2024-05-29 2:18 PM

Virginia’s annual sales tax holiday returns August 5 — 7. Virginians have the opportunity to purchase qualifying school supplies, clothing, footwear, hurricane and emergency preparedness items and Energy Star™ and WaterSense™ products without paying sales tax (currently at 5.13 percent in most localities). Learn more about what items are eligible at tax.virginia.gov/virginia-sales-tax-holiday. Virginians are also seeing lower prices at the pump.

As of this writing, the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gas sits at $4.05. Compare that with a price of $4.70 one month ago. Natural market dynamics have brought prices down and thankfully we did not raid much-needed transportation improvement funds that come from the gas tax.

Metro continues its improvements and upgrades to safely meet the growing needs of the region. WMATA recently announced that beginning in September, major construction will begin on the Blue and Yellow Lines, specifically rehabilitating the Yellow Line tunnel and bridge between Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza stations and connecting the new Potomac Yard Station to the mainline rail system. During prep work, six Blue and Yellow Line stations south of Reagan National Airport will close from Sept. 10 — Oct. 22, 2022. In addition to free bus shuttles, the Virginia Railway Express announced free fares for VRE riders affected by the shutdown throughout September. In October, there will be fare-free travel between zones 1, 2 and 3, which includes Backlick Road, Franconia-Springfield, Alexandria, Crystal City, L’Enfant Plaza and Union Station.

Metro riders and riders of other mass transit methods do an important service to our climate by taking cars and reducing their emissions on the road. This is especially important in the summer months when air quality tends to decrease.

In the last two decades we’ve seen major hurricanes decimate New Orleans, the Florida Keys and other areas. Global warming is making its mark on our planet and we will continue to see more frequent and powerful hurricanes. Now is the time to make sure hurricane kit, supplies and family evacuation plans are up to date.

Students will be heading back to school at the end of the month with most major public K-12 systems in the area starting August 22nd or 29th. Sports will begin practice sessions sooner. Many school districts are already forecasting a teacher shortage for the upcoming academic year despite efforts to increase pay and incentivize more people into the profession. The return of the school year is also coinciding with a spike in Covid-19 cases, particularly of the highly contagious BA.5 variant, which is now the dominant strain in the U.S. Now is the time to ensure your child is vaccinated (and boosted if need be).

On a positive note, Anne Kress, president of Northern Virginia Community College, shared some compelling data regarding the impact of G3 (Get Skilled, Get a Job, Get Ahead) legislation that I moved through the General Assembly in 2020. In this first year, NVCC awarded $3.5 million in G3 funding to over 1,500 credit students as well as $460,000 to nearly 400 students working towards industry credentials. 62 percent of the G3 awardees were enrolled in one or more IT programs and 18 percent of the students were enrolled in a healthcare program. We must continue to invest in workforce development to keep Virginia competitive in the global economy.

It’s been six months since Glenn Youngkin took office as the 74th Governor of the Commonwealth. Although he shared little of himself during the campaign, Virginians are starting to see who’s behind the curtain with a wary eye. We have seen a departure from many of the protocols that successfully helped us navigate the pandemic.

The governor’s administration is still coming together, not without many questionable appointments. A call to move away from telecommuting, as well as tactics that circumvent transparency and the legislative process and his focus on realigning public education — including book banning — are some of the things that have defined his tenure thus far. Of significant concern is his eagerness to limit women’s access to healthcare as a result of the recent SCOTUS ruling. The hint of also reversing the rights of LGBTQ individuals in the Commonwealth is also troubling.

Senator Saslaw represents the 35th District in the Virginia State Senate. He may be emailed at district35@senate.virginia.gov.

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