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Focus on Fairfax
Jan. 21, 2017
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The first full week of session is typically a whirlwind of activity - and this year was no exception.  So far, I've testified on six of my bills before subcommittee and three before full committee.  Next Monday, I will have my first bill go to the House floor for debate. 
There is still time to fill out my 2017 Constituent Survey.  Several of the issues in the survey are moving their way through the House, so your input is greatly appreciated.  Also, mark your calendar for my Town Hall Meeting with Senator Chap Petersen on February 11th at Fairfax City Hall from 9-11 a.m.
2017 Legislative Agenda
This year I have introduced 16 bills and resolutions.  Below are some highlights.
Protecting Victims During the Court Appeals Process
Imagine that you are the victim of assault and battery, with the perpetrator convicted and sentenced in General District Court.  The individual appeals to Circuit Court - which is his/her right.  And then, to your dismay, the perpetrator skips town.  What happens?  In Virginia, as soon as a case is appealed, the original verdict is vacated.  While it is possible to try a person in abstentia, it is not possible to sentence a person.  As a result, the case is simply shown as pending while the individual is running free.  What usually happens, though, is that the court issues an arrest warrant.  From a legal standpoint, the person is not convicted of any criminal wrongdoing.
This scenario actually happened to one of my constituents, and after talking with several local attorneys, I discovered that it occurs all too often.  Convictions that are overturned this way include assault and battery, DUI, and stalking - just to name a few.  HB1765 changes the law by stating that an appeal is withdrawn when an individual willfully fails to show up in court.  That way, the original conviction and sentence are re-applied.  This has been a complicated bill, but I am grateful for the support of the Commonwealth Attorney's Association and the Virginia Poverty Law Center.  The Supreme Court is also helping to make sure that the bill "works."  I was pleased that it made it out of subcommittee and will now be heard before full committee.
Career and Technical Education
An important part of Virginia's economic growth strategy is to focus more on career and technical education.  Many of these jobs are well paying.  Moreover, there is a shortage of qualified workers in many areas.  My HB1552 requires each school division to develop a plan to notify students and parents of these opportunities.  Currently, the Code requires plans for advanced placement, International Baccalaureate, and Governor's School programs.  The bill has passed out of subcommittee and his headed to full committee.
Homeowner Association Board Meeting Transparency
Many of my constituents live in HOAs, which are subject to the open meeting requirements of the Property Owners Association Act (POAA).  These HOAs are also often incorporated under the Non-Stock Corporation Act.  Under the Non-Stock Corporation Act, a board may make decisions without a meeting if there is unanimous consent among board members in writing.  While this allows for quick decisions, it also means that the decisions aren't subject to the POAA's open meeting requirements.  My HB1553 is an attempt to ensure transparency in the decision-making process.  While there is widespread agreement on the need to do this, there are differences in opinion about how to tackle this issue.  As a result, this is one that will likely need to be worked on over the summer and reintroduced next year.
Protecting Water Resources While Allowing New Economic Growth
I am a firm believer that a clean environment is essential for a healthy economy, and vice versa.  While very technical in nature, HB1619 represents a year's worth of work among stakeholders to implement a pollutant discharge system that both protects the Chesapeake Bay and allows for future economic development.  You've got to feel good when the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Sierra Club, and Virginia Manufacturers Association all speak on behalf of a bill.  The measure has passed out of subcommittee and is headed to full committee.
Protecting Consumers from Predatory Lending
Over the past few years, car title loan shops have proliferated across Virginia, including here in the 37th District.  These loans, with very high interest rates, are particularly troublesome because they can result in the loss of a person's sole means of transportation to employment.  Some of these lenders have now also begun to offer open-ended credit plans, which have even fewer restrictions.  This combination opens up a host of consumer protection issues.  The General Assembly has already prohibited the co-location of payday lenders and open-ended credit plans.  This year, the Governor asked that I carry HB1620 to extend this prohibition to car title lenders.
Palliative Care
Many people facing diseases like cancer are unaware of palliative care and don't take advantage of what it has to offer.  Unlike hospice care, palliative care is a team-based approach to managing the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of a person, regardless of whether the disease is terminal or not.  This issue was studied over the summer by the Joint Commission on Health Care, of which I am a member.  HB1675 requires the Department of Health to develop a website to provide a one-stop-shop resource on palliative care options.  The bill was strongly supported by the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network and passed committee unanimously.
Virtual Education
One of the issues the General Assembly has really struggled with over the past few years is how to expand access to full-time virtual education, while ensuring that students have a high quality learning experience that meets Virginia's Standards of Quality and Standards of Learning.  There are many different reasons why parents and students may choose virtual education, including bullying, access to specialized curriculum, and programs designed for students with disabilities.  Last year, the Governor vetoed as unconstitutional a proposal to establish a state-wide virtual education school board.  However, rather than let the issue drop, I commend the Governor for directing a group of stakeholders to seek a way to foster virtual education while keeping students connected to the local school community.  HB1764 is definitely a work in progress, but I am pleased to be engaging with the Secretary of Education, Senator Chap Petersen, and others to try to come up with a solution. 
Local Land Use and Proffers
Last year, the General Assembly passed sweeping changes to local land use authority.  The primary focus of the effort was to restrict a locality's ability to negotiate proffers for residential development.  A proffer is a voluntary agreement between a developer and a locality in exchange for the locality granting higher density than allowed by-right.  I opposed the legislation.  Local land use decisions should remain the purview of locally-elected officials.  My HB1735 clarifies that last year's legislation does not affect the ability of a local government to host informational meetings between the community and a developer.  These meetings, where communities can discuss and resolve issues with the developer are essential to the land use process.  I was disappointed that all proposed amendments to the proffer legislation were defeated in subcommittee.  However, I am hopeful that these issues will be referred to the Housing Commission, of which I am a member, for study over the summer.
Environmental Education
Environmental literacy is essential to ensuring that future generations are good stewards of our environment.  Due to budget cuts, Virginia's Office of Environmental Education was recently eliminated.  This office helped to coordinate dozens of programs state-wide, including the Adopt-a-Stream program.  While I was disappointed in the budget cut, it does represent an opportunity to look at how environmental education is delivered in Virginia, and to make sure that it is both effective and efficient.  My HJR704 directs the Secretary of Natural Resources and the Secretary of Education to bring together stakeholders and report their recommendations for the next session.  I am thrilled to have the support of no less than 17 organizations - including the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
You can see all of my legislation here.
Thanks to everyone who has come down to visit me in Richmond or who has taken the time to contact me about issues important to our community.  I look forward to seeing many of you at my Town Hall Meeting on January 11th. 


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David Bulova
Delegate, 37th Virginia House District
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