Del. Mark Keam 2013 End-of-Session letter
On April 3rd, the Virginia General Assembly concluded all of its business for 2013.
This was the fourth legislative session in Richmond where I had the privilege of serving as your state representative. With this letter, I want to share some highlights of the session and give you my contact information should you have any questions or comments about any of the bills that passed, or if you are facing any constituent issues with any state government agency.
As in previous years, I introduced several bills designed to move the Commonwealth forward by maintaining our strong public schools and expanding educational opportunities, investing in transportation and other infrastructure, promoting the economy through pro-growth tax and job creation policies, taking care of our most vulnerable residents as well as those who serve in the military or public safety positions, and making our state government work more effectively and efficiently with transparency and accountability.
Three of my bills have become law this year:
- HB 2143 addresses a problem that a constituent brought to my attention. Last year, after she voted by a provisional ballot, she noticed that election workers left the envelope containing her ballot with her name and Social Security Number visible on a desk where other voters could see. My bill would require prompt disposal of such envelopes in order to prevent strangers from seeing such sensitive voter information.
- HB 2148 allows the Virginia Department of Corrections to share vital information about ex-offenders, such as medical and mental health records, with relevant state and local agencies to provide ample time to arrange for the care of indigent or homeless who are released from prison. Over the past four years, I worked with Governor Bob McDonnell's Prisoner and Juvenile Re-Entry Council on this and many other bills.
- HB 2157 repeals an outdated requirement for checks on bank accounts open for less than one year to display the month and year in which the account was opened, as a way to flag new accounts for retailers. Virginia remains one of very few states that still requires this printing, but with decline in use of checks and with sophisticated fraud-detection methods, the extra requirement simply does not make sense today.
Two of my bills did not pass but were instead referred to appropriate state commissions to be considered outside of the legislative session:
- HB 2131 would have provided relief for residents in Tysons who will be assessed a new property tax by Fairfax County to pay for transportation infrastructure within Tysons. I have been outspoken about the unfairness of the new tax, and introduced this bill to provide more authority to the County Board of Supervisors so that they can have more flexibility in implementing the tax. Unfortunately, the General Assembly did not think a new state law was appropriate so they referred my bill to the Virginia Housing Commission to study the issue further and return with recommendations.
- HB 2125 would open up government records under the Freedom of Information Act to any American. Currently, Virginia is one of a handful of states that limit FOIA requests to their own residents only. This issue is currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, so depending on which way the Court rules, Virginia would have to amend our law. Since my bill would have made this change before the Court acted, the General Assembly referred the bill to the FOIA Council to hold until next year.
In addition to these bills, I spent significant time on transportation and education issues during this session. On transportation, I worked closely with Governor McDonnell to pass a comprehensive plan that would raise new sustainable and dedicated stream of revenues to pay for the much-needed highway infrastructure and mass transit improvements throughout Virginia.
For 27 years, the state legislature had been unable to pass such a transportation funding bill due to various ideological, regional and partisan divisions. While Richmond remained in a deadlock for a generation, Virginians found ourselves wasting more time and gallons of gas just sitting in traffic. In fact, for the second year in a row, Texas A&M Transportation Institute named the Washington DC region the number one most congested area in the entire nation.
This year, I led the bipartisan effort on the House Finance Committee to push a solution forward against intense opposition from my colleagues who had signed pledges to never raise taxes. While no politician wants to raise taxes, I believe we have exhausted all other options for new revenues. Additionally, I give credit to a Republican Governor who was willing to put new taxes on the table, which opened the way for others in his party to support this package.
On my website, I describe in detail how the new law will work and what it will mean for you. Briefly, the bill would raise approximately $3.5 billion of new revenues over 5 years from a combination of increased sales tax and other regional taxes, which will be used solely to pay for transportation solutions. Most importantly, approximately $350 million of new revenues will be raised and spent exclusively in Northern Virginia to combat our unique traffic mess in our area.
You can read more about these bills and other legislative issues that came up in the General Assembly session by visiting my website, www.DelegateKeam.org. Please feel free to contact me with any questions, comments or concerns you may have about our state government.
P.S. Will you share this email with your friends so they can receive regular updates from me? And don't forget to check out our website at www.MarkKeam.com and follow us on Twitter @MarkKeam and Facebook.