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General Assembly townhall meeting in Reston

General Assembly townhall meeting in Reston

-- Charles McAndrew, January 7, 2016

I attended a town hall meeting at the Lake Ann Reston Community Center on Thursday January 7, 2016. The speakers were Delegate Ken Plum and Senator Janet Howell. This was almost a two hour meeting and approximately 60 people were in attendance. Both speakers spoke briefly and then opened up the discussion to the attendees. Here is the list of most of the items discussed:

  1. Gun Control -- Ken Plum will introduce legislative action in the General Assembly to reduce and prevent gun violence and to close the gun show loophole. Janet Howell said she would lend her support for this new legislation. Plum stated that he hopes the General Assembly has the political courage to take on gun manufacturers and the gun lobby. He said that we need to recognize that gun violence has escalated in recent years as evidenced by massive attacks on innocent citizens. He believes that Universal background checks for gun purchasers will help. He reminded the audience that the largest gun massacre in this country occurred at Virginia Tech in 2007 and he also mentioned the on-camera murders at TV station in Smith Mountain Lake in 2015.

  2. Education -- Both Plum and Howell will push for more funding for public education. Plum stated that in FY 2014, the average school division in VA. spent 7% less to educate each student that it did in FY 2005. Since FY 2009, state funding cuts to localities for education were third highest among the states and cost local governments $1.7 billion per biennium statewide making current state funding below the FY 2009 level. He claims that VA. is in the top 10 in wealth but continues to be in the bottom 10 for education funding.

  3. Medicaid -- Both Plum and Howell stated that they will again pursue the Medicaid issue. Plum states that VA. is losing almost $5 million per day in revenue by refusing to expand Medicaid eligibility that would extend medical care to about 400,000 working Virginians. So far, $3 billion has been lost by citizens who have to go without health care or show up at the local hospital emergency rooms when they are very sick. At the same time the lost money is being paid by Virginia taxpayers but is not being returned to the state. The Republican opposition is strictly partisan by narrow minded individuals who are opposed to the Affordable Care Act. He stated that the money that could be received now would mean that there were be more funding available for education.

  4. Mental Health Problems -- Both Howell and Plum realize that VA. is not properly addressing this serious problem. Recently, there was a case in Northern VA. whereby a mental health patient could not be admitted for care and thus he was transferred to a mental health facility in Staunton. Howell discussed her good Friend Senator Deeds and the situation of his son who had mental problems. There has been a commission set up to review all of this and to thoroughly vent the problem of recognizing a mental health patient. Also, the commission is looking at crisis intervention in hope to avoid what happened to Senator Deeds' son. Howell stated that mental health issues have been a low priority in VA. but hopefully this commission will address these issues. Plum stated that 18% of the people in jail are really suffering from mental health problems as will as disabled folks. Both Plum and Howell want the courts in VA. to reduce the penalties of jail time for using marijuana as the jails are already filled up with folks with what they consider as minor crimes. Howell stated that jails are becoming a very costly situation for the state!

  5. Cigarette tax -- Plum will introduce a bill to increase cigarette tax. This tax has not been increased for some years. He asked the audience what they thought about this and the vast majority raised their hand in favor of increasing cigarette tax.

  6. Tire rubber on school playing fields -- Someone in the audience stated that he was a environmental scientist and that public schools in recent years have been using "ground-up tires" instead of grass or other substitutes for football, soccer, and other sports played on their fields. By using this material can cause cancer when exposed to this compound. Montgomery County, MD. Has banned this from their playing fields as it is an environmental toxin. Both Plum and Howell will look in to this problem. li>

    Climate change -- Both Howell and Plum stated that there is sufficient scientific proof that climate change is for real! Plum stated that legislation has already been introduced that would give lawmakers the power to block implementation of federal climate-change regulations set by the U.S. EPA to curb greenhouse gas emissions. He claims that some of the sponsors of the bills are climate change deniers. He said he would oppose their efforts and will support state level actions that will clean up our air and water. He will push for more solar power and renewable power. li>

    Transportation -- Plum discussed the tolling for inside the Beltway on I-66. While he recognizes that his neighboring Democratic colleagues such as Delegate Jennifer Boysco, and Senator Jenipher Wexton do not support this proposal, none of these naysayers have an alternative viable plan to resolving the bottleneck of inside the beltway on I-66, so says Plum! Both he and Howell will continue to support the Silver Line and the expansion of bus service to Metro stations. I asked Plum, where was the funding for phase II? I recognize that they already have a "Federal Loan of $1.9 BILLION" but that is a loan that will have to be repaid most likely by toll road users of the Dulles Tollroad. I stated that I have heard that Phase II will cost around $3 billion. I was ignored on my question.

Remember, I am simply the messenger of this meeting in LIBERAL LAND!

-- Charles McAndrew, Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance