Posted by MAXIMUS
February 23, 2009
With just one week remaining in the 2009 General Assembly session, the most important and perhaps most difficult matter has been addressing the Commonwealth’s budget, which has succumb to drastically slumping revenues at the onset of a recession.
Governor Kaine announced in December that Virginia was facing a $2.9 Billion shortfall. Just two months later, revenue projections indicated that the shortfall had grown to $3.7 Billion. The reality is that Virginia’s economy is as unstable and unpredictable as it is across America.
I have said before that we are facing some of the greatest fiscal challenges I have seen since I was first elected to the Senate. Only time will tell whether we will walk or crawl out of this recession. Nevertheless it is imperative that we continue to show fiscal discipline in our budgeting and make government live within its means.
We have had to make deep cuts in core services. No one area has been held harmless; however, k-12 education has faired the best of them all. At the same time public safety cuts are deep, and first responder layoffs are imminent. Unfortunately along with these budget woes, transportation continues to be left on the table.
The federal stimulus money has been hailed by some as a saving grace to our budget mess, but I urge caution. This money should be spent only on one-time programs that will truly improve our economy—not for re-occurring expenses. Anyone who suggests otherwise is simply not being honest. Virginia's long-term fiscal integrity will continue to be my priority.
So while we have just a week left in the session, I still encourage you to give me your input on the issues that you care about most. You can reach me in Richmond by phone at (804) 698-7508 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Senator Ken Stolle
According to The Virginian-Pilot, many of the proposed cuts restored in the revised Senate budget include:
—About $8.4 million to keep the Southeastern Virginia Training Center in Chesapeake open. The facility is home to 163 mentally disabled residents and employs 460 people. Kaine's budget had called for closing the facility.
—Nearly $600,000 in funding to Old Dominion University's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center.
—Roughly $3.3 million to fund State Police trooper training. The Senate's initial budget cut more than $7 million for new trooper training, meaning there would not have been an academy for State Police recruits until 2011.
—About $27.5 million in school construction grants and nearly $333 million to remove educational support staff funding caps. Restoring the money would mean that support personnel such as librarians and school nurses whose jobs were in jeopardy will be spared.
—Funding for local law enforcement, including police departments, sheriff's offices and jails.
Click here for the 2/19/09 Virginian-Pilot article entitled, “Va. senators add stimulus money to their plans.”
In Other News…
Amendment to Protect Virginia’s Right-To-Work Status Fails…Again
Over three weeks ago I reported that SJ 347, a proposed amendment to the Virginia Constitution that would have added Virginia’s right-to-work law to the state Constitution, was defeated by a straight party-line vote. The joint resolution, of which I was a co-patron, would have been the first step towards granting Constitutional protection to Virginia’s coveted right-to-work law.
The House version of SJ 347—HJ 640 (Del. Chris Saxman)—met a similar fate in the Privileges and Elections committee last Tuesday.
For the last three years in a row, Forbes.com has named Virginia the “Best State for Business,” citing the Commonwealth’s outstanding regulatory environment, low unemployment rate, prime location for new businesses, low tort atmosphere, and low tax burden.
Recently, efforts at the Federal level have begun which would essentially remove secret ballot votes in union elections. It is my hope that we not let Congress jeopardize Virginia’s right-to-work status. It is imperative that in these uncertain economic times that we do everything possible to make sure our actions are in line with Virginia’s tradition of pro-business fiscal policy.
In order to amend the Virginia Constitution, identical legislation must be passed during two separate General Assembly sessions with an election in between. It must then pass a statewide voter referendum.
Restaurant Smoking Ban Easily Clears House and Senate
On Thursday the Senate joined the House in passing HB 1703 (Del. John Cosgrove), also known as the Indoor Clean Air Act. The Senate version of the statewide restaurant smoking ban, SB 1105 (Sen. Ralph Northam) passed both bodies over a week earlier. Both bills received bipartisan support, in particular Speaker Bill Howell, and passed with votes of 27-13 in the Senate and 60-39 in the House.
According to The Virginian-Pilot (Restaurant smoking ban OK'd, awaits Kaine's signature, 2/20/09, the following is a summary of the final legislation:
Terms of the Smoking Ban
—Applies to general areas inside restaurants and bars, including restrooms, except in designated rooms.
—In rooms segregated from the nonsmoking area of the restaurant and ventilated separately so that cigarette smoke can't mingle with air outside the designated smoking zones.
—On outdoor patios, sidewalks or decks where food or drink is served. However, smoking is banned if the outdoor area is enclosed by tent-style side flaps that can be lowered when outdoor areas are used in winter or bad weather.
—In private clubs such as lodges or Veterans of Foreign Wars posts.
—In tobacco stores or manufacturing facilities or restaurants within them.
—A $25 civil fine for patrons or restaurant proprietors for each violation.
—After Gov. Timothy M. Kaine signs it, the bill becomes law on Dec. 1.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Posted by MAXIMUS