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The Comstock Connection
Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dear Friend,   

I wanted to take the opportunity to update you on our first weeks in the General Assembly this year.  We are in the third week of session, working on approximately 1,200 introduced bills and resolutions in the House.  We have also had constituents stop in to visit us and share their views on many different issues.  We also have started debating these bills and resolutions in committees and subcommittees, as they progress through the legislative process.   

Joint Republican Agenda
Before our session started on January 11, I joined Governor McDonnell, the Lietenant Governor, Attorney General, Speaker Howell, and my colleagues from the House of Delegates and the Senate for a joint press conference unveiling the Joint Republican Agenda.  In his speech, Governor McDonnell highlighted myFair and Open Competition in Government Contracting Act, (HB 33), saying that "Recent developments related to the MWAA project have once again brought forward the need to ensure state funds are not diverted to projects involving Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) that favor union shops over merit shops. Virginia must firmly maintain its unquestionable position as a right-to-work state."  You can read the Governor's press release here and Speaker Howell's here.
Joint Republican Press Conference
HB2012 Legislation
Below is a list of some of the bills that I have introduced or sponsored this year.  They are currently making their way through committees and subcommittees before coming to the floor of the House to be passed.  Four of my bills have already been passed by subcommittees and will likely come up in full committee meetings this week.  I will keep you posted on the progress of my bills and issues of concern to our District throughout session.

HB 15, Starting School Before Labor Day:  I have sponsored HB 15 which will allow local school boards to set the school calendar and determine the opening of the school year, and eliminate the post-Labor Day opening requirement.  I have heard from many constituents over the last two years about wanting to be able to start school before Labor Day, like most localities in Virginia are able to do, as well as surrounding states.  This will allow each locality to decide when the best time to begin the school year is and give all our students an equal opportunity to learn and perform better on standardized tests.  This bill has received bipartisan support from 61 members of the House of Delegates.

HB 33, The Fair and Open Competition in Government Contracting Act:  I introduced this bill which prohibits Virginia and recipients of state funding from requiring or prohibiting contractors to enter into union agreements, such as a project labor agreement (PLA), as a condition of winning any state-assisted construction contracts.  This measure will keep the government neutral with respect to a qualified contractor's relationship with labor unions in all projects. Companies can still voluntarily enter these agreements, but they cannot be forced upon them. This will increase the creation of Virginia jobs, increase competition, and provide our taxpayers with more miles of transportation and infrastructure solutions for every dollar we spend.  This legislation has already been sponsored by 66 Delegates and 20 Senators.  It has also received the support of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce, Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Associated Builders and Contractors, the Association of General Contractors, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.  The bill has been passed in full committee in both the House and Senate and will soon be considered on the floor of each house.

HB 216, Retail Sales and Use Tax Exemption for Data Centers:  This bill will expand the sales and use tax exemption for the purchase or lease of computer equipment.  This bill is necessary to continue to make Virginia the #1 state for business, making Virginia more appealing for companies with large data centers.  This bill is a top priority of the Northern Virginia Technology Council and has also been endorsed by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.

HB 545, VDOT Incident Management:  This bill will allow VDOT vehicles to drive on a portion of the highway other than a roadway at, en route to, or from the scene of a traffic accident, without direction from law-enforcement officers.  This will help relieve traffic congestion at the site of a traffic accident, allowing VDOT to reach the scene sooner and clear blocked roads more quickly.  This bill was reported from a Transportation subcommittee unanimously and will be heard by the full Committee on Transportation today.

HB 546, Gang Crimes:  This bill will crack down on gang criminal activity that exploits women and children by re-defining a "predicate criminal act" to include the offenses of the taking or detaining of any person for the purpose of prostitution and the receiving of money from earnings of any person engaged in prostitution.  This bill has received the support of key members of the House Committee on Courts of Justice and has passed out of subcommittee.

HB 548, Higher Education for Active Duty Military:  This bill would require higher educational institutions to implement policies that provide accomodations and preferences to students called to active military duty.  This bill passed in the Committee on Education and will soon be debated on the floor of the House.

HB 551, Extending the Telework Tax Credit:  This bill will extend the Telework Tax Credit, which I introduced and passed last year, through December 31, 2015.  The Tax Credit was implemented last year, with employers eligible to receive the tax credit for the first time this year.  I first started working on telework issues in Congressman Wolf's office almost 20 years ago.  Telework is a family friendly workplace solution that helps Moms and Dads juggle their work and family obligations and it also helps with transportation headaches to enable people to use modern technology to work from home and save gas, time, and energy.  Last year the bill passed with broad bipartisan support in the House and Senate.

HB1080, Parental Notification:  I am supporting HB 1080, which will require the school principal to notify parents and issue due process warnings, prior to questioning a student in the case of a serious violation.  Parents need to be included in helping school administrators address student disciplinary issues.

HB 1083, More In-State Students in our Virginia Schools:  I have also supported HB 1083, which will require Virginia colleges and universities to establish rules and regulations requiring that at least 75 percent of students admitted and enrolled at the institution be Virginia residents.  I have heard from many of you about the need to create more in-state slots at our colleges and universities.  The only schools exempted from this bill are Virginia Military Institute, Norfolk State University, and Virginia State University.
Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority
Last week we debated a bill that would have increased Virginia's representation on the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) in accordance with a federal law introduced by Congressman Frank Wolf and supported by our entire congressional delegation and signed by President Obama.  The bill had an emergency clause attached to the bill due to the pressing need of granting Virginia the increased representation to protect our interests and taxpayers. Due to the emergency clause, the bill needed four-fifths of the House to vote to implement the legislation. Unfortunately,  all but 3 Democrats opposed implementing this legislation which would have allowed the seating of two additional Board members.  Caren Merrick of McLean and Todd Stottlemeyer of Oakton, are the two new Board members already appointed by Governor McDonnell who were to be seated.  


The Governor's statement expressed our disappointment at this action: 


"This move deprives Virginia of its proper representation on the board while MWAA continues making important decisions regarding the management of the $6 billion Metrorail expansion in Northern Virginia. The intent of implementing this new legislation with an emergency clause was to bring MWAA into compliance with federal law as quickly as possible. Congress voted to reform the authority. The President signed the bill. Based on that bipartisan legislation, Virginia should have a greater number of seats on the board now. It is the responsibility of our legislature to implement those reforms as soon as practical. The delay caused by the actions of the House Democrats today will reduce Virginia's rightful, and congressionally approved, influence on this vital board." 


The full text of Governor McDonnell's statement can be read here


The House Democrats' decision to block this much-needed legislation prevents Virginia from having full representation while critical decisions regarding the Dulles Metrorail extension project are being made.

State of the Commonwealth Address
On January 11, 2012 Governor McDonnell set out a bold agenda in his State of the Commonwealth address.  We will continue to work in a bipartisan manner on many initiatives, such as continuing to help businesses create new jobs and opportunities, a $200 million investment in our colleges and universities to enrollment at an affordable cost, and a record $2.2 billion investment in the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) for our teachers and state employees.  If you missed the Governor's address, you can read it here or watch it here.
Weekly Visitors
If you are in Richmond please stop by my office or set up a meeting.  Over the last few weeks I have had the privilege of meeting with many constituents visiting to let us know their views on matters we will be considering this session.  
Denise Balzono Visit
Civil Air Patrol
Please share your thoughts with me on legislation that is coming up in the General Assembly this year by emailing or calling my office or by filling out my 2012 Legislative Survey.  You can always contact my office at[email protected] or 804-698-1034.  

Thank you again and I look forward to working with you and seeing you in the District. 
Barbara Comstock

Paid for by Friends of Barbara Comstock.