The Fairfax County General Assembly Delegation held a Pre-2021 Session Public Hearing on Saturday, Jan. 9. Limited to 70 two-minute speaker slots for County residents who signed up ahead of time, this was an opportunity for delegation members to hear constituent concerns as they prepared for the upcoming session that convenes on Wednesday, Jan. 13 and adjourns on Saturday, Feb. 27. All speakers registered in advance could submit video or call in to submit live testimony during the hearing. Speakers could also submit written testimony by email.
Residents urged the Fairfax delegation to support strengthening our public schools, childcare, and Human Services, expanding access to affordable housing, protecting our environment, modernizing transportation infrastructure, and more. They provided testimony.
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay welcomed all and thanked Senator Richard (Dick) L. Saslaw (D-35) for conducting the public hearing. McKay named actions from banning firearms on county property, removing Confederate monuments from the county courthouse, passage of the Clean Economy Act, which had allowed Fairfax County to procure the largest solar PPA project in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and increasing and improving access to one of the most fundamental rights as Americans, voting for no excuse early voting, easing ID requirements and allowing valid drop boxes. However, McKay said, "We need additional financial support from the state of course, and additional state flexibility to weather this storm...The number one thing counties need right now is flexibility to be spry and be able to do what is necessary to meet the needs of people in their communities. And we know communities throughout the Commonwealth are very, very different and that flexibility has never been more important to counties than it is today."
SCHOOL BOARD REPRESENTATIVE Tamara Derenak Kaufax (Lee District) spoke next. Addressing the Fairfax Delegation, she said that as the state legislative liaison, on behalf of the entire school board, they were concerned about budget implications associated with some of the proposed changes and the difficulty they have in acquiring the necessary local resources. "Please consider more flexibility on your local match requirements." "We urge you to continue to hold harmless provisions for student enrollment losses, as we believe they're temporary...Please avoid imposing state level one-size-fits-all mandates, particularly in these uncertain times."
Marissa Brown of Vienna and her son Paul said there was much to do in the upcoming session. Paul said he was a person with autism. He waited more than six years on the Developmental Disabilities (DD) Waiver List. Marissa said they were concerned that Virginia's current reimbursement rates don't support hiring a high-quality workforce.
"This is essential in order to recruit staff who really understand the needs of people with developmental disabilities, particularly people with complex needs like Paul. And as I get older, I need to have the confidence that the system of services and support will be there for our son...Finally, criminal justice reform needs to include people with disabilities who are often severely impacted through arrest and incarceration, instead of services and supports," Marissa said.
Tom Blackburn, president of the 4,500 member Audubon Society, addressed three topics saying the Society enthusiastically supported a bill considered by Sen. David Marsden (D-37) and Del. David Bulova (D-37). It required a study of the sale of invasive plants and encouraged the use of native plants. "Next climate change: ASV (Audubon Society Virginia) supports several of the initiatives to address climate change. In particular, we support Senator Boysko's proposed legislation that would require the Board of Housing and Community Development to fulfill a statutory obligation to keep Virginia's building code, consistent with the International Energy Efficiency code. We also urge passage of a bill that would allow retail customers to purchase 100 percent renewable energy from licensed energy suppliers," Blackburn said.
MORGAN JAMESON said far too often he's seen lifelong residents move out of the County to find affordable housing. He said, "Fairfax County is already experiencing a deficit of 31,000 affordable dwelling units and rental homes... The gap between the need and supply will grow considerably without new approaches...Affordable housing is critically important for all Virginians but obtaining it is particularly challenging in Northern Virginia where housing is increasingly out of reach for low and moderate income earners. Therefore, please allocate funding to the Virginia Rental Mortgage Relief Program, expand resources available, and increase funding for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund."