As I write this, we are four days from scheduled adjournment (this Sat.). Uncertainty reigns on transportation and the second year of the state biennial budget. The House and Senate remain deadlocked.
Both measures have been sent to committees of conference. Transportation funding is in the hands of a committee of eleven—six from the House and 5 from the Senate. Only one member of the original eleven was from Northern Virginia: Republican Delegate Hugo who represents a portion of western Fairfax County. On Monday, Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites-Davis, from Fairfax County was added by the Senate.
Del. Hugo is the only Fairfax County or Loudoun County delegate who refused to sign the bi-partisan Rust-Watts-Hugo Northern Virginia funding package. It had widespread local government support and would have raised approximately $400 million for transportation in No. Va. The General Assembly rules call for the conference report to be available no later than Thursday, Feb.22. Since the first meeting of the committees was late Mon., that appears unlikely.
According to the official schedule approved at the beginning of the session, the Budget conference committee was to report its recommendations no later than last Sat. That deadline has not yet been officially changed. The Budget cannot be completed until the transportation billed is dealt with.
In short, once again the General Assembly has failed to meet its deadlines for completing its work. Needless to say, the Saturday, Feb. 24, adjournment date is in jeopardy.
Transportation shortfall likely to continue
While some additional transportation funding may happen this year, nobody predicts coming close to the projected No. Va. need of at least $700 million a year for the next 20 years. In other words, while we may finally break the partisan roadblock on transportation funding, we must plan to return next year in the hope that this year’s election will produce more members with commitments to completing the job,
Guns and torture
For many years, I have been trying to convince the Republican majority in the House to pass legislation to allow Virginia’s law enforcement agencies to enforce several Federal gun control laws. Without that authority those laws are hardly ever prosecuted because Federal authorities are rarely involved in cases in Virginia family law and domestic violence. This year’s effort by the House Republicans to allow state and local police to enforce Federal immigration laws allowed me to hope that I might be successful in my efforts.
I introduced a bill to allow Virginia to enforce a Federal ban on firearm possession by persons who have had their parental rights terminated in a court because of torture, chronic or severe abuse or chronic or severe sexual abuse of children. It passed the House 85-14, but failed in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee with Fairfax Senator Ken Cuccinelli leading efforts to defeat it.