To the Editor:
After reading the editorials in this paper, one would think that all the General Assembly did this session was social issues. If this paper was not so preoccupied by politics, it would have written about the following accomplishments of your General Assembly.
Financial Responsibility: We saved the Virginia Retirement System (VRS). It is presently $19 billion short of the funding needed to assure its solvency and required the Governor to make a $2 billion payment into it. That is $2 billion not going to roads and schools! By replacing the pension for newly hired government employees with a combination pension and 401k retirement plan, and changing pension benefits for people hired less than 5 years ago, it will be 100 percent funded by 2014. Once that is accomplished, not only will retirees be confident that their retirement will be there when they retire, but there will be much more money available for roads and schools!
Protecting Children: We established life in prison for adults who commit rape, forcible sodomy or object sexual penetration on children. We also made "grooming videos" (cartoons that teach kids to have sex with adults) illegal.
Fighting Drunk Driving: We passed landmark legislation that requires everyone convicted of drunk driving to have an ignition interlock system installed in their car for one year. This machine will disable a car if the driver has any alcohol on his breath. This has literally saved lives in other states which already have this law in place.
More State Funding for Fairfax Schools: The House budget delivers $40 million a year in additional funds to Fairfax Schools. That’s an extra $225 per child! When you realize that most school systems are being cut, you can really appreciate what a great outcome this is.
More In-state Slots for Our College Bound High School Seniors: While the Hugo/Albo bill mandating that 75 percent of all college students be in-state Virginia residents was defeated, James Madison University voluntarily complied. In addition, the House budget funds a combined 1700 new in-state slots at UVA, W&M, Virginia Tech and JMU.
More Money for Roads: We did have some failures in this area. The House proposal to dedicate 0.25 percent of the existing sales tax to roads failed in the Senate. But we did have some success as well. The Commonwealth Transportation Board, the entity that decides what gets paved and what gets built, only had one member from NOVA. A new bill that passed distributes the membership based on Congressional Districts. So we will get two members, and depending upon where the 10th Congressional representative lives, it could be three out of the 11 members! Additionally, Supervisor Pat Herrity and I got Fairfax County Parkway re-classified from a "secondary road" to a "primary road". Primary roads are paved first, and I just received the paving list – look for new asphalt this summer.
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: According to CNBC, Virginia is the #1 place to do business. This year we passed a number of bills to encourage companies to continue to locate here. These include legislation giving tax exemptions for new businesses, ensuring fair competition in government contracting, and creating a Virginia Jobs Investment Plan. And our efforts are working! Site Selection Magazine just released their annual ranking of top states based on number of capital projects. Since last year’s ranking, Virginia has moved up five places, from 10th to 5th place. Virginia remains extremely attractive to businesses seeking to set up in the Commonwealth. In the past two years, Virginia has closed 754 economic development deals and created 67,500 net new jobs.
The Little Things Matter: I passed a bill that allows Fairfax County to pick up all the annoying signs on the sides of the road (e.g. political signs, "lose weight", "work at home", etc.) This will not only improve the appearance of our medians and roadways but it will improve visibility, making it safer to drive in our community.
These are only a few highlights from the 2012 Session. We have accomplished a lot, and if anyone wants some more information, don’t hesitate to email me at email@example.com.