Update from Senate with Richard Stuart
This second week of the Session has been, as always, incredibly busy. As I noted in my last report, in a short session we have two weeks less to do the work that we normally do, which means we do a lot more in less time. Generally, our day
begins around 7 a.m. and concludes around 7:30 p.m. or later. During that time, we are presenting bills in committee and hearing bills in committee, as well as meeting with constituents and working on legislation as it progresses through the processes.
This past week I had seven bills that made it through the committee process and one bill that has since passed the Senate. The most interesting of those bills is probably Senate Bill 1291, which relates to the management of the menhaden fishery. This is a very volatile topic for many, but yet a very important resource for our State. Recently, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission mandated that Virginia reduce the catch of menhaden by 20%. This is a significant reduction. As a result, there will be a loss of jobs and economic activity in the State of Virginia. The flipside of that is this resource is absolutely vital to Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay. As a resource of the Commonwealth, it belongs to and benefits all citizens of the Commonwealth. Therefore, it is absolutely incumbent upon us to protect it. The 20% reduction is intended to make sure that the viability of the stock remains healthy and viable for generation after generation. This is an interim measure to insure the sustainability of the stock until we get new scientific data and adopt a new management model for the fishery.
Secondly, I had a bill which added a long list of felonies to the definition of violent felonies for purposes of the criminal sentencing guidelines. What that means is, when people are convicted of criminal offenses, Virginia has something called the criminal sentencing guidelines which helps determine what their sentence or punishment should be for the crime committed. If you have a record and have committed offenses in the past, those are categorized into non-violent offenses or violent offenses. If you have committed violent offenses, you score higher on the sentencing guidelines and, thus, you will receive a more severe punishment. What my bill did was add a list of felonies that should have been considered violent but had not been put into that category. Thus, it makes sure that people who are convicted of criminal offenses will be sentenced as they should be for the severity of their crimes.
Finally, the Governor’s transportation bill is starting its way through the process and I have agreed to serve as a chief co-patron of that bill. I believe that this is incredibly important as this issue touches the lives of nearly every person I represent in the district. Many of my constituents spend an inordinate amount of time on the road each day commuting to work and it dramatically impacts the quality of their life and their family’s lives. I think it is extremely important for all of us to get involved in this bill and try to insure that a transportation funding plan can be enacted in this General Assembly Session. That being said, there are certainly things that I don’t like in the bill. But, the only way we can accomplish the objective is if we get involved in it and try to make a difference. This bill will evolve as we go forward and it will probably be changed in many respects before we get to a final version. I will keep you updated about the transportation bill as it goes forward. But, at the end, it is my sincere hope that we can accomplish a bill that solves the transportation funding problem in Virginia in a positive way.
As always, I appreciate the opportunity you have given me to serve you in the State Senate. You can contact me by sending an e-mail to District28@senate.virginia.gov, or by sending a letter to me at Senate of Virginia, PO Box 396, Richmond VA 23218-0396. You can also call me at 804-698-7528.