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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Del. Kory reaches out to voters

Del. Kaye Kory listens to constituents' concerns at a gathering in Laurie Linderg's backyard.

In an informal session at the Annandale home of a constituent Oct. 13, Del. Kaye Kory talked to neighbors about legislation she plans to introduce in the next session of the General Assembly and how frustrating it’s been trying to get anything accomplished in a Republican-majority House.

Kory, a supporter of the goals of SLEEP in Fairfax, a parent advocacy group that’s been pushing for later start times for high schools, told the gathering she plans to introduce legislation to prohibit any academic classes from starting before 8 a.m.

“It’s really unconscionable to have kids out at 6 or 6:30 in the morning waiting for buses,” Kory said. According to SLEEP, youths do better in class when they’re well rested.

Another measure Kory plans to bring up would allow anyone 65 or older to vote early, on an absentee-in-person basis. Kory said she supports measures to make voting easier, while the Republicans in the last session made voting more difficult, in a blatant effort to discourage minorities. “It’s easier to buy a gun in Virginia than to vote,” she said.

The voter ID law, to take effect in July 2014, requires voters to present a photo ID—either a driver’s license or a substitute photo ID from a DMV. That’s a hardship for people, especially for the elderly and people in rural areas, who don’t drive, can’t get to a DMV, or don’t have the required documents, like a birth certificate or passport, needed to get an official ID.

“Any complication or barrier in the process results in people not voting,” Kory said, “which seems to be the goal of Republican lawmakers.”

Kory said she is “very worried” about what would happen if Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for governor, wins on Nov. 5. The Republicans running for lieutenant governor, E.W. Jackson, and attorney general, Mark Obenshain, “are equally scary,” she said. All three are Tea Party favorites.

“It’s so important to keep Cuccinelli out of office,” said Kory. “He’s all about women having no rights and everyone who’s not white having no rights.” Among the legislation Cuccinelli pushed for were measures that would require certain mothers to obtain their husband’s permission to get a divorce and the infamous “personhood” bill that would grant full rights to a “preborn” individual at the moment of conception.

Kory said she agreed with the Washington Post’s endorsement of Terry McAuliffe, which called the Democratic candidate a deal maker who can get things done, rather than an ideologue.

Although the shutdown of the federal government could tip the balance for the Democrats in some delegate races, the Republicans will retain a majority in the House. The Senate, where no one is up for re-election, will maintain its 50-50 split, which gives the lieutenant governor, who acts as a tie-breaker, an extraordinary amount of power.

In Virginia, “the majority party is absolutely in charge,” Kory said. The speaker of the house has a lot of power to determine delegates’ committee assignments and whether bills should be heard in committee or buried.

Kory would like to see the commonwealth accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid, which the Republicans oppose. In the last session, the General Assembly created a bipartisan commission to decide whether Virginia should participate in the expansion. The group’s first public hearing is next week in Richmond.

If Virginia approves the expansion, Virginia will receive $2.6 billion in taxpayer dollars in 2015 to extend coverage to some 400,000 people, who are not covered by employers’ health plans. Those funds are expected to generate 30,000 jobs. If Virginia rejects the expansion, the money would go to other states.

Kory said she will re-introduce legislation in the next session to allow the children of certain undocumented parents to pay the in-state tuition rate at Virginia colleges. That measure was passed by the Education Committee in the last session, but then the speaker assigned it to the Finance Committee, which failed to act on it.

She is also drafting legislation to repeal the new tax on hybrid cars—which targets Northern Virginia—and to require schools to provide supports to students who come back to class after suffering a concussion.

There are several other coffee-and-conversation sessions with Kory scheduled over the next few weeks.

Kory’s opponent on the Nov. 5 ballot is Jim Leslie, with the Independent Green party. Both of them, and several candidates in other races, are expected to appear at a forum co-sponsored by the Mason District Council and League of Women Voters Oct. 17, 7 p.m., at the Annandale United Methodist Church.

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