March 12, 2010 Dear Constituent: Once again it has been my pleasure to provide representation to you during this 2010 session of the General Assembly. The budget has been the predominating issue throughout the session. As many of you are now struggling with your personal finances, and like other states throughout the nation, so has the Commonwealth […]
March 12, 2010
Once again it has been my pleasure to provide representation to you during this 2010 session of the General Assembly. The budget has been the predominating issue throughout the session. As many of you are now struggling with your personal finances, and like other states throughout the nation, so has the Commonwealth struggled with its finances this session during these times of economic turmoil. With a 2.9 billion dollar shortfall, many critical and necessary services have become victims of budget cuts. I have wrestled with these issues and tried to assign priorities based on the best interests of all of my constituents. I remain committed to protecting core and essential services, such as public education, public safety, and public health and human services. As we near the end of the session, with the budget still unsettled, I request your continued support and input. Thank you for all your e-mails, letters, phone calls and office visits informing me of your position on issues before the assembly. I assure you, every individual communication from my constituents was given careful consideration. I value your input and appreciate your opinions.
In this letter, I have provided you with a brief summary of selected legislation enacted by the General Assembly that may be of interest to you.
Depressed revenues left the 2010 General Assembly with a 2.9 billion dollar shortfall. Due to the weakened economy and slumping tax revenues, the budgets under consideration will force fundamental changes in the fiscal relationship between the Commonwealth and local governments. Whether in the drastic funding reductions for constitutional officials, the dollar reductions and policy changes in public education, or a range of proposals in public safety and human services, the new state budgets will shift an unprecedented amount of costs to local governments, who will likely end up doing the heavy lifting to balance the state budget. In areas like Richmond, where they are already facing financial deficits, reductions in state funding will hurt even more.
I voted against the current budget for several reasons. While I am keenly aware of the need to make drastic cuts based on our devastating shortfall, I could not support a budget that eliminated or decimated funding for education, Medicaid, human services as well as essential programs for constituents, including the Virginia Commission for the Arts. The budget should not be balanced at the expense of services that are so important to the citizens of this Commonwealth.
Charter, Lab and Virtual Schools: I remain open to new and innovative ideas that will assist every child in obtaining a quality education, but I am adamant about focusing on legislation that will provide an environment that is conducive to a meaningful educational experience for the masses. At a time when we are restricting funds for public education, I do not believe that it is feasible to put funds into Lab, Virtual and Charter schools, which only serve a few students. We need to provide maximum support to public education for all of our students, not just a few of them.
Unfreezing the LCI: Even with modifications to the House and Senate budgets, which provide hold harmless provisions, Richmond, Henrico and Chesterfield all stand to lose even more education funding.
These localities are already facing eliminating instructional and support staff positions and other jobs due to local budget deficits. It would be unconscionable to expect them to absorb additional deficits due to unfreezing the LCI. I do not support unfreezing the LCI for these reasons.
School Openings After Labor Day: This has been a perennial bill, but it has finally passed. HB 557 and SB 253 provide that the school calendar requirement that school begin after Labor Day can be waived by the Board of Education, provided the school board certified that it meets a good cause requirement.
Yearly Mammograms: I introduced a bill this year, HJR 132, requesting that the State Department of Health emphasize yearly mammograms beginning at age 40 to prevent breast cancer. This resolution was necessary after the U.S. Department of Health recommended fewer screenings.
COBRA Continuation Coverage: HB 554, which I supported, requires small employers providing group health insurance coverage to offer employees whose employment is involuntarily terminated the option to continue their coverage for a period beyond the nine months currently required as may be specified by future amendments to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Gun Bills: This year the General Assembly passed bills that would ease restrictions on guns in bars and in cars. SB 334 allows customers with permits to have concealed handguns in restaurants and other establishments that serve alcohol; but they are not permitted to consume alcohol. SB 408 allows gun-owners without concealed carry permits to store firearms in locked vehicle compartments. I did not support these measures. Relaxed gun laws have been the cause of numerous mass killings in our state and others. So many innocent people have lost their lives as a result of our failure to tighten gun control laws.
Veteran’s Property Tax Exemption: HB 149, which I supported and which must be ratified by a constitutional amendment, will provide a real property tax exemption for the principal residence of a veteran or surviving spouse, if the veteran has a service-connected, permanent and total disability.
Car Title Loans Restricted: SB 606, which I supported, provides restrictions and parameters for car title loans, including restrictions on the amount of interest that may be charged in car title loans. This bill was a compromise bill. We need even tighter regulation of car title loans. This legislation is a step in that direction, but fails to remedy all of the ills associated with these kinds of loans.
Death Penalty Expansion: There have been numerous attempts to expand the death penalty to include fire marshals, deputy and assistant fire marshals, EMS personnel, auxiliary police officers and auxiliary deputy sheriffs. I did not support these measures because of the inequities in our justice system and the potential for mistakes resulting in capital punishment.
Access to Services: I introduced HJR 132, which provides for the coordination of services available to seniors. Seniors will now have access by means other than computer to one-stop shopping for services. This bill will assist seniors who are not computer savvy or those who don’t have computers to find all of the services available to seniors in one site. I will continue efforts to provide greater and easier access to services for seniors, which has become one of the fastest growing populations in this country. They also constitute one of my most valued constituencies.
Historic Preservation: I introduced HJR 138, which encourages the preservation of Lumpkins’ Jail and the Burial Ground for Negroes in Richmond. These are two historically important sites to African American history and heritage. The preservation of these two sites helps to get us closer to preserving and protecting a lost and sometimes forgotten history.
I hope to hold several town hall meetings during the year to discuss legislative concerns. If you have legislative matters to discuss, please contact my office at the address listed herein or visit my website at www.delegatemcquinn.org.
It is my honor to serve you. Thank you for your support and for giving me the opportunity to serve you.