As your voice in the Virginia House of Delegates, I believe it is important for you to know where I stand on the issues affecting our community. Even more, I believe that action speaks louder than words. Please see below for my priorities and the legislation that I have introduced or supported to turn these priorities into reality.
The General Assembly has an obligation to use your tax dollars wisely and efficiently. Virginia has a AAA bond rating because of our reputation for fiscal responsibility. I am proud that Virginia’s Constitution requires a balanced budget and that the General Assembly has worked in a bi-partisan manner to do this in a fiscally responsible manner. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I am committed to continuing that tradition. In addition to ensuring that we have a balanced budget, I supported successful legislation to establish a state-wide Office of the Inspector General (HB2076) to investigate allegations of fraud, waste, and abuse.
Traffic congestion threatens our economy and our quality of life. As the parent of three children, I know the frustration of being late for that important recital or evening sports practice. I have consistently supported measures to provide more transportation funding to Northern Virginia. In 2013 (HB2313) and again in 2020 (HB1414), I supported comprehensive transportation packages that have pumped billions into our inter-modal transportation systems. In 2016, I was part of a group of legislators that brokered a deal to widen I-66 inside the Beltway from the Dulles Connector to Ballston.
I will continue to advocate for changes in the way that transportation funding is distributed to make it more equitable for Northern Virginia and have led efforts to change the transportation maintenance formula (HBs 389, 6011, 1993, 1491, and 477). Getting our fair share will continue to be one of my top priorities.
Additional priorities include:
- Increase our investment in transportation technology, including telework, “smart highways,” and better synchronization of our traffic lights.
- Help get people out of their cars by making investments in bike paths and walking trails. In 2019, I sponsored successful legislation to give local governments new authority to require sidewalks during development (HB1913).
- Expand Metro to Centreville and beyond and adequately fund both Metro and the Virginia Railway Express.
As a Fairfax County Public Schools parent, I know first hand the importance of quality public education. As a member of the House Education Committee, I have worked to reform our Standards of Learning and introduced successful legislation to promote career and technical education opportunities (HB1552). To ensure that our schools provide a safe and welcoming learning environment, I introduced successful legislation to strengthen the process for dealing with teachers accused of sexually assaulting a student (HBs 150 and 438) and co-sponsored legislation (HB 1871) to enhance efforts to fight bullying. It has been an honor to be recognized multiple times by the Virginia Education Association with their “Solid as a Rock for Public Education Award.”
As your delegate, my priorities include:
- Keep class size low in order to maximize the ability of teachers to provide individualized attention to students.
- Retain and recruit highly qualified teachers and support staff. In 2021, I was proud to be part of the conference committee that secured the state's share of a 5% raise for our teachers.
- Provide students with modern educational facilities that maximize the use of technology.
- Promote parental involvement in our schools as a key component to learning.
- Continually look for opportunities to streamline operations and assess the effectiveness of existing programs.
COVID-19 has been especially tough for our students. It is critical that our children get back into the classroom as soon as practical. This is a personal issue for my family, as our son navigates middle school from home. While our teachers have done a heroic job navigating virtual learning, the learning loss is real. During the 2021 session, I worked with a bi-partisan group to pass SB1303. This bill requires full in-person learning after July 1, 2021 while ensuring that the processes and tools are in place to do so safely.
Early Childhood Education
A child's earliest experiences, particularly those in the critical years between birth and age five, lay the foundation for future success. I was pleased to sponsor the Early Childhood Care and Education Act (HB1012) in 2020 to better coordinate early childhood education and to create a comprehensive quality rating and improvement system for our publicly funded programs. During the 2021 session I was pleased to build on that effort by directing the School Readiness Committee to develop recommendations for how to make early childhood education more affordable and to ensure that our providers are adequately paid.
Jobs and Economic Growth
In today's global economy, it is important for Virginia to constantly look for ways to grow and diversify our economy. This requires investing in our transportation infrastructure and education, fostering an environment that rewards creativity and innovation, and reducing regulatory burdens to starting and running a business. This is why I co-patroned the Virginia Growth and Opportunity Act (HB834), which is designed to incentivize collaboration among business, education, and government to strengthen the economy in every region of the state. Virginia is also facing a shortfall in workers to fill a wide range of technical jobs. These are often high-paying jobs that do not require a four year college education. However, they do require industry certifications and apprenticeships. In 2018, I worked with members of the labor and manufacturing communities to pass legislation requiring a course in career exploration in middle school to ensure that students understand their full range of career options. For this work, I was awarded the "Industrial Strength Leadership Award" by the Virginia Manufacturing Association.
During the 2021 session, I was pleased to work with the Virginia Maritime Association and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership to secure a $1.5M budget amendment to fund Virginia's International Trade Plan. When fully implemented this plan is anticipated to add $18B in exports from Virginia.
All Virginians deserve safe, decent, affordable housing. To achieve that goal, I have supported increased funding for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund, a flexible loan and grant resource that addresses a range of local housing needs from homelessness to homeownership. I also passed legislation to provide the City of Fairfax additional authority to negotiate with developers to provide affordable housing (HB1471). Finally, I support ensuring adequate funding to provide permanent and supportive homes for individuals with serious mental illness and other disabilities.
Open and Accountable Government
As your voice in Richmond, I am accountable to you for my votes and strive to make government more open and accessible. Open and accountable government starts right here at home. Each year I hold a town hall meeting during session, mail constituents a Report from Richmond to summarize issues tackled by the General Assembly, conduct a Constituent Survey, and host a series of “informal office hours” where residents can stop by to chat and provide feedback on community issues. In the General Assembly, I have introduced legislation to bring more transparency to the adoption of regulatory guidelines by state agencies (HB297) and to ensure that terms and conditions associated with donations to public universities are open for public inspection (HB2386).
Virginia is one of a handful of states with no limits on campaign contributions, which has contributed to the spiraling cost of running for public office. During the 2021 session, I passed HJ526, which establishes a joint subcommittee to study and make recommendations for comprehensive finance reform for consideration in the 2022 session.
I strongly believe that voters should choose their representatives – not the other way around. Districts shouldn't be drawn for political purposes. I was proud to support an amendment to Virginia's constitution to establish a bi-partisan Virginia Redistricting Commission, which was ratified by the voters in November 2020.
Whether you are concerned about the impacts of climate change or the threat to national security posed by our dependence on foreign energy sources, sustainable energy is one of our nation’s greatest challenges. I was proud to co-sponsor the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act (HB1526), which mandates Dominion Energy to produce their electricity from 100% renewable sources by 2045. In 2015, I introduced legislation to create a Virginia Solar Energy Development Authority (HB1725) and was chief co-patron of the final adopted legislation (HB2267). This initiative will ensure that Virginia can take advantage of growth in this industry by unleashing the power of small businesses that are on the forefront of this technology. I have also introduced successful legislation to position Virginia to be a leader in electric plug-in vehicles by eliminating regulatory hurdles that would stifle entrepreneurialism (HBs 2105 and 1934).
I will continue to work hard to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels while keeping energy affordable. My priorities include:
- Invest in clean, renewable sources of energy. Virginia has enormous potential to be a leader in renewable energy. This is good for the environment and our economy. I support: harnessing our tremendous off-shore wind resources; providing incentives for installation of solar in urban areas and at our public institutions; increasing our investment in research at our universities; and, other innovative approaches, such as harvesting methane from landfills and agricultural operations.
- Empower residents to conserve energy. This is win-win for the environment and the consumer. I support: expanding smart meters so that consumers have better information about their energy consumption; exploring public-private partnerships to retrofit existing buildings; assisting low income families with weatherization; and, providing tax incentives to encourage investment in solar and wind power.
- Encourage more efficient cars and reduce our reliance on the automobile. Automobiles account for more than a third of our greenhouse gas emissions. Nationally, we must continue to increase fuel efficiency standards. Here in Virginia, we need to encourage land use patterns that promote walking and biking and take advantage of public transit.
Virginia is blessed with an abundance of natural resources. As an environmental planner by profession, I consider it a special responsibility to fight for the environment in the General Assembly. I am proud to have been designated as "Legislator of the Year" by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and as a Legislative “Hero” or “Leader” by the Virginia League of Conservation Voters for the past dozen years. As your delegate, I have successfully spearheaded the following legislation to:
- Secure $155M to upgrade wastewater treatment facilities and reduce pollution from urban and agricultural stormwater runoff.
- Protect water resources from PFAS chemicals as a result of firefighting activities (HB2762).
- Protect water supplies by requiring the State Water Control Board to consider the state water supply plan when making permitting decisions (HB1158).
- Require the Picket Road Tank Farm and similar large oil and gas tank farms to upgrade their facilities to modern standards (HB2103).
I also successfully fought for new legislation to help local governments in Northern Virginia preserve mature trees during development (HB1437). Mature trees not only increase property values and beautify our neighborhoods, they also help to clean the air. In recognition of this achievement, I was proud to accept the 2008 Fairfax County Friends of Trees Award.
Health Care/Mental Health
I was proud to support legislation to expand Medicaid so that up to 400,000 of our fellow Virginians have access to affordable, basic health care. However, there remains much work to be done, especially to reduce the cost of health insurance premiums. I have also worked on a wide range of health care and mental health issues. These include:
- Opioids. Virginia has enacted several new laws and programs to combat our opioid crisis. In 2019, I introduced successful legislation (HB1743) aimed at encouraging pharmacists to discuss proper drug disposal when presenting a new prescription. Two-thirds of prescriptions are not used, with the majority kept in the home. This increases the chance of misuse or accidental consumption by children.
- Mental health reform. In the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy, the General Assembly made important reforms to our mental health laws and increased the resources available to courts and case managers. We must continue to build on these reforms and fully fund these critical services.
- Autism spectrum disorder. I co-patroned the successful effort to require health insurers to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder. The benefits of early intervention are enormous, not only to the child, but also in terms of the long-term cost savings to the state. No family should be put in the position of having to decide if they can afford appropriate treatment.
- Smoking in restaurants ban. As a member of the General Laws Committee, I helped to pass the landmark legislation in 2009 that protects both the health of customers and workers by significantly limiting smoking in restaurants.
Public Safety/Human Trafficking
We enjoy one of the lowest crime rates of any major metropolitan area in the nation. Let’s keep it that way! I am proud to support those who protect us every day – our police, firefighters, and emergency personnel. In 2010 I was named the Virginia Professional Fire Fighters “Legislator of the Year.”
One of Virginia's greatest threats to public safety is distracted driving. Distracted driving now rivals drunk driving when it comes to the number of deaths on our roadways. In introduced legislation to make Virginia a "hands-free" state (HB512, which was incorporated into HB874)) and to provide our police the resources they need to keep the traveling public safe. I have also patroned or co-patron several successful efforts to strengthen Virginia’s public safety laws. Some of these efforts included:
- Strengthening the ability of our law enforcement agencies to combat child exploitation and human trafficking (HB1200 and HB2061)
- Protecting our children from sex offenders by requiring offenders to register their email addresses and/or screen names (HB 2749) and by creating mandatory-minimum sentences for the production and distribution of child pornography (HB2755).
- Making the practice of texting and driving a primary offense and increasing penalties (HB1883).
Supporting Our Veterans
As the son and grandson of veterans, I am thankful for the sacrifices our veterans make to protect our freedoms. In 2015, I was a proud co-patron of successful legislation authorizing a Northern Virginia Veterans Care Center (HB1276). I have been proud to support Virginia’s Wounded Warriors Program as both a member of the House of Delegates and as a Board Member of Brain Injury Services, Inc. During the 2011 session, I had the honor to serve as chief co-patron of successful legislation (HB1691) designed to help veterans who have fallen on tough times. Based on successful programs in New York and Pennsylvania, the legislation allows local courts to establish special dockets for veterans and active military service members who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury and run into trouble with the law. According to a 2008 RAND Corporation study, nearly 20 percent of our service men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Many more suffer from traumatic brain injury – both diagnosed and undiagnosed. Fewer than half of these individuals actually seek treatment for PTSD or depression. Unfortunately, while trying to recover, some of these veterans fall into drug and alcohol abuse or commit minor crimes and end up in the criminal justice system. It is during these trying times that our veterans need our assistance the most. The premise behind HB1691 is to provide alternatives to incarceration when possible and to ensure that judges are aware of the rehabilitative programs offered by state and federal agencies as well as local veterans organizations. I was proud to work with the Joint Leadership Council of Veterans Service Organizations, which represents over two dozen veteran service organizations in Virginia, on this effort.
I strongly support legislation to prohibit discrimination in employment and housing based on sexual orientation and gender identity. I also support ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution and co-patroned this legislation in 2019. Every Virginian should be judged based on their abilities and, in the immortal words of Martin Luther King, Jr. "the content of their character."
As our community relies more and more on electronically stored data, the opportunity for personal information to reach the wrong hands also increases. Identity theft can have a devastating impact on both individuals and families, and Virginia must vigorously pursue and prosecute anyone who steals or misuses personal information.
That is why I spearheaded amendments to the Personal Information Privacy Act to curtail the practice of drivers license swiping by retailers (HB1072). I also worked with the Secretary of Technology to introduce HB390 the “Compromised Data Disclosure Act” during the 2008 General Assembly Session. My bill was ultimately rolled into HB1469, which was signed by the Governor. As a result, any time personal information is accessed by an unauthorized person, the keeper of the information, whether business or government, must notify the individual and the Office of the Attorney General that a breach has occurred. I was also proud to support legislation to allow any consumer to freeze access to his or her credit report (HB 1311) to ensure that the information cannot be accessed without the consumer’s explicit authorization.
Finally, I introduced successful legislation in 2010 (HB 210) to strengthen Virginia’s extortion statute and to close a dangerous loop-hole that would have allowed someone to threaten to sell personal information for financial gain.
While I am pleased with the progress we have made to protect our citizens from identity theft, much work remains to be done. Sensitive personal information can still be obtained all too easily, including from publicly available land records and legal proceedings. Protecting our citizens from identity theft will continue to be one of my top priorities.