank Senator Colgan for putting policy ahead of politics, and I would like to thank all of the conferees who worked tirelessly to produce this strong, fiscally sound budget.  I believe that this budget will serve the needs of the Commonwealth, and look forward to any amendments we may see from the Governor, and, eventually final passage.

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Bell Sounds from the 20th - March 9

Progress on State Budget as Session Draws to a Close

During this final week of the 2012 General Assembly Session the main focus has continued to be on the ongoing budget impasse. We did see some progress when House Budget Conferees met with members of both parties from the Senate Finance Committee to begin to work out the budget differences between the two chambers.  Senate Democrats participation in this process is certainly a positive sign.

We are all hopeful that the meetings over the past few days will help pave the way for the Senate to use the House budget (the only budget bill alive) as a starting point for a final budget. When comparing the House budget with the Senate proposal that failed in the Senate, it is clear that the differences are not as large as they have been in prior years.  This is a promising sign that, if other non-budgetary considerations among the Senate Democrats are set aside, we will be able to reach a budget agreement in a timely manner.  Unfortunately it will likely not be until after the 2012 Regular Session has adjourned.  Some challenges still remain, however, as Senate Democrats earlier in the week released a list of proposed programs they want to fund.  Their proposals add approximately $450 million in new spending, and do not provide new revenue in suggested cuts to other areas to balance the budget.

Capitol Visitors Come to Urge Passage of the Budget

This week many groups came to the Capitol or wrote letters urging the passage of a budget. Some of these groups include veterans groups, law enforcement departments, local government officials, and local chambers of commerce.  As mentioned last week, our schools, local governments, and police departments muse see the Commonwealth’s budget before they can produce a budget of their own.  When we delay it also delays them. I believe that these important visits have also made every Delegate and Senator acutely aware of the consequences of this budget delay for those we represent at home.

Supporting Our Capitol Police

I would like to publicly thank the men and women of the Virginia Division of Capitol Police who work to keep all visitors, staff, and elected officials safe every day.   Over the course of the 2012 Session, we have seen numerous groups visit the Capitol to voice their support and concerns about a wide range of bills. As a whole, these groups have abided by the rules of the Capitol and have had positive and productive visits.  Unfortunately, a small minority of these visitors have come here with other intentions, and the Capitol Police have handled these situations with distinction and honor.  Though we have seen some harsh rhetoric this year, I have never felt unsafe or insecure in the Capitol thanks to these fine men and women. We are all very grateful for their sense of duty and professionalism.

In Closing

As this Session draws to a close, I would like to thank everyone who has called, emailed, written, or visited me in Richmond.  Your guidance and support helps me to effectively serve as your voice in the House of Delegates.

Additionally, we have mailed thousands of letters to constituents around the district to report on the progress of numerous bills during this Session, including legislation I have introduced. While we have done our best to answer every letter and email during the session, we have not been able to respond to everyone and will be working on replies until everyone has received a response.

I will also be visiting and speaking with the many organizations in the district that have invited me to give them a post session report.

Finally, I would like to thank my staff for all of their hard work throughout the Session. They do a lot of heavy lifting around the office and help me to serve you to the best of my ability.

Contact

This weekend we will be returning home to the 20th District.  Because the 2011 redistricting expanded the size of our district, we feel that it is no longer practical to expect people to come to Staunton to meet with me or my staff.  Sometimes it will simply be easier for us to come to you.  Therefore we have made the decision to close the office in Staunton, and operate on a more mobile basis. 

Rather than office hours, we will operate by appointment.  My aide, Savanna, will still be working 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Monday – Friday.  Our new phone number is 540-448-3999.  Our email address will stay the same, and you can continue to reach me at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.  You can also write to us at Post Office Box 239, Staunton, Virginia 24402.

Thanks again for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.  I look forward to seeing you when I return to the 20th District. 

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