March 14, 2011
The 2011 General Assembly legislative session is over and I am very grateful to everyone who participated in the process this year. I am particularly grateful for the communications and feedback from those of you who got in touch with me over the last several weeks. Currently, we are charging ahead with veto and redistricting sessions the first week of April, where we have much riding on the outcome of some of those votes.
In the meantime, I have to turn my attention to re-election this fall and a very important fundraising deadline on March 31. I hope that you will consider making a contribution to help. You can contribute online at my website or mail a contribution to Jill Vogel for Senate at 45 North Hill Drive, Suite 100, Warrenton, VA 20186.
It is a great honor to represent the 27th District. I have worked hard to be worthy of that responsibility and to respond to the needs of constituents as well as manage the legislation important to our region. I hope that I will have the opportunity again.
Thank you so much for your help and support!
March 03, 2011
The 2011 Senate session concluded on Sunday night, with the final votes cast on the transportation bill and the budget. The budget negotiation started with a substantial difference between the House and Senate proposals, but in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday the two sides reached a compromise. It included substantial new money for transportation, education, public safety and the judiciary, with no tax increase and spending below 2007 levels. It also unwinds some of the objectionable one-time shortcuts used to close the budget gap last year, including underfunding of VRS and accelerated sales taxes. I voted for the amended budget and among the improvements is critical funding for the judicial vacancies in our district and around the state.Other legislation I supported that passed in the closing days of session included bills to: extend HOV to hybrid vehicles for an additional year; provide health insurance coverage for children with autism; ban synthetic marijuana; streamline a process for recognition of foreign adoptions in Virginia; implement a constitutional amendment designed to protect private property rights; and require the Board of Health to promulgate regulations containing minimum standards for infection prevention, disaster preparedness and security for hospitals and nursing homes.
The clinic safety bill proved to be the most controversial. While it was intended to address serious public health issues, it was almost derailed by a provision to allow the Department of Health to promulgate minimum standards for women's health clinics that provide abortions. Thirty other states have safety regulations for abortion clinics and Virginia is long overdue in doing the same. Remarkably, health and safety standards exist for other categories of clinics and the only reason Virginia has failed women is that the bill was wrongly tied to abortion rights. The bill does not restrict abortion rights nor does it limit access. Instead it goes to the heart of improving patient safety for women. Meanwhile, the absence of such standards has allowed clinics in Virginia to operate with a doctor whose license was revoked in a prior state and who has no license to practice medicine in Virginia. Because of the current loophole, those clinics are impervious to the same quality of care standards that apply in every other setting. It is offensive to women and I considered it my obligation to advocate for a change in the statute.
The eminent domain measure also drew a heated debate. It represents the latest effort by Virginia legislators to protect private property rights following lessons learned from the U.S. Supreme Court's 2005 decision in a Connecticut case that allowed government seizure of private property for an economic development project. It also comes on the heels of the strong objections to the proposed designation of the 275-mile Potomac Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH) which would greatly impact the 27th Senate district. The proposed amendment to Virginia's Constitution must be passed again by the new General Assembly in 2012 and then go to voters in a statewide referendum.
The General Assembly also fast-tracked legislation to fund the transition of people with serious mental and developmental disabilities from centralized hospital-type settings into community-based care centers. The legislation permits $30 million to be transferred into the existing trust fund to finance the modernization of community-based centers and it also calls for the development of a transition plan. The bill heads off a potentially costly federal lawsuit over our outdated system of care. A Department of Justice report cites that the state unnecessarily institutionalizes people with intellectual disabilities in training centers and fails to provide adequate community-based services, which is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The move to these services would provide the care and dignified living for our most vulnerable citizens and in many cases allow the residents to live closer to their families. Virginia is among just five states still utilizing centralized institutions.
Among the bills that died were measures that would impose tighter restrictions on texting and cell phone use in automobiles. Also, ten bills passed in the House targeting illegal immigration were killed in the Senate Courts of Justice subcommittee. However, several bills that did pass both chambers included a bill that requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to cancel any license, permit, or special identification card of an individual if it is notified by a federal government agency that the individual is not legally present in the United States; a bill that provides that any person who manufactures, sells, or transfers a fictitious birth certificate for the purpose of establishing a false identity is guilty of a Class 6 felony; a bill that would require the Secretary of Public Safety to establish an information exchange program with states that share a border with Mexico and Canada for the purpose of sharing of intelligence relating to international gangs, terrorist organizations, and other illegal activities in the Commonwealth; and a bill that would require state agencies to include in every contract over $50,000 a provision requiring the contractor to use the E-Verify program for employees who will be performing work under the contract within the Commonwealth.
Moments after the Senate adjourned the 2011 Regular Session on Sunday night, the Senate convened the special session for redistricting. In the coming weeks, committees will meet to draft new district lines and the Senate will meet in April to debate the measure.
It has been a great honor to serve this term in the Senate and I am very grateful to the many people who have provided support, counsel and resources as we have worked very hard to address thousands of issues that have arisen in our district over four years.
As always, we appreciate hearing from you. This week, we will resume work in our district office and can be reached at 540-662-4551 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.