End of Summer Update


Richmond Sessions: As you may know, in June the General Assembly passed a balanced budget to operate the state government from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2016. On September 18, the General Assembly will convene specifically to consider expanding the eligibility of citizens for Medicaid. Medicaid is a means tested program that is administered jointly by the federal and state governments that is distinct from the federal Medicare program that provides health care for seniors. The federal Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) permits states to expand eligibility for Medicaid. In Virginia, such an expansion could increase enrollment by as much as 40 percent from approximately one million Virginians enrolled today to as many as 1,400,000.

The next regular session of the General Assembly is scheduled for January 14, 2015.

Silver Line Opening: The Silver Line opened in late July from Reston to D.C. and Largo, Maryland. Ten trains per hour travel to and from Reston during the weekday morning and evening peak travel periods, with fewer trains at other times. Please note that eight of the ten peak period Silver Line trains were taken from the Orange Line, reducing the number of peak period Orange Line trains from 19 to 11 per hour. I am concerned this reduction in service may create delays and more overcrowding on the remaining Orange Line trains. If you are an Orange Line rider, I would appreciate hearing about your Orange Line experience. Likewise, if you are a new Silver Line rider, I’m interested in hearing about your experience as well. Many bus routes have changed to better serve Silver and Orange line riders. More information about bus routes may be found here.

Improving I-66: In July, the state proposed significant increases in I-66 capacity to reduce congestion. A summary of the proposal and related information may be found here.  My comments to Virginia’s Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne may be found here.

Northern Virginia Transportation Commission: Speaker Bill Howell appointed me to this commission, which coordinates mass transit planning and operations in Northern Virginia. More information may be found here.

I’ll send more information about transportation issues via email in the near future.

Standards of Learning (SOL) Tests: As you may know, the General Assembly acted to reduce the number of standardized tests administered in public schools from 22 to 17 tests in grades 3 through 8. This legislation also created the SOL Innovation Committee to review testing in grades 9 through 12, and ways to improve standardized testing generally. I was appointed to this bipartisan committee, which consists mostly of teachers and other education professionals from around the state. The Committee held its first two meetings during the summer. More information may be found here.

Freedom of Information: Subcommittees of the Freedom of Information Advisory Council have been meeting during the summer to implement H.J. 96, a resolution I authored directing the Council to review all of the exceptions to Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Under FOIA, citizens have a right to obtain government documents, but there are exceptions. These exemptions should be narrowly defined and limited in number, in my view. I serve as vice chairman of this bipartisan Council that consists mostly of private citizens. More about the FOIA Council may be found here.

Code Commission: I also serve as vice chairman of this commission, which is presently redrafting the provisions to Virginia’s higher education laws that govern the operation of our public colleges and universities. The sole purpose of this effort is to achieve greater clarity and conciseness. The Code Commission does not recommend policy or other substantive changes. The commission has other responsibilities described here.