During the 2007 session, Del. Bob Marshall (R-13) plans to focus on several different issues that affect his constituents' lives.
"It is not about what I think it is important," he said. "It is about what the citizens feel is important to address."
Marshall said that the recent trend of building massive residential developments without having the proper infrastructure in place has hurt residents, but he said he is "very hopeful" that the General Assembly will be able to pass a transportation package this year because he is observing "less hostility and more interest" among members of the assembly. He added, however, that "throwing money at transportation" is not the only answer.
"We've got to deal with development," he said.
To that end, 24 of the 62 pieces of legislation that Marshall has introduced this session deal with transportation and creating an infrastructure around future development.
<sh>Transportation and Development
<bt>One of the biggest things that Marshall hopes to address during the assembly's session is development impact fees. Marshall is introducing 10 bills and one constitutional amendment that address allowing localities to impose impact fees upon developers. The constitutional amendment would require, by general law, the General Assembly to allow localities to adopt an ordinance for the assessment of impact fees.
"The middle of the state has no authority for proffers," Marshall said. "By-right development is a free ride for developers."
Two of the impact fee bills that Marshall is introducing apply directly to Loudoun County. Both bills state that the Commonwealth Transportation Board will analyze and impose reasonable impact fees on new development or new subdivisions along Route 50 between U.S. Route 15 and the Fairfax County line. The only difference between the two bills, which were both originally filed in January 2006, is one states impact fees will not be applied to developments where proffers have already been reviewed and accepted by the county.
"I think the speaker is going to send them to other committees rather than just the transportation committee," Marshall said. "I am trying to get them drawn up to send to the finance committee."
In addition to impact fees, Marshall is once again introducing a constitutional amendment that would require the General Assembly to maintain permanent and separate transportation funds, including the Commonwealth Transportation Fund, Transportation Trust Fund and Highway Maintenance and Operating Fund. The amendment further states that the assembly can only borrow from the funds with approval from two-thirds of each house and that the money must be repaid within four years.
"It is necessary because $1.3 billion has been taken out of transportation over eight or nine years that hasn't been put back," Marshall said. The delegate said he expects the legislation, which is a holdover from 2005, to be taken up by the assembly the first week of the session.
Marshall is also putting forth a resolution to the governor of Maryland and the mayor of Washington, D.C., that urges the construction of Interstate 95 through Washington, D.C. The construction of the interstate through the nation's capital was part of the original design of the highway, Marshall said, and that both Maryland and D.C. officials were encouraged to support it during the mid-90s, without success.
"This would take so much traffic off of the Beltway at all hours of the day," Marshall said. "It will help the traffic on U.S. 1. It wouldn't affect our money. I really think this should be done."
<sh>Marriage and Family
<bt>During this session, Marshall hopes to change the way divorce and marriage are handled in Virginia. Of the pieces of legislation he is introducing, several refer to the idea of no-fault divorces, which are allowed under Virginia law. No-fault divorces are ones in which neither spouse blames the other for the breakdown of the marriage. One person may request the divorce over the objections or his or her spouse, however.
Marshall is proposing a resolution that the House committee on courts of justice study the effect of no-fault divorce on the divorce rate and marriage in Virginia and a constitutional amendment that requires a joint subcommittee to study the same issues.
"Marriage is the fundamental building block of society," Marshall said. "A large part of the social welfare budget is because of one-parent families."
While Marshall said there were good reasons put forward to allow for no-fault divorce, he said they have not "panned out" and he considers the restriction of no-fault divorce an "offshoot of the marriage amendment debate."
One of Marshall's marriage bills would make it impossible for couples with children to obtain a no-fault divorce if one of them objects to the divorce. Two other bills would make marital fault a factor in considering the division of property and the awarding of custody following a divorce. Marshall has also put forth a bill that would require premarital and postmarital agreements between couples adhere to stricter standards before a couple can obtain a no-fault divorce.
"Hopefully people will get more serious about entering into marriage if they look at the requirements for divorce," he said.
In addition to pushing for stricter divorce laws, Marshall also hopes to be able to expand the definition of adultery to include oral and anal sex with someone other than a person's spouse, regardless of that person's gender. Currently the definition of adultery is limited to sexual intercourse.
"This way it becomes any sexual infidelity," Marshall said.
<bt>This session, Marshall also plans to focus on several aspects of the abortion debate.
Marshall submitted a bill that states that Virginia once again make abortion a criminal offense, "if and when the United States Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade is overturned." If the Supreme Court decision is overturned, states are given the authority to regulate abortion. Before the decision in Roe v. Wade was rendered in 1970, abortion was illegal in the commonwealth. Marshall's legislation would require the Attorney General to publish a statewide, legal notice about the change in law, along with the reinstated law governing the criminal offense of abortion.
Another of Marshall's proposed bills would make it a misdemeanor to pressure or coerce a woman into getting an abortion. The same violation, however, becomes a felony if the woman is under the age of 18 and the father is more than 18 years old.
Under another Marshall bill, abortion clinics that perform more than 25 first trimester abortions in one year must be licensed and comply with the requirements currently in place for ambulatory surgery centers, with the exception of a certificate of public need.
In addition, Marshall submitted a constitutional amendment that would require the continuation of the joint subcommittee to study the medical, ethical and scientific issues relating to stem cell research conducted in Virginia. The study would monitor the progress of the Virginia Cord Blood Bank Initiative and review new and emerging issues in stem cell research.
"All the scientific evidence is very clear to date that embryo stem cell research is a dead end," Marshall said. "There should be concentration on areas where there is a reasonable expectation of success."