57°Mostly Cloudy

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…)

by Karen Goff — December 29, 2014 at 11:00 am 2 Comments

Sen. Janet Howell and Del. Ken Plum talk to citizens at Reston Community Center Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston) and Del. Ken Plum (D-Reston) will hold their annual pre-session Town Hall Meeting on Thursday, Jan. 8 at 7:30 p.m. at Reston Community Center Hunters Woods.

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.

by Del. Ken Plum — July 23, 2014 at 1:00 pm 5 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoBy the time you are reading this column, Virginia will have reached the milestone by having refused to accept a billion dollars of monies paid by Virginia taxpayers to close the coverage gap for 400,000 working poor Virginians who cannot afford health insurance. A $1,000,000,000 is a lot of money!

We got to this point by the Republican majority in the General Assembly refusing to pass a plan for Medicaid expansion that would bring more than $5 million dollars a day to the state, produce as many as 30,000 new jobs in the health care industry, insure as many as 400,000 of the working poor, and enhance the quality of life for Virginia’s workforce and their families.

What is the alternative proposed by the Republicans? Speaker of the House Howell was quoted last month as saying that House Republicans propose to help the uninsured through “free clinics and community health centers and through expanded hospital services.” Hospital representatives are saying that they need the Medicaid money in order to expand services. One hospital in the state has closed, and others report financial stress. The free clinic serving this region is reported to be in economic difficulties.

Last week, Stan Brock’s Remote Area Medical (RAM) set up its mobile clinic in Wise County, VA, as it has been doing one weekend a year for more than a decade. More than 1,000 people who do not have medical insurance or access to regular medical services show up and stand in line for hours to be seen by one or several of the more than a hundred medical care professionals who volunteer each year to run this free clinic. Brock, who achieved fame for his television series Wild Kingdom, has described health care needs and services in the Appalachian region that includes Southwest Virginia as being like that of a third-world country.

The General Assembly majority has been able to stymie efforts by the Governor to get a plan for Medicaid expansion approved. While the legislature is still in special session, it is not expected to meet again until Sept. 22. There is little optimism that there will be a change of heart on the part of Republicans as the national organization Americans for Prosperity threaten a primary challenge to anyone who breaks rank. Two senior Republican committee chairs were defeated in primaries in the last election cycle by Tea Party Republicans as was House Majority Leader Congressman Eric Cantor defeated this year. Unfortunately, the desire to keep one’s legislative seat seems stronger than the moral call to do the right thing and provide health care to people who need it.

The billion-dollar give-away is money paid by Virginians under the Affordable Care Act that goes to Washington and is not returned because of the legislature’s refusal to act. Write to your friends, family, and colleagues and encourage them to contact their legislators to support legislation that will keep $5 million a day that will add up to another billion dollars by early next year in the state for the benefit of Virginians.

Ken Plum represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates 

by Del. Ken Plum — July 2, 2014 at 1:30 pm 3 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThe Silver Line Metrorail extension will open for riders on July 26! For those of us who have been looking at the seemingly completed infrastructure for many months, announcement of the actual date that we can ride this important new service for our community is welcome news.

Having worked on bringing Metrorail to Reston and beyond for the last 20 years, I am especially excited about the opening. In the 1990s, I was the lone politician calling for rail service in the Dulles Corridor while some dismissed the idea as a pipe dream.

In order to develop support for the rail project, I enlisted the help of business and community leaders who supported the idea. In August 1998, I announced the formation of the Dulles Corridor Rail Association (DCRA) as a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group supporting rail in the Dulles Corridor. Joining in the announcement were professional planner Patty Nicoson, who became president of the group and continues in that capacity today; former Delegate Vincent Callahan, who demonstrated bipartisan representation; former Virginia Secretary of Transportation John Milliken; and Restonians Joe Stowers and Steve Cerny, among others.

We set to work, with letters and opinion columns, testimony at public hearings and a variety of advocacy activities that built support for the project. The task was not easy and not without setbacks. While there was widespread agreement about the need for more public transit options in a metropolitan area that had outgrown its transit service planned for in the 1960s, we had to convince some elected leaders that rail was justified over simply expanded bus service or bus rapid transit.

The idea of putting the extension in a tunnel sounded attractive, but was cost prohibitive. Commercial interests were agreeable to additional taxes to help pay for the system, but the project had to be broken into two phases to accommodate when a business interest would start paying an additional tax and when they would receive service. Toll increases on commuters were projected to be unbearably high requiring DCRA to successfully lobby for more direct state appropriations to keep tolls down.

With no direct financial support for the project and a 2010 goal to deliver a completed system, the 30 men and women who made up the original board and those who have joined and left since that time are to be thanked and congratulated. I am honored to continue to serve as chairman of the board of DCRA.

The Silver Line will not be a silver bullet to solve all our transportation woes. We still live in an area ranked 10th in the country for the worst traffic! Rail and bus riders will be asked to make adjustments; drivers may have to change their commuting habits; and some will complain about tolls and fares. Even so, the Silver Line brings a critically important part of infrastructure to our area that will add to our quality of life in getting to and from work and taking advantage of the rich educational and cultural resources of our region and our nation’s capital.

Ken Plum represents Reston in the Virginia House of Delegates

by Del. Ken Plum — June 25, 2014 at 2:30 pm 24 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoSince the Dec. 14, 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 27 people including 20 children and the shooter were killed, there have been 79 more school shootings.

Gun rights advocates dispute the number related to schools, but that is the figure Bill Moyers reported a few weeks ago and there are certain to have been even more since his report. The total number of people killed by guns, suicide and accidental deaths between Newtown and December 2013 is 12,042.

With all the fear and anguish brought on by these shootings at whatever rate they may be occurring, little has been done to address the issue in Congress or in state legislatures.

Previous mass murders have had minimal impact on laws to reduce gun violence. One exception is the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981. While no one was killed, four were wounded, including the President and his press secretary, Jim Brady, who was left confined to a wheelchair with slurred speech and nightmares.

The efforts of Brady, along with the strong leadership of his wife Sarah, led to the enactment after six years, seven Congressional votes and three presidential administrations to passage of background check legislation known as the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. Recently, I attended the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence National Summit in Washington, D.C. ,that had as its theme to complete the job on background checks to make them universal.

Since the Brady law went into effect on Feb. 28, 1994, background checks have stopped more than 2.1 million gun sales to prohibited purchasers including convicted felons, domestic abusers, fugitives from justice, and other dangerous individuals. But the Brady bill requires background checks only for sales by licensed firearms dealers. Sales by individuals, unlicensed dealers, or internet vendors do not require a background check. The Brady Campaign is mounting a strong lobbying effort that I support to close the loophole on background checks and require them for all gun sales. To learn more, go to www.bradycampaign.org.

As announced at their National Summit, the Brady Campaign is working in other ways to reduce gun violence. Its “Ask Campaign” (Asking Saves Kids) in conjunction with the American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to ask if there are unlocked guns in homes where their children play. An estimated 18,000 youth are injured or killed each year due to gun violence. More information is at askingsaveskids.org.

This November, make sure candidates you support for the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate support expansion of the Brady bill. I continue to participate along with many good friends in vigils at NRA Headquarters in Fairfax on the 14th of each month to ensure that the issue is not forgotten. I will be working to expand background checks in the legislature.

Looking at other nations of the world makes us realize it is time to do all we can to prevent gun violence in America.

Ken Plum represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates

by Del. Ken Plum — June 18, 2014 at 1:00 pm 2 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoAbout this time of year in 1966 I wrote a letter to my hometown newspaper, Page News and Courier, suggesting that Virginia had just undergone one of the “bloodless revolutions” that Thomas Jefferson had suggested would be good for society periodically.

In the Democratic primary in a very different 8th Congressional District than we know today, liberal state delegate George Rawlings defeated the 36-year veteran Congressman Howard Smith who in his position as chairman of the Rules Committee had thwarted the will of presidents through his control of the flow of legislation and his bottling up of the Civil Rights Act for nearly a decade.

The shock waves when the polling results came in were as great as those heard in the 7th Congressional District this year. As if the defeat of a powerful committee chair was not enough, in that same primary moderate State Senator William B. Spong, Jr. defeated Virginia’s Senator A. Willis Robertson, who had been in the Senate for 20 years. President Lyndon Johnson had recruited Spong to challenge Robertson because the Senator opposed the Civil Rights Act and supported school segregation.

When Lady Bird Johnson came through Virginia campaigning for her husband on the Lady Bird Special train, Robertson was the only elected Democrat who did not come out to greet her. George Rawlings lost in the general election to William “Bill” Scott as conservative Southern Democrats voted for the Republican, and many never returned to the Democratic Party.

Spong was elected to the U.S. Senate where he served for one term before being defeated by the same Bill Scott who had defeated Rawlings six years before. Scott’s service in the House and in the Senate earned him the title given by one publication as being “the dumbest man” in Congress.

The primary defeats of two Southern Democrats in 1966 marked a sharp decline of influence of the Byrd Machine in Virginia politics and a realignment of the conservatives who had called themselves Democrats since Reconstruction. Some became Independents, but others switched to the Republican Party where they felt more at home with their conservatism. When Harry Byrd, Jr. ran for the U.S. Senate to replace his father, he won as an Independent.

No Democratic candidate for President was able to carry Virginia until ironically Barack Obama carried the state in 2008. While Democrats and moderate Republicans are celebrating the defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in another historic primary, it is important to consider the outcome of the election for the future of the Commonwealth.

The candidate who defeated Cantor did so by being more conservative than Cantor, and from the comments I have been reading he is a far-out Tea Party candidate. Just last year two Tea Party candidates defeated two Republican committee chairs in primaries and went on to win the general election.

An already conservative General Assembly is likely to be pushed further to the right by Republicans who fear a primary challenge. A bloodless revolution is occurring in the Commonwealth; Virginians will not be better for it.

Ken Plum represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates.

by Del. Ken Plum — June 11, 2014 at 2:30 pm 0

Del. Ken Plum/File photoAs you may know, I grew up in a very rural part of Virginia — in Page County near the little town of Shenandoah in the Page Valley that is part of the grander Shenandoah Valley.

At that time there were about 50 people living in nine houses in the less than 10 miles on Crooked Run Road between Comertown Road and River Road. Except for activities around the schools and holiday parades and carnivals in the Town of Shenandoah, there was little or no sense of community as I have come to understand the word.

My parents had limited formal education, and we had very few reading materials in our home. We did subscribe to Southern Planter and Progressive Farmer magazines that I read from cover to cover, even though my interest in many of the articles was not great.

Progressive Farmer was most interesting to me for its continuing theme of needing to develop a sense of community in rural areas throughout the South.

The topic fascinated me, and I sent in the 50 cents required to get a copy of The Community Handbook (Progressive Farmer Company: 1948). I recently acquired another copy from a used book shop to help me recall why I was so enthralled by it and read it dozens of times. It had information on community organization, parliamentary procedure and social and recreational activities. It provided my first lessons in community leadership.

Along with other experiences I had, I developed an interest in government and public service that I have pursued throughout my adult life. Just as the voids in my early experiences gave me an appreciation of the importance of community, the richness of Reston reinforces for me the significance of community in helping to realize success and quality of life. There are few if any places in this country that have the abundance of community organizations and civic and social activities that are found here.

We are a community of great diversity that adds to our richness. I have the great honor and privilege as an elected official to take part in the Fairfax and Greater Reston Chambers of Commerce but also in the Asian American and the Hispanic American Chambers of Commerce as well as the ecumenical church I attend regularly, the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center, the local synagogue, and other religious traditions.

I attend a multicultural fair each year, but I also attend the Pakistani American, Korean American, and other racial and ethnic groups’ activities, along with events sponsored by the LGBT community. I apologize in advance to any groups I may have inadvertently left out.

In those early years when I was trying to gain a sense of community, I would never have dreamed that a place could embrace both a strong sense of oneness and at the same time such great diversity that is celebrated in so many ways. I have grown in my appreciation of the importance of community by being part of Reston.

Ken Plum represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates.

by Del. Ken Plum — May 28, 2014 at 1:00 pm 2 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoRecently, the New York Times editorial board wrote about the “health care showdown in Virginia.” Their comments were not favorable.

“In Virginia, there are 400,000 low-income people who can’t afford health care coverage but don’t qualify for federal subsidies,” they wrote. “If they lived across the state line in Maryland, West Virginia or Kentucky, which have expanded their Medicaid programs, they could get the coverage they need.”

The reason they cannot; “a group of recalcitrant Republicans in the House of Delegates” have blocked Medicaid expansion at every opportunity.

Highly regarded retired editorial writer for the Virginia Pilot, Margaret Edds, wrote about the current impasse in Virginia two weeks ago. Drawing on her extensive command of Virginia’s history, Edds points out that Virginia was the last state to join Social Security in the 1930s. She argues that there is a moral imperative that “we cannot afford to take this risk” of not expanding Medicaid.

She writes that “designing a health care system that embraces everyone is the right thing to do.” Reston resident, Elliot Wicks, in a recent letter to the editor makes the same argument that closing the coverage gap morally is the right thing to do.

In an unprecedented move, the Virginia Chapter of the American Association of Retired People (AARP) called a press conference to announce that letters sent by the Speaker of the House and other Republican lawmakers to their constituents over age 60 contained “inaccurate information about changes in Medicare.” These letters from Speaker Howell and other lawmakers implied that expanding Medicaid in Virginia would hurt Medicare beneficiaries. “Expanding Medicaid to uninsured Virginians won’t harm the Medicare program or its beneficiaries,” the AARP spokesperson said.

Revenues for the Commonwealth are expected to fall short of projection for this year by as much as $300 million. Ironically, Virginia is losing $5 million a day amounting now to three-fourths of a billion dollars paid by Virginians that could be returned to the state through Medicaid expansion. The money could not be used to balance the budget in the current year, but in future years more than $200 million that Virginia pays for indigent care from its general tax revenue could be paid by Medicaid.

State and local chambers of commerce, medical and health care associations, and editorial boards of the major newspapers in the state have endorsed Medicaid expansion. A major compromise in the form of Marketplace Virginia, proposed by three Republican senators and endorsed by all Democratic legislators, has been introduced.

The compromise proposed in Marketplace Virginia addresses the Republicans’ stated concerns by including a provision to discontinue the program if the federal government reneges on its commitments. It is time for Republicans in the House of Delegates to agree to the compromise.

Their insistence on separating Medicaid from the state budget is a costly stalling tactic that is hurting a large number of Virginians and threatens to hurt even more if the budget stalemate continues.

 Ken Plum represents Reston in the Virginia House of Delegates. He writes weekly on Reston Now.

×

Subscribe to our mailing list