Senator Mark Herring (D- Loudoun & Fairfax) announced today a number of legislative proposals and budget initiatives that he will be sponsoring during the 2012 General Assembly session, which began this past Wednesday. To date, Senator Herring has introduced 18 bills and anticipates introducing several more before the January 20th deadline.
Public Safety: Protecting the Vulnerable
Among the highlights of Senator Herring’s legislative package is SB 222, which would make it a crime to knowingly financially exploit an older or incapacitated adult. Senator Herring has lead the effort for several years, working with a coalition of groups including the Fairfax County Financial Crimes Division, AARP, Alzheimer’s organizations, Commonwealth Attorneys and concerned citizens, to strengthen Virginia’s laws in this area.
“When I began working on this legislation in 2009, we found that Virginia’s laws were among to weakest in the nation at protecting older Virginians from financial abuse,” Herring said, “After a multi-year effort, there is now money in the budget to cover the corrections impact. I am convinced that this is the year we will finally see this become law.”
Senator Herring will continue to lead the charge against dangerous designer drugs. He has introduced SB 223 to continue the work started last year with his SB 745 to combat the growing problem of synthetic marijuana and bath salts.
“As long as there are individuals out there who are trying to find ways around our laws in order to make a quick buck by selling extremely dangerous drugs to our kids, we need to remain vigilant,” Herring said. “I am continuing to work with law enforcement, forensic scientists and prosecutors to ensure they have the tools they need to stay one step ahead of the drug makers and dealers.”
Economic Development: Grow and Strengthen Virginia’s Innovation Economy
Continuing his efforts to promote science and technology based economic development, Senator Herring has introduced SB 232. This legislation would enhance Virginia’s competitiveness in attracting major data center investments. SB 232 has the strong support of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce and the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce.
Senator Herring has also introduced legislation that would establish the Commonwealth Innovation Investment Fund. This initiative creates a long-term, dedicated funding source to grow research and technology companies by capturing a percentage of the growth in state revenue from science and innovation companies. It is designed to create jobs, nurture start-ups and bring more science and technology companies to Virginia.
“Much of Virginia’s future economic prosperity will depend on our ability to compete and win in a in a globally competitive, innovation economy,” Herring stated. “We need smart policies, like the bills I am introducing, in order to attract the high-growth, high-paying jobs that the science and technology industries bring.”
Reverse Governor McDonnell’s Cuts to K-12 Education
Governor McDonnell’s introduced budget contains several proposed cuts to K-12 education funding. Senator Herring has introduced budget amendments to reverse these cuts, and restore vital state education funds to Virginia localities.
“The Governor’s proposed cuts would be very detrimental to our children and to the quality of their education,” Herring said.
“One of the budget amendments I have introduced would reverse Governor McDonnell’s unfair elimination of the cost of competing adjustment for support personnel in Northern Virginia. Currently, the state budget recognizes that the higher cost of living in Northern Virginia results in higher costs for the school divisions in our region. By proposing to eliminate this adjustment, Northern Virginia localities stand to lose $65 million over the biennium that would have to be made up by increases in local property taxes.”
Senator Herring is also seeking to reverse other proposed cuts in public school funding included in Governor McDonnell’s budget. Herring has proposed budget amendments that would restore $217 million in direct aid to public schools throughout the state.
Additionally, Senator Herring has introduced two other education related budget initiatives. One would provide start-up funding for Loudoun County Public Schools to implement a full-day kindergarten program. Another would boost funding for career and technical education throughout Virginia.
Support Phase II of the Dulles Rail Project
Senator Herring continues to support the completion of Phase II of the Dulles Rail Project.
“Extending the Metro to Dulles Airport and into Loudoun County is a federal, state and local priority,” Herring said. “Localities have already indicated their willingness to participate financially, and now it’s time the state step up and contribute more to the project in order to keep toll rates from skyrocketing. That is why I have introduced a budget amendment seeking $500 million in state transportation funds for Phase II.”
Previously, Governor McDonnell has announced $500 million in state funding for a Hampton Roads bridge-tunnel project and $400 million for turning Rt. 460 between Petersburg and Suffolk into a highway, in both cases to buy down tolls.
“If Virginia can spend almost $1 billion to buy down tolls elsewhere in the state, it can come up with more funds to support a project as significant as the Dulles Rail Project,” Herring stated.