Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Sen. Marsden's Richmond Diary
Monday, Jan. 23
The day started early, as I presented a bill to the Senate Courts of Justice Committee at 8:30 a.m. The bill failed on a 7 to 7 vote, but I have a good way to fix it, and it will be brought up in the same committee again. After that, I had to rush off to a special Transportation Subcommittee meeting, where we heard two bills dealing with emission testing for cars.
In the past few years, there has been a technological leap forward in how we can do the testing that several localities in Virginia require. One bill maintains testing at service stations. The other one allows remote testing. As cars drive by monitors on the side of the road, up to 30 percent of cars’ emissions can be tested. Drivers would be notified of the results by mail. Most people (85 percent) have emissions testing at the same time as their safety inspection. The concern is that we would lose many service station jobs without any real saving in time or money.
Tuesday, Jan. 24
We held a contentious session over the appointment of judges. A Joint Resolution with the House of Delegates called for reappointing current judges as well as appointing two new ones. The new ones are former members of the House of Delegates, and I think they need to be placed in a separate resolution with other new judges once we determine how many judges we can fund. Special treatment for former members is not the way to go, even though both will make excellent judges.
Wednesday, Jan. 25
I started the day at a breakfast held by the College of William and Mary. My friend, and former delegate, Jim Dillard, a Tribe alumni, joined me. Following that, I had a conference call regarding one of my bills dealing with life sentences with no parole for juvenile defendants convicted of nonhomicidal offenses. We have eight such cases here in Virginia, and a recent Supreme Court ruling has shown that juveniles in these circumstances need to be given a reasonable chance at parole during their sentence.
In the afternoon, I got three bills passed in the Transportation Committee and met with staff members from the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries regarding my bill to outlaw “fox pens.” Foxes are trapped, placed in 100 to 800-acre fenced enclosures, and then hunted and too often killed by dogs in competitive tracking contests.
Thursday, Jan. 26
I presented a bill given me by the governor dealing with the so-called “Kings Dominion Law.” This law requires school systems that want to start the school year before Labor Day to receive a waiver from the commonwealth. I believe, and the governor agrees, that the time for such a law has passed. School boards should determine school start times, not tourism-related businesses, who want youths to work in their venues. The problem is that the Standards of Learning tests are conducted two weeks before the end of school, and serious teaching stops after those exams. We are wasting valuable instruction time. The bill failed in committee 9 to 6. Similar measures are still alive in the House, and I look forward to them coming over in a few weeks.
At 11 a.m., I held a joint press conference with Del. Kenneth Plum to discuss our bills dealing with “fox pens.” Channel 29 in Charlottesville ran a great story on this issue. It was also the Humane Society’s lobbying day, and the press room was full of Humane Society members from across the commonwealth. That evening, I joined other legislators for a trip to Charlottesville for a dinner with the president of the University of Virginia and to watch the “Hoos” beat Boston College.
Friday, Jan. 27
I met with the secretary of transportation, Sean Connaughton, to discuss some of the transportation bills I have introduced and to voice my displeasure at the Administration for once again ignoring long-term transportation funding. Connaughton also wanted to discuss a bill to add three members to the Metropolitan Airports Authority Board—two from Virginia, one from Maryland, and one from the District of Columbia. I agree with the bill’s intent but am not sure that an emergency clause in the bill, to enact it before July 1, is necessary.
I met with the secretary of natural resources, the secretary of agriculture, and the governor’s policy team about the previously mentioned “fox pens” to engage their help in stopping this practice. We are working on a substitute bill that could solve the problem in a different way.
That’s all for now,