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Legislators Offer Outlook on 2012 Session

January 18, 2012

By Amir Vera
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Legislators from communities in Prince William County and along the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers will play key roles in determining how the General Assembly crafts a state budget and addresses transportation and other issues during its 2012 session.

The area’s three senators and three delegates include both Republicans and Democrats. But they have some common goals for Northern Virginia: to reduce traffic congestion, improve education and boost economic development.

As the 60-day legislative session enters its second week, here are perspectives from lawmakers at the state Capitol.

Sen. Charles Colgan, D-Manassas

Colgan serves as president pro tempore of the Senate. He represents the 29th Senate District, which includes the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park and part of Prince William County.

Colgan said the state budget is the primary concern this session. Virginia operates on a two-year budget. The General Assembly must devise a revenue and spending plan for the biennium that begins July 1.

Colgan predicts that the 2012-14 budget will increase funding for transportation.
“We want to improve the transportation system so people can get home,” he said. “When they spend so much time on the road, they have to take that time away from their family. They’re not home with their family or with their children. Instead, they’re sitting in their car in traffic jams. So that’s why we need the money to build those roads – to free up this traffic system.”

Sen. Linda ‘Toddy’ Puller, D-Mount Vernon

Puller represents the 36th Senate District, which includes parts of Fairfax, Prince William and Stafford counties as well as the Marine Corps Base Quantico.

She is sponsoring two proposals, Senate Bill 134 and SB 139, that would require counties to create separate county voting precincts for any locality entirely surrounded by a combination of military bases and water.

Puller expects energy policy, particularly uranium mining, to be a major focus this session.

“I think uranium mining might be one of the hot topics because there is a part of the state of Virginia where they have found a huge deposit of uranium – possibly the biggest in the U.S.,” Puller said.

“The people that own the property where the uranium is would like to mine it, and right now you’re not allowed to mine it – at least in the state of Virginia. I don’t know what’s going to happen on it, but it’s a very hot topic.”

Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Montross

The hot topic for Stuart this session is public safety. He represents the 28th Senate District, which includes parts of King George, Prince William, Spotsylvania, Stafford and Westmoreland counties.

“I was a former prosecutor – a commonwealth’s attorney,” Stuart said. “So a lot of commonwealth’s attorneys bring these issues to me because I understand them.”

Moreover, Stuart serves on the Senate Courts of Justice Committee. “So I find myself carrying quite a few public safety bills this year.”

One of his most important proposals, he said, is SB 4, which would add a version of the “castle doctrine” to state law. The legislation states that homeowners have the right to use physical force, including deadly force, to defend themselves against an intruder in their home without fearing prosecution.

Delegate Richard Anderson, R-Woodbridge

Anderson, whose 51st House District includes part of Prince William County, hopes to relieve traffic gridlock and make it easier for military personnel to vote.

“I am passionate about transportation because we have to somehow find a way to reduce this congestion,” he said. “We’ll never completely fix it to where every road you’ll drive on, you can drive the posted speed limit in the congested areas like Northern Virginia and Tidewater. But we’ve just got to do better.

“It affects workers, it affects businesses, and I’ve lived in it and felt it and experienced it. So therefore, I have strong feelings about it. We’ve got to be more aggressive in resolving the transportation problems.”

Anderson also is the chief sponsor of HB 1057, which would allow military personnel stationed overseas to register to vote electronically.

Delegate Mark Cole, R-Fredericksburg

Cole represents the 88th House District, which includes parts of Fauquier, Spotsylvania and Stafford counties and part of the city of Fredericksburg.

Cole, who chairs the House Privileges and Elections Committee, has introduced about 30 bills, most of which address taxes and elections. He has proposed House Joint Resolution 52, which would authorize a study on restructuring Virginia’s tax code.

“I don’t know how feasible it is, but I’d like to wipe away the current tax code,” Cole said. “Everyone complains about the current tax code and how complex and unfair it is. I’d like to see if we could start from scratch and come up with a new tax code that’s more fair and simple.”

Delegate Luke Torian, D-Dumfries

Torian represents the 52nd House District, which includes part of Prince William County. Education and economic development will get most of his attention this session.

“Those are the big two for me right now,” Torian said.

“You have to have a strong education system if you want to be able to recruit and encourage businesses and corporations to come to your county. And obviously, given the state of the economy over the last few years, economic growth and development and job creation is very important.”

On the Web

Several websites can help you track what’s happening at the General Assembly.

The assembly’s website is http://legis.virginia.gov/. It lists the meetings and events at Capitol Square each day. And the site links to a page with contact information, the list of bills and other data on each legislator.

The Legislative Information System is the database of all bills and proceedings at the Capitol. Its website is http://lis.virginia.gov/. That site can show you the status of a particular bill, the agenda for a legislative committee or the daily calendar for the House or Senate.

RichmondSunlight.com is a website created by nonprofit, nonpartisan citizen groups. It repackages data from the Legislative Information System and other sources. Richmond Sunlight also allows people to post comments about each bill.

This CNS article was published by PotomacLocal.com.