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House Democrats Laud Budget Passage

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 28, 2009

House Democrats Laud Budget Passage
Federal Stimulus Funds Help Virginia Avoid More Devastating Cuts

Richmond, VA – Today, the Virginia House of Delegates passed Virginia’s budget in the midst of the worst economic crisis since World War II by an overwhelming vote of 90-8. The hundreds of millions of dollars provided by the federal stimulus package allowed Virginia to avoid thousands of additional state job cuts and significant additional cuts to core services such as education, public safety and health care.

“Without the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan approved by Congress with President Obama’s leadership, we would have been in far more trouble than we already are,” said House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong.  “Being able to partially fill the massive budget shortfall with nearly a billion dollars in federal stimulus money was an absolute lifeline to the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

“Nearly $500 million in stimulus funds went into education,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Ken Plum.  “I am glad that we were able to get serious about our budget situation and go from using magic money supposedly in the Water Quality Improvement Fund to real money provided by the federal government to help staunch the fiscal hemorrhaging.”

“A majority of Republicans consistently opposed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, but were more than happy to use the money to avoid more politically unpopular cuts,” said Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Kenneth Alexander.

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Written by assemblyaccess

February 28, 2009 at 8:32 pm

Posted in Press Release

Delegate Ken Melvin Announces Retirement

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 24, 2009

Delegate Ken Melvin Announces Retirement
Portsmouth Lawmaker Concludes Distinguished Career

Richmond – Today, Delegate Ken Melvin of Portsmouth announced that he would be retiring from the House of Delegates after 24 years of service. As one of the longest-serving members of the House Courts of Justice Committee, Delegate Melvin has earned a reputation as an arduous defender of civil rights and a strong voice for the disadvantaged.

“Ken Melvin has one of the sharpest legal minds of anyone I’ve ever had the privilege to work with,” said House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong. “He has devoted his career to the equal and fair distribution of the law, and this House will not be the same without him. I thank him for his service, and wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.”

“I have had the joy of working with Ken for over two decades,” added Caucus Chairman Ken Plum. “He has served this body with honor and distinction, and we will dearly miss his perspective and innumerable contributions. The Commonwealth is a better place thanks to his work.”

Delegate Ken Melvin was elected to the House of Delegates in 1985 and is a senior member of the House Finance, Courts of Justice, and Commerce and Labor Committees.  The 80th House District encompasses parts of Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Norfolk.

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Written by assemblyaccess

February 24, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Posted in Press Release

Crossover Post-Mortem

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For Immediate Release

February 13, 2009


House Republican Record of Accomplishment

~House Republicans Prove They Can Do Something Well – Kill Commonsense Bills~


Richmond, VA –
Today the House Democratic Caucus released a list of bills introduced by Democratic members that failed to pass the Republican-controlled House during the 2009 legislative session. Many of the listed bills were not passed out of committee and some received no hearing at all. It is the prerogative of Committee Chairmen to decide which bills the committee considers and which go unheard.

“The Republican majority in the House of Delegates reminds me of a black hole,” said Democratic Caucus Chair Ken Plum, “Good bills go in, but they don’t come out. This session Delegates from both parties have introduced a number of bills aimed at improving the lives of Virginians. Unfortunately, for the legislators with a ‘D’ next to their name, even the best bills seem to enter the “Party of No” black hole, never to be seen again.

“As we begin the second half of the 2009 session, Democrats are going to continue to work for results for Virginia. I look forward to working with members of both caucuses to solve the problems we face as a Commonwealth, and I urge my Republican colleagues to put politics aside and work across the aisle to keep Virginia moving forward.”

Below is a partial list of bills, grouped by category, proposed by members of the House Democratic Caucus that failed to pass the House:

CREATING JOBS AND INVESTING IN VIRGINIA

  • HB2439 (Del. Poisson – Ashburn) would have offered tax incentives for businesses hiring honorably discharged veterans.
  • HB2374 (Del. Englin – Alexandria) would have given an income tax credit to businesses that create jobs related to renewable alternative energies. Neither one was heard in committee.
  • HJ742 (Del. Hall – Richmond) would have established a two-year study to develop a strategic plan that aims to reduce the poverty rates, especially in those jurisdictions with rates above the state average.
  • HJ727 (Del. Bouchard – Virginia Beach) would have investigated ways to combat homelessness among Virginia’s veterans.

FIGHTING FOR MIDDLE CLASS FAMILIES

  • HB2588 (Del. Englin – Alexandria) would have eliminated the food tax and cut taxes for low income Virginians and small businesses.
  • HB2196 (Del. Watts – Fairfax) would have granted an income tax deduction for certified nursing assistants and home health aides who provide Medicare-authorized home health or long-term care services to individuals in their homes.
  • HB2512 (Del. Marsden – Fairfax) would have ensured that Virginia Military Family Relief Fund benefits would not be taxed.
  • HB2195 (Del. Watts – Fairfax) would have given tax credits to families who care for a mentally or physically impaired relative.
  • HB2522 (Del. Nichols – Woodbridge) would have allowed employers with fewer than 50 employees to participate in the state health insurance plan.
  • HB1903 (Del. Armstrong – Martinsville) would have prevented Virginia merchants from charging unconscionable prices for necessary goods during a shortage.
  • HB1997, HB1959 and HB1960 (Del. Bulova – Fairfax and Del. Mathieson – Virginia Beach) would have expanded access to Virginia’s Line of Duty act and make sure that public safety employees and their families receive full benefits to cope with the sacrifices they’ve made for us.

PROTECTING HOMEOWNERS

  • HB1093 (Del. Sickles – Fairfax) would have prohibited lenders from making a low-document, no-document, or stated-document mortgage loan unless they verified a borrower’s stated income.
  • HB77 (Del. Toscano – Albemarle) would have expanded the recordation tax exemption for certain nonprofit providers of affordable housing.

STENGTHENING EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES

  • HB1608 (Del. Poisson – Ashburn) would have granted Virginia veterans who graduated at the top of their class automatic acceptance to in-state colleges, was defeated in committee with an unrecorded vote.
  • HB2295 (Del. Caputo – Fairfax) would have increased two-year college transfer grants, was also left to languish in committee.

BROADENING ACCESS TO GOVERNMENT

  • HB2496, HB2301, HB1620, HB1621, HB1894, HB2307; HB1988, HB2110, HB2113; HB1644 (Multiple Patrons) Yet again, the House Republican majority quickly disposed of legislation to expand access to absentee voting and create a nonpartisan redistricting process. Democrats proposed a variety of no-excuse absentee voting and early voting measures in order to help assure that working men and women won’t be disenfranchised and ease the workload of local registrars. All were defeated in subcommittee.
  • HJ677, HJ623, HJ182, HJ628, HJ623 (Multiple Patrons) The GOP majority also squashed efforts to restore voting rights to former offenders who have paid their debt to society.
  • HJ702, HB1793, HB1685 (Multiple Patrons) House Democrats patroned several measures to broaden input into the re-districting process through either bipartisan or nonpartisan means – ensuring that voters choose their representatives, not the other way around. Unfortunately, all were again defeated before so much as reaching the House floor.
  • HJ668 (Del. Shannon – Vienna) would have directed the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) to study the legislature and state agences and recommend money saving improvements,.
  • HJ676 (Del. Armstrong – Martinsvile) would have directred JLARC to review the effectiveness of the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission in its efforts in meeting its strategic plans and goals. Since its inception, the tobacco commission has never been audited.

MEETING OUR ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES

  • HJ675, HJ704, HJ682, HB2387 (Multiple Patrons) The Republican majority defeated a variety of home energy and conservation measures this session, as well as further efforts to ensure new public buildings are as green as possible.
  • HB2157 (Del. Toscano – Albemarle) would have required all biodiesel sold in Virginia to contain at least 2% biodiesel by 2011.
  • HB2235 (Del. Valentine – Lynchburg) would have created a clean energy manufacturing grant program, in order to provide financial incentives to companies that manufacture or assemble equipment, systems, or products used to produce renewable energy, nuclear energy, or energy efficiency products.
  • HJ682 (Del. Vanderhye – McLean) would have directed the Virginia Department of Taxation to recommend options for restructuring the residential electric consumption tax to promote energy efficiency while remaining revenue neutral.

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Written by assemblyaccess

February 13, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Posted in Press Release

House GOP Passes Budget with $133 Million Shortfall

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2009

House Republicans Pass Budget with $133 Million Shortfall
Balanced Budget Required by Virginia Constitution

Richmond, VA -For the first time in its history, the House of Delegates voted yesterday for a budget requiring deficit spending, violating Virginia’s Constitution. The deficit results from an amendment proposed by the Republican controlled House Appropriations Committee, Item 3-1.01 #3h, which proposes a transfer to the general fund of $149 million dollars from a supposed cash balance in the Department of Environmental Quality’s Water Quality Improvement Fund.

According to the Commonwealth Accounting and Reporting System, the official system used to track all state expenditures, the Water Quality Improvement Fund balance as of Thursday, February 12th was $137,718,715.00. Bills for projects under this Fund continue to come in on a weekly basis. These projects are already under contract, under construction, and in many cases, nearing completion.

Between now and June 30th the Commonwealth will receive bills for an additional $121 million which it is contractually obligated to pay. The balance in the Water Quality Improvement Fund is expected to be a mere $16 million by June 30th.

“The budget passed by the House yesterday effectively has a $133 million dollar hole in it,” said House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong. “Including this amendment and passing this budget is highly irresponsible deficit spending. Virginia takes pride in its long tradition of passing balanced budgets as required by our State Constitution. We don’t need the practice of deficit spending coming across the Potomac into our Commonwealth.”

The budget amendment does authorize the use of bonds – however, every single dollar of bond money has been committed by the Commonwealth in contracts for other projects.

The amendment also stipulates that the transfer to the General Fund will not be made if the Commonwealth receives federal funds from a federal stimulus package. However, based on reports from Washington, it appears that Virginia will only get about $81 million in clean water funding from the federal stimulus package. Even if this money could be used to back fill the raid on the Water Quality Improvement Fund, the budget would still be $68 million dollars short. In addition, federal restrictions prohibit federal stimulus funds from being used for projects already funded and under construction. Therefore, federal stimulus funds could not be used to plug the budget deficit.

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Written by assemblyaccess

February 13, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Posted in Press Release

Charniele Herring Takes Seat in House of Delegates

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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.

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Written by assemblyaccess

January 26, 2009 at 6:17 pm

Posted in Press Release, Video

GOP Kills Tobacco Commission Audit

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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/

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Written by assemblyaccess

January 26, 2009 at 12:15 pm

Posted in Press Release

House Democrats Unveil 2009 Legislative Agenda

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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.

The Economy

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.

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Written by assemblyaccess

January 21, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Posted in Press Release