Ken Plum: Legislative agenda

I often describe the General Assembly session as being like a roller coaster ride. It starts off slowly but accelerates in speed as the bottom seems to drop out. There are many ups and downs along the way. The session is scheduled to adjourn February 26. In the meantime about 3,000 bills and resolutions will have been considered. Committee meetings start as early as 7:00 a.m. and often extend into the evening.

Among the bills for which I am chief patron is a bill that removes phosphorus from most fertilizers as part of the Chesapeake Bay clean-up. Excess phosphorus in the Bay and Reston lakes and streams degrades the quality of the water. Aside from helping start a new lawn, phosphorus is not needed for healthy grass. Starter fertilizers will continue to include phosphorus. The bill is supported by the Reston Association, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and other environmental groups. A bill I introduced several years ago removed phosphorus from dishwashing detergent. Phosphorus was removed from laundry detergent more than two decades ago as part of early efforts to clean up the Bay.

A bill I introduced at the suggestion of the Northern Virginia Coalition on Aging provides a tax credit for building or retrofitting homes to be “livable homes” with access for persons with disabilities. As the population ages and more persons attempt to continue to live out their lives in their homes, there are various accessibility issues that need to be addressed. The tax credit is intended to encourage an increase in the number of livable homes. At the recommendaiton of the Reston Accessibility Committee (RAC) I am also working on legislaiton to improve access in public places for persons with disabilities. The RAC has realized amazing success at negotiating improvements in access in Reston area parking areas, and the legislation is designed to strengthen their efforts. Another of my bills would establish a registry of providers of respite care and caregivers who provide in-home care for aged or disabled family members. A bill similar to one I have introduced on numerous occasions to establish an independent redistricting commission is not likely to be heard since the Governor has appointed a “bipartisan” commission.

I am continuing my effort to include “sexual orientation” in Virginia’s Human Rights Act to protect against discrimination. The bill continues to pick up more support each year. Another bill would enhance the efforts against bullying in the public schools. My perennial bill to extend access to HOV lanes to hybrid vehicles has been introduced.

My bill to raise the cigarette tax by fifty cents would have raised enough money to pay the $400 million annual cost to Medicaid for smoking related diseases. It has already been tabled.

Ken Plum is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.

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