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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Sen. Marsden's Richmond report: My legislative agenda

By Sen. Dave Marsden

The 2014 General Assembly session has hit the crossover point, where all the bills passed by the Senate cross over to the House of Delegates and vice versa. This is traditionally thought of as the halfway point for the session.

Transition of power

The 2014 session will be remembered for many reasons but one of them is the transition of power to a Democratic administration under Gov. Terry McAuliffe and the Democrats again becoming the majority party in the Virginia Senate, thanks to the tie-breaking vote by Lt. Gov.  Ralph Northam. Under this new Senate majority I have been given the honor of being the chairman of the Local Government Committee.

This year, I introduced over 20 pieces of legislation. Many of these bill have been passed by the Senate and sent to the House of Delegates. The focus of my legislation continues to be in the areas of economic development, juvenile justice, my work as a member of the Virginia Disability Commission, and other issues of concern to large parts of our district.

Economic development

As always, economic development is vital to the growth and welfare of Virginia’s families.This session, one of the cornerstones of my legislative agenda has been SB 590, a bill to raise the minimum wage to $9.25 by 2015, unless the federal government increases its standards to a higher wage.

While this does not provide a truly livable wage, I believe an increased minimum wage is necessary for Virginia’s working families and has benefits to the economy as a whole. The Senate has now passed this legislation.

The Senate also passed another bill of mine that promotes the licensing and economic growth of small breweries by reducing their fees and promoting the growth of Virginia’s brewing industry. I am confident that this will pass the House and that small-business owners looking to start a brewery will be able to do so more easily.

And, finally, the Senate passed SB 554, a bill that allows institutions of higher education to offer the courses necessary for individuals to become licensed drivers education instructors. This bill will provide easier access to these courses and permit more Virginians to be certified and earn an income from drivers education businesses.

Juvenile justice

Juvenile justice has always been a passion of mine, and this session I am proud to see the passage of two bills that I introduced to address issues with our juvenile justice system.

The Senate passed SB 142, which would allow juveniles sentenced under a non-homicide conviction who wouldn’t be released until after their 60th birthday to appeal for a modified sentence after serving 20 years or reaching the age of 35, whichever occurs later. This bill aligns our judicial sentencing guidelines with decisions of the Supreme Court and would provide these juveniles with an opportunity to restart their lives.

I also introduced a bill to extend the services of court-appointed special advocates to juveniles under the custody of the courts past their 18th birthday, should a judge decide that it is necessary. I am pleased that my colleagues in the Senate passed this bill as it will help provide vital resources and services to youths most at risk of committing further crimes.

Disability Commission

As a member of Virginia’s Disabilities Commission, I introduced two bills to help people with disabilities. The Senate approved SB 58, a bill that requires localities to consider accessible, affordable housing and community services when developing a comprehensive transportation plan as part of a greater development plan for an area.

The Senate has also passed a resolution directing the State Council for Higher Education for Virginia to conduct a study on strategies the commonwealth can adopt to increase access to higher education for students with developmental and intellectual disabilities. I hope the study yields results that we can then turn into legislation and make Virginia’s higher education system more accessible.

Constituent concerns

Finally, I introduced several bills to address concerns held by many citizens in our district. I introduced SB 2, a bill to co-designate the Sea of Japan as the East Sea in Virginia’s textbooks. The history between Korea and Japan is a contentious one, and this bill teaches Virginia’s students a little about that history and the differing perspectives over the naming of this sea. It is important to teach cultural awareness to our children, and I’m happy that this bill passed the Senate.

I also introduced SB 42, a bill to prohibit the practice of fox penning. This inhumane practice allows hundreds of hunting dogs to chase after foxes trapped inside fenced pens.

Opponents of the bill claim that the foxes often live healthy lives inside these pens, but a study by Virginia Tech found that 90 percent of these foxes died by the end of the study’s term, including many who died trying to escape as they were being chased by hunting dogs. This bill puts a moratorium on fox pens that will lead to the phase-out of this inhumane practice

It has certainly been a busy first half of the session. I am proud of what has passed the Senate and I will continue to work toward the passage of these pieces of legislation as they are considered by the House of Delegates.

In addition to my own legislative agenda, I have been busy as a member of the Transportation, Commerce and Labor, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Local Government, Rules, and Privileges and Elections committees. I am proud to have also supported major reforms to our mental health programs, Standards of Learning tests, and our ethics laws. I also continue to work toward expanding Medicaid and a host of other issues.

Please feel free to contact me with any comments on my bills or any other legislation before the General Assembly.

By Sen. Dave Marsden (D) represents the 37th District in the Virginia Senate, which includes much of the Annandale/Mason area. He can be reached via email at or by phone, 804-698-7537 (Richmond) or 571-249-3037 (Burke).

1 comment:

  1. This is a very bad legal precedent...

    Read why with my published op-ed "Drafting American school children in a diplomatic war" @