Wednesday, August 2, 2017
By Jim LeMunyon
State Delegate (R-67)
As you may know, the Virginia General Assembly meets six to eight weeks a year in Richmond during the winter. However, a considerable amount of work occurs during the year through many boards and commissions that address specific issues. I serve on five of these entities. Here’s a short update on the work of each. Of course, I welcome your comments and questions.
Beltway Tolling — At my request, the Transportation Accountability Commission heard testimony in April from Transurban, the toll operator on the Beltway and I-95, regarding the relationship between variable toll pricing and traffic flow. In my view, toll prices should be set to maximize the combined traffic throughput on the free and tolled lanes, and therefore minimize congestion. This does not appear to be happening on a consistent basis, and the Commission will continue to evaluate how improvements can be made to accomplish this objective. The Commission also heard testimony related to traffic on I-81 and bridge tolling in the Hampton Roads region. More information may be found at http://dls.virginia.gov/commissions/cta.htm?x=mtg.
The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) meets monthly and is focused on implementation of HB 2136, a bill I authored and was signed into law by Governor McAuliffe related to Metro safety and improving the overall operations of Metro. A subcommittee has been formed, on which I serve, to make specific recommendations related to restructuring the Metro board and other issues related to Metro governance. One change under consideration is to require at least some members of the Board have career experience in the operation of large transportation enterprises. Metro has lacked such Board-level experience in the past, which in my view has contributed to Metro’s safety and financial woes. NVTC members include local government officials and state legislators. More information may be found at http://www.novatransit.org/.
The SOL Innovation Committee meets several times during the year, and makes recommendations to the General Assembly, state Board of Education and Governor related to standardized testing in grades K-12 and related issues. The Committee completed a review of high school level SOL tests according to H.B. 525, a law I authored in 2016. As a result, it appears the state Board of Education will implement changes in SOL testing and other high school graduation requirements starting in the 2018-19 school year. Although not yet firm, it appears the number of high school SOL tests required for graduation will be reduced to five. The committee consists of seven legislators and 27 educators from around the state. More information may be found at https://education.virginia.gov/initiatives/sol-innovation-committee/.
The Freedom of Information Act Advisory Council, which I chair, meets several times a year and is reviewing “FOIA law” related to government contractors and their confidential business information. The focus is on what comprises “confidential business information” that can be released to the public or withheld by state and local government entities. The council also expects to address FOIA issues that arise from the use of new technology. For example, the council may consider whether posts on a public official’s Facebook page are considered “public records.” Some factors include whether the Facebook page is used for official government business or political campaign purposes, and whether comments made by private citizens on Facebook or through other media could be considered a “public record” in some circumstances. The FOIA Council consists of 14 members, including four legislators. More information may be found at http://foiacouncil.dls.virginia.gov/.
The Code Commission meets at least bi-monthly and is engaged in a re-write of Title 55 of the Code of Virginia (state law) related to real estate, home owners’ associations and related matters. I serve as vice-chair of this commission. The Code Commission’s responsibilities do not include changing policy or the meaning of the law, only to recommend changes to the General Assembly to improve the clarity of the law or to eliminate obsolete laws. In doing so, one practical benefit of this work is to reduce litigation. The commission recently concluded rewrites of Title 33 (Transportation) and Title 23 (Higher Education). The commission consists of four legislators and nine others, including two judges and representatives of the Governor and Attorney General. More information may be found at http://codecommission.dls.virginia.gov/.
Thank you for the privilege of representing you in the Virginia House of Delegates. Please feel free to contact me at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-264-1432.