Senator Barker – The General Assembly Convenes
I am pleased to return to Richmond, to proudly represent the people of the 39th district during the 2011 General Assembly session.
One of the most challenging issues the General Assembly faces during the coming weeks is maintaining funds for K-12 education as well as additional cuts to Medicaid, including a five percent reduction in the already low payment rates to physicians, hospitals, nursing homes and assistants to those with disabilities. In the past, I have strongly supported funding for education and health care and will continue to do so.
Economic development and job creation continue to be a high priority during this session. While the economic climate has improved, we need to keep doing what we can to promote job development opportunities. This session, I am sponsoring two bills that will promote job expansion.
Governor McDonnell’s plan to privatize ABC liquor stores will also be considered this year. My constituents are overwhelmingly opposed to any plan that reduces revenue for the Commonwealth of Virginia. I serve on the committee that will consider that proposal first.
I will be carrying several bills this session from making texting while driving a primary offense to extending voting hours in emergency situations. However, much focus will be placed on four issues:
- Implementing Constitutional Amendments
Last year, I proposed two constitutions amendments. One would give counties and cities complete flexibility in implementing property tax relief for elderly and disabled citizens and another would increase the maximum size of the Rainy Day Fund from 10 to 15 percent of annual tax revenue. I was pleased to see both of these approved by Virginians last November and will be working this session to ensure that they are implemented.
- Protective Orders
Extending access to protective orders, to include dating partners, is another priority. Currently, protective orders can only be obtained by couples that are married, divorced, share a child, are family members or those who have lived together for over a year. A recent study by the Red Flag Campaign, a domestic violence advocacy group, showed that approximately 1 in 4 women on college campuses had been a victim of rape or attempted rape. Clearly, those in dating relationships should be able to protect themselves. A study by the Crime Commission concluded that these protections should be extended.
- Economic Development
While I am proud of the rising employment rate in Virginia, there is more that can be done to bring jobs to our district, particularly Prince William County. I will be proposing a bill that expand grants or loans awarded from the Governor’s Development Opportunity Fund encouraging businesses to open in or move to our area. Another bill I am carrying would use sales tax exemptions for the purchase or lease of computer equipment by data centers. The more jobs we have within our counties and cities, the the fewer people will have to commute long distances.
- Education Benefits for Current and Retired Military
I also am proposing legislation that would allow members of the National Guard to still receive in-state tuition rates at Virginia’s public higher education institutions even if they are called to active duty from a Guard unit in another state. Another bill I am carrying would permit certain veterans who establish Virginia as their permanent residence for to receive in-state tuition immediately rather than having to wait for the customary one-year period.
I am looking forward to working with others to continue the strides Virginia has made within the past year.
Below is a link to the Virginia General Assembly. I encourage you to visit the site to stay informed about your state government: http://leg6.state.va.us/lis.htm.
I welcome you to stop by my office in Richmond. I am on the third floor of the General Assembly Building in room 316. My door is always open to visitors and constituents. Furthermore, I encourage you contact me via e-mail me at email@example.com, or by calling my office at (804) 698-7539.
I look forward to representing you this session.