Newman News from the Capitol Week Six

Things have been exceptionally busy this year in the General Assembly session. as the record number of visitors to the Capitol continued this year. I am encouraged to see so many folks showing an interest in the legislative process because it reinforces the fact that we truly represent you.
Many of you may not be aware that the building which houses our offices won’t be here next year. The General Assembly Building will be demolished to make way for a new structure, which will not be completed for several years. After forty years of service as the location for lawmakers’ offices during session and meeting rooms for General Assembly committees, the structure is coming down.
The GAB, as it is known, is not actually a single building. It is four buildings merged into one, all of which were built in different eras dating back to the Taft Administration. Unfortunately, the building representing the largest share of office space, formerly the Life of Virginia Building, was built during an era when asbestos was a preferred insulator, and windows are non-operable meaning the air is conditioned and re-circulated breathing the same air for many years. It does not provide a healthy atmosphere. With myriad problems related to the operation of four different buildings merged into one, it was only a matter of time before this building met its end.
Starting next session, we will set up temporary offices in the Pocahontas Building, which is directly across the street from the Capitol’s Bank Street entrance. The Pocahontas Building previously housed the Attorney General’s Office and the Virginia Lottery. Since this is a temporary move, a lot of accommodations will likely have to be made. Between now and next January, the temporary building will be modified to ensure that you can visit us during sessions.
Eventually, there will be a new, permanent General Assembly Building on the same site where the current one is located. It will stand ready to accommodate lawmakers and visitors from across Virginia for decades of sessions to come. 
The state budget is coming together this week. We are committed to requiring state government to live within its means. This means no tax increases and forcing a balanced budget. We have cut over $1.2 Billion to make this happen. We have made core services our top priority including our sheriffs, state police and our teachers. 
This year my office nominated Abigail Rice for the Senate Page Leadership Program. She really enjoyed the program and has learned invaluable lessons from seeing Virginia’s government and the legislative process up close. We are very proud of her.
Committees were busy finishing up their work considering legislation, as we enter into the final week of the 2017 session. I am pleased that my bills have fared very well and the following legislation has already passed the House of Delegates and is on its way to the Governor’s desk. SB 1364 Property and bulk property carriers; regulation, allows transportation companies to deliver food and other products within a specfic guidelines. We have pressed for a bill to protect the residents of CVTC and we have passed our bill on new workforce credentialing which was begun by Delegate Kathy Byron. Our SB 1417 will bring deliberate planning and opportunities to our commonwealth airports and we have given our local treasurer’s offices more tools with the passage of my SB 1416. SB 1551 passed that will help ensure we have enough ballots at the polls for each voter who comes to cast their ballot. That was not the case in recent Election Day voting. 
Perhaps the flow of visitors to Capitol Square continued this week so they could take in their final glimpses of the General Assembly Building before it becomes a pile of rubble on the corner of 9th and Broad Streets. We talked with folks from Healthy Families and other children’s advocacy groups and several colleges from our district as well as several individuals from Botetourt County, Bedford County, and Campbell County.
In next week’s column, I’ll recap the final days of the 2017 session, including details on the final package of amendments to the 2016-2018 Biennial Budget. Until then, I hope you have a great week.