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Del. Ken Plum: 2017 General Assembly Session Was a Mixed Bag

by Del. Ken Plum — March 9, 2017 at 10:15 am 32 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is a commentary from Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

The best way I can describe the 2017 session of the General Assembly is to call it a mixed bag. Some good work was done for sure, but if not for the governor’s veto pen, it would have been marred by some backward legislation. Most disappointing are the missed opportunities that were not addressed in the 46-day short session.

Although budget matters are supposed to be dealt with only in the long, even-year session, there are budget adjustments that creep into the short session as well. The good news is that the Assembly passed amendments to the biennium budget to bring it back into balance from a $1.2 billion shortfall in revenue. There were reductions, but the governor proposed and the Assembly agreed to keeping 3 percent salary increases for state employees who have been without a raise for many years. Funds were provided for the state share of a 2 percent raise for teachers. Additional funds were provided to deal with the critical needs in mental health care.

Four bills were passed to deal with the opioid epidemic. They established needle exchange programs, increased access to the overdose drug naloxone, increased services to infants exposed to opioids in utero, and strengthened opioid prescription policies. Five million dollars was appropriated for permanent supportive housing for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless because of mental illness. A bill to require insurance companies to cover a 12-month supply of prescription birth control also passed.

Of the bills I opposed, most will be vetoed by the governor. Not only did a committee in the House defeat my bill to require universal background checks for gun purchases, but it passed several bills to make access to guns easier. The Republicans do not have the supermajority that is needed to overturn the governor’s veto of these bills. Likewise, the governor is expected to veto a bill that would prevent localities from becoming “sanctuary” zones. He has already vetoed a bill that would have denied funding to Planned Parenthood, and the House was not able to override his veto.

Despite public support for establishing an independent system to draw legislative boundary lines, my bill and several others with that goal were defeated in a House committee. Bills that passed the Senate on this issue were defeated in the same House committee. The public support for legislation that would prevent legislators from being able to pick their own voters was as strong as I have seen on an issue in recent years.

Beware that a new law passed that creates a fine of $100 for failing to drive on the right side of the road. The intent of this new law is to prevent slow drivers from driving in the left lane. Legislation that would have created a bill of rights for college student loan borrowers did not pass.

  • The Constitutionalist

    Finally some good to come out of your “public service.” Slowpokes in the left lane will now be fined.

    Excellent, we’ll see how long it takes for that to catch on.

    • 30yearsinreston

      Who determines if they are slow ?
      Oh yeah, the highways will now be further polluted with minimum speed signs ?
      More distracting ‘information’

      • The Constitutionalist

        There’s a reason quite a few other states have made it unlawful to drive down the left lane unless you are passing a car that is driving slowly in the right lane.

        By holding up traffic in the left lane, you are forcing people to make a dangerous maneuver to pass them in the right lane.

        As far as who determines if they are slow, I think quite simply the answer would be the police. If the police see you holding up a long line of traffic and therefor adding to the ridiculous congestion we already face, you get a $100 ticket.

        • Moon Lotus

          Pot holes and other road hazards create exceptions. Too many laws on the books doesnt make things more enforcable.

          “Other countries” highway system, eg Germany are completely different. Its a well known fact that US infra structure is crumbling despite record tax windfalls.

          Using common sense while driving is the most important, maybe lets put that law in effect above all else.

          Thanks for your work and updates Ken, we may not agree but at least we know you do your job.

          • The Constitutionalist

            Thanks for bringing up a whole bunch of things that literally no one mentioned.

            No one mentioned potholes or other road hazards. Of course there would be an exception for those. That’s called common sense.

            No one mentioned Germany. Of course a foreign country is different than Virginia. That’s called common sense. Please don’t quote me by placing words in my mouth.

            You’re right, common sense is important while driving, and driving 10 under, while the conditions permit you to drive the speed limit, in the left lane is creating a hazard and is not called common sense.

            Thanks for the input, I guess?

  • Phil Lilienthal

    Thanks, Ken, for fighting the good fight and for representing us in the best interests of what is most needed. Amazing that the seemingly most obvious proposals become politicized and controversial.

    • Mike M

      Beware the word “obvious.”
      Tis freely employed by the oblivious.

      • Phil Lilienthal

        A very good point. When used in most speech, it is “obviously” that I react to as you do to “obvious.” I feel your pain, but I also believe that Ken Plum represents the best a legislator can do: he wants to bring the disadvantaged to a level of participation and make services available to all. It’s not always obviously the right stuff, but it appeals to my sense of fairness.

        • The Constitutionalist

          What happens when you have to disadvantage the majority to bring the minority to advantage? Doesn’t that go against your notion of democracy, the best type of government, according to certain political groups?

          • Phil Lilienthal

            You always have to disadvantage the wealthier ( not sure if it’s the majority-in fact, I doubt that it is) to bring services to the less wealthy. It upsets me that people with money sometimes think it’s their God-given right to have them and keep them regardless of how little others have. There is still a
            string of social Darwinism in our society that associates wealth with merit. Sometimes people are homeless, poor, and otherwise without a job for reasons that deserve a remedy. This is a reason we have taxes-to provide for those without. And our tax structure is lower than most developed countries.

          • drb

            Your generosity with my finances is admirable. For to know what I can afford even if I do not and then use the blunt power of government to take it from me to give to who you believe deserves it.
            Real charity is when it comes from you by you for them. Go and help someone and leave the rest of us out of it.
            BTW it is our God given right. Read the bible some day. And it is our God given right to help others as we see fit. Not as you see fit.
            Your idea of government and its purpose needs to be re-evaluated.

          • Bernie Supporter

            “Are there no workhouses? Are there no prisons?” — Dickens, A Christmas Carol.

            (Someone, I think, is in dire need of some ghostly visits.)

          • drb

            I think an analogy that fits would have worked better for this purpose. You see the story is that the individual should help out not that a faceless, uncaring bureaucratic should rob you and make the decision for you. Charity is from the heart, from you, by you, to those that you find in need. The government taking from one to give to another is by any other term stealing, also know as Socialism, Liberalism, Progressivism (sp), Communism and any other authoritarian failed fiat. To make matters worse the government borrows and promises that future generation will pay. Now that is in need of a ghostly visit.

          • Bernie Supporter

            I know of only 3 average income couples who have done more than send an occasional check to their favorite charity — and adopted a child. To me, that is pro-life. I know a few others — well above average income — who have left money to wonderful charities through estate planning. That’s compassion that comes with tax benefits. : ) Your definition of steal is misguided. Worse, it doesn’t recognized the “all but for the grace of God, go I” aspect of life. Most people who fall on hard economic times never expected it would happen to them in a million years. They had great jobs … until they lost them. They had great health care … until they lost those great jobs that gave them that great benefit. And others never thought that they or someone in their family would face a catastrophic illness that could wipe out their life savings in a blink of the eye. I truly hope that that kind of ghostly visit NEVER crosses your door. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. If you are a charitable person, good. But I would hope that — as open as your heart may be — that you would open it even wider.

          • drb

            You keep using examples of personal charity and the reason to do it. Then equate that with forced government confiscation for non-governmental purposes as charity.
            What you or I do with our funds for others is up to each of us. That is compassion and charity. Forcing me to pay for non-governmental enterprises is exact opposite.
            Because you do not approve of the way others do it does not give you the right to take it by force of government for your projects. You can use what ever example you wish and think, how could anyone disagree with this worthy cause? It doesn’t make it right. Not to mention it will see a financial calamity eventually.
            If you want to help, then help. I do not need to support vile origination like “Planned Parenthood” as they dismember babies and sell the parts off. That is also what I am forced to support with no public good in sight.

          • Bernie Supporter

            “dismember babies” is a debunked story. Fake video. Fake news. Hopefully, you somehow just missed how publically this smear tactic was rebuffed. The idea that you’re knowingly perpetuating this fake story is too disturbing. Do the research. Prove it to yourself. This is my last comment on the subject, since without facts discussion is meaningless. I won’t respond to you again. Have a great day.

          • drb

            To you as well.
            It wasn’t fake BTW. So I hope you are better informed with your other issues than you are with this one. Barbarism was so last century. Time to join civilization.

  • 30yearsinreston

    In short, another session where Plum.accomplished Zero except collect a paycheck and fatten his pension
    Never mind, his vacation starts soon
    After such a strenous effort he can look forward to a well.earned rest
    To What exotic locale will.he journey this year ?
    We await with bated breath for his report

    • The Constitutionalist

      I’m sure he’ll be traveling to another socialist country that shares almost nothing in common with our own except for our debt to income ratio.

      He’ll then come on here and write his op-ed and tell us how much we have to learn while being completely blind to the actual issues his constituents face while reporting about how he can’t get anything done because we’re all too..______(insert random adjective about republicans here).

  • Bernie Supporter

    Ken, thank you for standing up for the little guy. We live in a time where that is becoming more and more difficult… and the harder it becomes, the more vital it is for people like you to do it.

    • The Constitutionalist

      I find this comment interesting because all I see nowadays is the “little guy” standing up for him/her/both/neither/itself, mostly in our streets, sometimes in our business – before they burn to the ground that is.

    • Rational Reston

      Ken stands up for Ken and Ken’s special interests which largely have nothing to do with either Reston, or Virginia.

    • drb

      He stands for you and I to pay for the little guy. Why not put your money and time where your mouth is and let us do the same. Leave it out of the government.

      • Bernie Supporter

        As long as the government pays for the big guys, through corporate credits, subsidies and bail outs, I’m fine with the government paying for the little guy. In my opinion, you can’t have it both ways. Or shouldn’t.

        • drb

          I can get behind part of that. Tax credits is OK since it is their money to start with. Bail outs and subsidies is a big no no.

          • Bernie Supporter

            Half with you here, and half not. When the banks got “too big to fail” bail outs prevented a Money Market share from “breaking” — i.e., falling below its steady value of $1 per. That would have been disastrous. In the same way, poor people are “too many to fail.” Forget compassion, if you must. History tells us that the economic exploitation and starvation of masses of people often leads to … unpleasant things.

          • drb

            That is why support capitalism and restricted government. The right to use ones own money and not to financially support anyone or anything with public funds. The right to success come with the right to fail.

  • drb

    Here we go again. The list of things he likes and doesn’t like.

    Employees raise: These are people with the best middle class paying jobs in Virginia. Democrats on the national and state level has attacked jobs and job creators for decades and found success when President Obama achieved the Presidency. The government is to serve the people. With Democrates the people are to serve the government.

    The opiod epidemic: After years of open boarder policies by Liberals we have and continue to have a big problem with this drug. Surprised are we? The policy is to tear down our nation and we see it working. Now we need to help those that Liberals have infected with this plague. Yet we do not want to stop the root of the problem. I see a mental health issue here.

    Prescription birth control: It can be gotten at Walmart of $10. Really? Is this an issue for the government to get into? The answer is no for the slow of mind.

    Gun control: Mr. Plum again, thankfully, goes down in defeat for universal government gun control. The one that makes cost go up wouldn’t you know. And, he is glad that his fellow Liberal Governor will veto a strong Second Amendment.

    Sanctuary Cities Veto likely: Again, our resident Liberal is glad that his fellow Liberal Governor will veto not allowing Sanctuary Cities in Virginia. We already see the drug problem from policies like this and now we see the Liberal and Terrorist alignment that this policy is to be used to attack our nation. Not to mention the job problems that we get as an aside. It’s all good for the Liberal.

    Planned Parenthood: If it hasn’t already been made clear by Liberals their support for killing children and selling their body parts for profit is not only tolerated and applauded but we are to use tax payers money to support it as well. This shows the utter barbarisms of our enemies. Is it any wonder they support the Terrorists and help them get into the country?

    Gerrymandering: I would ask Mr. Plum to go to Maryland and help with that issue there. Talk to your own to break from this policy he finds so offensive. Let him lead byexample. We will be watching.

    • Bernie Supporter

      Wow. Well, your liberal use of the word “liberal” — and your stance on both birth control and planned parenthood — kind of say it all. Can’t/Won’t argue with you. We’re too far apart on the most basic of issues.

      • drb

        You may not want to discuss the merits of the programs themselves but you may wish to show by what authority the government has to redistribute wealth to begin with.

        • Bernie Supporter

          Unless you believe that the government has no right to collect and use your tax dollars, that would be the authority that the government has to redistribute wealth. Some people, however, do not believe the government has this right and do not pay their taxes, and wind up owing a LOT of money. Snopes is always a good place to begin when asking these kinds of questions.

          http://www.snopes.com/business/taxes/voluntary.asp

          • drb

            The authority to tax and the authority to give it to another are different. The authority to tax is there. Where is the other authority to give it to another?

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