I would like to provide you with follow-up information after Friday’s severe windstorm as well as a brief General Assembly update with only one week of this legislative session remaining.
On the weather front
Dominion Energy Virginia faces the largest scale power outage since the 2012 derecho and most protracted high winds since Hurricane Irene in 2011. Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency.
As of Sunday afternoon approximately 60,000 of the nearly 700,000 customers affected by the storm were without service. Approximately 40,000 of the customers without power are in Northern Virginia, approximately 6500 are in the Fredericksburg area and 7,000 in the Charlottesville area. About 1800 customer outages remained in the Richmond area, 3000 in Gloucester, 1200 on the Northern Neck, and 200 in Southside Virginia as well as smaller number of outages across the Dominion system. Almost 4,000 Dominion Energy personnel are working around the clock to restore power. The great majority of critical services have been restored. Focus is now on neighborhood restoration and having schools ready for classes on Monday. Full restoration of customer service is anticipated for Tuesday evening.
With large-scale outages like this one, the power company’s first priority is to address downed power lines due to the safety issues they create. As a reminder, stay 30 feet away from downed wires, assume that they are energized, and report them immediately to 1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357). Citizens are asked to report outages at the Dominion Energy website,www.dominionenergy.com/outages-center or by calling the toll free number. Updates can be viewed on Dominion Energy’s Twitter at:https://twitter.com/domenergyva and on Facebook at:https://www.facebook.com/dominionenergyva.
On the legistlative front
The budget, the most important work the Assembly addresses each Session, remains yet to be passed. The final budget that passes will be whatever compromise Senate and House member conferees work out between the House and Senate budgets, which both passed in late February. The major difference between the two budgets is the expansion of health care coverage for low-income Virginians, included in the House budget. While there are similarities in the two budgets, there is a difference of $600 million dollars to be reconciled. Here is a comparison Michael Martz provided in theRichmond Times Dispatch.
By extending healthcare coverage and receiving a 90% federal match, the House budget captures savings of $371 million in general funds. As a result, investment is available for public education and workforce training, as well as long-deserved salary adjustments for our critical state employees and school teachers. For the Port of Virginia to remain a key economic driver and competitive with other East Coast ports, funds have been designated for the much needed widening and deepening of its channels.
On a smaller scale, other funded items of particular constituent interest include visual screenings for elementary school students and digitizing specific collections for the Library of Virginia.
Since the start of the 2018 session, I have met with hundreds of constituents from the district who have taken the time to advocate at the General Assembly and to discuss their priorities with me. I much appreciate their input.
In addition to daily meetings with constituents, professional and special interest groups, and advocates for pending bills, I attend several caucus groups which meet on a regular basis to discuss topics of common interest. These meetings provide General Assembly members with opportunities for learning and cooperation in different ways.
The Military & Veterans Caucus meets weekly to discuss legislation that impacts veterans and creates a helpful chart of legislation supported by our veteran community. At the Sportsmen’s Caucus I have learned about state parks, trails, wildlife, the state of oysters and crabs in the Chesapeake Bay and the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation. The Capital Region Caucus, with delegates from Richmond City, and Chesterfield, Henrico, Hanover, Powhatan, Goochland, and Charles City counties met to address specific legislative concerns and to explore how the budget might affect those localities. Caucuses for the Arts, Tourism, New Virginians and Outdoor Recreation bring together interested colleagues.
After the tragic shooting at the high school in Parkland, Florida, delegates and senators also formed the Gun Violence Prevention Caucus. The Caucus meets to discuss efforts, legislation, prevention tactics, and other ways to reduce gun violence in our Commonwealth and in our communities. The tremendous energy and determination from the students at Stoneman Douglas High School shows that we cannot and will not lose hope in affecting change. I will participate in these caucus discussions. I would like to express my thanks to the many constituents who contacted me in support of gun safety legislation and those who took the time to speak at committee meetings on the bills during the session.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission, on which I am honored to serve, will remember his legacy and influence in Virginia in a series of Community Conversations held in each of the locations across the state that Dr. King visited 50 years ago. The roundtables are part of the Commission's King in Virginia project. The project will research, compile, and exhibit information on Dr. King’s visits to Virginia and the time he spent in Richmond to urge the reopening of schools that had closed resisting desegregation. The first of these events occurred Thursday, March 1, in Richmond. There are three remaining roundtable events, the details of which can be found below. The public is welcome. For more information on these events, please contact my office.
Tuesday, March 13 in Charlottesville
Old Cabell Hall Auditorium, University of Virginia
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Tuesday, April 24, Farmville
First Baptist Church
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Wednesday, June 6, Williamsburg
First Baptist Church
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
The Virginia Governor’s Fellow program provides a unique opportunity for rising college seniors and graduating college seniors. This extensive and competitive summer program places students and graduates in positions in the Office of Governor Ralph Northam for a hands-on fellowship experience in the inner workings of state government. More details on this exciting and beneficial program are available at this link. Please contact my office if you have any questions or would like additional information.
It is a privilege to serve you in the House of Delegates. I am available to meet with any constituents throughout the year in my office or in their local district community. Please never hesitate to contact me if I can be helpful with a state agency or with legislative information. My phone number is 804-698-1069 and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to our continuing work together.