Archive for January 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 26, 2009
Charniele Herring Takes Seat in House of Delegates
Recount Confirms Results of January 13th Special Election
Charniele Herring was sworn in as a member of the House of Delegates this afternoon, nearly two weeks after winning a special election for the 46th House District.
“I am happy to finally put this process behind us and get to work for the people of Alexandria and Fairfax County,” Herring said today. “These are challenging times for Virginia, and I am humbled to have earned their support.”
“We are thrilled to have Charniele with us,” said House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong. “She will bring a unique perspective to our team, and I look forward to working with her.”
“Charniele will be a dymanic represenative for the 46th District, and I’m delighted she’ll be joining our caucus,” added Caucus Chairman Ken Plum.
Herring, an attorney, is the first African-American woman from Northern Virginia to be elected to the House of Delegates.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MONDAY, JANUARY 26, 2009
Republicans Defeat Measure to Ensure Effective Government Spending and Economic Growth
Party Line Vote kills audit of Tobacco Commission
Richmond, VA – Last week, House Republicans on a Rules subcommittee defeated HJ626, a measure that would have directed the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) to conduct a review of the effectiveness of the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission (TICR) in its efforts in meeting its strategic plans and goals.
Delegate Ward Armstrong (D-Henry) introduced the bill based on recommendations from a Blue Ribbon Review Panel report requested by the Tobacco Commission to review its structure and operations. In its report, the Panel highlighted concerns over the Tobacco Commission’s structure and operations and made numerous recommendations including:
Ask JLARC, or other appropriate entity, to conduct a performance evaluation of TICR strategy and investments being made to meet the adopted strategic plan and goal of regional economic revitalization. Use JLARC, or other appropriate entity, to help recommend and implement suitable program accountability measures.
According the Blue Ribbon Panel report, “Using JLARC to evaluate the TICR economic revitalization strategy and assist with implementing outcome metrics and accountability measures would be helpful to the ongoing operations of the TICR.”
The mission of the Tobacco Commission is the promotion of economic growth and development in tobacco-dependent communities, using proceeds of the national tobacco settlement. To date the Commission has approved more than 1,049 grants totaling almost $502 million.
There has never been a performance audit of the TICR since its inception in 1999.
Although he was unable to be in attendance at the subcommittee meeting, Tobacco Commission member Jack Hite weighed in on the legislation stating, “As a member of the Virginia Tobacco Commission I supported the Baliles Commission’s recommendations including the JLARC review.”
“An objective audit by an independent group such as JLARC is not something that we should be afraid of,” said Delegate Armstrong. “Independent performance evaluations are considered a ‘best practice’ measure for private businesses and organizations. We owe it to the citizens of the Commonwealth, especially in these tough economic times, to engage in similar best practices to ensure that these large sums of money are being used and directed in the most efficient and effective ways possible.”
Philip Leone, Director of JLARC, testified before the subcommittee that JLARC was willing and able to conduct the review of the Tobacco Commission.
The Blue Ribbon Review Panel Report can be found online at: http://www.tic.virginia.gov/
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 21, 2009
House Democrats Announce 2009 Legislative Agenda
Vow to Fight for Middle Class Families
Richmond, VA – This morning, the Virginia House Democratic Caucus announced its agenda for the 2009 General Assembly session.
“Democrats in the House feel the pain of our citizens,” Democratic Leader Ward Armstrong said, “and we are committed to responding to the worsening economic crisis we face. House Democrats are fighting for middle class families in Virginia, working to balance the budget while protecting funding for K-12 education, and spurring our economy with investments in clean, renewable energies.”
“Our caucus agenda focuses on the needs and interests of our citizens,” Caucus Chairman Ken Plum added. “While the talented men and women of our caucus have introduced many worthwhile bills, we are highlighting just a few today.”
The Democratic agenda includes measures to reinvigorate the economy, promoting renewable energy investment and energy efficiency measures, ensure the best education possible for young Virginians, and meet commitments to our veterans.
House Democrats believe that we must first examine the legislative branch’s spending to find cost savings. Delegate Steve Shannon has again proposed HJ 668, which directs JLARC to study legislative efficiencies and recommend money saving improvements. House Democrats will push for an additional $5 million in the budget for the Governor’s Opportunity Fund to allow the Governor to attract more businesses and good paying jobs to the Commonwealth. Also, Delegate David Poisson has proposed a bill providing tax incentives for businesses hiring honorably discharged veterans (HB 2439) and Delegate David Englin has proposed a bill that provides a state income tax credit to businesses that create jobs in the renewable energy field (HB 2374).
Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency
House Democrats also recognize the immense job creation potential in the field of renewable energy. Delegate Englin’s HB 2374 will incentivize job growth in renewable energy fields. Delegate Margi Vanderhye’s HJ 682 directs the Virginia Department of Taxation to recommend options for restructuring the residential electric consumption tax to promote energy efficiency while remaining revenue neutral.
Protecting Education from the Economic Downturn
House Democrats will once again oppose efforts to alter the Standards of Quality funding formula and place more of a burden on the already cash strapped local governments. House Democrats will work to make onetime cuts and to find payments to defer, like new textbook purchases, which do not have lasting negative effects on education funding.
Caring for our Veterans
In addition to the aforementioned HB 2439 from Delegate David Poisson, House Democrats are also focusing on protecting those at home who protect us abroad. In response to the homeless epidemic among our veterans, Delegate Joe Bouchard has proposed HJ 727 which instructs JLARC to study ways to combat homelessness in the veteran community. Also, Delegate Vivian Watts’ HB 2192 honors and recognizes those who have given the last full measure.
“We look forward to working with our colleagues across the aisle, the Senate, and the Governor to adopt these important measures,” said Delegate Ward Armstrong.
As the nation observed the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today, Del. Ken Melvin of Portsmouth spoke about his own journey in the House – and the journey our new president begins tomorrow.
The 46th House District faced its third day without a representative today, as the House Republican majority again denied a seat to Charniele Herring, certified winner of Tuesday’s special election. Shortly after the vote, House Democratic Leader Ward Armstrong filed a request for an official opinion from Attorney General Bob McDonnell on the matter.
Del. Chris Saxman (R-Augusta) was caught off guard when asked to explain one his own bills this afternoon. Saxman’s HB1634 would restrict members of the General Assembly from attending various events during the General Assembly session, and Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) was curious exactly what kind of “events” the ban would cover. Saxman didn’t seem to know, but we assume he would make an exception for John McCain rallies.
The House GOP majority has again refused to seat duly-elected Delegate Charniele Herring, denying Alexandria and Fairfax voters a representative in the Assembly for the second day in a row.
Defying the will of Alexandria and Fairfax voters, the House Republican majority refused to seat Delegate-Elect Charniele Herring this afternoon after a nearly 40-minute floor debate.
House Republican Leader Morgan Griffith disregarded Herring’s official electoral certification from the State Board of Elections, leaving the 46th House District indefinitely without representation as the 2009 session of the General Assembly begins.
You can watch the full exchange below:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 10, 2009
Speaker Agrees to House Democrats’ Transparency Initiative
Desperate GOP Again Tries to Rewrite History
House Speaker Bill Howell has announced that the upcoming General Assembly session will feature live floor video from the House of Delegates streamed over the Internet – an initiative House Democrats have proposed repeatedly in the face of GOP opposition.
In 2007, Del. David Englin carried HR47, a resolution directing the House Clerk’s office to broadcast the existing webcast of House floor video to the public at large, as the Democratic-controlled State Senate has done for several years. Currently, the House’s video stream is only available on state computers in Capitol Square.
Unfortunately, the resolution died on an unrecorded voice vote at the hands of Howell and his fellow Republicans in the Speaker’s own Rules Committee. House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith, who moved to kill the measure, argued that any public broadcasting of floor video would only be viable with a full-time legislature and that lawmakers would play to the cameras, as “they want everybody back home to think they’re running the place.” [YouTube video, 1/31/07]
On the opening day of the 2008 session, House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong revived the public webcast idea through a floor amendment to the proposed Rules of the House. “In furtherance of open government, it is absolutely imperative that what we do here be disseminated to the people at large,” Armstrong argued on the floor.
“I would urge that you defeat this amendment,” replied former Republican Caucus Chairman Terry Kilgore. “If you want to stay here a lot longer, than you will vote for the Delegate from Henry’s amendment, because that’s what we’d be doing… we’ll be just like Congress. Every night, somebody will be in here making a speech with nobody else in here and somebody else serving as Speaker up there as they do traditionally on C-SPAN at night.” [House floor, 1/9/08]
The Republican majority sided with Kilgore, killing the amendment on a 55-43 vote.
“I’m glad the Speaker has finally come around to an initiative we’ve been pushing for more than two years now – although it seems to me that his sudden commitment to transparency in government has more to do with Republican electoral prospects than the best interest of Virginians,” Del. Armstrong said today. “In either case, I hope Virginians will be watching.”
“We shouldn’t be too hard on the Speaker — after all, it takes courage for House Republicans to admit that House Democrats were right all along,” added Del. Englin. “Of course, President-elect Obama won the Speaker’s district, so maybe Republicans are adopting these long-held Democratic positions because they see the writing on the wall. House Democrats have championed these transparency measures for years, and I’m glad to see House Republicans now joining our efforts to shine a light on what happens in the General Assembly.”