Transportation Reform

My focus in transportation matters is threefold: (1) lock down the Transportation Trust Fund, (2) bring new, dedicated dollars to Northern Virginia for transportation projects that are currently unfunded or under funded, and (3) utilize free market forces to further impact daily traffic decisions and the linkage between traffic and land use planning.

  1. The Transportation Trust Fund has been repeatedly raided to fund other, non-transportation, spending. The most recent raid was in the 2002 session, when $332 million dollars was taken from the Transportation Trust Fund! I proposed a Constitutional Amendment that would put trust back into the Transportation Trust Fund -- ensuring that dollars allocated to transportation are spent on transportation.
  2. Today, Northern Virginia is at a significant disadvantage in the transportation funding formula. We send our dollars down to Richmond and they are re-distributed across the Commonwealth. I believe we need to change the transportation funding formula to reflect Northern Virginia’s needs and the taxes we pay. Most other northern Virginia legislators would agree with me, but the other 75% of delegates and senators would rather keep our tax dollars for their areas. The divide over transportation funding is more regional than partisan. That’s why we need to look for better ways to fund transportation and improve efficiency while we keep working toward a more reasonable funding distribution.
  3. Development decisions inevitably impact the regional transportation system. Governor Kaine recognized this in his campaign and he promised to do something about it. The Governor said that he would push hard for legislation that would allow local governments more discretion in rejecting development that would have a negative impact on traffic. I arranged to amend existing legislation during the last session to do just that. Unfortunately, the governor’s support didn’t last very long after he got elected. Without backing from the Governor, Democrats on the committee would not take on the developers, and the amendment died. I am convinced this is good legislation and I intend to look for opportunities to bring it up again in the future.
Finally, we are racing time in our fight to bring more transportation dollars to Northern Virginia. Workable improvements to our current situation do exist but they take time to move from conception to legislation to law to reality. During that time, houses will continue to be built and more cars will be added to the roads.

Have you ever sat at a red light and wondered why it didn’t turn green when there was no one else in the intersection? Have you ever been frustrated by that wasted time and unnecessary pollution? In 2005, I led my colleagues in passing legislation to promote implementation of real-time traffic light synchronization. With this technology, vehicles are able to move much faster on existing roads.

When I first started talking about High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes, almost no one in Virginia was listening. Now, they are part of many major proposals. I believe HOT lanes will be added to many of our most congested roads, but the process will take more time.

HOT lanes are High Occupancy Toll lanes, built alongside our current highways. They are paid for largely with tolls which are collected electronically—no toll booths—at full highway speeds from single occupancy vehicles (HOV could still use HOT lanes without a charge). Tolls would vary in order to maintain a particular speed in the HOT lanes (e.g., 50 mph); this is called “congestion pricing.” Congestion pricing also uses free market principles to combat air pollution by avoiding stop-and-go traffic, an important factor in Northern Virginia.

HOT lanes will allow us to expand our highways and guarantee that we can keep 100% of the HOT lane dollars in Northern Virginia (these transportation dollars could not be raided!). HOT lanes will also allow us to extend mass transit (bus rapid transit – BRT) to outer Fairfax, into Loudoun and Prince William Counties quickly and in a cost-effective manner. BRT finally offers a convenient form of mass transit, which is critical to its success.

I also support creative measures to get cars off the roads at peak times. Strategies like telecommuting, flex-time and co-locating residential and commercial communities can be effective options for reducing congestion.

Today, public-private partnerships are bringing new opportunities for enhancing transportation infra-structure. I believe these options must be examined carefully to ensure that they protect taxpayers but they can be a great way to bring new transportation projects online – faster. As your fellow western Fairfax resident and commuter, I understand the transportation problems we face in Northern Virginia. I am committed to finding workable solutions that protect taxpayers and help commuters.
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Education

Every Virginia child deserves the highest quality education possible. As a graduate of Virginia public universities and a student in Fairfax County public schools I learned that our teachers are some of our greatest heroes. I understand the complicated issues involved with teaching English as a second language and educating students with special challenges.

Education is our most important investment. The education our kids receive today shapes their future and impacts our economy. It is also the most expensive investment we make in Fairfax County. Parents and their students deserve to know that these funds are being used in the wisest possible way. So, I’m fighting for stronger accountability at all levels, working to reward achievement, and giving parents more control over their children’s education.

  • I co-sponsored legislation to strengthen the accountability of local school boards in Virginia.
  • I have consistently supported pay raises for our teachers. Those who are on the front-lines of educating our children empower them to achieve their potential.
  • I believe parents are in the best position to help their children succeed. That’s why I support making meaningful educational options available to parents, regardless of their economic situation. Research shows that everyone wins – teachers, parents, and especially students – with carefully designed educational choice programs.
  • I support adequate funding for the state-supported Virginia colleges and universities. Having earned degrees at UVA and George Mason, I am grateful for the outstanding education that is provided by our state schools. To maintain our competitive edge in an era of limited funding, I support measures to strengthen accountability and make sure all Virginia students have the chance to get the higher education they need.
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Taxation and Government Growth

When it comes to protecting Fairfax County taxpayers, my record speaks for itself. Our Commonwealth continues to face fiscal challenges, but they cannot be solved without examining the way we do business. Some legislators, like the minority leader, say “You can’t give me enough money.” I prefer a more responsible approach.

As a proud signer of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, I have opposed every effort to increase your taxes. The state income tax in Virginia is 30% above the national average. We need to spend the money we have more wisely. To that end I support the ideas contained in the Freedom and Prosperity Agenda. Reforming Virginia’s tax code in these ways will lead to better government for all Virginians.

I believe the Commonwealth must change inequitable allocation formulas for the distribution of state funds. As currently set, Northern Virginia and Fairfax County receive a disproportionately small return on tax revenues paid compared to other areas of Virginia. A fairer allocation formula would reduce the tax burden on all of us.

Suburban localities rely heavily on the real estate tax. Alternative revenue sources need to be explored. I firmly believe that any comprehensive re-structuring plan must be revenue-neutral to protect taxpayers from runaway spending. I know structural spending restraints are essential to meaningful tax reform. I support:

  • Limiting spending growth in the state budget to the increase in population growth plus inflation. Given the history of big-spending in Virginia, legally-binding restraints are necessary.
  • Evaluation and prioritization of state programs and elimination of those that do not effectively accomplish their missions or contribute to the well-being of Virginians.
  • All income tax revenue surpluses not required to fund necessary Commonwealth departments and services should be returned to taxpayers directly.
I believe in tightening accountability systems, controlling the government’s appetite for spending, and constantly finding new ways to improve efficiency at every level of government. The fact is that there is government waste everywhere. For every thirty special interest group lobbyists who come to Richmond to ask me to increase funding for some program or service, I might get one person who comes to my office and asks me to reduce wasteful spending. Taxpayers like you are too busy earning money and spending quality time with your family to hire a lobbyist. I appreciate your confidence in sending me to Richmond to protect your interests and your many emails of support.
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Immigration Reform

Virginia has been built by immigrants. My own family includes a rich heritage of Italian and Irish immigrants. They loved this country and gave me the opportunity to love her too. Legal immigrants of every ethnic background and people group have a long history of coming to this country looking for freedom and opportunity and enriching our society with their unique traditions. Legal immigrants learn our language and become part of our culture, adding to the great melting pot of America.

Perhaps most importantly, legal immigrants have begun their story in the United States with respect for our laws. This is not the case with illegal aliens. While some of these people come here seeking to improve their lives, they have begun their history with us in an unlawful way. Some have chosen to further violate our laws by stealing identities and trafficking in illegal substances. Some have joined gangs that victimize our citizens. Others take advantage of the generosity of our society by using our social service safety net as a means of support.

Criminals frequently seek to take advantage of illegal aliens among us, and that hurts the whole community. Some employers knowingly hire illegal aliens so that they can avoid paying the wages that citizens require. When illegal aliens are victimized by violent crime, they are often reluctant to seek help from the police, providing an environment where thieves, thugs and rapists do not get the consequences they deserve. With tighter security at airports and harbors, terrorists are now using the same routes as many illegal aliens to enter this country with the intent of doing us great harm.

I have supported legislation to:

  • Reserve in-state tuition at public colleges and universities for those who are citizens and legal residents of Virginia.
  • Require proof of identity when voting and provide a means to remove non-citizens from the voter roles.
  • Allow for civil litigation when an employer knowingly hires illegal aliens and, in so doing, harms a law-abiding competitor.
While the General Assembly cannot stop illegal aliens from crossing our borders, we can remove incentives for them to settle here. I have been a leader in the Virginia Senate with compassionate initiatives to protect our citizens and taxpayers from being abused by those who do not respect our laws. Our legal structures must penalize those who seek to take advantage of illegal aliens and crack down hard on anyone who comes here to commit violent crimes. We must reduce the economic incentives that continue to fuel illegal immigration.
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Property Rights

Virginia’s laws regarding private property rights are currently very weak. Even prior to the United States Supreme Court Decision in Kelo vs. New London, I introduced legislation to keep government from exercising the eminent domain power just to benefit private entities. Churches, homes, and private businesses should not be threatened without a legitimate public need. Today, mass condemnations force individuals to accept below market prices for their property – just so a private developer can build on it. Exercise of the eminent domain power should be limited to traditional public uses such as schools, parks, correctional facilities, highways and utility easements.
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Personal Freedom

  • English First: I believe that English should be the official language of the Commonwealth of Virginia. While I am grateful for the diverse people groups that make up our country, I believe that learning the English language is import for every student in our school system. Creating an environment where it is important to learn English will benefit all of citizens. At the same time, I believe that private entities should retain the ability to publish materials in the language(s) of their choice.
  • 2nd Amendment: I am a consistent leader in protecting the right of law-abiding citizens to own and use firearms for recreation and personal protection.
  • Conscience Clause: I support the right of professionals to refuse to perform an action that is inconsistent with their moral convictions without losing their job.
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Public Safety

  • Firearm Safety: In 2007, I sponsored legislation to help keep mentally ill persons away from firearms.
  • Sex crime issues: In 2006, I worked with the attorney general’s office and my colleagues to reform our laws. My legislation improved our procedures for keeping our most violent and dangerous sexual predators detained in a manner consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s requirements. Now, violent offenders who cannot be rehabilitated can be incarcerated for mental health reasons even after their sentence is served.
  • Police officer pay: Our public safety officers go above and beyond the call of duty week after week to protect us. They often sacrifice time with their families and neglect normal activities to keep us safe. My legislation makes sure that police officers are paid for the overtime hours that they work.
  • Identity Theft: In 2006, I sponsored legislation to give you greater control over your personal information. Although it did not succeed, my bill would have allowed you to put a freeze on your credit report.
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Family Matters

  • Child Protection and Family Law Reform: As a practicing attorney, I have grieved with many families who have sought justice in traumatic family situations. I am convinced that we must have zero tolerance for child abuse in Virginia. I have sponsored several pieces of legislation designed to protect innocent children caught in the middle of family crises and to strengthen penalties for criminals who threaten children. We must strictly enforce court orders related to custody and make sure custody decisions are based on the best interest of children. Studies show that the dissolution of marriage has long term negative impacts on children and those marriages that last for five years are much more likely to go the distance. For this reason, the state has an interest in marital preservation. I support family law reform that establishes mutual consent divorce and requires counseling where children are involved, unless abuse is involved.
  • Valuing traditional marriage and respecting all individuals: Thousands of years of human experience have shown us the value of a mother and father to the development of healthy and well-adjusted children. That’s why I support legal recognition of marriage as between on man and one woman. At the same time, I have been careful to support legislation that does not threaten the basic contractual rights of non-traditional families. Single parents and cohabiting couples retain all their current rights under the marriage protection amendment that my colleagues and I put before the voters in 2006.
  • Support for families with special needs: During my time as a legislator, I have been a strong advocate of families with special needs. I believe that helping those who through no fault of their own are unable to help themselves is a critical part of good government. Families who care for a child who lives with intellectual or developmental disabilities need our support. Specially challenged adults must not be left behind in our society. That’s why I have consistently supported adequate funding for mental retardation and developmental disability support services.
  • Combating public health threats: According to the Centers for Disease Control, we are facing a national STD epidemic. Combating this problem in Virginia is essential for long term public health. While Gonorrhea cases have been decreasing since 1990, more than 8,000 Virginias every year are diagnosed with this disease and Chlamydia rates have been steadily climbing since the mid-1990s. More than 20,000 new cases were reported in 2004. While AIDS deaths are decreasing, we are still seeing over 900 new cases of this disease every year. HPV is the fastest growing sexually transmitted disease in the country and it is responsible for 90% of cases of cervical cancer. I support current Virginia standards which require family life educators in public schools to fully inform students in age-appropriate ways of the risks of sexual activity with multiple partners, including STD’s and pregnancy. Encouraging students to remain abstinent until they are ready for a committed, monogamous relationship is our best way to combat these diseases. At the same time, we must strongly encourage testing of all sexually active persons so that early intervention treatments may occur and to prevent the spread of these diseases wherever possible.
  • Making Birth Achievable: My consistent life-affirming philosophy of government motivates me to see that human life receives protection at every stage of development. Fairfax County women experienced 10.7 induced abortions and 20.1 live births per 1000 women of childbearing age, according to the latest available statistics. This represents a pregnancy termination rate of nearly 35% or 1.4 times the national average. Abortions in our county were disproportionately experienced by minority women. Whatever our position on these issues, we should be able to agree that women deserve better than abortion. My goal is to eliminate forced and coerced abortion in Fairfax County. Other women are overwhelmed by the thought of how having a child would impact their relationship, housing situation or financial stability. In a county as wealthy as ours, giving birth can seem frightening to women in difficult circumstances. I believe that no one should be in the position of terminating a pregnancy because she doesn’t feel like she has any other options. Helping women avoid unnecessary and unwanted abortions means that we have to be pro-active in making other options available. For these reasons, I support public and private efforts to help women who seek to carry their pregnancy to term. My pro-woman and pro-child initiatives include making sure abortion providers are subject to the same health and safety standards as other outpatient surgical facilities, support for current laws that ensure women are fully informed about all their options and making sure parents are as involved as possible in the reproductive decisions of their minor daughters. That’s also why I co-sponsored legislation to prohibit the partial-birth abortion procedure from being performed in Virginia and my vote ensured that this law passed with a veto-proof majority.
  • Parental Rights: I am a strong supporter of the fundamental right of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children. These rights should only be abridged when necessary to protect a child in an abusive situation.
  • Decency Standards: I support local zoning authority to keep sex-oriented businesses away from schools, houses of worship, day care centers and playgrounds.

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Health and Human Services

I am convinced that the citizens of Virginia should have the opportunity to receive the best healthcare services and human service supports possible.
  • The 4th Circuit Court recently confirmed that state governments have a legitimate interest in making sure that the health and safety of women are protected when they are seeking a legal abortion. I have introduced legislation to make sure the same health and safety rules that regulate other ambulatory surgery centers are also applied to pregnancy termination providers. These regulations were removed several years ago despite the opposition of groups as diverse as the Virginia Society for Human Life and the National Organization for Women. The tragic experiences of some women have shown that these regulations are more needed than ever. Lax standards of care were found in an abortion clinic where a woman died following her pregnancy termination in November of 2002. I believe that the desire of a provider to make a profit should never jeopardize the safety or life of a woman.
  • I believe one of our most important responsibilities as a society is to help those that cannot help themselves. Virginians who face severe mental and behavioral health challenges need extra assistance and their families need special help in meeting their needs. These children and adults have dreams, goals and they need opportunities and support to live the very best lives possible. Today, the Medicaid Mental Retardation Waiver Services that are most urgently needed and most frequently used are severely under funded because the state funding formula does not consider the high cost of living and doing business in Northern Virginia. This needs to change and I am working to bring new resources to residential, day support, and supported employment programs in our area.
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