Local Commentary

Delegate Hull’s Richmond Report

Well Served

I was with saddened to hear the news on Tuesday that Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Bob Horan was retiring.

Having served in that position since March 1967, he was the dean of Virginia commonwealth’s attorneys.

After standing for election for 10 four-year terms, he is probably the longest serving county-wide elected official in Fairfax history.

  For over 40 years, Democrat Bob Horan sought justice to protect the people of Fairfax County and his tenacity was legendary.

It was Bob Horan himself who showed up to prosecute the tough cases and not an assistant commonwealth’s attorney.

I am told that defense attorneys would have stacks of material in front of them, but Bob would have no more than a yellow legal pad in front of him.

As I recall, in 40 years, he only lost one case in which a defense attorney used an insanity defense.

He is best known for his dogged prosecutions of murder cases and I believe that he won the second highest number of death penalty convictions in Virginia history.

Among them were James Breden in the 1976 Roy Rogers murders, Caleb Hughes in the 1991 Melissa Brannen murder, and Mir Aimal Kansi in the 1997 CIA murders.

Bob also won the 2003 conviction of infamous sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, who is serving a life sentence.

That same year, he won the first lifetime achievement award given by the National District Attorneys Association.

Yes, the people of Fairfax County were well served by Bob Horan and he will be greatly missed.

Toads and Fixes

There is a saying in the halls of a legislature that “you have to swallow a toad” on occasion.

In other words, a legislator must sometimes vote for a bill that contains a distasteful provision in order to get something worthwhile.

After voting for the transportation bill last week, however, I feel like I have eaten a zoo full of toads.

The transportation bill that passed the House during the regular session was miserable. Among other things, it contained over 100 technical errors.

So, the Governor and his assistants worked to fix the errors and the bill. It was approved during the veto session last week.

I voted for it because it provides increased funding for roads and rail. But, in some ways, it has worse provisions. Therein lies the toad.

Bad Precedents

The original bill took up to $200 million out of the General Fund, from which education is funded.

That was a deal killer to me, but the Governor’s amendment removed that provision.

Yet, the amended bill still uses $65 million from the General Fund annually. More disturbing are the bad precedents that I think it sets.

It allows the imposition of a sales tax on automotive repair services in Northern Virginia and the Hampton Roads region.

This will be the first time that a service is taxed and the first time that we allow a sales tax at the local and not state level.

The plan also authorizes non-elected bodies – transportation authorities in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads – to impose taxes.

I believe that this infringes on the principle of no taxation without representation and violates the Virginia Constitution.

While local elected officials will serve on these authorities, none is elected specifically to the authority by the people.

Finally, I am concerned about t the land use provisions mandated in the bill, which are more restrictive than in the original legislation.

I believe that these land use restrictions, to be required even in rural localities, will make housing less affordable.

Less Care of the Craft

It used to be that members of the General Assembly worried about setting bad precedents in law.

Now that redistricting has produced so many safe seats for the legislative majority, perhaps they do not care about what they leave behind.

Some also talk as if the bill we passed solves the transportation crisis we face around the state.

I do not believe that it does. But, it does get a lot of people past this November’s election.