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Update from Richmond: Young Leaders, I-66, Manassas Town Hall

Greater Prince William Young Leaders on the Senate Floor with Senator McPike.

Dear Neighbors, We have now completed 24 days of the 60 day legislative session this year, and it has been a busy week. I received many visitors, including members of the Manassas City Council, representatives of George Mason University Student Government, members of SEIU Virginia 512, and members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. I am grateful to all of these visitors for their engagement and advocacy work in Richmond.

Great Prince William Young Leaders Program

At the start of the week, I had the pleasure of hosting six remarkable high school students from our community in Richmond for several days to learn about the legislative process.  Students observed committee meetings, floor debates on legislation, and met with key figures in the legislative and executive branches of our state government. One highlight of the trip was a discussion with two former Delegates, who demonstrate a powerful lesson in bi-partisanship and fostering relationships despite being from different political parties and holding opposing views. On the final day of the trip, students had the opportunity to sit with Governor Ralph Northam in his office to discuss their experience and the issues that they are most interested in. I was highly impressed with this great group of Young Leaders and I look forward to seeing what they continue to do in the future.

Initiatives that moved forward this week:

We made progress on several initiatives that I am working on this year, including:

  • Senate Bill 643 passed from the Transportation committee and is moving to the Senate floor for a vote. Watch it here. This bill extends the time  period before VDOT can collect a transponder fee from 6 months to 1 year.
  • Senate Bills 867 and 868 are two bills with the support of the American Heart Association to enable us to improve health outcomes for stroke victims. They both passed from committee.
  • The Finance committee also heard my budget amendment to allow At-Risk funds for K-12 public schools to be used to bring more counselors into our schools and improve the student to counselor ratio.

Important Bills that Failed this Week:

On Wednesday, the Senate committee on Transportation took up my bill on I-66.  SB 929 aimed to restore the restricted hours on I-66 Inside the Beltway to previous hours, until the completion of the I-66 widening project and additional commuter parking capacity is completed. Families have rearranged their schedules in terms of employment hours and childcare in order to avoid the restricted hours. The new policy severely impact their ability to get to work in a reasonable timeframe. I have been continually frustrated with the sequence of the rollout of the Transform I-66 project. First, if you charge a toll, drivers need to see added capacity, a new lane inside the beltway, to know what the toll is paying for. Second, we cannot expect a slug culture to develop on I-66 overnight. We must build the infrastructure first, both commuter parking lots and additional bus service, to give families viable options before instituting both an expensive toll and vastly increasing the restricted hours. Unfortunately, my bill failed on a 6-7 vote, which you can watch here.  The Commonwealth argued that they needed more time for the project to garner its full result. However, I strongly disagree. We do not have time to wait. VDOT put the cart before the horse on this project, and it has resulted in significant challenges.

Last week I reported that the bump stock ban passed from the Senate Courts of Justice committee, and was referred to the Finance committee. This legislation failed to report from the Senate Finance committee this week. Bump stock devices will still be legal in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS!

Manassas Town Hall

with Delegates Lee Carter and Danica Roem
Saturday, February 17, 2018
1pm to 4pm
Bull Run Regional Library, Community Room B
8051 Ashton Ave, Manassas

The General Assembly is in session until mid-March, so please feel free to contact my Richmond office at (804) 698-7529 or via email district29@senate.virginia.gov. It is my privilege to serve you in Senate of Virginia. Please use  this link to read and track my legislative initiatives this year. There are many issues that the General Assembly will consider in the coming weeks, and I will continue to update you on their progress. Please also follow me on Facebook and Twitter for real time updates from Richmond.

Sincerely,
Jeremy