I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving! With the campaign season behind us, it's now time to focus on the upcoming 2018 General Assembly session and working with the incoming governor. I am looking forward to addressing the challenges facing us and have already filed my first piece of legislation, which will help students participating in dual enrollment programs. Once again my legislative priorities will focus on the issues of economic development, providing the best education possible for our students, and increasing healthcare access, affordability, and choice. While the holiday season is always a busy time for all of us, the work of the General Assembly continues. Please keep reading to learn more about what's going on in the 25th District and Richmond!
25th House District Advisory Committee
Over twenty years ago, I created the 25th House District Advisory Committee (HDAC). 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 in both 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. I am 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.
I hope you'll be able to join me for my next HDAC meeting on Tuesday, December 19, 2017 at 6:30 p.m. in Conference Room #2 of the Augusta Community Care Building. We will discuss the upcoming 2018 General Assembly Session. This meeting provides an opportunity for you to express your concerns and priorities for our upcoming session. I am grateful for the feedback provided by those of you that have participated in these important meetings and look forward to our next meeting on the 19th. If you are not a member of 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 HDAC meeting listed below:
House District Advisory Committee
Tuesday, December 19, 2017, 6:30 p.m.
Augusta Community Care Building (“ACC” BLDG)
Conference Room 2 (“ACC 2”)
64 Sports Medicine Drive
Fishersville, Virginia 22939
Legislation Filed to Reduce Costs for Students Participating in Dual Enrollment Programs
On November 20th, I filed my first piece of legislation for the 2018 General Assembly session. House Bill 3 will help high school students who participate in dual enrollment programs. Too many high school students are working hard and spending extra money for dual enrollment courses, only to get accepted to a two- or four-year institution and find out their dual enrollment courses will not transfer. This bill sets a clear policy on dual enrollment, eliminating confusion and making sure our kids can start their higher education learning with credits they earned in high school.
House Bill 3 will require the State Council of Higher Education (SCHEV) to establish quality standards for dual enrollment courses, including standards for instructors, materials, and content. Courses that meet or exceed these quality standards will be certified as “Universal Transfer Courses” and satisfy course credit at any public institution of higher education. This legislation will save students time and money by ensuring dual enrollment programs are working as intended by allowing students to earn college credits while in high school and apply those credits to a 2-year or 4-year degree.
This bill is a continuation of my efforts to address rising costs of higher education. In the 2015 General Assembly session, I introduced House Bill 1336, which requires the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) to establish a uniform policy for granting undergraduate course credit to entering freshman students who have taken one or more Advanced Placement, Cambridge Advanced (A/AS), College-Level Examination Program (CLEP), or International Baccalaureate examinations. I am also working on a comprehensive high school redesign in Virginia in my role as Chairman of the Joint Committee to Study the Future of Public Elementary and Secondary Education in the Commonwealth.
Governor-elect Northam's Transition Committee
I am privileged to have been named to serve on Governor-elect Ralph Northam’s Transition Committee. The bipartisan Transition Committee will assist the Governor-elect in laying the groundwork for a successful administration. I appreciate the opportunity to serve on the Governor-elect’s Transition Committee and I am especially grateful to him for having representation from the Shenandoah Valley. There are many challenges facing us, and I look forward to serving on the Committee and providing my input to Governor-elect Northam and the distinguished members of the Transition Committee to help develop the policies that will help Virginia grow its economy, provide our students the best education possible, and improve healthcare access, affordability and choice.
“I am honored to have the help of such a great group of Virginians as we build an administration that reflects Virginia and takes our Commonwealth to the next level,” said Governor-elect Northam. “We have a tremendous opportunity over the next four years to make a positive difference in the lives of Virginians, and to create opportunity for every Virginian, no matter who you are, no matter where you live. I look forward to hitting the ground running to do just that.”
Virginia State Crime Commission Holds Hearing on DNA Databank Enhancement
On November 29th, the Virginia Crime Commission held a hearing on DNA Databank enhancement. Susan and John Graham, the parents of Hannah Elizabeth Graham, presented remarks at the hearing, with Susan Graham appearing in person and John Graham via video. Additional witnesses included Delegate Toscano, Albemarle County Sheriff Chip Harding and Commonwealth's Attorney Robert N. Tracci. Sheriff Harding and Commonwealth's Attorney Tracci noted "Examination of these issues by the Crime Commission represents an important first step in enhancing Virginia's criminal justice system. The status quo is unacceptable; the cost of inaction too high."
Earlier this year, the Virginia Crime Commission agreed to study enhancing DNA collection for serious criminal offenses. With vigorous privacy safeguards, DNA technology promotes justice by enhancing accountability, sparing future victims of crime, reducing wrongful convictions, and freeing the innocent. Virginia currently collects a DNA sample upon conviction for felonies and 14 misdemeanor violations. New York State and Wisconsin currently collect DNA samples from convicted felons and misdemeanants. Legislation was signed into law by Wisconsin's Republican Governor Scott Walker, and New York's Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The Virginia Crime Commission is examining available data from other states to determine the impact of expanding DNA collection to all Class One Virginia misdemeanors, which carry a punishment of up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. The Crime Commission may also examine enhanced collection for Class One Misdemeanor convictions most likely to return the greatest number of matches to existing DNA profiles in the databank. The Commission may also review the adequacy of existing DNA privacy safeguards, and the cost of additional safeguards (if any), and better identification of best practices to promote the goals of the DNA databank and the interests of justice. In the 2017 General Assembly session, Delegate Rob Bell and I co-patroned House Joint Resolution 711, introduced by Minority Leader David Toscano, which directs the Virginia State Crime Commission to study expanding the number of misdemeanor crimes that require the DNA of the person convicted to be included in Virginia's DNA data bank.
Take Your Legislator to School Month
Last month I had the privilege of visiting Ottobine Elementary School in Rockingham County and Fort Defiance High School in Augusta County as part of the Virginia School Board Association’s (VSBA) “Take Your Legislator to School” month. “Take Your Legislator to School” month was created by the VSBA to build stronger relationships between our public schools and the General Assembly. These visits provided me an opportunity to observe schools and interact with students directly. It was a pleasure to spend time with these students and their teachers and I look forward to visiting a school in Albemarle County soon!
State Water Control Board Meetings
As many of you have expressed interest in the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipeline projects, I wanted to inform you of the upcoming State Water Control Board meetings. The State Water Control Board plans to hold two meetings this month to consider additional Section 401 water quality certification conditions for the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines. Each of these meetings is scheduled to last about two days. Those who made oral or written comments during the public comment period will have an opportunity to sign up to speak to the board under the board's policy for public participation on the first day of each of these meetings. The schedule for the meetings is listed below:
Mountain Valley Pipeline Meeting
9:30 a.m., Wednesday, December 6, 2017, and Thursday, December 7, 2017.
Trinity Family Life Center,
3601 Dill Road, Richmond, VA 23222
Atlantic Coast Pipeline Meeting
9:30 a.m., Monday, December 11, 2017, and
Tuesday, December 12, 2017. Location: Trinity Family Life Center, 3601
Dill Road, Richmond, VA 23222
The Board's agendas (including information regarding the projects and summary of response to comments) are available on the regulatory Townhall at: www.townhall.virginia.gov and the information is also available on the DEQ's website here: www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Water/ProtectionRequirementsforPipelines.aspx under featured topics.
Sixth Annual Capitol Square Ornaments
The Virginia Capitol Foundation recently presented the sixth annual Capitol Square ornament to First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe. This year's ornament is the Fountain at Monument Walk, and it is now available for sale. These ornaments make wonderful gifts and I wanted to provide you with information should you be interested in purchasing some of these uniquely Virginian items!
The ornaments are $24 each, or $20 each if ordering in bulk (five or more). Ornaments may be ordered online at www.virginiacapitol.gov. Ornaments are also available at the Virginia Shop at the Capitol and in the Capitol at the Lower Rotunda reception desk. Should you have any questions, please call Andrea Siebentritt at 804-786-1010 or email her at email@example.com.
In Case You Missed It:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Our address is Post Office Box 12, Verona, Virginia 24482.
Please visit my website at www.stevelandes.com for my latest press releases and newsletters. Also, be sure to “like” my Facebook Fan Page or you can now follow me on Twitter @steve_landes by clicking the buttons below:
Thank you again for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.