As summer is winding down, I want to wish all the best to our students as they begin a new school year. We are keeping busy in Richmond, as we met for Special Session II yesterday. Earlier this week, I chaired our second meeting of the Student Behavior and Interventions Subcommittee of the House Select Committee on School Safety in Weyers Cave. We appreciate the feedback received from area high school students and the involvement of all of those who have provided input to the Select Committee. As always, there is a lot happening, including a precinct change in the 25th District. I hope you'll continue reading to learn about that and more.
Special Session II
Yesterday, the House of Delegates convened, as constitutionally-required after Governor Ralph Northam called a special session to redraw legislative districts he supported and voted for as a State Senator. The districts in question were drawn with overwhelming bipartisan support, including the support of the majority of the Democratic Caucus and the House’s African-American members, after a series of public hearings and committee meetings. President Barack Obama's Department of Justice also approved the plan.
In June, the federal court reversed its previous decision to uphold these legislative districts. In July, the House of Delegates asked the Eastern District Court to stay its October 30th deadline pending an appeal to the United States Supreme Court this fall. The Eastern District Court has requested additional information and the House will continue to pursue both its request for a stay from the Eastern District Court and an appeal to the United States Supreme Court. The Special Session did not change our plans to pursue all the legal protections provided to us by Federal law and the Constitution.
Drawing a map that can withstand legal scrutiny is neither a quick nor simple process. The General Assembly must establish criteria, hold committee meetings, and gather public input from across the Commonwealth. A host of federal redistricting cases have created a confusing set of conflicting standards and expectations, all of which must be met to satisfy the Courts. This is one of the reasons passing legislation on redistricting has proved so difficult. The Special Session called by the Governor gave him and Delegate David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, the opportunity to present a redistricting plan and demonstrate a willingness to engage in a good-faith effort. Unfortunately, after reviewing the plan, it proved to be motivated for political gain and a plan that would fail to pass legal muster.
Governor Northam's Proposed Tax Hike
Governor Northam has claimed that Virginia will have a “windfall” from federal tax cuts. What he fails to note is that this “windfall” simply results from the state collecting higher taxes from hardworking, middle-class families. While people will receive tax cuts at the federal level, a technical provision in Virginia law will require people to pay more at the state level. This impacts more than 640,000 families who in years past itemized their taxes, but will likely be unable to do so under the new law. This means you will lose your deductions for mortgage interest, real estate taxes, personal property taxes, and healthcare expenses.
Instead of fixing this problem and fully-implementing President Donald Trump's tax cuts, Governor Northam wants to redirect these middle-class tax dollars to pay for the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a tax credit for low-income families that essentially eliminates any state taxes they would pay. Governor Northam wants to expand those credits and provide EITC recipients with a refund. Middle-class families should not be stuck paying more in state taxes. We will be introducing a proposal soon to make sure we fully-implement the Trump tax cuts while preserving key deductions like the mortgage interest deduction, the healthcare expenses deduction, and the real-estate property tax deduction.
Honoring O. Beverly Roller
On August 21st, I had the privilege of joining Senator Emmett Hanger to honor former Delegate Ortho Beverly "Bev" Roller. We presented his children, Randy Roller, Becky Shreckhise, and Jackie Dunsmore, with House Joint Resolution 718 and Senate Joint Resolution 239, which were passed in tribute to him. Bev was a remarkable man, with a tremendous commitment to public service and the Commonwealth. Whether it was his work with the Future Farmers of America, the Weyers Cave Ruritans, or his service in the General Assembly, he served with integrity and distinction. We served together in the Weyers Cave Ruritan Club and Bev was my campaign treasurer when I first ran for the House of Delegates. As a farmer, educator, former member of the Virginia House of Delegates, and family man, he is dearly missed.
25th House District Advisory Committee Meeting
The 25th House District Advisory Committee (HDAC) is comprised of residents of the 25th District and serves as an informal advisory group that allows me to hear directly from folks like you that are interested in what's happening both in the 25th District and Richmond. If you would like to get more involved and serve as a voice of the 25th District, I encourage you to consider joining the 25th HDAC. We are always happy to have new members from the 25th House District get involved. These meetings allow me to provide legislative updates to residents of the District, as well as to receive their feedback on the key issues of today.
Please join us for our next 25th HDAC meeting on Tuesday, September 25, 2018, at 6:30 p.m. in Conference Room #2 of the Augusta Community Care Building. We will discuss recent activities in Richmond and the upcoming 2019 General Assembly Session. Thank you to those of you who have participated in these important meetings. I look forward to our next meeting on the 25th. If you are not a member of the 25th HDAC, but are interested in becoming involved, please contact Will Wrobleski at (603) 660-8811 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The time and location of our next 25th HDAC meeting listed below:
25th House District Advisory Committee
Tuesday, September 25, 2018, 6:30 p.m.
Augusta Community Care Building (“ACC” BLDG)
Conference Room 2 (“ACC 2”)
64 Sports Medicine Drive
Fishersville, Virginia 22939
Interstate 81 Meeting
Thanks to all of you who participated in the August 23rd I-81 Corridor Study meeting at Blue Ridge Community College. The meeting was a great opportunity to hear folks' concerns about I-81 and explore possible solutions to provide congestion relief and implement safety improvements. I remain committed to seeking ways to alleviate traffic and improve safety for the I-81 corridor; open to all funding options, as long as the monies will solely benefit I-81; and look forward to addressing this issue in the upcoming General Assembly session.
We anticipate another public meeting in October, which is yet to be scheduled. Should you wish to provide comments on I-81, the second comment period will end Sept. 30, 2018. Additional comment opportunities will be available throughout the study. You can provide verbal or written comments at an in-person meeting; send an email to VA81CorridorPlan@OIPI.Virginia.gov; call 804-786-2971; view online mapping tools at https://arcg.is/a1O14; complete the online survey here; or send mail to 1401 E. Broad St., Richmond, Virginia 23219 (Attn: Ben Mannell).
Fire and Rescue Tour
Last year, while conducting ride-alongs with our District’s law enforcement officials, it was suggested I do the same with Fire and Rescue Departments. I thought that was a great idea and I continue to visit Fire and Rescue Departments throughout the 25th District. My visits so far have included the Bridgewater Volunteer Fire Company, the Grottoes Volunteer Fire Department, and the Verona and Weyers Cave Volunteer Fire Companies. It is extremely helpful to visit these departments and hear firsthand from the men and women who are there for us in times of great need. Funding for equipment remains a challenge, as does addressing the shortage of volunteers. We will continue to explore ways to address these and other challenges. I look forward to future visits over the coming weeks.
Fort Pickett and Langley Air Force Base Tour
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of touring Fort Pickett and Langley Air Force Base, and the chance to see firsthand the great work done by the men and women of Virginia's National Guard. I am committed to supporting our Guardsmen in every way possible, and tours like this provide me with a better understanding of their needs, such as additional personnel and having modern facilities and equipment. Virginia’s National Guard personnel and facilities are most impressive and I have full confidence in their abilities to address the challenges facing us today. I will certainly take what I learned about Virginia’s National Guard into budget considerations during the next General Assembly session in January.
Bridgewater Precinct Change
If you live in Bridgewater, please know that your voting location may have changed. The Board of Supervisors of Rockingham County adopted an ordinance to amend Sections 6A-6 and 6A-7 pertaining to the precincts and polling places in Rockingham County. The changes enacted include changing the name of the Bridgewater Precinct (401) to the West Bridgewater Precinct (401), which includes the area west of Main Street within the corporate limits of the Town of Bridgewater; adding the East Bridgewater Precinct (406) with the polling place to be located at Bridgewater Church of the Brethren, which includes the area east of Main Street within the corporate limits of the Town of Bridgewater; and establishing the East Bridgewater Precinct (406) from a portion of the Bridgewater Precinct (401) for the purpose of increasing access and convenience for the voters by reducing the number of voters in each precinct. The polling place for the East Bridgewater Precinct (406) will be located at the Bridgewater Church of the Brethren, 420 College View Drive, Bridgewater, Virginia. The West Bridgewater Precinct (previously the Bridgewater Precinct (401)) will be located at the Bridgewater Community Center, 201 Green Street, Bridgewater, Virginia. You can find out what precinct you are in by visiting the Virginia State Board of Election’s look-up here.
A Duty to Protect and Serve
For four hundred years, the Capitol Police have served with honor and diligence. We are ever grateful for their service and it is exciting to share with you news of the Capitol Police exhibit, which opened at Virginia's Capitol on August 27th. The exhibit pays tribute to the Capitol Police and the 400th Anniversary of the agency. Dorothy Seawell, the widow of the late Captain William A. Seawell who served as Chief of the Capitol Police from 1961 until his retirement in 1970, loaned an extensive collection of his uniforms, papers, and other items for the exhibit. Virginia Commonwealth University's History Department also helped contribute to the exhibit, including providing details on Capitol Police history dating to its first formation in 1618 at the first permanent English settlement in Jamestown. The exhibit will be open to visitors seven days a week, with visiting hours depending on the time of year. For current information on the exhibit, please visit http://virginiageneralassembly.gov and click on the "Visiting Capitol" link. I hope you'll have a chance to see this exhibit should you find yourself in Richmond.
In Case You Missed It
As always, my Legislative Director, Judy Wyatt, Communications Director, Will Wrobleski, and I are here to serve you. If you need help with a state government agency or issue, we can be reached by phone at 540.255.5335 or by email at email@example.com. Our address is Post Office Box 12, Verona, Virginia 24482.
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Thank you again for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.