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Sun Gazette: Freshman Delegate - Cooperation Trumped Partisanship on Issues Key to Local Area
Monday, March 15, 2010

Freshman Delegate: Cooperation Trumped Partisanship on Issues Key to Local Area

by BRIAN TROMPETER, Staff Writer
Created: Monday, March 15, 2010 6:48 AM EDT) 
For all the talk of Republicans vs. Democrats and Northern Virginia vs. the rest of the commonwealth, lawmakers made progress on important issues during this year’s General Assembly session, freshman Del. Barbara Comstock (R-34th) said.

Case in point: the quick death of departed Gov. Kaine’s proposed freeze of the Local Composite Index (LCI) formula, which would have cost Fairfax County Public Schools about $61 million.

“The Northern Virginia delegation had to quickly coalesce,” Comstock said. “Everyone focused on the fundamental unfairness. [The freeze] was unprecedented. It was bad policy and worse politics.”

Comstock spoke to the Sun Gazette recently at her office in Richmond. Her book shelves and windowsills are covered with framed photographs of the delegate’s family members and friends, including Chief Justice John Roberts.

Job creation was the General Assembly’s No. 1 priority this session, Comstock said. While Congress has dawdled during the severe recession, Virginia lawmakers have focused on getting things done, she said.

“It’s pretty bizarre when you think about what Washington did,” Comstock said. “They didn’t listen to people and went on a totally partisan bent.”

Gov. McDonnell and General Assembly members have examined states using failed policies and vowed to do the exact opposite, she said.

For example, Virginia officials have not imposed a “millionaires’ tax” like Maryland’s and have been rewarded with Capital One’s relocation from Maryland to Virginia, she said.

Virginia’s leaders also are trying to reform state government by consolidating operations, eliminating duplicative agencies and reducing the payroll through attrition, Comstock said.

“We are in such dire straits economically, we’ve got to stick together,” Comstock said. “It’s really about Virginia doing well. We can’t raise taxes. We’re holding on a little bit better than a lot of other states. We had people saying, ‘We can’t take this anymore.’”

The General Assembly is wary of federal initiatives such as charitable-deduction restrictions, union “card check” legislation, environmental cap-and-trade agreements and health-care proposals, she said.

“With health care, first do no harm. Then don’t fix what’s not broken,” Comstock said.

Virginia officials aim to create jobs by stabilizing the business environment and eliminating uncertainty, Comstock said.

“A lot of hiring is frozen because people don’t know what the [business] climate will be, what new taxes are coming,” she said.

Comstock formerly was an aide to U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10th) and later oversaw investigations as chief counsel of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. She afterward directed the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Public Affairs and now is a founding partner of Corallo Comstock, a government-relations and public-affairs firm.

Comstock was elected to the General Assembly in November 2009, narrowly beating one-term Democratic incumbent Margaret Vanderhye.

As with most legislators, Comstock’s initiatives saw mixed success this year.

One of Comstock’s bills, House Bill 900, was incorporated into House Bill 756 and signed by the governor. It stipulates that 70 percent of revenues from offshore oil drilling be given to the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, 20 percent to the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium and 10 percent to localities for transportation and infrastructure improvements.

Another Comstock bill, incorporated into House Bill 76, would have required local school boards to spend at least 65 percent of their operating budgets on instructional expenses. This bill passed the House of Delegates by a 63-35 vote, but died in a state Senate subcommittee.

Another Comstock initiative, House Bill 899, would have forced most state-funded colleges to increase in-state student enrollment until it constituted 80 percent of the student body. This bill was left in the House Appropriations Committee, but will be brought back, she said.

“It’s been a challenging session,” Comstock said.


Paid for by Friends of Barbara Comstock.