- The Dan River has seen the third largest spill of coal ash in U.S. history this week. I am hearing conflicting reports of the amount of damage but I am extremely concerned that this could have a major environmental impact in our area. I am monitoring this situation frequently and I waiting for the heavy metals reports from Danville and South Boston from DEQ or EPA. I am also waiting on the Virginia Health Department to issue a statement on the safety of eating the fish, namely crappie, bass and other game fish. I understand that this is the third largest coal ash spill in US. History and I want to be absolutely certain of the long term environmental safety and impact on the waters of the Dan River before I feel comfortable suggesting that anyone consume the fish. In my view, there should be an effort made by Duke Energy to mitigate any environmental damages that can be made. I will continue to update you as we go forward.
- This week has seen a significant increase in visitation by various groups to lobby for or against legislation. In particular, the issue of fox penning was hotly contested by dozens of supporters of the sport. The House version of the bill was passed by indefinitely this week. The Senate version offered by Senator David Marsden that would have banned fox pens outright, was amended to allow existing fox pens to operate but would place a moratorium on any new pens. I will continue to follow this bill closely when it gets to the House for a vote. Governor McAuliffe has already stated that he favors legislation to phase out fox pens. This issue further illustrates the divide between urban and rural Virginia.
- HB 706 - A bill that would let any member of the General Assembly defend a law in federal court if the attorney general refuses, passed the full House of Delegates this week. This bill was predicated by Senator Mark Herring's refusal to defend the Virginia Constitution. It's future in the Senate is far less certain.
- In last week's newsletter I asked for input on SOL testing in schools and received several comments, mostly from teachers, who feel that there is currently excessive testing and would very much like to see the SOLs either severely reduced or eliminated completely. This year, we are working to reform the SOLs, increase access to virtual schools and maintain our commitment to Virginia's teachers. Strong Schools and a high quality education system are critical to the success of our young people. I am committed to doing all I can to ensure Virginia has a world-class public education system. HB930, was approved in committee on Wednesday. This bill would reduce the SOL tests in grades 3-8 to focus on reading and math. I wholeheartedly support this bill.
- Discussion has begun on whether or not to expand Medicaid in the Commonwealth. I have heard from many of you on the Medicaid issue. Rural Virginia is most affected as the level of indigent care is much higher than in urban areas. The implications to our local hospitals are far reaching and could potentially significantly reduce the level of care that our hospitals offer. Urban areas are far less affected. With that said, I would like to hear from you on this issue.
- The bills I am carrying are progressing. HB 1120, addressing warning lights on voluntary emergency vehicles, passed the House Transportation Committee on Thursday. The Longwood Board of Visitors bill, HB1102, was reported from the Education Committee.
- I encourage you to follow the actions of the General Assembly. Any legislation can be read in full on the Virginia General Assembly website, http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/. A wealth of additional information on the legislative process can also be found on this site. In addition, you can actually watch video here.
OF LOCAL INTEREST:
- South Boston Speedway got some good news this week with the announcement that Denny Hamlin will be moving his Short Track Showdown race from Richmond to South Boston this year. Congratulations to Cathy Rice and her fine group of employees in landing this event!