Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Menhaden

I mentioned earlier my vote to protect the menhaden, a little known fish in the Chesapeake Bay. The Washington Post editorialized on the issue Sunday.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Stacking the Deck

As national Republicans wrestle with the corruption that threatens their party's dominance and Virginia Republicans dust themselves off after another electoral drubbing Tuesday, I'm surprised that members of the House of Delegates seem to pay no mind.

In a New York Times article today, Joe Gaylord, who helped bring the GOP to power in 1994, says Republican leaders in Congress must reverse their unfair tactics under its new majority leader Jim Boehner of Ohio.

"This offers them an opportunity to start off in a new direction," he said. "We've gotten former members off the floor and out of the gym. But for Congress to look better in the eyes of voters, they have to turn a new page. There actually has to be a difference. They have to be fairer: conference committees with Republicans and Democrats on them."

Coincidentally, Virginia House leaders this year adopted rules to limit participation by Democrats in the legislative process. On the first day of businesslast month, the Republicans changed House rules. Because subcommittees are often small, they only had power to recommend for or against legislation, whereas only the full committee could kill a bill. And membership on committees was generally proportional to the House membership at large, which today stands about 60-40, Republicans to Democrats. But under the new rules, subcommittees can kill legislation, and membership on them includes more than 60% Republicans. For example, my Firearms subcommittee has only five members, and I'm the only Democrat. That disparity exists on many subcommittees.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Red Knot & Menhaden: Who Knew?

A blog is a terrible thing to waste, except when said blogger is about the Commonwealth's business.

Clearly, the most contentious issues, as judged by the number of lobbyists involved, were about this bird, and this oily, bony fish.

Suffice it to say that I learned more than I ever thought there was to know about these two species. The issue came before me as a member of the Chesapeake subcommittee of the Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee. I voted for restrictions on the fishing of the menhaden, which is endangered and a source of food for many sport fishes. Those restrictions, however, were at a level higher than the catch for each of the past five years. Thus, there was little economic impact to the local fishing industry. I thought this was a reasonable compromise.

The red knot, a bird that has the longest migration of any known bird (from Tierra del Fuego to the Artic Circle), stops by the Chesapeake Bay on its way. They feed on horseshoe crabs. So should we limit the fishing of those crabs, which are used for bait, to ensure a food supply for the red knot? Stay tuned. Im still listening to the arguments.

Time Has Run Out

The ninth inning is over. The infamous Home Serenity and Tranquility Act that would have restricted use of athletic fields was killed in committee. Its sponsor is reportedly under a witness protection program.

Alzheimer Commission

My bill to extend the Virginia Alzheimer Commission for three years so that vital research can continue on this devastating disease passed the House overwhelmingly and will be sent on to the Senate.

Sexual Offender Registry

My bill that allows residents to be automatically notified by email when a sexual offender moves into the neighborhood was incorporated into a larger bill on sexual predators. That bill was reported unanimously out of committee.

Towing Charge

In reaction to a constituent query, I learned that some towing companies may be overcharging Loudoun residents. State law limits the charge to no more than $95. However, it is a violation that will normally not be prosecuted, so it's up to residents to bring suit in small claims court when such overcharging occurs.

I recommend citizens also contact our local Commonwealth's attorneys office as well as their local supervisor when such overcharging occurs.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Our First Days

It's been an exciting first few days in the Capitol. I've been extended many courtesies by many members, especially by my officemate next door, Del. Joe May. I'm very grateful.

I've had opportunities to talk a couple of times with outgoing Gov. Mark Warner. It's clear he has enjoyed his term and will in many ways miss living in the Governor's Mansion. I wished him well.

Many of you may know that the Capitol Building is undergoing extensive renovation. So the General Assembly is meeting in the Patrick Henry Building that has been beautifully renovated to accommodate the House and Senate. Unfortunately, the limited size of the House chamber prevents us from having a public gallery. The only way to view any session is through a television in an adjacent room. The Capitol, of course, is not open to visitors until the renovation is completed later this year. You can read more about the renovation project here.

These first days are usually fairly calm, but we've already had two lively sessions, the first on the rather arcane issue of House rules. They were amended by Republicans, who still hold the majority, in such a way as to increase the power of subcommittee chairmen. Under the new rules, legislation can be killed in subcommittee, sometimes simply by only two or three members.

The second issue debated was the marriage amendment. I am opposed to amending the Constitution of the Commonwealth in a way that would limit the rightsof Virginians. And I fear that the language that will appear on the ballot this November will not clearly portray the extent to which this amendment limits the rights not only of same sex couples but of others as well.

I have pre-filed bills for this session to accomplish the following:
· Require teachers to receive a degree in a subject taught in the public schools.
· Enable schools to pay higher salaries to attract teachers in subject areas where there is a shortage, e.g., math, science and foreign languages.
· Increase the pool of potential principal and superintendent candidates and encourage teachers to pursue training in their areas of expertise without jeopardizing their chances of becoming a senior administrator.
· Direct state agencies to purchase hybrid fuel vehicles so that by 2011 all newly purchased vehicles are hybrids.
· Allow students from areas such as Loudoun, where they may be denied admission to a state college because of geographic quotas, to earn admission by performing one year of volunteer community service.
· Enable every Virginian to request electronic notification when a registered sex offender moves nearby.
· Provide a tax credit against income tax for taxpayers making electronic toll collection payments, such as Smart Tag, in an amount equal to 10% of the total amount paid annually for tolls on Virginia highways.
· Provide for the extension of a commission studying the funding, regulations and other issues related to persons suffering from Alzheimer's disease and related disorders and their caregivers.

For those of you attending Tim Kaine's inaugural ceremonies or the inaugural balls, I hope to see you there. Drive safely.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Blog Coming

Watch for David's blog once the session begins Jan. 11.