As you may know by now, I announced last week that I will not run for re-election to the Senate of Virginia. It has been a great honor to represent Falls Church in the General Assembly and I thank you all for allowing me to do so. Your support over the last 15 years has meant so much to me and has given me the opportunity to advocate for our values in Richmond, though not always successfully.
One notable loss was the bill to allow local governments to ban dangerous weapons from public facilities. In spite of the City’s strong support, including testimony from Council members, the administration and uniformed police, the bill was not voted out of committee.
Other issues were more successful: City charter bills were adopted and, most recently, a bill on the water system issue guarantees that the consent decree will be embodied in law so that the City can compete for water customers around Tysons where it already has water lines.
Over the years the environment has been a strong focus for me. I was the patron of the Virginia Nontidal Wetlands Protection Act; promoted wetlands banks; established the Natural Resources Commitment Fund; secured funding for agricultural best management practices; was instrumental in making the electric utilities have a voluntary renewable portfolio standard; promoted the state parks and natural resource areas; and created the Virginia Energy and Environment Commission that I chaired. In all these endeavors I was supported by many citizens of Falls Church and I thank you for your interest in our environment.
In fact the budget adopted just last Sunday has substantial new funding for environmental causes. It has the highest amount ever devoted to the Natural Resources Commitment Fund; restores substantial staffing to the Soil and Water Conservation Districts; devotes $1.2 million to our state parks to partially restore funding for staffing and maintenance; and provides $800,000 to open some natural resource areas to the public.
On the whole the budget reflects the Senate’s priorities: Provides funding to help regain lost ground on education, health care and public safety; makes targeted investments in higher education and economic development; supports job creation and retention; and begins to repay some one-time strategies that were used to help close the budget gap last year. The Senate conferees were able to come to consensus with the House on these priorities but also agreed to reduce some fees and the accelerated payment of sales taxes that were important to the House.
In the end the budget was adopted unanimously by both House and Senate, a rare occurrence.
Before we left Richmond we adopted resolutions pertaining to the redistricting session that will begin in earnest on April 4. That same week will have the Reconvened (veto) session on April 6.
Please remember that although I am not running for re-election, I will still be your Senator this year and that I welcome your calls, suggestions and requests at the email address below.
Senator Whipple represents the 31st District in the Virginia State Senate. She may be e-mailed at [email protected]