As we enjoy cooler fall temperatures, I would like to provide you with an update from the Capitol, as well as important information regarding the 2016 election and community events.
The 2016 General Election will be held on Tuesday, November 8thfor President and Vice-President of the United States. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. To find the name and address of your polling precinct, please click on this link. Remember that you will need a photo ID to vote. Additionally, citizens in the City of Richmond will vote to elect a new mayor, members of City Council and the School Board and, with parts of Chesterfield and other places, for a new member of Congress to represent Virignia's 4th Congressional District.
The deadline to request an absentee ballot be sent to you is Tuesday, November 1 at 5pm. To request one electronically, please visit this link, and click on “Apply online for a Virginia absentee ballot”. Once you have provided your information, an absentee ballot will be mailed to your address. The deadline to vote absentee by appearing in person is Saturday, November 5 at 5pm. If you are in Richmond, you may vote absentee at City Hall. If you are in Chesterfield, you may absentee at the General Registrar’s office, located at 9848 Lori Road, 23832.
Two commissions of which I am a member have been meeting since the end of the 2016 legislative session to work on legislative and government concerns.
The Speaker’s Commission on Employee Retirement Security and Pension Reform focuses on our state employees and is studying the most responsible ways to address public sector retirement benefits. I am a member of the Work Force Work Group, and we have focused on factors which influence the state workforce’s ability to keep pace with private sector jobs concerning pay and benefits, as well as ways to enhance recruitment and retention of state employees. In general, the “bench” for middle management among state employees is not deep. In some agencies more than half of the “institutional knowledge” will be retiring soon. State workers are involved with important work that has far-reaching impact; their mission is attractive for those who want to be involved in meaningful work. The next generation of workers wants their jobs to involve performance feedback and mentoring that focuses on overall personal and professional development.
Recent meetings of the Virginia Housing Commission have focused on the regulation of the short-term residential lodging industry and platforms such as AirBnB. We have also examined issues concerning common-interest communities, which are developments consisting of individually owned units but also requiring the maintenance of common areas, such as in a condominium complex. The commission has also reviewed research that looks at the impact of housing on regional economies.
The House Appropriations Committee Public Safety Subcommittee and Senate Finance Committee Public Safety Subcommittee met jointly at the Bon Air Juvenile Detention Center in early October. Committee members toured the site with recent changes made to the juvenile justice system model in mind and discussed the facility’s capital improvement needs. Director of the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Mr. Andrew Block, addressed the joint committee on the need to design and build a new facility to best address the most pressing concerns related to safety and recidivism among those in DJJ care. Currently, juvenile justice facilities are designed similar to adult prisons. The new model focuses less on long term detention and more on short term rehabilitation. Additionally, Col. Steve Flaherty discussed technology capital needs of the Virginia State Police. The Virginia State Police operate a system known as STARS, a statewide radio system that allows troopers and dispatch officers to communicate effectively no matter where they may be. This system also operates all communication from state police patrol cars. As technology changes and advances, upgrades to the communication system used by our first responders are essential.
At the House Appropriations Committee’s October meeting, agenda subjects included presentations on state revenue, trade, and economic development. Secretary of Finance Ric Brown provided an economic overview for the month of September. Secretary of Commerce and Trade Todd Haymore briefed the committee on the Virginia International Trade Corporation (VITC). VITC will create international trade development programs with strict performance measures and will provide services to businesses across our Commonwealth looking to expand their reach. Additionally, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), which shares similar business and trade growth goals as VITC, briefed the committee on the reorganization and structure of the partnership. While VITC works to expand trade opportunities in international markets, the VEDP provides site selection and business expansion or relocation services to private sector companies who decide to locate or expand their business in Virginia. It is important to continue encouraging companies to locate their businesses here as a way to expand access to good paying jobs. Both the VITC and VEDP play an important role in this process.
The Department of Planning and Budget also briefed the committee on the Governor’s proposed actions to address the budget shortfall. The Governor’s proposed savings plan includes forgoing raises to state employees, withdrawing from the revenue stabilization fund, applying additional lottery revenue to public education, and applying savings from executive branch agency spending from the prior year. While it is difficult for the state to face a shortfall, the situation could be much worse and underscores the continuing need for investment in jobs that will pay above average wages.
The Carillon Neighborhood Historic District recently held an unveiling ceremony for an historic marker located at the entrance to the Carillon neighborhood. The Virginia Department of Historic Resources and the National Register of Historic Places recognized the Carillon Neighborhood Historic District for its long-standing commitment to social history and for serving as a model for racial integration in both the City of Richmond and our Commonwealth. Many long time neighbors, some of whom were members of the neighborhood’s first civic association when it began in 1968, joined together to celebrate the unveiling and shared emotional stories of how the neighborhood has impacted their lives.
The Lumpkin’s Jail Site ground-breaking and development ceremony took place in Shockoe Bottom on October 10, the anniversary of Gabriel’s Rebellion in 1800. Known for its work on the celebrated Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., the architectural group SmithGroupJJR will lead the development. The Slave Trail Commission, chaired by Delegate Delores McQuinn, has long envisioned that the project in Shockoe will involve community input from across the city for the full, finalized plans before the construction begins. The area, in addition to being a center for the country’s slave trade, was the center of the city’s history from its beginning.
Attorney General Mark Herring, as part of his program that focuses on the safe disposal of prescription medication, recently sponsored a drug take-back event. At the event, citizens brought unused or old prescription medication that they no longer needed to a central site where it was properly disposed. The Attorney General’s office and the City of Richmond Police Department plan to have additional, similar events in the future to limit prescription drug abuse in our communities and protect children from accessing the medication. If you were unable to participate in the drug take-back event, you can visit this link which contains tips on how to safely dispose of prescription drugs in your home.
Important events and celebrations continue in our community and business life, even with the predominance of election season activities. For instance, in our district, there have been notable happenings for business and economic development in South Richmond. Roanoke Cement Company was awarded the OSHA SHARP certification, signifying that it is a model safety work site. The opening of Clopton Siteworks promises to bring new small business activity and jobs to the space of a long dormant former Philip Morris tobacco warehouse in the Jefferson Davis corridor, adjacent to Manchester. Tricycle Gardens, in conjunction with the United States Department of Agriculture, has initiated an urban agriculture certificate program. In our Commonwealth’s cultural life, at the Library of Virginia’s Literary Awards Celebration, Poet Nikki Giovanni received the Literary Lifetime Achievement Award and Richmonder Carole Weinstein was awarded the Library’s first ever Honorary Patron of Letters Degree.
Veterans Day, November 11, will be marked by ceremonies at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond, at 10 a.m. and at the Historic 1917 Courthouse at 2 p.m. in Chesterfield.
After the election, members of the House and Senate will begin work on legislation for the 2017 Legislative Session of the General Assembly which will convene on January 11, and I will be busy preparing bills to introduce. As always, I am available to meet with constituents now, during the legislative session, and throughout the year. Please feel free to call my office at 804-698-1069 or e-mail me at email@example.com if I can be of assistance to you. Knowing your thoughts and concerns helps me to best represent you.