SENATOR RICHARD BLACK ON THE FIRST WEEK

Here is Senator Dick Black report on the first week (from January 17th).

A lot happening in the first weeks of session!

Governor McDonnell Addresses the General Assembly in his State of the Commonwealth Address

The Virginia General Assembly kicked off its 2013 Session on Wednesday, beginning 46 days when legislators will be at the Capitol to consider hundreds of bills and resolutions.

When the state’s current constitution was drafted more than forty years ago, the commonwealth’s budget was a lot smaller than it is today.  So, the thirty-day session of 1971 grew to today’s 46 days. And considering the issues that are going to be discussed during this session, those days promise to be eventful.

STATE OF THE COMMONWEALTH

The first day of every General Assembly session is filled with ceremony, concluding the State of the Commonwealth address by the governor to a joint session of the House and Senate.  Governor McDonnell delivered his third State of the Commonwealth address this year. His remarks covered a lot of ground and laid out his agenda for the session.

The address marked the beginning of Governor McDonnell’s last full year as the state’s chief executive. Reporting on the progress made during the last three years, the Governor detailed the state’s economic condition. Virginia now has the second-lowest unemployment rate of any state east of the Mississippi River, and the lowest in the Southeast. We’ve created over 150,000 net new private sector jobs since his inauguration, an impressive performance far surpassing the national economy by any measure. As a result, Virginia’s unemployment rate of 5.6% is more than two points below the national average.

While the Governor laid out several priorities for this year’s General Assembly session, his speech focused on two issues that are likely to dominate legislative discussions and debates this year; education reform and transportation funding.

EDUCATION

Education reform is one of the few policy areas where Virginia has not been a national leader. While other states have instituted policies that dramatically expand choices for parents, expanding charter schools and initiating reforms that curtail the growth of administrative expenses, Virginia has lagged behind. Governor McDonnell’s education reform initiative has multiple components, each of which will be extensively discussed and debated during session.

TRANSPORTATION

Transportation funding has been a major topic of discussion in Virginia for more than a quarter century, dating back to 1986’s half-cent sales tax increase dedicated to transportation.

I believe in placing more emphasis on funding transportation through the General Fund.  Virginia has enjoyed large surpluses for several years. I am reluctant to support new taxes when we have surplus revenues already. Families budget their income to pay for the most important things first.  In the same way, Virginia should use its General Funds to address its most pressing needs.

When the Republican Caucus asked senators to submit their top legislative priorities for the year, I put forth my vision for amending the Virginia Constitution to secure the Transportation Trust Fund, which could restore public confidence and help to fix our transportation crisis. In addition, I believe we need to re-prioritize the projects that VDOT is working on.

VOTING RIGHTS

Governor McDonnell also announced a new initiative to automatically restore voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences, This is an initiative that I will not be supporting. As a career prosecutor, I am uneasy with the idea of convicted felons electing future leaders of Virginia.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.

We are now set up in our offices in Richmond, My legislative assistant, Chris Lore, is staffing our office here, located in Room 308 of the General Assembly Buinding.  If you’re in town, I encourage you to stop by. You can also reach us at (804) 698-7513 or District13@senate.virginia.gov.  You can also send us mail at Senate of Virginia, PO Box 396, Richmond VA 23218-0396.

I look forward to a busy session and updating you on the events taking place here in Richmond.

Warm regards,

Richard H. Black
Senator of Virginia, 13th District

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