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Monday, January 30, 2012

Kory's Report from Richmond: This session will be a long one

By Kaye Kory

The Virginia General Assembly convened the 2012 legislative session on Jan. 11. This year’s 60-day session is scheduled to conclude on March 10.

I have three committee assignments, up from two in my first term. I will continue serving on the Science and Technology Committee and this year I have also been assigned to the Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee and have been selected as the minority whip for the Cities, Towns and Counties Committee. Work as the whip involves circulating information about upcoming votes and acting as the party spokesman and negotiator in committee when required.

Under the Virginia Constitution, odd years are “short” 45-day sessions, whereas even years are “long” sessions during which the governor proposes a new budget. The governor has proposed some budget cuts that are of great concern to me, only a few of which have made the news. One of them, which I have written about before, calls for Virginia to withdraw from the Interstate Commission onthe Potomac River Basin (ICRPB).

One of the ICRPB’s responsibilities is developing water-sharing agreements among the four states which lie in the basin and the District of Columbia. This is critically important in times of “low flow,” i.e., a drought. Such conditions have not occurred since the 1990s but with the recent extreme weather we’ve been seeing, we will need a joint plan. If Virginia leaves the ICPRB, any joint planning will occur without us. As a well-known lawyer said, “If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably dinner.”

I have introduced a budget amendment restoring the annual membership fee and a bill to study the ramifications of Virginia’s withdrawal from this commission.

Another piece of legislation important to Northern Virginia is HB 252, “Expanding the Board of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA).” It would increase the number of members from 13 to 17. Two of those new members will be from Virginia, thereby enhancing its representation on the board. This comes at a time when MWAA is in the middle of obtaining proposals for Phase 2 of the Dulles Metrorail extension, a project the transportation community in Northern Virginia strongly supports.

The legislators, however, balked at the bill’s emergency provision, which would put it into effect immediately. If the bill goes through the regular legislative process, it will be effective July 1, 2012. I was not persuaded of the emergency nature of the bill. A good case was not made that this legislation was an emergency, and there was no reason that HB 252 would not be passed in the normal course of General Assembly business.

The legislative shortcuts associated with an emergency bill include bypassing several deliberative steps, including committee hearings. For those reasons, the emergency bill was rejected by the House. I fully support MWAA’s goals and Virginia’s expanded role in the process, but am concerned that in rushing through the committee process without the testimony of the involved parties, insufficient time was spent considering the impact of our decision upon Virginia taxpayers. A new bill has been submitted without the emergency clause, and I look forward to supporting its passage.

Kaye Kory represents the 38th District in the Virginia House of Delegates.

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