Martin Luther King Jr. Day is always one of the busiest times in the General Assembly session. Constituent groups from across the political spectrum converge on the Capitol to make their voices heard, because they have the day off. I had my first bill pass in the Courts Committee, which was a bill granting authority to the attorney general to defend individuals operating a corporation as the representative of a circuit court judge. Another of my bills, to co-designate the East Sea along with the Sea of Japan in future Virginia textbooks, was passed by a subcommittee of the Education and Health Committee.
Tuesday, Jan. 17
Tuesday morning, all the senators received a briefing from Finance Committee staff. What disturbs me the most about the governor’s budget is the transfer of general fund money reserved for education, health, and public safety to transportation funding. Last year, the secretary of transportation promised me that the governor would propose a sustainable funding stream for transportation if I would vote to accelerate our bond package from six years to three years to concentrate the funding and get road construction started in a meaningful way. In no way does redirecting school funding qualify as complying with this promise.
Wednesday, Jan. 18
I presented a bill dealing with pedestrian crosswalks to the Transportation Committee. This bill would require automobiles to stop when pedestrians are in the crosswalk, rather than try to time their passing with the pedestrian’s movements. This bill was originally brought to me by a local school that had some safety concerns. Unfortunately, the state police and others had some problems with the language, and I agreed to hold it until next year to give all parties involved time to work out a compromise.
Thursday, Jan. 19
On Thursday morning, I drove to Bumpass, Va., to visit a working fox pen. This year I have introduced SB 202, which seeks to shut down fox pen operations all over Virginia, and felt that by meeting someone directly involved and seeing firsthand what a fox pen entails, I could form a more knowledgeable argument. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this practice, fox pens are 100-900 acre areas, enclosed with electrified chain link fences. Foxes are trapped elsewhere and brought in, or breed within the enclosure, and are chased by hounds for the purposes of training these dogs to track. In the last three years, almost 4,000 foxes were reported as having been purchased by the 32 pens currently operating. These animals are being killed by the dogs in a most unsporting fashion, and it is time to end this practice.
Friday, Jan. 20
Friday is typically a light day in the General Assembly; however this Friday the Fairfax delegation met at 2 p.m. to discuss a judicial appointment to the circuit court. In Fairfax County, any member of the House or Senate who has even one precinct in Fairfax County has a vote on judges. We meet and review the applicants, and come to a consensus on whom to nominate. After that, our nomination is sent to both bodies for a full vote. After that meeting, I drove to Northern Virginia to attend an awards ceremony for the American Heritage Girls. I was proud to present Rachel Cochran, who was receiving the Stars and Stripes award, with a Virginia state flag that had flown over the Capitol in Richmond. This award is the equivalent of the Gold Award for Girl Scouts and the Eagle Scout rank for Boy Scouts. Honoring young people in these organizations with a flag is one of the best things I get to do.
Saturday, Jan. 21
This morning I was supposed to attend the Fairfax Circuit Court Model Judiciary program, but it was canceled due to inclement weather. I took that time to prepare for the upcoming week, when a large number of my bills will be heard in committee. I spent the rest of the day on the phone talking to mounted fox hunters from all over the state who have problems with the way fox pens are regulated in Virginia.
That’s all for now; more next week