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by Del. Ken Plum — March 23, 2017 at 10:15 am 66 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.

Explanation of the recently announced American Health Care Act usually starts with an expressed need to clean up the mess that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — or Obamacare — had made.

Most all agreed that the massive transformation the program of health care had brought about could use some tweaking and refinement, but clearly a seven-year campaign against the Affordable Care Act left a blurred view of what the program did for consumers. If the ACA had created a mess, the recently proposed replacement of it will certainly create an even messier and unfair situation.

Virginians in particular will suffer a double hit on health care, especially for those most in need. The General Assembly would not approve an expansion of Medicaid that would have brought health care to as many as 400,000 uninsured most in need in the Commonwealth and would have expanded the health care network with the $4 billion that would have flowed into the state. While the new program would eliminate Medicaid expansion in 2020, persons would have been able to get health care in the interim rather than to go without or have to seek help at free clinics or one-time-a-year Remote Area Medical (RAM) clinics. States that have expanded Medicaid would continue to get full coverage for persons already enrolled but would get a lesser amount for new enrollees beginning in 2020. That provision alone would add to the $4 billion loss already incurred in Virginia.

There are 327,000 Virginians who gained coverage under the ACA as it expanded access to affordable health care. The proposed replacement to the ACA would do away with federal health insurance subsidies that helped people afford their monthly premiums and lowered out-of-pocket expenses. Subsidies would be replaced with tax credits. Currently insurers can charge older customers up to three times what they charge younger customers; under the new plan that would increase to five times.

Although some would never acknowledge it, there are features of the despised Obamacare program that were maintained. Insurers would still be banned from denying coverage based on preexisting conditions. Dependents would still be able to stay on parents’ insurance plans through age 26. Caps on annual or lifetime coverage would still be banned.

Clearly fewer people will have access to affordable care under the AHCA. Virtually every developed country in the world with the exception of the USA has decided that access to health care is a basic human right. What is the biggest objection to the program enacted under President Obama? It included targeted taxes on investment income and wages for the very high income individuals and couples. The new AHCA eliminates many of the taxes. The wealthiest 400 households including the billionaires in the new administration would get an average tax cut of $7 million per year while taxes for many low-income working families would increase. Eliminating the two taxes on very high-income households would cost the federal government $275 billion over 10 years.

Most Virginians will lose under the replacement proposed for the ACA. Only the very rich will gain. Maybe that is what the debate is really about!

by Dave Emke — March 22, 2017 at 9:00 am 16 Comments

Morning Notes - Winter

More Attention for Town Center Parking Debate — Reston Town Center merchant Aaron Gordon was on The Kojo Nnamdi Show on D.C. radio station WAMU on Tuesday speaking about paid parking at the Town Center. Supervisor Cathy Hudgins was also on the show to give her thoughts. [WAMU/player.fm]

Whole Foods Purchases to Benefit Fairfax County Charity — Five percent of purchases today at Northern Virginia locations of Whole Foods — including in Reston at 11660 Plaza America Drive —  will benefit Firefighters and Friends to the Rescue, which partners with Fairfax County Fire and Rescue to provide coats, books, toys and needed supplies to families. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue]

Elected Officials to Discuss Economic Growth in Area — Supervisor Cathy Hudgins and delegates Ken Plum (D-Fairfax), Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax/Loudoun) and Kathleen Murphy (D-Fairfax/Loudoun) will be among the speakers at a forum on economic drivers and opportunities March 30 in Herndon. [Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce]

County Officials Worry About Effects of Immigration Fear — At Tuesday’s meeting of Fairfax County’s Public Safety Committee, officials discussed concerns that members of the immigrant community will become afraid to report crime, ask for help or provide police information. They say that distrust may jeopardize overall safety in the county. [WTOP]

by Dave Emke — March 21, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

Lake Fairfax Park soccer field

Lieutenant Governor in Reston Tonight — Ralph Northam, Virginia’s lieutenant governor and a Democratic candidate for governor in the 2017 election, will be a guest speaker tonight at a meeting of Herndon-Reston Indivisible. Other speakers will be Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax) and Del. Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax/Loudoun). The meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. at Sunset Hills Montessori School (11180 Ridge Heights Road). [Herndon-Reston Indivisible]

Bulova: ‘Painful Cuts’ in Proposed Federal Budget — The chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors says she is hopeful the local congressional delegation will address what she sees as a number of problems with the Trump administration’s budget proposal, unveiled last week. [Sharon Bulova/Facebook]

Arrests Made in Chantilly Gun Store Heist — Two 23-year-old men and a 19-year-old man have been arrested in connection with the theft of 35 guns from a Chantilly store earlier this month. The men are also charged in the theft of firearms from two shops in Fredericksburg. They each face up to 10 years in prison. [U.S. Department of Justice]

Digital Marketing Agency Opens New Office — Baltimore-based Jellyfish has opened a new office at RTC West (12120 Sunset Hills Road). The office will house more than 20 employees and serves as the development and technology hub for the agency. Five job openings are available. [Jellyfish]

by Del. Ken Plum — March 16, 2017 at 10:15 am 46 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.

A headline in The New York Times in December 1992 proclaimed that “Virginia Aims to Shed Image as a ‘Handgun Supermarket.”’ The Commonwealth got that reputation when a Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms study found that one of every four guns used in a crime whose origins could be determined had been bought in Virginia stores. In Washington, D.C., one in three traceable guns had been bought in Virginia.

Gov. L. Douglas Wilder was quoted in the news story as saying that “Virginia is the No. 1 source for handguns on the East Coast, and we must stop the trafficking or become known as the ‘Grim Reaper State.'” The United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia at the time was reported as saying that, “No other East Coast state has gun laws as lax as Virginia’s laws — not South Carolina, not Georgia, not Florida. Nobody. This has to stop!”

I was in the House of Delegates and supported Gov. Wilder in getting a one-gun-a-month purchasing limitation law passed in 1993. I have been in the House in the period since then and have watched in opposition as the gun supporters passed exemption after exemption to the limitation until in 2012 they repealed the law, with Gov. Robert McDonnell signing the bill to repeal it.

Last week, an Associated Press headline brought back the theme from 1992: “NYC cops thwart gun ring that exploited looser Virginia laws.” Twenty-four people, including 22 from Virginia, were charged in a 627-count indictment for trafficking guns bought in Virginia and sold in New York.

The traffickers were caught on wiretaps. One was quoted by New York authorities as saying, “There’s no limit to how many guns I can go buy from the store. I can go get 20 guns from the store tomorrow. I can do that Monday through Friday. They might start looking at me, but in Virginia, our laws are so little, I can give guns away.”

As we work to build the image of the state to attract business and industry and to break free from an Old South reputation, events like last week bring back references of Virginia being the gun-running capital of the East Coast. The repeal of the one-gun-a-month law is but one example of a series of bills that have been introduced to weaken Virginia’s gun safety laws. There were other bills that nipped away at the few gun safety laws that remain. Fortunately in the last three years and again this year, we have had Gov. Terry McAuliffe to veto these bills.

The influence of the gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association and the Virginia Citizens Defense League, is enormous. With few exceptions, the members of the majority party fall in line to support or defeat bills as directed by the gun lobby. My background check bill supported by about three-fourths of voters and the governor cannot get past a subcommittee, where it is continually defeated on a straight party-line vote, four to one. Too bad we have not learned from history!

To better appreciate the debate that goes on about gun laws in Virginia, watch the gun bill debate video.

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.

by Del. Ken Plum — March 2, 2017 at 10:15 am 10 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 General Assembly has adjourned its annual session. In future columns, I will write about bills that survived the governor’s veto pen and those that did not.

In the final days of the session, we honored once again a then-young woman named Barbara Johns, who contributed so much to the history of Virginia. On Feb. 23, Gov. Terry McAuliffe dedicated the renovated former Richmond Hotel and now Office of the Attorney General as the Barbara Johns Building. Barbara is also honored on the grounds of the State Capitol with a statue of her, prominently part of the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial.

Her story is a very meaningful one in the civil rights movement in Virginia, and her example of leadership is one that must be emulated today. Barbara attended Robert Russa Moton High School. While the white children in the community went to a brick school, her school was an overcrowded, dilapidated, tar-paper shanty. She was frustrated with the conditions of the facility. She dreamed of a school where the students did not have to keep their coats on all day to stay warm and where classes were not held in the auditorium.

In April 1951, before Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King Jr.’s movements, 16-year-old Ms. Johns organized a strike at her school. She felt her idea to strike was divinely inspired and sought no outside validation for her actions. She was just a junior in high school when she met with several of her classmates to organize. On April 23, 1951, more than 450 Moton High School students walked out of their school and marched to the courthouse and to the homes of local school officials to protest the conditions of their school.

A few days into the strike, the students contacted the NAACP for legal counsel. Civil rights lawyers from the NAACP filed a lawsuit asking for full integration of the county’s public schools. The students who wished to file suit combined their names into a list, and Dorothy E. Davis, the daughter of a local farmer, was the first to add her name. One month later, the NAACP filed Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County in federal court. The case was appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court combined its ruling in the Davis case with four other similar cases to form the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, that declared the segregation of public schools unconstitutional.

Although the Davis case did not result in the desegregation of Prince Edward County’s public schools — it took 10 years and 40 lawsuits to overcome Massive Resistance — Ms. John’s actions were vital for the future of civil rights movements.

In the words of Gov. McAuliffe, “Ms. Johns’ history is a lasting reminder to inspire men and women to fight for justice and equality and reminds us of the enormous impact one person can have when they fearlessly stand up for what they believe is right.”

Barbara Johns stood up to what she knew was wrong. Her example is one that those who ask “what can I do?” must follow today.

by Del. Ken Plum — February 23, 2017 at 10:15 am 16 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.

In a previous column, I addressed in part the question I get from more and more constituents about what they can do to be more active in public service. Their concern, of course, comes from the outcome of the presidential election and the unbelievable events that have occurred since that time.

Adding to that December column, in which I highly recommended membership in the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center and involvement in the gubernatorial election of 2017 in Virginia, I have decided to further facilitate individuals seeking to find a place in which they could become involved in civic affairs.

I am sponsoring an event at Langston Hughes Middle School on Saturday, March 11, from 9:30 a.m.-noon. “What Can I Do? A Civic Engagement Workshop” is designed to bring people who want to be more active in their community and in civic matters at all levels of government together with individuals and organizations that can provide opportunities, direction and assistance in becoming an activist, advocate and participant in their community.

There will be no formal program or speeches. Rather, representatives of at least 15 different organizations who are known for their civic involvement will be there to answer questions and give advice on how persons can get involved. It will not be necessary for participants to attend the entire time. No registration is required. Attendees can “shop” from among the organizations represented to explore their interests and get to know the representatives who themselves are already actively involved in the community.

Issues and interest areas to be represented include voting, redistricting, elections, immigration, political campaigning, women’s rights, poverty, gun violence prevention and others. Groups from both political parties have been invited, as the event is nonpartisan. Participants include the AAUW, Centreville Immigration Forum, Community Matters, Cornerstones, Emerge Virginia, Equality Virginia, Giving Circle of HOPE, Herndon Reston Indivisible, League of Conservation Voters, League of Women Voters of the Fairfax Area, Moms Demand Action, NAACP of Fairfax County, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, Reston-Dulles Section of National Council of Negro Women, New Virginia Majority, OneVirginia2021, Reston Environmental Action and SALT.

I share the concern and fears expressed by many people about the future direction of our country. I am greatly disturbed about the negative impact that evolving events are having on my neighbors, our children and grandchildren; our form of government; and the culture of inclusiveness we have spent centuries building. It is time for the people to take back their government with a strong and informed voice.

To the extent to which the workshop contributes to empowering more people to become involved in their government, I feel it will be a success. Plan to participate and invite your neighbors and friends to come as well.

by Del. Ken Plum — February 16, 2017 at 10:15 am 10 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photo

Although the “short sessions” of the General Assembly held on the odd-numbered years are about two weeks less in length than the regular session in the even-numbered years because they do not consider a biennium budget, the fact is that the budget is adjusted at every session of the General Assembly.

Revenue projections that are made over a couple of years’ time frame almost always need to be adjusted. Revenues come over or under projections, necessitating corresponding changes to the budget. Recession-level declines like that in 2008 required severe budget reductions. The economic recovery has been slower than in the past, resulting in some tweaking being needed every year. The Commonwealth operates on a balanced budget with funds going into a rainy day fund when economic growth is strong, and the fund being used to smooth out declines from loss of revenue.

The House and Senate approved different versions of a revised budget for the next fiscal year without prolonged debate, which has been a part of these deliberations for many years. The governor presented a revised budget that brought the next year into balance and funded some high-priority items, upon which there was bipartisan agreement. Differences do remain that will be ironed out by a conference committee over the remaining weeks of the session.

Highlights of the budget include important new funding for mental health services. Although the needs in mental health have been recognized for a long time, it took advocates many years and the suicide of a senator’s son to finally get agreement on funding critically needed services. An important aspect of the new services will be to get mentally ill persons out of jails, where they have found themselves in recent years when they acted out and there was no other place for them to go.

State employees will finally be getting a raise after many years of waiting. The situation has become increasingly desperate with a high turnover rate. Teachers who are employed by local school boards will not be getting a direct appropriation for a raise from the state, but hopefully the modest increase to localities can be used in part to fund teacher pay raises that are likewise long overdue.

Although the action in the short session on the budget will get us through the next fiscal year, there are long-term structural issues that remain — particularly in funding education. While the division between state and local funding had historically been 60 to 40 percent, the actual division in recent years has been closer to 40 percent state and 60 percent local. The result has been that increasing costs have fallen on local property taxpayers.

Virginians like to brag about their low per capita state taxes at $2,275, 36th-lowest among the states. Sometimes overlooked is the fact that per capita local taxes in Virginia are $1,928, or 15th-highest among the states. We are going to balance the budget for the short run this session, but we need to do a lot more work about more fairly balancing the budget for the long term.

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

Del. Ken Plum/File photo

Most people can remember the flowchart from high school civics class that graphically showed how a bill becomes a law.

According to the chart, a legislator gets an idea for a bill that is drafted, introduced into one house of the Legislature where it is heard by a committee, sent to the floor for a vote if approved, and sent on to the other house for the same routine. Generally, that is what happens in the best of circumstances, but reality is much more complicated.

I can best make my point about what really happens in too many cases by reviewing the erratic course of a couple of bills in this session of the Virginia General Assembly that will not become law.

There is an increasing realization that many legislatures — including the General Assembly in Virginia — are not as responsive to public opinion as would be expected from democratically elected bodies, because of the way that legislative boundaries are drawn. An intense campaign by an organization named OneVirginia2021 has made many people aware that under the current system of having the Legislature drawing its own district boundaries, legislators are picking their voters rather than voters picking their representatives.

By comparing voting histories with census numbers, district boundaries can be drawn that are safe for incumbent legislators. The likelihood of incumbents being defeated is so slight that they go unchallenged. I have been working on this issue throughout my political career and once again introduced legislation to establish an independent legislative redistricting commission. My bill was sent to the Privileges and Elections Committee, where it was assigned to a subcommittee. The subcommittee allowed me and others with similar bills to make presentations with comments from the public.

A survey of my district indicates that about 80 percent of my constituents support a nonpartisan approach to drawing district lines. Other legislators introduced bills to accomplish the same result. My bill and all the others were swept together in one motion and defeated by a vote of four to one. On this important issue, four legislators made the decision for the entire 140 members of the General Assembly.

This is not an unusual situation. My bill that would have required universal background checks for gun purchases had the support of the governor and 90 percent of my constituents. It was sent to the Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee and then to a subcommittee of five legislators, four of whom have an A+ rating by the National Rifle Association. There was little surprise when my bill and all the other common-sense gun safety measures were defeated by a vote of four to one.

Under the Rules of the House, the Speaker of the House makes all committee assignments. Rather than a balance of points of views, the committee membership is stacked to reflect his position of the majority party. The Speaker also decides which committee will consider which bills. The rigged committee membership makes it easy to explain how a bill does not become a law in Virginia.

by Dave Emke — February 3, 2017 at 4:00 pm 11 Comments

Reston historical marker

Looking for something to do this weekend? Here is a sampling of what’s available in Reston:

  • The South Lakes High School Chorus is presenting its Broadway Night event tonight and Saturday.
  • Reston Town Center events this weekend include a kids’ cooking class at Il Fornaio, cartoon skate at the ice pavilion, Super Bowl festivities at American Tap Room and Mon Ami Gabi, and more.
  • Potomac River Running will be putting on its For The Love Of It 10K, beginning at South Lakes High School (11400 South Lakes Drive), Saturday morning.
  • Reston Community Players will close out their run of “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” tonight and Saturday at Reston Community Center’s CenterStage (2310 Colts Neck Road).
  • Project-based charter school Ideaventions Academy (12340 Pinecrest Road) will be holding an open house Saturday.
  • Art exhibitions “CUT” and “Springtime in Winter” remain on display at Greater Reston Arts Center (12001 Market Street) and Reston Art Gallery & Studios (11400 Washington Plaza W.), respectively.
  • Del. Ken Plum will be at Lake Anne Coffee House (1612 Washington Plaza N.) on Saturday morning to discuss issues with his constituents.
  • Red’s Table (11150 South Lakes Drive) won’t just be offering beer specials Sunday during the Super Bowl, but it will unveil its new bison chili as well.
  • Kalypso’s (1617 Washington Plaza N.) will host a Super Bowl party Sunday, featuring regional foods from New England and Atlanta. A raffle will also be held to benefit Camp Sunshine.

by Del. Ken Plum — February 2, 2017 at 10:15 am 13 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThe 2017 session of the General Assembly, that got underway on Jan. 11, is barreling ahead toward its midpoint of Feb. 7.

At that midpoint, referred to as “crossover,” the House of Delegates and the State Senate must have completed action on bills that were introduced in their own chamber and start to work on bills from the other chamber. In order for a bill to become law, it must pass both houses exactly alike before being sent to the governor for his signature.

Already, about half of the bills that were introduced will have been defeated. See how your favorite bill is faring by going to http://lis.virginia.gov/lis.htm.

If the bill you felt most important to pass has been defeated, there really is no hope that it can be revived unless there was a companion bill that survived the other house of the Legislature. For bills you really oppose that passed their house of introduction, it is time to get to work lobbying members of the other house. Keep in mind that all the work of the Assembly for this annual session will be finished by about Feb. 24.

Some generalizations that can be made about the session to date, subject to shifting winds in the next few weeks, follow. There is a commitment to giving state employees a raise especially for State Police where turnover has become excessive with the low rate of pay. Providing the state share of funding for teachers who are local employees remains in doubt except that additional funding to schools is likely in a small amount. Funding for expanded mental health services that the Governor and a legislative study group recommended is likely. The need in this area is very serious.

The Republican majority that has a history of supporting less government but obtrusive laws into people’s private lives defeated an anti-LGBT bill much like the one that passed in North Carolina. The bill they passed last year was vetoed by the governor. There are bound to be more restrictive laws on women’s reproductive decisions passed, but Gov. McAuliffe has pledged to veto such bills. The appetite to expand access to guns seems insatiable. Numerous bills to expand access to concealed weapons and the defeat of bills that promote gun safety continues unabated. My bill to expand criminal background checks for all gun purchases was defeated in sub-committee.

Redrawing legislative district boundaries after the next federal census is of increasing concern to citizens who want voters picking their representatives not legislators picking their voters with most elections consisting of uncontested incumbents. My bill to establish a nonpartisan redistricting commission was defeated. A bill to define the process as being non-political may sound good, but it is unlikely to have any effect without the process being taken over by a truly non-partisan group.

Bills that are common sense to me and to most of the constituents with whom I talk like banning the use of cellphones while driving continue to fail in the Legislature. Much more to come after the half.

If you have a position on an issue before the Legislature, email me at [email protected].

Each year, I survey constituents on issues of concern to them and on issues that are likely to be considered by the General Assembly. Your views are important to me. Please take a few minutes to respond to the survey that can be found at www.kenplum.com.

by Del. Ken Plum — January 26, 2017 at 10:15 am 8 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoLegislatures are about the serious work of governance even though they are often the brunt of jokes and criticism. For every seemingly weird bill that is introduced, there is a legislator representing a segment of his or her constituency. Delegate Bob Marshall is one of the better known members of the House for the anti-LGBT, anti-abortion and anti-marriage equality bills he introduces. He was first elected in 1992 and reelected every two years since then. Clearly, he is representing the point of view of a significant enough segment of his constituents to remain in office. Likewise, I believe I am representing my constituents in voting against his bills.

The diversity of Virginia is reflected in the representatives that are sent to the Legislature. But the state is changing. Look at any of the maps that show by red and blue the outcome of statewide elections. The cities and suburbs are most often blue with a huge segment of the map being red to reflect the more conservative voters in the rural areas. Even this generalization is not always true as more of the state has turned blue in recent years. Party organization and discipline work to hold onto or gain power. The artificial forces of gerrymandering slow changes in partisan control of the legislature in spite of strong citizen interest in changing the gerrymandering or gerryrigging process of drawing district boundaries. My bill to establish a nonpartisan redistricting commission was defeated once again this session.

New people moving into a legislative district can change the political complexion of a district, leading voters to ask whether the incumbent continues to represent their points of view. Such shifts in population can lead to a rare electoral defeat of an incumbent or an early voluntary retirement of a member. While the legislative agenda of a given member may seem to be too extreme in whatever direction, that member is representing a constituency. For the Commonwealth to move in a desired direction it may be necessary to “throw the bums out,” or there may be the need to better inform and educate the general public. I make it a point to try and inform my constituents as much as possible on issues and on resources they can use to learn more themselves. As far out as some legislative proposals you hear about may seem to be, they are important to someone. The challenge for the Legislature is to determine the public good among the diverse opinions and to govern in a way that is open and inclusive to all. When the Legislature is captured by extremists, the outcome will not be the best for citizens.

This weekly column will not be able to report the outcome of all or even a fraction of the bills being considered in this session of the General Assembly. News media will help, but to keep up in a comprehensive way go often to this website. You will come to appreciate the diversity of the Legislature even more. I would be pleased to hear your views on any issues; write to me at [email protected].

Each year I survey constituents on issues of concern to them and on issues that are likely to be considered by the General Assembly. Your views are important to me. Please take a few minutes to respond to the survey that can be found at www.kenplum.com.

by Del. Ken Plum — January 19, 2017 at 10:15 am 3 Comments

Ken Plum and Chuck ColganFormer Senator Charles J. Colgan passed away earlier this month. He retired just a year ago as the longest-serving State Senator in Virginia history. He was the last remaining World War II veteran serving in the Commonwealth’s Senate. He truly earned a place among the “greatest generation.”

Chuck, as he preferred to be called by his peers, was orphaned by age 5, raised by his grandparents, and served in the Army Air Corps. Aviation was an important part of his life; he founded Colgan Airways, flying out of Manassas with service to 53 cities. His wife of 52 years preceded him in death. Surviving him are his eight children and their spouses, his second wife, 24 grandchildren, and 22 great-grandchildren.

Beyond his personal and business life, Senator Colgan’s public life was unparalleled. He served on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors before being elected to the Virginia Senate for the 40-year tenure he completed. His awards and recognitions are numerous — the most recent being the naming of the Charles J. Colgan Sr. High School in Prince William County. All this history of the man does not capture the essence of what made him so highly regarded. He ran and was elected as a Democrat all his life even as he voted consistently pro-life on issues of abortion. He stayed in office while Republicans won most of the elective positions in his area. In the Senate, he was known for his willingness to work across party lines on issues he thought were important. He was an avid supporter of public education and was greatly influential in supporting funding for George Mason University, including its Prince William campus, and funding for new buildings for the Manassas and Woodbridge campuses of Northern Virginia Community College.

He was a much-loved and towering figure for his philosophy of life that he often expressed in folksy terms. He was known to advise that one should always be worth more than you are being paid. A smile, he would say, is like a business card; it only works if you give it away. He was always cheery regardless of the tough issues he faced. These statements of his philosophy were included in the program for his celebration of life as “Colgan’s Top Ten.” He understood that the best way to defeat your enemy is to make him your friend. The qualities that made him so richly admired by his family, neighbors and legislative colleagues inspired 800 people to come to his retirement party and many hundreds to come to his Mass of Christian Burial. That kind of attendance proved he embodied his belief that when you are getting ahead in life, make sure you reach out and give someone a hand up. Live your life, he would say, in such a way that if someone speaks ill of you, no one will believe them.

I believe Chuck Colgan is a true role model for leadership, for he believed that one should always ask yourself, “Am I doing the right thing?”

Each year, I survey constituents on issues of concern to them and on issues that are likely to be considered by the General Assembly. Your views are important to me. Please take a few minutes to respond to the survey that can be found at www.kenplum.com.

by Del. Ken Plum — January 12, 2017 at 10:15 am 14 Comments

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

The Dulles Corridor Rail Association (DCRA) Board of Directors voted last week to merge with the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance (NVTA) to represent transportation interests for the region.

As founder of DCRA I felt some sadness at the consolidation of the organization into another entity with a broader purpose, but at the same time I was very pleased with the greater meaning of the merger. On the one hand the merger represented “mission accomplished” for DCRA, and on the other hand it reflected a greater appreciation of the need for a multimodal transportation system for our region.

DCRA was founded in 1998 after conversations I had with members of the Reston Transportation Committee, area residents and members of the business community. My concern that I found was shared by many others was that road building alone would not meet the long-term needs of the region and specifically Reston located in the middle of the corridor.

Short-term solutions like widening roads, adding buses or bus rapid transit or light rail trains could be short-term fixes some of which would interfere with adding more substantial infrastructure in the future. The ensuing years were filled with much debate, fits and starts, and ups and downs before an extension of Metro from West Falls Church into Loudoun County was finally approved as the preferred local alternative, federal funds were approved, special tax districts were set up, and agreements and contracts were signed to make the Silver Line a reality.

For DCRA members the completion of Phase 1 and its operation and the contracting for Phase 2 to be completed by 2020 meant that the work on its narrowly drawn mission had been completed. While issues about maximizing the use of the rail system and access to it remain to be fine-tuned, those matters are best resolved within the framework of a multimodal approach. Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance has moved beyond its road building focus of the past to a more multimodal approach that will support the Silver Line while at the same time reducing congestion and supporting the many different ways that people in our community choose to travel.

DCRA would never have been able to declare victory without the active support of the many individuals, organizations and businesses that supported its mission. They joined together in the “Dulles Rail Now!” campaign at a critically important time, in the beginning sent faxes to key decision makers followed by email in more recent years, held educational seminars for residents and the business community to enhance understanding of transit-oriented development, and cajoled, flattered and persuaded political leaders to support the project.

Key to its successful operation was its president Patty Nicoson who joined the organization at its very beginning and continued with it until its victory celebration. She came to the organization with experience as a planner when Metro first came to the District of Columbia and later worked for Arlington County when Metro arrived there. Her persistent but reasoned approach may have been the most important element of DCRA completing its mission.

Each year I survey constituents on issues of concern to them and on issues that are likely to be considered by the General Assembly. Your views are important to me. Please take a few minutes to respond to the survey that can be found at www.kenplum.com.

by Karen Goff — November 19, 2015 at 10:30 am 15 Comments

Fairfax County Supervisor Sharon Bulova (right) collects donations for refugees/Credit: HelpSyrianRefugees.usShould Fairfax County be open to resettling Syrian refugees?

Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova said the acceptance of refugees remains a federal decision — but she hopes if people do relocate here they will be treated with compassion and support.

“The acceptance or banning of refugees in local and state jurisdictions is a federal decision,” Bulova said in an email. “It is important for the federal government to ensure the safety of the American people through security and background checks to the greatest extent possible.”

“Refugees are human beings — families and children — fleeing from dangerous and tragic situations. Syrian refugees who may be relocated to Fairfax County should be treated with compassion and received with the support Fairfax County is known for. ”

Arlington County officials said this week they are ready and willing to accept refugees. That’s one side of the divisive issue that is polarizing many elected officials thousands of miles away from the civil war in Syria.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said earlier this week he would not join with more than two dozen governors, mostly Republicans, to attempt to block Syrian refugees from seeking asylum in the Commonwealth.

However, several state legislators said they will legislation in the upcoming 2016 General Assembly session that would block an influx of refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war.

The statements came in response to last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris, which killed more than 100 people.

“This legislation is being proposed in response to recent terrorist attacks in France, as we have seen radicals use the refugee crisis as a means to enter other countries,” Del. Timothy D. Hugo, (R-Fairfax), said in a statement. “Before we can allow further resettlement in Virginia, we must have full confidence in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its procedures. Virginia is a welcoming state, but our first priority is the safety of our citizens.”

Other lawmakers backing the measure are Dels. C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), Gregory D. Habeeb (R-Salem), and G. Manoli Loupassi (R-Richmond).

Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston, says the issue is “representing the worst of politics of division and fear.”

“As a state, we should be focusing on domestic terrorism — access to guns,” said Plum.

Plum said he has not thought about introducing state legislation advocating for housing refugees (which really falls under federal responsibility anyway). He said if Hugo’s bill advances in the January session, he may “say something,” however.

President Barack Obama has said the United States should accept up to 10,000 displaced Syrians. However, last week’s terrorist attack in Paris has caused new concern about Islamic radicals being allowed into other countries. (more…)

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