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COMSTOCK FOR DELEGATE BLOG

The Comstock Connection
Friday, March 11, 2011

The Comstock Connection
March 8, 2011
In This Issue
Transportation
Education
Jobs
Helping The Disabled Community
Bills
Resolutions
Save the Dates
Delegate Barbara Comstock

www.DelegateComstock.com

 

bcomstock@delegatecomstock.com


legis.virginia.gov


  

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Dear Friend, 

I wanted to take the opportunity to let you know what my colleagues and I accomplished during the legislative session in Richmond this year.

 

The 2011 Senate session concluded late Sunday night, February 27, casting our final votes on the $4 billion transportation bill and the amendments to the budget.    

 

The budget negotiation started with a substantial difference between the House and Senate proposals, but by Sunday the two sides reached a compromise.  Once again, we kept our spending at about 2006 levels, while not raising taxes or fees and saying a big "NO" to the Senate's proposal to spend $300 million for a new "Taj Mahal" office building for ourselves! 

 

I voted for the amended budget - a vote that was a unanimous vote in both the House and Senate.  A first in decades! 

Transportation

HB 2527, Transportation Package:  We passed the Governor's Transportation Plan, which I co-patroned.  The plan will provide over $4 billion in much needed transportation infrastructure funding over the next three years without raising taxes. This multi-faceted transportation package, which is the single largest infusion of funding in decades, will fund over 900 projects across the Commonwealth, including work on widening Route 7.  The plan accelerates bonds already approved by bipartisan majorities in the General Assembly in 2007, in addition to federal GARVEE bonds, which are federally authorized to finance a specific capital project.

 

HB 2203, Revenue Sharing:  In relation to this transportation effort, I sponsored a bill on behalf of Fairfax County, which removes a priority structure for allocation of revenue-sharing funds to localities, which resulted in Fairfax County getting no revenue sharing funds.  Now, we will be eligible again on an equal footing.  This bill was incorporated into Transportation Chairman Joe May's similar bill, which was, in turn, incorporated into the final transportation bill.  

Education

HB 2510, Higher Education Act of 2011:  I was a co-patron of a major Higher Education, which was passed unanimously in the General Assembly.  This initiative will enable our institutions to meet the goal of issuing an additional 100,000 degrees over the next 15 years, making Virginia one of the most highly educated states in the nation, providing our state with a great workforce that will attract top jobs. Based on this legislation, the University of Virginia Board of Visitors already is poised to add nearly 1,000 new spaces for in-state students to help so many of our top students in Northern Virginia to get into our top schools. Other major colleges and universities will also be providing additional in-state slots.  The legislation also places a greater emphasis on the high demand science, technology, engineering and math subjects through the formation of a public-private partnership that will engage the business and professional community in leveraging best practices for K-12 and higher education.  The bill also includes reform initiatives to better utilize our educational resources year round and maximizing technology in education.

 

HB 2204, Teacher Bonus:  I introduced legislation this year that would have allowed local school divisions to use any unexpended state funds to provide a one-time bonus to all teachers of up to three percent of the annual base salary.  The House Appropriations Committee incorporated this into the proposed House budget at a bonus rate of 2%.  As included in the budget, nearly $66.0 million in state allocations would have been provided for a one-time 2% bonus for teachers. This money would have been established in a Support for Personnel and Operational Cost Account. Funding for this account would have come from combining the $37 million allocation in Standards of Quality Basic Aid for school buses along with $28.7 million from portions of textbooks and Pre-K funding.  School divisions would have been given the choice and flexibility of deciding how best to use these funds and decide if they wanted to provide a one-time 2% teachers bonus or they could continue to use the funds to purchase school buses, textbooks, or other approved educational expenditures.  Localities would still have been required to provide a local match but were permitted, and encouraged, to use their federal education jobs funding towards supplementing it.  This would have served as a positive blending of state and federal funding to reward our local teachers, however, the Senate opposed this provision; therefore it was not included in the final budget that was passed by both the House and Senate on Sunday, February 27, 2011.   

Jobs

HB 1447, Research and Development Tax Credit:  We passed a Research and Development tax credit bill, which brought us in line with over 30 states which already have this credit.  I was a Chief Co-Patron of this measure.  The bill will grant individuals and businesses income tax credits of 15-20% for expenses related to qualified high-tech research and development in Virginia.  This will help companies bring new technologies to market.  This had the support of the high-tech community and the Northern Virginia Technology Council.  Read more in the Washington Post article about the credit.

 

HB 2197, Telework Tax Credit:  My Telework bill, which passed, will grant employers a tax credit for expenses incurred in developing and implementing telework arrangements for employees. An employer would be eligible for a credit of up to $1,200 per teleworking employee, with a maximum of $50,000 per employer. The bill was a recommendation of the Governor's Reform Commission and supported by the Northern Virginia Technology Council, which has long been a leader in promoting telework policies, as well as the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, the Virginia Small Business Partnership, and most of our Northern Virginia delegation in the General Assembly.  For more information, read more here.

 

HB 2052, Secret Ballot Protection:  Delegate Tim Hugo and I introduced legislation which would have required the use of secret ballots in any union election and prohibit the so called "card check" method of union elections which could force unions on a workplace without individuals having the right to vote in private. 

 

Because of federal regulatory agencies trying to impose unionization by regulation, we introduced this measure to protect Virginia workers and workplaces.  When the U.S. Congress tried to eliminate the right to a secret ballot through the card check bill, even liberal icons like George McGovern called it "a disturbing and undemocratic overreach."  George McGovern has noted that there are many documented cases where workers have been "pressured, harassed, tricked and intimidated into signing cards" that then lead to unionized workplaces.   While HR 2052 passed in the House of Delegates with bipartisan support, the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee did not vote out this worker protection measure.

Helping The Disabled Community

SB 1486, Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Trust Fund:  The General Assembly also passed legislation to fund the transition of people with serious mental and developmental disabilities from centralized hospital-type settings into community-based care centers.   The legislation permits $30 million to be transferred into the existing trust fund to finance the modernization of community-based centers and it also calls for the development of a transition plan where it is feasible.  The bill heads off a potentially costly federal lawsuit.  A Department of Justice report cites that the state unnecessarily institutionalizes people with intellectual disabilities in training centers and fails to provide adequate community-based services, which is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The move to these services would provide the care and dignified living for our most vulnerable citizens and in many cases allow the residents to live closer to their families.  However, it is also clear that many families still will need services in an institutional setting and I do believe it is important that families and individuals have these choices as we continue to provide for some of the most vulnerable individuals in our community.   

Reform Bills And Other Measures
I introduced the following bills this year, all of which were passed by the House and Senate and have been sent to the Governor: 

HB 2198, Employment and Promotion of Personnel:
  This bill provided clarifications in the code so that employees will  not be hindered in taking promotions and previous job positions will not be unnecessarily held open.  This bill will simplify the promotion process, particularly for law enforcement.    

 HB 2201, Payroll Consolidation Services:  This bill provides that the Department of Planning and Budget, in consultation with the Department of Accounts, shall require all agencies of the Commonwealth to participate to the fullest extent feasible in the Payroll Service Bureau operated by the Department of Accounts.  This was supported by the Reform Commission to save money on payroll operations.    

HB 2205, Electronic Signatures:
  This bill allows for electronic signatures on public disclosure documents for various officials. The measure will allow information to be available for public inspection on a faster basis.  

HB 2206, Bulk Sales:  This bill repealed Title 8.6A of the Code of Virginia, which regulated bulk sales and is considered obsolete. It has been repealed in 45 states.  The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws states that there is no evidence that fraudulent bulk sales occur frequently enough or engender credit losses significant enough, to require regulation of all bulk sales.
Resolutions
I introduced the following Resolutions, which passed this year:

HJ 643, Lyme Disease Awareness Month: Permanently designates May as Lyme Disease Awareness Month in Virginia.

HJ 655, Commending Wolf Trap:  Commending Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts on their 40th Anniversary.  A special Center Aisle Presentation was held to present the resolution to Karen Pittleman, Director of Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, and Terre Jones, President and CEO of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts on the floor of the House.

HJ 734, Pope John Paul II's Pilgrimage Day:  Designating June 2, 2011 as Pope John Paul II's Pilgrimage to Poland Day in Virginia and commending the Virginia Holocaust Museum for its current exhibit, "A Blessing to One Another:  Pope John Paul II and the Jewish People."  

HJ 783, Commending McLean Orchestra:  Commending the McLean Orchestra on its 40th Anniversary.

HJ 784, Commending McLean Youth Orchestra:  Commending the McLean Youth Orchestra.

HJ860, Commending Fairfax County Park Authority:  Commending the Fairfax County Park Authority for receiving the 2010 National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management, the parks and recreation industry's highest honor.

HJ 916, Commending Fairfax County Schools:  Commending the Fairfax County Schools that received the
 Governor's Award for Educational Excellence, the Board of Education Excellence Award, or the Board of Education Competence to Excellence Award.  
Save The Dates:

It is a great honor to serve in the House as your Delegate and I am very grateful to the many people who have provided support, talent, counsel and ideas as we have worked to respond to the quality of life issues that are your priorities.    As always, we appreciate hearing from you.  We have now resumed working in McLean back in the district and can be reached at:  703-209-3787.

 

I  invite you to share this newsletter with any friends or colleagues who might be interested and to keep in touch with us. We are always working to improve our outreach and communication and make sure you receive information and we receive your input.  Please share our news with friends in the community. 

 

If you have other events, news, or issues of concern, always feel free to contact me at bcomstock@delegatecomstock.com.

 

Sincerely,

Signature
Barbara Comstock

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