Local Commentary

Delegate Hull’s Richmond Report

Wise Choice

A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Stuart Whittaker sent in a letter to the editor about a part of my previous column.

I wrote that there is only one University of Virginia, but he pointed out that we also have a “University of Virginia’s College at Wise.”

 

Yes, indeed, and what a good school it is. Formerly called Clinch Valley College, it is an affiliated college of UVa, as George Mason University was at one time.

 In 1999, the General Assembly approved a bill to change its name. I voted for the bill in committee and on the House floor.

Located in far Southwest Virginia in the beautiful valley where A.P. Carter was born and raised, it has a strong curriculum and a great student-to-instructor ratio.

“U.S. News and World Report” has also rated it for the third straight year as the liberal arts college whose students graduate with the lowest debt load in the nation.

So, as you parents look for good colleges to send your children, give the University of Virginia’s College at Wise a look, too.

Another Oak Falls

It seems like this is the year when the once mighty oaks of the General Assembly have fallen as we have lost four senior House members.

Three were retired members, while one, Harry Parrish of Manassas, was in office and served as chair of the Finance Committee at the time of his passing.

Former Delegates Vic Thomas of Roanoke and Earl Dickinson of Louisa both expired earlier this year. They were both committee chairs when they left office.

Last week, I traveled to the funeral of former Delegate Bob Ball of Richmond, who was chair of the Appropriations Committee when he left office.

All were veterans and two had served in World War II. They served in the House of Delegates for a combination of 105 years.

They all served with distinction and they will all be remembered as working for progress and the common good of all Virginians.

A Battle to What End?

In two weeks, the General Assembly will convene for a special session on transportation. As I have mentioned before, I am not optimistic of a positive outcome.

When we adjourned the regular session in March, we had not passed legislation to provide either new funding for transportation nor a budget.

These issues were intertwined. We finally passed a compromise budget at the last moment that provided surplus funds for transportation, with details to be determined later.

The total amount is a little over $300 million and we have until November 1 to figure out how to spend it. Of course, it is not enough for even our region.

A bipartisan majority in the Senate continues to want an ample, statewide plan, while the majority of House Republicans want no new taxes.

They have instead proposed to increase fines for bad drivers, use surplus general funds, and reform the “wasteful spending” at VDOT.

More of the Same?

In fact, the Speaker of the House held a press conference yesterday to demand that VDOT change its operations.

Stating that that VDOT "continues to deliver its services in an outdated manner," the Speaker is supporting new reform legislation.

The new bill requires VDOT to streamline its environmental-review process for new construction and use private-sector road building services.

At the same time, two Northern Virginia House Republicans will introduce legislation to allow local governments here to raise taxes for transportation.

Then, I am told that the Hampton Roads delegation has come out in support of something similar there for their priority road building project.

Not only do I continue to doubt that anything can be done, I wonder whatever happened to the idea of a unified statewide transportation system?