State Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd District) is breaking the silence among Reston lawmakers about the recent developments in a series of scandals among state-elected officials.
Earlier this week, a racist photo on Gov. Ralph Northam’s yearbook page surfaced, prompting Reston-area lawmakers to join widespread calls from both sides of the aisle for Northam’s resignation.
Then, the man in line to replace Northam if he steps down, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, became mired in scandal after a woman came forward alleging Fairfax sexually assaulted her in 2004.
On Wednesday (Feb. 6), Attorney General Mark Herring, the third in line for the governor’s seat, admitted to wearing blackface while he was a student at the University of Virginia in 1980.
Yesterday, news reports revealed that Virginia Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City County) was a top editor of a 1968 Virginia Military Institute yearbook that included photos of people in blackface and racial slurs.
Howell called the recent news a “horrible week” in a newsletter she wrote to constituents today (Feb. 8).
While Howell previously urged Northam to step down, she stopped short of calling for the resignation of Herring, Fairfax and Norment in her newsletter.
Here is her message:
This has been the week from h— here in Richmond. All of us, regardless of party, are shocked and devastated by the recent revelations about our Richmond leaders. Ralph Northam, Mark Herring, Justin Fairfax, and Tommy Norment are men we have known and worked with for years. Worse, we have trusted them to lead our state. We are all trying to sort through what is true and what isn’t.
At the same time we are being surrounded and queried by press – most of whom know little about Virginia. They don’t know about our shameful racist past or about how hard we have been working to overcome it.
I saw raw racism in Virginia. In 1963 I was a 19 year old civil rights worker in Danville, trying to guarantee fair pay and voting rights for everyone. Tensions were high and skirmishes broke out between civil rights activists like me and local white youth. The day after I left, a police riot occurred – called “Bloody Monday”- where dozens of peaceful demonstrators were injured by police. Those were ugly times.
People of goodwill have been working tirelessly to help Virginia move beyond the disgraceful parts of our past. Progress has been slow but there has been progress. We recently have been viewed as a beacon of hope for the South. The revelations of the past week and the pain they have caused have been a major setback. Obviously we must work harder. A bandage cannot cover the pain.
I am hopeful that this can be a cleansing moment for our state. We must each search our souls and work to bring about reconciliation and healing. There is a role for each of us to do so. This is not a time to sit back.
Meanwhile, please be assured that we are working hard here in Richmond to do the people’s business. Just yesterday the Senate passed our budget – on time and balanced. We Senate Democrats worked closely with Senate Republicans to produce a budget we can be proud of.
Please feel free to write me about anything of concern to you. I read all the emails myself and respond to as many as humanly possible.
Sen. Janet HowellP.S. I found this article to be very insightful and urge you to read it.
Photo courtesy of Janet Howell’s office
Reston-area lawmakers are calling for Gov. Ralph Northam’s resignation after a racist yearbook photo recently surfaced.
The photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook shows two people standing next to each other — one in blackface and the other person in a KKK costume.
Northam apologized on Friday (Feb. 1) for appearing in the “clearly racist and offensive” photo and the hurt it caused 35 years later, indicating that he plans to stay in office.
Then on Saturday, Northam said that he doesn’t think he is in the photo and suggested that it may have been placed on his yearbook page by mistake. He admitted to a separate incident where he darkened his skin for a costume, according to news reports.
Still, many politicians from both sides of the aisle say a resignation can help heal the pain caused by the photo and bring in a new leader who Virginians can trust — a sentiment backed by Reston and Herndon lawmakers (who are all Democrats).
State Sens. Janet Howell (D-32nd District) and Jennifer Boysko (D-33rd District) called on Northam to resign. Howell wrote the following to constituents:
The Ralph Northam I know is not a racist. The Ralph Northam I know is a decent and kind man. For the ten years I have known him, he has courageously tried to promote racial harmony in our Southern state.
However, if he is in the disgraceful, abhorrent photo, he must resign. This is a very sad time for our Commonwealth.
This horrible episode has ripped the scab off the festering wound of discrimination still in Virginia. We must all examine our consciences to see what more we can do to bring healing and reconciliation to all Virginians.
Del. Ken Plum (D-36th District) said in a tweet that he agrees with the statements of the House Democratic Caucus, the Legislative Black Caucus and the Senate Democratic Caucus calling for Northam’s resignation.
With great sadness for the people of the Commonwealth I concur with the statements of the House Democratic Caucus, the Legislative Black Caucus, and the Senate Democratic Caucus that Governor Ralph Northam must… https://t.co/YaTNC8gozK
— Ken Plum (@KenPlum1) February 2, 2019
— Jennifer Boysko (@JenniferBoysko) February 2, 2019
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11th District), who represents Reston and Herndon, released a statement with Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) on Saturday (Feb. 2) saying that “nothing we have heard since changes our view that his resignation is the only way forward for the Commonwealth.”
Connolly and Breyer said that the governor must step aside and “allow the process of healing to begin” under Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax.
“Virginia has a painful past where racism was too often not called out for its evil. The only way to overcome that history is to speak and act with absolute moral clarity,” the statement said.
Both of Virginia’s Democratic U.S. senators tweeted that they believe Northam should step down.
Despite the widespread condemnation, it remains unclear at this time whether Northam will resign or not. If he does, Fairfax would become the second African American governor in Virginia’s history.
I no longer believe Governor Northam can effectively serve as Governor of Virginia. The events of the past 24 hours have inflicted immense pain and irrevocably broken the trust Virginians must have in their leaders. He should step down and allow the Commonwealth to begin healing.
— Tim Kaine (@timkaine) February 3, 2019
— Rep. Bobby Scott (@BobbyScott) February 2, 2019
Photo via @GovernorVA
State Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd) is set to debut in October a book about women leaders that she wrote with her daughter-in-law.
Candlewick Press announced yesterday (Jan. 7) that Howell and her daughter-in-law, author Theresa Howell, penned a book to share the stories of more than 50 female leaders, ranging from Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Condoleezza Rice.
“Leading the Way: Women in Power” will include brief biographies of the women, how-tos for young activists, a timeline, index, and glossary, according to the independent publisher based in Somerville, Mass.
“I wish I’d had a book like this when I was a kid,” Janet Howell, who has been serving in the Virginia State Senate since 1992, said in the publisher’s press release.
Candlewick Press provided this description of the book:
Meet some of the most influential leaders in America, including Jeannette Rankin, who, in 1916, became the first woman elected to Congress; Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to Congress; and Bella Abzug, who famously declared, “This woman’s place is in the House . . . the House of Representatives!” This engaging and wide-ranging collection of biographies highlights the actions, struggles and accomplishments of more than fifty of the most influential leaders in American political history — leaders who have stood up, blazed trails and led the way.
The book follows the record number of women who ran for and won elected offices in 2018 and will debut before the 2020 presidential primaries, the press release said.
“We at Candlewick could not be more proud to be publishing this timely and inspirational book,” Karen Lotz, the president and publisher of Candlewick Press, said, adding that “Leading the Way: Women in Power” has already garnered praise from Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Janet Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona and Secretary of Homeland Security.
Napolitano said that she wants the book to inspire young readers to become future leaders. “The women profiled here were once girls who not only dreamed big — they went big,” she said.
The book will also feature portraits and lettering design by illustrators Kylie Erwin and Alexandra Bye. The book’s visuals aim for an “accessible, inviting look ideal for the project’s mission to inspire middle-graders, young adults, and even adults to create change in their own communities,” according to the press release.
Recommended for ages 10 and up, the book is set to hit stores’ shelves on Oct. 8.
Images via Janet Howell’s office and Candlewick Press
On March 26, Senator Janet Howell and I will meet with constituents at the Reston Community Center at Lake Anne from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. to discuss the outcome of the 2018 General Assembly session. No pre-registration is required. Come with your questions and suggestions or just come to listen to the discussion. While the biggest issue of passing a budget will not be resolved by that time, we will give you the insights we have going into the Special Session scheduled for April 11.
There were areas of slow but positive movement coming out of the regular session. The threshold limit for felony larceny was raised from $200 to $500. The lower amount was catching an unreasonably large number of young people in felony crimes for fairly minor offenses. The change was supported by all the faith and human rights communities with most favoring an even higher threshold amount of $1,000 to $1,500. The newer amount will mean fewer young people, particularly minorities, will face prison time for offenses that in most other states are considered lesser crimes.
Progress was made on reducing “the classroom to prison pipeline” whereby children with misbehaviors were sent into the judicial system for actions that are best handled in the schools as acts of juvenile misbehavior and not crimes. The number of suspensions that schools are permitted to make has been limited. Where such programs have been instituted with appropriate level of resources, the instances of misbehaviors go down and fewer children are incarcerated. Appropriate early intervention is a good investment to save money and to save futures of the young people involved.
It took Virginia until 1952 to ratify the amendment granting women the right to vote although by 1922 the amendment had sufficient states to approve it. The Equal Rights Amendment has yet to receive ratification by a sufficient number of states to add it to the Constitution, and once again the Virginia General Assembly refused to ratify it. A bill to exempt feminine products from the sales tax was defeated, but a bill to ensure that women prisoners were provided such products did pass.
Dozens of gun safety bills were defeated with minimal consideration as were bills to allow guns in places of worship. A bill to approve a “Stop Gun Violence” license plate for motor vehicles passed, and these plates will be available from the Division of Motor Vehicles later this year.
Numerous “dog and cat” regulatory bills were introduced as they are each year. A bill to outlaw tethering of dogs was defeated by legislators from the rural areas of the state.
An effort to outlaw the use of handheld devices while driving was unsuccessful because of a concern on the part of some delegates that such a law would simply provide police officers with an additional opportunity to profile drivers and to pull them over. I continue to support limitations on the use of handheld phones while driving.
Chamber’s Legislative Scorecard Released — The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership annually grades local members of the Virginia General Assembly on their support of legislation that positively affects business, economic development, workforce development and related issues. Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax) and Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax), who represent Reston, both scored in the middle of the pack. [Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce]
Extreme Drunkenness Caused Crash That Killed Herndon Man — The driver in a July wrong-way head-on crash on U.S. 50 in Annapolis, which killed herself and a 34-year-old Herndon man, had a blood-alcohol content of .34. That’s more than four times the legal limit in Maryland. [WTOP]
Dominion Sending Workers to Help After Irma — Dominion Energy has mobilized more than 700 employees and contractors to respond to electric restoration efforts in after Hurricane Irma devastated Florida and left millions without power. [Dominion Energy]
N.C. Real Estate Company Opening Reston Office — Commercial realtors The Morgan Cos. will move into 11955 Freedom Drive, Suite 11000 at Reston Town Center. It will be their third office, following ones in Charlotte and Fort Lauderdale. [Virginia Business]
SLHS Seahawks 3-0 on Season — The South Lakes High School Seahawks football team stayed undefeated last week with a 49-7 win over Oakton. Statistical leaders included QB Devin Miles (6-6, 154 yards, 2 TDs), RB Spencer Alston (109 yards rushing, 121 yards receiving, 4 TDs), RB Albert Mensah (60 yards rushing, 1 TD) and DL Spencer Coppage (sack, interception, forced fumble). Reserve QB Will Shapiro also threw a touchdown pass, connecting with WR Kazim Khan. SLHS will play its first home game of the season Friday night against Dominion. [South Lakes Athletics]
Reston Dad’s Idea Selling Around the World — Swipe and Feed is an attachment parents can put on their smartphone, allowing them to feed their babies at night while still comfortably holding the phone. Its creator, Reston’s Tim Causa, says he is selling to customers in multiple countries. [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Howell, Plum to Meet with Constituents — Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) will host a town-hall meeting tonight from 7:30-9 p.m. at Reston Community Center at Lake Anne (1609 Washington Plaza N.) along with Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax). [Sen. Janet Howell]
Campaign Starts for County Residents to Go Solar — The Solarize Fairfax County campaign begins tomorrow and goes through June 30. Fairfax County citizens are invited to sign up for a free solar assessment and to attend an information session to better understand pricing and financing options, as well as meet contractors. [Fairfax County]
Book-Signing Luncheon Slated — The Reston-Herndon Area Branch of American Association of University Women (AAUW) and the Reston/Herndon Section of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) are sponsoring a Mother-Daughter and Friends book-signing luncheon. The guest speaker will be Paula Young Shelton, author and daughter of civil rights activist, congressman and United Nations ambassador Andrew Young. The event takes place Saturday at Mon Ami Gabi (11950 Democracy Drive) in Reston Town Center. For more details, call 703-620-9873. [Reston-Herndon AAUW]
Bao Bao Passed Through Reston on Journey Home — The famed panda born at the National Zoo left D.C. for good Tuesday, heading off to live her life in China. She was transported by truck from Washington up the Dulles Toll Road to the airport, where she left on a FedEx 777. [Reston Patch]
SLHS Girls’ Basketball Team Falls in Playoffs — The South Lakes Seahawks girls’ hoops team was defeated Tuesday night in the first round of the 6A North Region championship, falling to T.C. Williams by a score of 51-43. [Alexandria News]
Qur’an Spiritual Retreat Slated for March — The Al-Madina Institute is readying to hold its annual conference, bringing leading scholars to examine both the external and internal dimensions of the Qur’an. The event will be held March 3-5 at the Hyatt Regency (1800 Presidents St.) in Reston. [Al-Madina Institute]
Bills Targeting Student Debt Fail in Richmond — A number of bills designed to help students refinance student loans or increase oversight of lenders have died in the General Assembly. One such bill, which would have created a “Borrower’s Bill of Rights,” was sponsored by Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) of Reston. It failed to advance out of a legislative committee. [Virginia Gazette]
Police: Reston Woman Rammed Vehicle During Argument — Police in Herndon say 24-year-old Kimberling Serrano had her two kids in the car when she followed a man after an argument and intentionally struck his vehicle three times. [Herndon Police]
Students Honored for Musical Talents — Top Fairfax County vocal and instrumental students were recognized recently during the annual James A. Bland Music Competition, co-sponsored by the Reston Lions Club and Reston Community Center. Among the honorees was Lauren Spar from South Lakes High School. [Reston Connection]
Skydiver from Reston Hurt in Florida — Nikolay Likhachev suffered a head injury and a compound leg fracture after an accident near Daytona Beach. Likhachev had successfully completed more than 200 jumps, according to the incident report. [Daytona Beach News-Journal]
Redistricting Reform Rejected in Richmond — Bills that advocates hoped would stop gerrymandering in Virginia were voted down in committee Tuesday. One of the measures — a constitutional amendment stating that “no electoral district shall be drawn for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring any political party, incumbent legislator or member of Congress, or other individual or entity” — was sponsored by Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax), of Reston. [The News Leader]
The 2017 Virginia General Assembly convenes today at noon in Richmond, but 11th-hour elections had some legislators up late last night.
Two Virginia Senate seats were up for vote in a special election Tuesday, along with one House seat. Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) of Reston had a close eye on the races in her chamber, as a Democratic sweep would have put her in position to take the reins of the Finance Committee.
In the 9th District, representing the Richmond area, Democratic candidate Jennifer McClellan took an easy victory over a third-party opponent. But in the 22nd District, representing the Lynchburg area, Republican Mark Peake won by a large margin over Democratic candidate Ryant Washington. Both seats had been vacated by former state senators who were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
The results keep the Republicans in a 21-19 advantage in the Senate. A 20-20 split would have effectively given control to the Democratic Party, as the lieutenant governor, Democrat Ralph Northam, has tiebreaker control.
“It is disappointing but not at all surprising that the Republican won in an overwhelmingly Republican district,” Howell told Reston Now when asked for comment on the 22nd District result. “Sadly, we lost an opportunity to bring our Democratic values to the state Senate.”
Howell says she is concerned about cuts to education, services for the disabled, drug treatment programs and more that may come as the state faces a $1.5 billion budget shortfall that must be made up during the 46-day session.
“I will continue to fight for funding our Northern Virginia priorities in the Finance Committee,” she said.
[On Monday], we all lost a great visionary, Reston lost its founder, and I lost a dear friend. Robert E. Simon died peacefully at his home in Reston at age 101.
Bob changed the way we view community in America when he created the Reston community over 50 years ago. Risking his fortune, he purchased land in then rural countryside of Virginia. He then proceeded to develop a community unlike any other in our country.
Reston was to be open and welcoming to all, regardless of race or economic status. In an era of Jim Crow and still segregated schools, that was unheard of. His community was to be “planned” and mix housing, businesses, and vast acres of untouched land around village centers where people could mingle and support small local shops. Respect for nature was central to his plan.
It was to be anti-suburbia, suburbia.
Not surprisingly, Reston and Robert E. Simon were way ahead of their time. The venture hit bad economic times and he was forced out. For almost two decades he left his community. But we continued to grow.
I met Bob at Reston’s 20th Anniversary. I was president of the Reston Community Association and we threw a big celebration with a parade, festival on Lake Anne and cultural events. Bob and I really hit it off and he was so happy to be back for a short while. I clearly remember riding in a convertible with him in the parade and dancing the Charleston with him on Lake Anne.
Soon after he asked me if I thought it would be alright for him to move back to Reston. He wasn’t sure it would be appropriate! I told him we needed him and we as a community were beginning to drift, losing sight of his goals.
Soon he was back here helping us all define what Reston needed. Bob was full of ideas. His biggest concern was providing for children and having Reston guide them to bright futures. He became deeply involved in planning Town Center, preserving Lake Anne, and guiding Reston Association.
He was constantly involved, constantly pursuing his goals, and constantly nagging us in a kind but persistent way to do better.
And, when he came back, he met Cheryl whom he loved and married over ten years ago. Cheryl Terio-Simon made it possible for him to continue to pursue his dreams.
I am so glad he lived to see Reston’s 50th Birthday. He was so proud. He also delighted in the children who would come to meet him. He never turned down a child’s request.
For the past two decades I have been part of a small social club that meets monthly for dinner and serious discussions. Bob was part of that group. He rarely missed a meeting and asked thought provoking questions.
On my deck in mid-August, he was himself — totally engaged and thinking of the future, especially the future of Reston. The only hint that he was not totally well was that he had only one martini, not his customary two.
Robert E. Simon taught us how to live, to achieve, and to dream.
The signature filing deadline for the election was March 9. No Republican challenger has filed to oppose Howell in the Nov. 3 general election.
Howell has represented Virginia’s 32nd District in Richmond since 1992.
Howell said in an email to constitutes that over the last few months, she considered not running as the climate for Northern Virginia Democrats can be a struggle in the Republican-led General Assembly.
“Things are rough and often ugly in Richmond,” she wrote. “We progressives are in a constant struggle with the overwhelmingly far right House of Delegates. Developing friendships or even working relationships across party and regional lines seems to be getting harder and harder. “
“Yet, I can’t quit now!,” said Howell. “I really love fighting for our values. We can’t stop working for a Virginia that cares for all its people and treats everyone fairly. I want to be on the front lines of this struggle. It may not be for everyone, but there is no better place for me than the Senate of Virginia.”
Howell used the word “outrage” often in her message.
“I am often motivated by outrage,” she said. “I am outraged that a state as wealthy as Virginia is near the bottom in funding programs that help persons in need. I am outraged that we have not expanded Medicaid to provide healthcare for about 400,000 mostly working, adult neighbors. We’ve paid for it! I am outraged that Virginia seriously lags other states in what we are doing to protect our environment and forestall climate change. I am outraged that women’s reproductive rights are constantly being whittled away. And, I am outraged that despite loud breast beating about the importance of education, we do very little to fund it.”
Howell’s interested in the senate the last few years have been preventing domestic violence; mental health coverage; GLBT issues; education; the state retirement system; transportation, particularly Metro’s Silver Line; voting district; and the state budget.
“Working with Governor McAuliffe, encouraging job growth and economic development will be my top priority,” she said. “Equally important will be investing in our people. I will put education at all levels from birth through graduate school first. We will put programs to assist those in need high on our list. Virginia must not continue near the bottom of states on indicators of human services. We will do this in a fiscally responsible way, but we will do it!”
Janet Howell/file photo
“Gun safety measures were defeated in close, almost party line, votes,” Howell said about last week in the current Virginia General Assembly in an email to constituents.
“Sadly, we continue to go backwards on reasonable gun safety measures. Closing the gun show loophole was defeated. My bill prohibiting the possession of firearms by those charged with family violence failed. Also defeated was reinstating the ‘one gun a month’ limit on gun purchases.”
“When in effect, that limitation had effectively stopped Virginia from being the gun running capital of the East Coast. A bill to allow guns on school property passed through committee. Another bill to let concealed weapons permit holders purchase lifetime permits also passed through committee. It is still possible that some of the reckless bills may be defeated during the legislative process. It is not possible that the reasonable gun safety bills (that are supported by almost 90 percent of voters) will pass.”
Howell was the chief patron on SB 909, which prohibits a person who is subject to a protective order from possessing a firearm. Under currently laws, such person is only prohibited from purchasing or transporting a firearm and such conduct is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.
The bill was defeated 10-4 in the Courts of Justice Committee on Jan. 26.
Said Howell: “During the debate on the gun bills we consistently heard testimony from the NRA and Citizens Defense League on one side and, on the other side, State Police, local police, Commonwealth Attorneys, police benevolent societies, victims groups, Chiefs of Police, and — poignantly — family members of victims of gun violence. Needless to say, the NRA and CDL always prevailed.”
Efforts to repeal the medically unnecessary ultrasound procedure prior to an abortion failed. So did efforts to remove the 24 hour waiting period after the ultrasound procedure.
Another Howell bill, SJ213 proposed the repeal of the constitutional amendment, approved by referendum in 2006, that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman and prohibits the Commonwealth from recognizing same-sex marriage.
That bill again failed on a party line vote. However, Howell says there is the “remote possibility that a bill prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation may pass the Senate.”
In her email, Howell also expressed disappointment over laws she supported once again not passing committees.
Several bills aimed at allowing local school boards to determine their own calendar, which sailed again, meaning schools cannot open before Labor Day unless they get a weather related exemption.
“I support letting the local school boards set their own opening date,” says Howell. “However, the tourism industry always defeats the bills.”
Howell says she also supports bills, still in committee, that allow parents to purchase cannabis oil for their children with rare and severe forms of epilepsy. On the House side, Howell’s counterpart, Ken Plum (D-Reston) is the chief patron of a similar bill currently in the Courts of Justice committee.
“I strongly support the bill and really don’t understand the objections,” said Howell. “The children are having dozens, sometimes hundreds, of seizures a day and some seizures are causing brain damage. Because Virginia does not allow use of medical marijuana oils, some families are leaving the state at great personal and professional cost and others are probably breaking the law to help their children. Sometimes I feel we are losing compassion with our inflexible policies to fight drug use.”
Track all of Howell’s — and other senator’s — bills on the Virginia Legislative Session website.
Photo: Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston) and Del. Ken Plum (D-Reston)/file photo
State Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston), calls the state’s budget outlook “bleak” while praising Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s proposed budget, which closes the projected shortfall through a series of tax changes and spending cuts.
However, Howell and other area Democrats say the budget doesn’t go far enough in improving the state’s K-12 education system.
“Fortunately, the Governor’s budget closes the budget gap. His budget is balanced,” Howell said in a newsletter to her constituents. “What we do not have, however, is any real ability to make investments in public education, higher education, human services, or workforce development.
“Direct aid to public education has been spared additional state cuts,” she continued. “However, unless we have a sudden, unexpected upswing in our economy, we will have to jettison a proposed and deserved salary increase. For context, in terms of per pupil general funds for public education, by FY 2016 we will be just back to FY 2008 levels on a statewide basis.”
Over the summer, McAuliffe announced Virginia was projected to have a $2.4 billion budget shortfall over the next two years. Much of that deficit, Howell said at a recent Arlington Democrats meeting, can be traced back to cuts from the federal budget sequestration and the layoffs at government contractors it prompted.
Additional revenue growth has since reduced the deficit, and cuts to the state prison system and elsewhere have saved millions. Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) says the closing of tax loopholes for some corporations — most notably coal producers — are necessary to even preserve the current level of education funding.
“There are a lot of companies in Virginia that don’t pay any taxes,” Hope told ARLnow.com. “We’ve got hundreds of millions of dollars that Virginia gives out every year to companies for job creation, and research is coming out that that’s not happening today. We need to take a hard look at what those tax credits are, and if they’re not doing what the intended purposes are, we need to pull it back.”
Hope said a state yacht tax credit should also be stripped — “I can’t look my voters in the eye if I vote for a budget” that includes that tax credit, he said — but said that the budget should become more ambitious in terms of education spending. Funding K-12 education millions of dollars less than before the recession, without accounting for inflation, isn’t enough, he said.
“There’s no reason why spending shouldn’t go in the opposite direction,” he said. “We are out of the recession now, it’s time to fill those holes back up.”
Although some form of a balanced budget is expected to pass — which may include cuts to education, according to Hope, if the Republican-controlled General Assembly balks at the loophole cuts — Howell said the realities of the budget situation don’t figure to change anytime soon, especially after the sequester’s cuts to federal defense spending.
“Growth has halted or declined in the good-paying ($77k+/year) jobs in the ‘business and professional services’ categories. Instead, we are seeing more growth in lower-paying jobs, such as health, leisure and hospitality ($45k/year on average),” Howell wrote. “Unfortunately, no one believes this situation is a temporary one.”
This is a chance for Restonians to tell their state representatives what issues matter to them prior to the 2015 Virginia General Assembly session. The 45-day session begins Jan. 14 in Richmond.
Plum is a co-sponsor on several bills this session. Among them:
HB 1288 and 1289 Same-sex marriages; civil unions. Repeals the statutory prohibitions on same-sex marriages and civil unions or other arrangements between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges and obligations of marriage. The bill does not affect the prohibition on these relationships contained in Article I, Section 15-A of the Constitution of Virginia.
HB 1343 Campus police departments; sexual assault reporting. Requires that mutual aid agreements between campus police force and law-enforcement agencies contain provisions requiring either the campus police force or an agency with which it has established a mutual aid agreement to notify the local attorney for the Commonwealth of any investigation involving felony criminal sexual assault occurring on property owned or controlled by the institution of higher education within 48 hours of beginning such investigation.
HJ 493, SJ 214 Constitutional amendment (first resolution); marriage. Proposes the repeal of the constitutional amendment dealing with marriage that was approved by referendum at the November 2006 election.
Howell is the chief patron on several bills. Among them:
SB 677 Elections; absentee voting; no-excuse, in-person. Allows qualified voters to vote absentee in person without providing an excuse for not being able to vote in person on election day. The bill retains the statutory list of specific reasons allowing a voter to cast an absentee ballot by mail.
SB 679 Adoption; person other than spouse of birth or adoptive parent may adopt child. Provides that a person other than the spouse of a parent may adopt a child if the child has only one parent, the adoption would not terminate the parental rights of the parent, and the parent joins in the petition for the purpose of indicating his consent.
SB 734 Higher education; reporting of sexual assault; penalty. Requires any administrator or professor employed by a public institution of higher education who through the course of his employment obtains information alleging that a criminal sexual assault has occurred to report within 24 hours such information to law enforcement. The bill provides that a person in violation of the reporting requirement is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
SJ 213 Constitutional amendment (first resolution); marriage. Proposes the repeal of the constitutional amendment dealing with marriage that was approved by referendum at the November 2006 election.
Del. Ken Plum knows what he is in for every General Assembly session.
Plum, a Democrat who has represented Reston in the Virginia House of Delegates since 1982, introduces legislation annually on topics he feels strongly about, including gun control, expanding Medicaid and repealing Virginia’s Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage.
Every year, his bills generally gain no traction in the Republican-led Virginia house. But he will keep trying.
“We know who is going to be in control in the house,” he said at a Town Hall meeting at Reston Community Center on Thursday. “Unfortunately, I am part of the the loyal minority.
Plum and Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston) held their annual pre-session public meeting to talk about the 2014 General Assembly session, which begins Wednesday, and hear from residents about which issues are important to them. Both legislators are optimistic that some of their proposed legislation may go farther this year under Democratic governor-elect Terry McAullife.
Two special elections will be held later this month to fill vacant state Senate seats. Should Democrats win, the Senate will be evenly divided. At stake seats of Lt. Gov.-elect Ralph Northam in the (D-Virginia Beach) on Tuesday and Attorney General-elect Mark Herring in the (D-Loudoun County) on Jan. 21. The present Senate lineup is 20 Republicans, 18 Democrats, and the two vacancies.
Some of the top topics at the Reston meeting:
* Ethics. Current governor Bob McDonnell (R) is leaving office under the cloud of an ethics scandal for receiving excessive gifts. Howell has been asked to chair a committee dealing with ethics. Plum will also serve on an ethics committee.
“We have to beef it up in Virginia,” she said. It is not sufficient. We have found out the hard way you just can’t trust people.”
* Medicaid Expansion. McAuliffe is in favor of expanding Medicaid coverage to 400,000 Virginians who need it. Most Republicans remain opposed.
“The opposition comes from the rural parts of state,” said Plum. “Those areas oriented to Tea Party-type folks. The success of Medicaid expansion is going to rely on the governor’s ability to strike a deal. There is going to have to be a trade-off. I am not clear how that is going to happen, but I am hopeful.”
One citizen suggested that McAuliffe should use executive order on the Medicaid issues.”
“Albert Einstein said said the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and expecting a different result,” he said. “The demographics of the legislature is such that any bills Democrats put in are not gonna get passed. Now we have a Democratic governor. He should use executive order. I think he can use it on Medicaid expansion. A judge might say no, but at least we tried.”
* Gun laws. Plum has introduced legislation again to close the gun show loophole (in which gun buyers are able to bypass a background check).
“Each year, thousands of gun buyers who cannot get through checks,” said Plum. “We [check] about 40 percent. What would happen if we did 100 percent? We will go in there and make our effort again.”
* Mental Health. Both Plum and Howell are passionate about expanding mental health services in Virginia. Plum points out that $50 million was added to the commonwealth’s budget in the wake of the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech. Soon after, though, $42 million was cut. Still, McDonnell has pledged nearly that amount in his outgoing budget, say Plum.
The recent shooting of Virginia state senator Creigh Deeds by his son, who was in a mental health crisis and committed suicide at the scene, has brought to light again the need for services here.
“The Deeds matter will bring attention,” said Plum. “We have got to get serious and stay serious. It’s not easy. We have got people who need treatment.”
* Same-sex marriage. Both Plum and Howell are backing bills to repeal the 2006 Virginia Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. A citizen asked Howell for her definition of marriage.
“I believe marriage is a religious concept,” said Howell. “The state should be involved in legitimizing relationships between people. Any religion can define it as they want and encrouage members to follow doctrines. But from the point of view of government, was should not be prohibiting relationships. I think the people of Virginia may be ready. Many people who voted [for the amendment] in 2006 regret it, I think. I opposed this in the first place and I still oppose it.”
To search for all legislation proposed for the 2014 General Assembly Session, visit the Virginia Legislative Information website.