The 2011 General Assembly session was one of the most successful sessions in years. The bipartisan measures we passed have helped improve the lives and economic opportunities of all Virginians by making the first significant investment in transportation in a decade, helping businesses to grow and create new jobs, laying the groundwork for a better life for people with mental disabilities, reforming our higher education system to increase affordability and access for Virginia students, and passing a budget that is fiscally responsible and structurally balanced. 

Once again, we kept our spending at 2006 levels, while not raising taxes or fees, and cutting out unnecessary items such as the Senate's proposal to spend $300 million for a new "Taj Mahal" General Assembly office building. Reports of our improving economy and the recent 6.5 percent unemployment rate make Virginia among the most fiscally sound states in the country. 

The following provides details on some of the key measures I focused on this session: 

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 the Chief Co-Patron of this bill to help companies bring new technologies to market. As The Washington Post reported, members of the Northern Virginia Technology Council and the Virginia Biotechnology Association called the session and this measure a "resounding win."

HB 2197, Telework Tax Credit: My Telework bill, which passed overwhelmingly, will grant employers a tax credit for expenses incurred in developing and implementing telework arrangements for employees. The bill is both a family-friendly work policy as well as a transportation congestion solution. It was supported by the Northern Virginia Technology Council, which has long been a leader in promoting telework policies, as well as by the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce and the Virginia Small Business Partnership. 

HB 2052, Secret Ballot Protection: Delegate Tim Hugo and I introduced legislation to require the use of secret ballots in any union election and to 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.

Transportation. HB 2527, Transportation Package: I co-patroned the transportation plan passed this year, which was the first significant transportation plan in years. 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. 

HB 2203, Revenue Sharing: In relation to this transportation effort, I sponsored a bill on behalf of Fairfax County, which was incorporated into the transportation package, and allows Fairfax to once again be on an equal footing for obtaining revenue-sharing funds. 

Education. HB 2510, Higher Education Act of 2011: I was a co-patron of a major Higher Education bill, 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 and providing our state with a workforce that will attract top jobs. Based on this legislation, the University of Virginia Board of Visitors is poised to add nearly 1,000 new spaces for in-state students that will help many of our top students in Northern Virginia get into our top schools. Other Virginia colleges and universities will be providing additional in-state slots. The legislation also places a greater emphasis on 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. 

HB 2204, Teacher Bonus: I introduced legislation this year that would have allowed local school divisions to have the flexibility 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 percent where it obtained strong bipartisan support. This bill was modeled on a bonus given last year to state employees when they identified savings in the existing budget. While this year’s similar measure for teachers had strong bipartisan support in the House, the Senate opposed providing flexibility to use this option, and it was not included in the final budget. 

Helping The Disabled Community. SB 1486, Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Trust Fund: The General Assembly 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. However, it is also clear that many families still will need services in an institutional setting. Therefore, I believe it is important that families and individuals have these choices as we continue to provide for some of the most vulnerable citizens in our community. 

I also had a number of reform measures and resolutions that passed that you can read about on my website: www. Delegatecomstock.com. We now have resumed working in the district and we can be reached at: 703-209-3787 or emailed at bcomstock@delegatecomstock.com.