I hope you and your family are enjoying the warm days before the cooler season settles in. Fall festivals, community, school and sports events abound, as well as the swirl of activities during a campaign season. Although we are about halfway between legislative sessions, legislative work continues. Committees and commissions meet, and numerous meetings about upcoming legislative concerns and constituent issues take place.
During recent meetings, finance secretary Aubrey Layne provided an overview of Virginia’s economy for the 2019 fiscal year (July 2018- June 2019). The surplus of $797 million has already been appropriated for reserves, water quality, and taxpayer relief. Taxpayers can expect to receive checks from the taxpayer relief fund October 1- 15. Generally, the Commonwealth is doing well however, Governor Northam urges caution and strategy as we go into the new budget cycle.
Additional reports at the monthly Appropriations meeting included overviews of Medicaid program expenditures, the lottery 2019 financial performance, future concerns about the negative impact of “gray gaming,” and the Virginia Alcohol and Beverage Control (ABC) continued rising sales of spirits, as well as plans for a new office in 2021. The Department of General Services (DGS) report on Capital projects included two facilities of local interest. The Virginia War Memorial Carillon renovations are slated to be completed in Fall 2020, while the Virginia War Memorial on Belvidere will be completed late this year.
The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC)
JLARC, of which I am a member, meets monthly and provides oversight of state agencies and the expenditure of taxpayer money. The September meeting reviewed the operation and performance of regional and state jails and the Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG).
The Virginia Housing Commission
The Housing Commission, of which I am also a member, meets monthly. A recent meeting focused on the Commonwealth's population and housing trends. Virginia's population is growing, but at a slow rate. Some Virginians are moving south for a better cost of living rate, contributing to the slow growth rate. Modular and manufactured housing, which are constructed to the same state and building codes as conventional housing, were discussed. In addition, a work group focused on the rise of electric vehicles and the increased need for charging stations.
Interim Meeting Reports
For your convenience, the Division of Legislative Services provides summaries of all Division-staffed interim meetings. In addition to the Appropriations Committee and JLARC meeting summaries, you can find, for example, summaries from the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission, the Crime Commission, the Virginia Code Commission, the Subcommittee on Coastal Flooding and others.
Virginia Center on Aging (VCoA)
The Virginia Center on Aging was created by the General Assembly in 1978, to provide interdisciplinary study and research pertaining to the aged and the aging and serve as a resource to organizations and agencies. Its Advisory Committee, of which I am a member, meets regularly. As our Commonwealth’s older population increases and will become the majority in several years, the VCoA’s work of defining and protecting the life of older Virginians through training, education, lifelong learning, and Alzheimer’s research and education is essential.The VCoA expands our communities’ capacity to provide informed caregiving and serves as a statewide resource center. Dementia research and VCU Road Scholar are included programs.
House Page Applications
Applications from 13 and 14-year-old students for the 2020 House Page Program will be accepted through October 31. For 172 years, the Page Program has fostered leadership in young men and women throughout Virginia and given youth a first-hand experience of the legislative process, civic engagement, and public service. Pages are chosen by the Speaker of the House and the Page Program; any applicant also needs a recommendation letter from their delegate. If you know a student in the 69th district who is interested in applying, please have them contact my office by calling 804-698-1069 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can learn about and apply to the House Page program on the Virginia General Assembly website here.
Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT)
The DRPT celebrated ten years of Virginia-sponsored passenger rail service in the Commonwealth, September 19, at Main Street Station. The first Virginia-sponsored Amtrak train was launched in 2009. A decade later, Virginia’s state-sponsored Amtrak services have grown from one to four routes and includes six daily round-trip trains, with average annual ridership exceeding 850,000. DRPT continues to build a rail network that supports job creation, workforce recruitment, tourism, and business investment in Virginia.
To celebrate, DRPT announced a special $10 fare for ten days, beginning October 1- October 10, 2019, for one-way trips on all Northeast Regional routes to and from Virginia, including Washington. D.C. Customers can book trips by visiting www.amtrak.com/virginia. The fare is available now through October 10, by using the code V110 at check out.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF)
The Chesapeake Bay, whose watershed comprises six states, includes more than 3,600-plus species of plant and animal life. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has been leading the way to restore the 64,000-squaremile watershed since 1967, by working with agencies, engaging leaders, and educating communities. By 2025, CBF plans to reduce pollution and improve the health of local streams and rivers that feed into the bay through their Watershed Implementation Plan. Virginia’s Watershed Implementation Plan was created through collaborative efforts between federal and state governments to strategize the most effective way to clean up the local waterways. In addition to this work, CBF educates 14-15,000 students in Virginia every year and connects with students and teachers through hands-on, experiential learning. In September, some local officials were treated to a trip on the James River aboard "The Bay Watcher," which departed from Jordan’s Point in Hopewell, and explored the river, its inhabitants, and watershed down to the Westover area. On our excursion we were encouraged to learn how to take action to “Save the Bay”.
2020 Drone Challenge
NASA announced the first ever drone challenge, also known as the Safeguard with Autonomous Navigation Demonstration, to be hosted in Hampton, Virginia. The SAND challenge will give small businesses the opportunity to compete in autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle competition, designed to push the boundaries of traditional operations. SAND Applications are open now through November 1. The competition will take place in May 2020. Visit sand2020.nianet.org for more information.
On a lighter note, OnTheSquareVA is a group of events designed to get state employees up and moving and enjoying Capitol Square. Calendar opportunities include the Capitol run, cornhole tournament, food trucks, Friday farmers market, DMV Real ID registration, and meditation.
Important Election Day-- November 5
Are you registered to vote? The deadline to register to vote for the November 5th election is October 15th. If you are unable to make it to the polls, you may request an absentee ballot by mail by 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 29, 2019 or in person at City Hall (900 E. Broad St) by 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 2, 2019. All 100 seats in the Virginia General Assembly will be on the ballot.
How to register to vote
Find out who is on your ballot
Find out where to vote
Photo ID Requirements to Vote
Reinstated Driver's Licenses
A law to reinstate driver's licenses due to unpaid fines went into effect in July. However, after suspension for unpaid fines and fees were wiped clear, many effected Virginians may be unaware that they can take action with DMV to get themselves back on the road. Learn more here or visit Drive-to-Work for assistance.
Virginia Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission
As part of its commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and abolition of slavery in the United States, the Virginia Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission will construct the Emancipation Proclamation and Freedom Monument on Brown’s Island to be unveiled in 2020. The 12-foot bronze statue will represent newly freed slaves and will highlight notable African American Virginians. In addition, the Commission has been holding community conversations around the state to commemorate Dr. King's visits which began in 1956, and to assess our status concerning Dr. King's "beloved community." Another Commission group has begun work to focus on the painful history of lynching in our Commonwealth.
The Valentine Museum is partnering with Richmond 300, the city's master planning process, to explore questions about Richmond's future.Topics included will cover access and equity in land uses, transportation and parking in the city, black-owned businesses, and green space access, among others.
It is an honor and privilege to serve you in the General Assembly. Please never hesitate to contact me if I can be helpful to you. You can email me at email@example.com or call my office at 804-698-1169. I look forward to seeing you and your friends and family around Richmond.
Betsy B. Carr