As fall season activities get underway, I would like to provide you with a brief summary of recent events at the Capitol.
A special legislative session called by the Governor convened on Monday, August 17th to address the issue of court-ordered Congressional redistricting. The courts previously ruled that the 3rd Congressional District boundary lines were unconstitutional and assigned the legislature a September 1, 2015 deadline to redraw the districts and make them compliant with the law. Once the legislature reconvened, there was a controversy concerning the election of judges to the Supreme Court. Finally, the Senate voted to adjourn the special session on a 21-20 vote with Lt. Governor Northam breaking the tie. With the adjournment, completion of redistricting by the legislature was not possible by the September 1 deadline. This meant that the boundary lines of Virginia’s Congressional districts will now be redrawn by the courts, who have sinceappointed an outside panel to review the district lines. I appreciate hearing from many constituents about the important issue of redistricting. I will continue to advocate for nonpartisan redistricting, which is the way to avoid these kinds of problems.
The deadline to register to vote for the November 3 election is October 13, 2015. If you are not yet registered, you can register here, at the Richmond Registrar's office located at 900 East Broad Street or at the Chesterfield Registrar's office located at 9848 Lori Road, 23832. Please call my office if you have any questions.
Additionally, as the 2016 Legislative Session approaches, I encourage interested 13 and 14-year olds to consider applying to be a House of Delegates Page. Serving as a House Page is a wonderful opportunity that allows young people to learn first hand how our state government works. The application deadline is October 19, 2015. A recommendation letter from a member of the House of Delegates is required. Please contact my office at 804-698-1069 if you have questions.
As of July 1, new laws have taken effect in our Commonwealth. House Bill 1500, which I introduced to combat the number of drug overdoses in our Commonwealth went into effect. This law, written to save lives, encourages individuals to call 9-1-1 if they or a loved one is experiencing an overdose. The reporter of the overdose will not be penalized if he or she stays at the scene, identifies him/herself, and cooperates with law enforcement. This important change can save lives.
There are also new transportation related laws. When passing a stopped trash collection truck, the driver must slow to 10 mph below the posted speed and move 2 feet to the left of the vehicle. Additionally, law enforcement officials will now be required to obtain a search warrant if they wish to use an unmanned aircraft.
Legislation allowing for a taxpayer to receive a tax refund by check went into effect. I supported this legislation and introduced bills on this subject in previous legislative sessions.
House Bill 1499 states a woman may now breastfeed in a public place where she is lawfully present. A large community effort surrounding this initiative, as well as more information about the law and rights of breastfeeding women, can be found at RVA Breastfeeds.
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I recently attended a Joint Meeting of the House Appropriations, House Finance and Senate Finance Committees. Governor McAuliffe and Secretary of Finance Ric Brown addressed the meeting regarding the status of Virginia’s economy and budget priorities for the 2016 Legislative Session. The Governor indicates that his upcoming budget proposal will include an emphasis on public education and building a New Virginia Economy that addresses the effects of federal sequestration.
The Commonwealth of Virginia recorded a $549.6 million revenue surplus for Fiscal Year 2015, driven largely by a resurgence in individual income tax collections and sales tax collections. However, the surplus money is already obligated by law meaning that it cannot be spent on legislative initiatives. The Commonwealth must make a payment to the Revenue Stabilization Fund (also known as the Rainy Day Fund) after borrowing from the fund last year to combat a shortfall. A payment to the Water Quality Initiative Fund is also required by Virginia law.
Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency released its Clean Power Plan, which aims to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants and shift focus to renewable resources. I appreciate hearing from many constituents on this subject and support the Clean Power Plan as well.
There have been renewed efforts for gun safety since two journalists were murdered on live television at Smith Mountain Lake. Alison Parker and Adam Ward were loved by family, friends and coworkers. Subsequently, Governor McAuliffe has recently spoken out regarding expanding universal background checks for the purchase of firearms, legislation which I support.
Beginning September 19, the UCI Road World Cycling Championships will be coming to Richmond. This exciting event will be broadcast on international television and 67 different countries will be sending their top athletes to compete on the championship course in Richmond. This is the first time that the championships will be held in the United States since 1986, this world-class event is expected to attract more than 300,000 spectators. The race course will impact traffic flow in the downtown area. To learn more information about the bike race, opportunities to be involved and information regarding traffic, detours and road conditions, you can visit the UCI Road World Cycling Championships website.
Last month, The Virginia World War I Centennial Committee met at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library in Staunton. The committee heard about various commemorative efforts around the state as well as important education initiatives concerning "the Great War", 1914-1918, as it was known at the time. The Carillon, located in Byrd Park at the south end of the Boulevard, is the official Virginia memorial to World War I. Virginia played an important role in nation's fight to help make democracy safe in the world.
Heading into the fall and winter seasons, there are many upcoming opportunities to volunteer in our community. September 11 through October 12 has been designated as a “Day to Serve.” Governor McAuliffe and the First Lady are encouraging Virginians to participate and make 2015 the best year for volunteerism in the Commonwealth. You can find out more information about “Day to Serve” here.
HandsOn Greater Richmond is also hosting their annual HandsOn Day of Service on Saturday, October 17th. This is one of the biggest days of service in the Richmond area with over 1,000 volunteers contributing their time and effort to beautifying and enriching our community. To find a volunteer opportunity that suits you, visit HandsOn Greater Richmond.
Thank you for the honor of serving you in the General Assembly. Please continue to contact me for any legislative or constituent concerns, at 804-698-1069 (my office) or firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.
Betsy B. Carr