The 2014 General Assembly session, my first as a member of the House of Delegates, adjourned on Saturday. We will reconvene in a special session to finish the budget on March 24, 2014.
Although I entered this first session with no seniority and as a member of a body where Democrats are outnumbered two to one, I had a surprisingly productive session. I introduced or co-patroned 133 pieces of legislation. Of these, 64 bills passed both the House and Senate and await the governor’s signature.
Serving the people of Falls Church in the House of Delegates has been an awesome responsibility and a tremendous experience. I’ve learned a great deal and begun to forge important relationships that will assist me in representing your interests today and in years to come. But this isn’t a commentary about how the 2014 General Assembly affected my life – it’s a commentary about how it affected yours.
If you have children in school, your life – and theirs – is about to get a little bit better thanks to Standards of Learning Reform. The number of SOL tests elementary school kids take has been greatly reduced, more discretion has been given to local school boards to decide when to test on certain subjects, and we created a new committee to recommend additional reforms going forward.
If you drive a Hybrid Vehicle, we cut your taxes. The legislature passed a bill I co-sponsored repealing the $64 hybrid tax and requiring a refund.
If your home is served by overhead power lines, your electric service will soon be more reliable. The legislature passed a bill to authorize our electricity company to finance the undergrounding of residential power lines for a few dollars per customer per year. This will mean fewer power failures in our older neighborhoods during major weather events.
If you ride your bike around town, things got a little safer for you. The General Assembly was able to act on legislation requiring a three-foot passing distance around bicycles; however, we defeated a bill banning tailgating of cyclists.
If you are concerned about integrity in state Government, we passed a comprehensive Ethics reform package. It includes a $250 cap on tangible gifts, requires online gift disclosures and reporting gifts to family members.
If you live in a development governed by a Homeowner’s Association, you will receive greater notice and opportunity to fix violations before your association can take you to court. In exchange, if you are on the Board of your HOA you can now go to General District Court to enforce your covenants and by-laws, a much quicker and less expensive option than Circuit Court.
If you enjoy hunting on weekends, you can now hunt on Sundays on private property throughout the Commonwealth.
The 2014 Session also had its fair share of disappointments for many of us.
If you work for the minimum wage, you’ll not be getting a raise this year. A measure to increase the minimum wage here in Virginia failed.
If your parents brought you to Virginia from overseas as a child and you have been granted deferred action allowing you to continue to reside here legally, you still aren’t eligible for in-state tuition at Virginia’s colleges, as the Virginia DREAM Act that I co-sponsored was defeated in the House of Delegates.
If you are a legally married same sex couple in Virginia, you still can’t own your property as Tenants by the Entirety (the way almost all married couples in Virginia own property), as my bill to make it clear that you could was defeated in the House General Laws Committee.
If you are convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, you can probably keep your gun. My bill to require those convicted of even misdemeanor acts of domestic violence to give up their dangerous weapons was defeated in the House Court of Justice Committee on a largely party-line vote.
And on some issues, we’ll just have to wait and see.
My bill to prohibit the conversion of campaign funds to personal use was carried over to 2015. The Chairman of the House Privileges and Elections Committee saw merit in the proposal but asked to work with me over the summer to work on the definition of personal use.
Many of you may have read about my well-publicized, successful effort to make it a crime to disseminate “Revenge Pornography” in Virginia. My bill to create a civil action to allow victims of Revenge Pornography to sue for damages was also carried over until next year.
We still don’t have a budget. House Republicans have stubbornly refused to consider any compromise to expand Medicaid in Virginia under the Affordable Care Act, forfeiting $5 million each day in federal funds that could be coming into the Commonwealth to provide health care for our working poor.
Delegate Marcus Simon represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates.