Story by Chris Graham
It seems like yesterday that Matt Lohr was making his first run for the Virginia House of Delegates.
And yeah, count Lohr among those who think that time flies when you’re having fun.
“It really does go quickly – but I understand why our founding fathers wanted it that way, because it does make you closer to the people,” said Lohr, a Republican, who is running for re-election in the 26th House District seat that represents Harrisonburg and most of the northern half of Rockingham County.
“Certainly when you’re up for re-election every other year, the people’s wishes are always at your ear – where if it’s a four-year or six-year term, sometimes you see people kind of change where they go and then have to come back around at the end again. So I think it probably works out well – but from an elected public official’s point of view, it seems like you’re always campaigning,” Lohr said.
One thing that Lohr has been hearing early and often from voters in the 26th as he has made his way back to the campaign trail is that lawmakers need to do something – and soon – about the controversial abusive-driver fees enacted by the General Assembly earlier this year.
“Here’s what people are telling me – first of all, that they want these fees to apply to out-of-state drivers, first and foremost. And they do need to be examined,” Lohr said. “Some of the penalties may be a little harsh – maybe they apply to some offenses that most people don’t really think are just. But most people that I’ve talked to say, We like punishing people who are abusive, so make it apply to the abusive drivers – the DUIs, eluding police, that we’re OK with. But make it apply to everyone.”
Lohr is also hearing from constituents that they want to see more from the legislature to address the state’s transportation-funding challenges – which the driver fees were supposed to help with.
“I think transportation is always going to be on the front burner,” Lohr said. “We made a good first step this past session, but I don’t think we came close to solving transportation in the Commonwealth forever. I think it will be back on the table again.”
One item from the transportation compromise that was adopted and signed into law this spring – the transportation authorities authorized in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads – is something that Lohr thinks might be able to be applied to the Shenandoah Valley’s big transportation problem, Interstate 81.
“I would like to see how it works in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads first,” Lohr said. “They’ve both taken the votes to put transportation authorities in place – and if they’re successful, I think that’s a possibility here, to form an I-81 authority. That was discussed a little bit during the session. The problem is, we wanted to make sure that everyone was on the same page – and not everyone in our dealings were willing to give it a shot. So that idea didn’t go very far.
“I think it’s worth investigating and looking at a little closer. I-81 is a top priority. People are concerned about it, and it’s not going to get fixed without money – so maybe that’s a possibility of looking at a way of getting some additional revenues,” Lohr said.
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press.