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Comstock speaks in Manassas while protesters line sidewalk

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Submitted photos

MANASSAS, Va. — Rep. Barbara Comstock spoke today at the Rotary Club of Manassas.

We’re told the Republican representing Virginia’s 10th Congressional District discussed rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, and about replacing Obamacare with a new GOP-backed plan.

Constituents for days have urged Comstock, and other GOP lawmakers to hold a town hall meeting about the health care issue. They’re using Indivisible Guide website, which touts itself as “a practical guide to resisting the Trump agenda” to organize their efforts.

Protestors stood outside the Rotary Club meeting, held at the Center for the Arts at the Candy Factory in Downtown Manassas, while Comstock spoke.

Potomac Local called Comstock’s office seeking a statement for this post but has yet to hear back. We’ll post any statement from Comstock’s office in this post when/if we receive it.

News
Assembly amends description of ‘dangerous dog’

RICHMOND – Both the House and Senate have unanimously approved a bill that would change the legal description of a “dangerous dog” and possibly put fewer animals on a state registry.

HB 2381 cleared the Senate, 40-0, on Tuesday after winning approval in the House on Feb. 6. The bill now goes to Gov. Terry McAuliffe for his signature. (more…)

News
Virginia Speaker of the House Bill Howell, of Stafford, to retire

Statement from Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Paul Milde:

“On behalf of the Board of Supervisors and the citizens of Stafford County, I would like to thank Bill Howell for his outstanding representation of our area during his 29 years in the General Assembly and 15 years as Speaker.

The fact that Bill served the second longest time of any speaker in Virginia history says so much about his leadership ability and his character. For an elected official, it can be difficult to balance the needs of your district and the needs of other districts, but Bill did a remarkable job of doing the best for the citizens of Stafford County as well as all citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia. He kept our state financially sound, gaining three AAA bond ratings for Virginia. He stood up for us against burdensome federal programs, and supported and enabled efforts to conserve open land. He helped us preserve our Civil War Park, Crow’s Nest and Widewater State Park through his support of land conservation. He worked hard to find – and enact – solutions for our transportation challenges.

As impressive and substantial as those accomplishments are, Bill’s best contribution to Stafford County is his love of the people and the history of the area. Bill and Cessie Howell never failed to greet their constituents and neighbors with warm smiles of welcome. We will greatly miss Speaker Howell’s exemplary leadership. We thank him for the many things he accomplished for Stafford County and the sacrifices he and his entire family made to serve the people of Virginia.”

News
Bill lets women get 1 year of birth control pills

Photo: Mike Mullin

RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia Senate on Thursday passed legislation allowing pharmacists to provide women a full year of birth control pills at once if prescribed by a doctor.

HB 2267, was sponsored by Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Springfield. The bill, titled the Birth Control Access Act, will now be sent to Gov. Terry McAuliffe to be signed into law.

Women’s right activists praised the measure’s passage. Many insurance policies currently limit women to a 90-day supply of birth control pills.

“Passing the Birth Control Access Act is a huge victory for women. Women lead busy lives, and going back and forth to the pharmacy every few weeks to get the birth control they need isn’t necessary, so we’re thrilled that the General Assembly has passed this common-sense solution,” said Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress Virginia. “Everyone in a community benefits when women are able to take control of their own bodies, and passing this bill is a step in the right direction.” (more…)

Coal Ash bill passes, computers and predatory lending to be studied

We have one week to go in session and negotiations are rapidly reaching conclusion as we push to finish out work so we can get back to our families and our jobs.

This past week, my legislation to raise Virginia’s threshold between misdemeanors and felonies from $200 to $500 failed. Virginia’s threshold has not changed since 1981. Our existing system unnecessarily focuses police and prosecutors on minor crimes instead of violent crime while tainting thousands of Virginia’s suffering from depression or drug addiction with felony charges for life.
The House of Delegates passed my legislation requiring Dominion to provide better information on coal ash pollution, disaster preparedness, and recycling. I am not happy that a permitting moratorium was removed, it is better than no bill at all and the Governor will also have a chance to amend the legislation.

The House is also poised to pass my legislation that would require the police to provide police records to next of kin in deaths involving suicide or unattended deaths. Some police departments refuse to provide this information. I think it will help families achieve closure and assure high quality policing.

Two of my more significant bills have been referred for further study. As a part-time legislature, we frequently refer meritorious, but complex proposals to groups who meet outside of session that have better staff support, can take a deeper dive into policy choices, and provide a longer period for stakeholder vetting.

My legislation that would require school systems to purchase personal computing devices for all students expected to use electronic textbooks was sent to the Future of Public Elementary and Secondary Education Joint Committee. I am hopeful we will finally come up with some guidelines to make a personal digital device an essential learning tool in the Commonwealth.

Also, my legislation requiring regulation of predatory internet lenders was sent to the Virginia’s Bureau of Financial Institutions who was directed to create a working group to propose a regulatory framework in 2018. Today, internet lenders are making loans in Virginia at rates north of 500%. For example, this week I went to www.cashnetusa.com and they are offering loans for $100, $300, or $1800 at a daily rate of 0.8192% or in other words – an APR of 299% before you include the 15% “transaction fee” on your initial loan. This means if you borrow $100 and make no payments you would owe $458.86 after one year before late fees. Others have seen rates as high as 5,000%. We need to get this under control.

This week, I also hope to be part of negotiating the final terms of my legislation placing controls on the City of Alexandria’s raw sewage discharges. The House passed similar legislation that takes a different approach. Also, about 10 more of my bills are set to pass the House of Delegates this week.

We will begin the process of packing up our office in preparation of moving to temporary office space for the next four years. The current General Assembly Building is an agglomeration of four asbestos-laden, leaky, and unreliable buildings with uncoordinated elevators and lousy accessibility. We will move down the hill for four years as “the GAB” is demolished and reconstructed through 2022.

Finally, I have received nearly 400 responses to my Constituent Survey. Please make sure you provide your opinions soon at www.scottsurovell.org/survey.

It is an honor to serve as your state senator.

News
Assembly passes bill to prevent identity theft

 

A bill that seeks to protect Virginians from losing their income tax refunds to identity thieves won final approval Wednesday in the General Assembly.
The bill’s sponsor, Del. Mark Keam, D-Vienna, said thieves can steal information from the payroll system of an employer or payroll service and use it to claim a state income tax refund before the real taxpayer files a legitimate return.

“Incidents of cyber hacking and data breach are becoming way too common, and criminals are using every opportunity to prey on innocent Virginians,” Keam said. His legislation, HB 2113, passed unanimously in the state Senate on Wednesday. The bill, which was approved by the House on Feb. 2, now goes to Gov. Terry McAuliffe for his signature.

The measure would require employers to notify the attorney general’s office if they discover that sensitive information about their employee payroll has been compromised. The attorney general’s office then would work with the Virginia Department of Taxation to make sure employees don’t lose their tax refunds to identity thieves.

“To give the government a fighting chance against these criminals, it’s critical that employers notify the attorney general’s office as soon as they discover a breach of their employees’ payroll data so that the Tax Department can prevent fraudulent income tax refunds from being processed,” Keam said.

According to the Department of Taxation, more than 160 fraudulent refunds were issued during the first six months of 2016 as a result of 18 payroll breaches. Once a fraudulent tax refund is issued, it often is impossible to recover, state officials said. Annually, the state loses about $800,000 due to such cases of fraud involving tax refunds.

Paige Tucker, communications specialist with the Virginia Department of Taxation, said identity theft has been a serious problem but her agency is working to stop it. “We are committed to doing our part to prevent refund fraud,” Tucker said. “With the increased sophistication of our fraud models and increased resources devoted to our refund fraud prevention program, we’re seeing positive results.”

To prevent refund fraud, Tucker said, taxpayers should refrain from sending personal information, such as their Social Security number, to unknown people through email or text.

News
New planning, budget directors chosen for Prince William County

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Featured photos in slideshow: Horner, Sinclair

From Prince William County: 

Following a nationwide search and competitive hiring process, the Board of County Supervisors announced that Rebecca Horner is the new Planning Director and Dave Sinclair is the new Office of Management and Budget Director for Prince William County. (more…)

News
Carter vows to combat economic insecurity

Lee Jin Carter is running for the 50th District of the House of Delegates

Carter submitted responses to our Project: Election survey posted below the jump.

Election information for 2017 from the Virginia Office of Elections: 

6/13/17 June Primary (called if needed)
Deadline to register to vote, or update an existing registration, is Monday, May 22, 2017

Deadline to request an absentee ballot to be mailed to you is 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, June 6, 2017. Your request must be received by your Registrar by 5:00 p.m.

11/7/17 General Election and Special Elections
Deadline to register to vote, or update an existing registration, is Monday, October 16, 2017

Deadline to request an absentee ballot to be mailed to you is 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, October 31, 2017. Your request must be received by your Registrar by 5:00 p.m.

Where do I go to vote? 

PL: What are the top three major issues facing the district you wish to represent? (more…)

News
Protesters take message to Stewart: #NoHate

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WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Five police cruisers sat outside the Prince William County Government Center Tuesday night.

Inside the building, more uniformed officers to include County Police Chief Barry Barnard were there to greet protesters who came to speak directly to Board of Supervisors Chairman At-large, and Virginia Gubernatorial Candidate Corey Stewart.

They held signs, chanted about democracy, and brought a message to Prince William County’s top leader.

“I want him to see the immigrant community in a different perspective. I see him in s stereotype, known to commit violent acts when that is a small margin of the people. We also know that people born in the United States also commit crimes,” said Manassas Park City Councilman Hector Cendejas, 28. (more…)

Crossover Week, town halls, senate budget

Crossover week of the 2017 Session came to a close as we finished initial action on over 3,000 bills. Twenty-two of my bills of were passed by the Senate and moved on to the House of Delegates.

My two Saturday Town Hall meetings had the largest crowds I have seen in eight years. There was significant concern regarding federal immigration raids on U.S. 1. On Friday, I received alarming reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had arrested numerous Latinos in a raid on U.S.1. While the deportation of convicted felons has been consistent policy, random street sweeps and arrest or deportations of law abiding residents is unprecedented in our community. I will work to get better information and seek to stop these actions.

Other questions focused on affordable housing, education funding, water quality, addressing the opioid crisis, respecting LGBTQ rights, proliferation of out-of-state license plates, and concerns about fracking. You can watch videos of both town halls on my You Tube channel.

On Monday, we heard a spirited debate on the regulation of short-term rentals by services such as AirBNB. Since we considered legislation last year, I heard concerns from numerous residents about residences being effectively used as hotel or movie studios. The bill we passed reaffirms local government’s authority to regulate temporary rentals and the fine owners who fail to pay occupancy taxes for renting property to multiple tenants over 30-days per years.

On Thursday, we passed the Senate Amendments to the State Budget. I am pleased that the Senate Budget Amendments provided unconditional matching funds for a two-percent raise for our teachers. These funds, coupled with other amendments would result in an additional $18.5 million for Fairfax County Public Schools, $26.6 million for Prince William County Public Schools and $7.1 million for Stafford County Public Schools.

Unfortunately, the Senate has proposed to cut about $6 million from the Governor’s proposed budget to improve operation of our election system. Last year, Virginia’s voter registration system failed on the last day of voter registration due to Virginians attempting to register to vote. The Governor’s proposed funding would have solved this problem. I will work to ensure it is restored.

On Thursday, my two pedestrian and cycling safety bills acquired a bit of a “fever” on the House side of the Chamber. Biking and pedestrian safety is a major problem in the United States, Virginia and the 36th District. Nationwide bike and pedestrian fatalities are rising faster than average. In Virginia, pedestrian fatalities were up fifty-one percent (51%) in 2016. That kind of increase is not an aberration.

My legislation to clarify the use of bike lanes and specifically prohibit the use of bike lanes to pass cars was killed in a House Transportation Subcommittee by one vote. Members were concerned that it would be “confusing” to drivers. I argued that driver education and signage would solve the problem, but was not persuasive.

My legislation to create a new standard and new penalties for seriously injuring a “vulnerable user” was sent to the House Courts Committee which previously killed a similar bill. Hopefully, I will have better luck.

This week, my legislation to generate better information regarding coal ash regulation will be up for vote along with most of my other bills in the House of Delegates.

As always, if you have any feedback, drop me a note at scott@scottsurovell.org. Also, please complete my constituent survey at www.scottsurovell.org/survey if you have not done so yet. It is an honor to serve as your State Senator.

News
Dudenhefer seeks to reclaim Stafford Board of Supervisors seat

STAFFORD, Va. — Mark Dudenhefer will run to reclaim a seat on the Stafford County Board of Supervisors.

In his fall 2017 run for the Garrisonville District seat, the Republican said he plans to bring back a focus on local transportation issue to the Board. Improving the county’s roadways was his signature issue after he was first elected to the Board in 2005.

The retired Marine Corps Colonel decided last month not to run to keep his seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. Almost immediately, rumors began to swirl that he would seek a return to local government.

“I want to stop the rumors that have been going around and want to formally announce my candidacy for the Garrisonville District seat,” said Dudenhefer.

He stepped away from the local office in 2011 when he being elected to the 2nd House District seat in Stafford and Woodbridge. While there, the Delegate was successful in winning funds for Widewater State Park in Stafford and passing Gwenyth’s Law requiring lifesaving defibrillators in schools. (more…)

News
Jennifer Carroll Foy wants to bring Metro to Prince William

Jennifer Carroll Foy is running for the 2nd District of the House of Delegates.

Foy submitted responses to our Project: Election survey posted below the jump. 

6/13/17 June Primary (called if needed)
Deadline to register to vote, or update an existing registration, is Monday, May 22, 2017

Deadline to request an absentee ballot to be mailed to you is 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, June 6, 2017. Your request must be received by your Registrar by 5:00 p.m.

11/7/17 General Election and Special Elections
Deadline to register to vote, or update an existing registration, is Monday, October 16, 2017

Deadline to request an absentee ballot to be mailed to you is 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, October 31, 2017. Your request must be received by your Registrar by 5:00 p.m.

Where do I go to vote? 

PL: What are the top three major issues facing voters in your district?

Foy: Transportation improvement, Education, Protecting Women’s Rights (more…)

News
Here’s why protesters say they’ll line up against Corey Stewart tomorrow night

Submitted: 

“A coalition of community organizations will hold a protest/rally prior to the PW BOCS next meeting scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 14, at the McCoart Building, 1 County Complex, Woodbridge, VA. Additionally, coalition members and others will be speaking at citizens time during the Board meeting.

(more…)

News
Austion wants to create opportunity through education

Laquan Austion is currently running for the 2nd District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. 

Austion submitted responses to our Project: Election survey posted below the jump.

Election information for 2017 from the Virginia Office of Elections: 

6/13/17 June Primary (called if needed)
Deadline to register to vote, or update an existing registration, is Monday, May 22, 2017

Deadline to request an absentee ballot to be mailed to you is 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, June 6, 2017. Your request must be received by your Registrar by 5:00 p.m.

11/7/17 General Election and Special Elections
Deadline to register to vote, or update an existing registration, is Monday, October 16, 2017

Deadline to request an absentee ballot to be mailed to you is 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, October 31, 2017. Your request must be received by your Registrar by 5:00 p.m.

Where do I go to vote? 

PL: What are the top three major issues facing voters in your district?

Austion: Transportation, Education, Fostering an environment for opportunities and upward mobility (more…)

News
Scarborough reappointed to Prince William Electoral Board

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From Keith Scarborough:

Keith Scarborough has been reappointed to another 3-year term on the Prince William County Electoral Board by the Circuit Court of Prince William County. Working with the General Registrar, the Electoral Board is responsible for overseeing all voter registration and election activities in the County.

A Lake Ridge resident, Scarborough is an attorney for an advertising trade association in Washington, D.C. He was first appointed to the Electoral Board in 2007 and is currently serving as Secretary. (more…)

Dudenhefer bills on Widewater State Park, school nursers ‘crossover’

From Delegate Mark Dudenhefer: 

Hello from your state capitol in Richmond. As of February 3rd, the House has completed 24 of the 45 days of the 2017 session. On Sunday, February 5th, the committees responsible for the budget bills unveiled their complete proposals. Two important deadlines are happening this week. One of the deadlines is called “Crossover” the deadline with which each chamber must complete work on bills that originated in their chamber. Thursday the House will vote on their version of the budget.

Things to Mention:

1. HB 1691 Widewater Bill

This bill authorizes the Department of Conservation and Recreation to convey some property to the Widewater Beach Subdivision Citizens Association. This bill passed the House today and will now go to the Senate for consideration.

2. HB 1829 CPR Bill

This bill requires that teachers seeking or renewing a teacher’s license are required to demonstrate hands-on training of the skills necessary to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). It is imperative that hands-on training is included in the curriculum for emergency first aid training. The bill was approved by the House and is awaiting Senate action.

3. HB 1769 Malicious Bodily Injury or Laser Pointing at U.S. Armed Forces

The bill adds uniformed members of the United States Armed Forces, including members of the Virginia National Guard, to the list of persons the malicious or unlawful wounding of whom, or the pointing of a laser at whom, is subject to an enhanced penalty. Unfortunately, the Court and Justice Committee chose not to hear this legislation citing funding shortfalls.

4. HB 1757 School Nurses

This bill requires that each local school board employ at least one full-time equivalent school nurse in each school or one nurse for every 550 students. After passing the committee on Education, the bill was tabled in the Appropriation Committee for lack of funds. Even though the bill failed, it was important to raise awareness of the importance of a school nurse in every school.

Progress on Possum Point, and 2% teacher raises

The last week of January was especially busy as the General Assembly approached February 7th – Crossover – the day we are required to complete all work on bills originating in our chamber. The bills saved for last usually involve the hardest issues to resolve.

Out of the 40 bills I introduced twenty-two have passed the Senate or are poised for passage before Crossover.

Last week saw another victory for water quality. This session, I introduced three bills to help control water pollution caused by coal ash. One of my bills was reported by the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee over the objection of Dominion Power. The bill prohibits the issuance of any final permits until Dominion to identifies and describes all water pollution occurring at coal ash ponds and demonstrate corrective measures, evaluate coal ash removal or “clean closure,” and demonstrate that leaving coal ash in place or “cap in place” will not put the community at risk during hurricanes, floods or other major weather events.

Also, the legislation also requires Dominion to evaluate options to recycle coal ash using new technologies and identify locations where recycling might work. Coal ash recycling is being used in George, North and South Carolina to clean the environment and create jobs. Coal ash is used in concrete and we currently import significant amounts of coal ash into the United States from China. I am hopeful the bill will pass the full Senate next week.

On Sunday, the Senate Finance Committee announced its proposed amendments to the State Budget. The good news is that the Committee found a way to fund 2% raises for teachers along with other state employees, and extra raises for court clerks and especially our State Police. The House Budget does not include a pay raise for teachers so that is not guaranteed. The bad news is that my request for funding the next stage of construction at Widewater State Park was not funded, nor my request to fill two vacant but authorized Fairfax County Judgeships.

Several of my other bills passed the Senate this week. First, my legislation requiring 30-days’ notice before any tuition increase is voted on passed the Senate unanimously. The Senate also passed my bill making it easier to hold drunk driver’s liable for punitive damages in civil cases and legislation which requires community colleges and universities to publish lists of courses that are guaranteed to be given credit to transfer students. Many students take the wrong classes – this costs students more tuition and causes them to take up space at our four-year colleges that other students could fill when classes must be retaken.

The Senate also passed my legislation that creates and electronic government document authentication system. The Federal Government and other states have already taken steps to electronically authenticate government records. If implemented, this allows citizens to access official copies of official records – such as vital records, deeds, or government licenses – must faster and saves taxpayer dollars.

We will experience Crossover this week, debate on the State Budget and we will begin debate on bills from the House of Delegates.

Please come to my town halls on Saturday, February 11 at 9:00 a.m. at Walt Whitman Intermediate School and 1:00 p.m. at Hayfield Elementary School. Also, please complete my constituent survey at www.scottsurovell.org/survey.

I look forward to your feedback and appreciate your input. It is an honor to serve as your State Senator.

Traffic
McPike drops bill that would require HOT lanes to post estimated travel time with toll price; State says it’ll address later

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Submitted by Virginia State Senator Jeremy McPike’s office: 

Senator McPike asked me to share a few pieces of information as it relates to his efforts to improve commuter fairness in Northern Virginia.

He introduced Senate Bill 1536, a bill to require operators of dynamic tolling facilities in Northern Virginia to included the estimated travel time, along with the price, for each posted destination. Consumers need all the information to make an informed choice about whether a high fare is worth it for them. Nothing is worse than paying the high toll and then getting trapped in gridlock in the facility.

After introducing and presenting the bill to the Senate Transportation Committee this week, Senator McPike struck the legislation with the guarantee from Secretary Layne that VDOT would work to address this issue in the coming year.  If it is not addressed, Senator McPike intends to introduce this legislation again next year.
From the letter: 
“…I have directed the Virginia Department of Transportation to evaluate and experiment with implementing portions of your proposal in a manner that would not create a compensation event with our private partners on I-95, I-495, and I-66.

VDOT will provide the public with information regarding travel times in the general purpose lanes compared to the travel times in the parallel express lanes to similar destinations. “

News
‘Ed Gillespie will be in Manassas tomorrow for a small business roundtable’

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Photo by Flickr user Gage Skidmore

From Manassas Park City Councilman Preston Banks: 

I hope everything is going well.  This is just an FYI to let you know that Ed Gillespie will be in Manassas tomorrow for a small business roundtable at 10:00 a.m. at Jirani Coffee House. It’s part of campaign for Governor.  

https://smallbizroundtablemanassas.eventbrite.com

News
Manassas business owner invited to the White House

President Donald Trump invited small business leaders to discuss regulatory concerns and business growth this week. 

From Jacqueline Krick, CEO of ECU Communications in Manassas:

President Trump invited small business owners from various parts of the country to a small business discussion focusing on the issues that affect small businesses. Many of the issues raised were similar in nature and included, access to capital, regulatory reform, and taxation. (more…)

Cyclist safety, and tuition transparency bills passed

Week three saw our General Assembly in full swing and movement on many bills – on Wednesday, eleven of my bills were heard in one day!

First, over 100 residents came out for my two Town Halls in Prince William County. There were many questions about my “hand’s free” legislation, coal ash legislation, increasing teacher salaries, tuition affordability, predatory lending, and other issues. (more…)

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