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Ryan McDougle

October 25, 2012

Make sure your vote is counted this November!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Senator Ryan McDougle @ 4:46 pm

This year’s elections are extremely important.  But, it’s pretty easy to make your voice heard in the November 6 elections. Virginia voters have multiple options to ensure their votes are counted.  With two weeks to go before Election Day, you have three ways to make sure your vote – and the votes of your family and friends – counts.

If you know you will be unable to make it to the polls on November 6, you have two ways to make sure you still get to vote and that your vote will be counted.  The first is to have an absentee ballot mailed to you.  The State Board of Elections has a webpage set up to help you cast your ballot by mail.  To get there, you can either click here or go to the State Board of Elections website at www.sbe.virginia.gov and click on the link near the top of the page that says “Can’t Vote on Election Day? Vote Absentee.”  The site explains the rules for absentee voting in Virginia.  To make it even quicker, you can obtain an official Virginia Absentee Ballot Application Form by clicking here.  The form, including instructions, can be printed on your home printer.  Just complete the form and mail it to your local registrar.  You will find the correct address for your local registrar on the form instructions, or you can locate it by clicking here. The absentee ballot application form must be received at your local registrar by 5:00 PM on Tuesday, October 30th, 2012.

Registrar’s offices across the Commonwealth have been very quick at processing these applications, and you should receive your ballot in a few days.  If you’d rather not wait for the mail, you can vote absentee at your local registrar’s office.   Just call your local voter registrar to find out when and where you can cast an in-person absentee ballot.  Then, take your completed Virginia Absentee Ballot Application Form with you and cast your ballot right there. The last day to vote absentee in-person is November 3, 2012.

Of course, most Virginians in this election will cast their ballots at their regular polling place.  If you’re unsure where your polling place is, the location is printed on the official Voter Registration Card you received in the mail.  If you can’t immediately locate that card, find your polling place by clicking here and filling in your address on the online form.  The form will tell you exactly where you vote.  New this year is that voters will have to provide a form of identification in order for their vote to count.  Your ID could be a driver’s license, a voter registration card, a student ID, or even a current utility bill.  For a complete list of acceptable forms of ID, click here.  Remember, polling places inVirginia are open for 13 hours on Election Day, opening at 6:00 a.m. and closing at 7:00 p.m.

It’s hard to remember elections with more at stake than this year’s, which will determine our nation’s direction for generations to come. Virginia is now considered a “swing state,” so an entire nation – and most of the world – will be anxiously waiting after the polls close on November 6 to hear how you voted.

October 2, 2012

Are you registered to vote?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Senator Ryan McDougle @ 10:30 am
 Over the last few days, voters across Virginia received their new voter registration card from the State Board of Elections. Your card should have arrived through your regular mail. Governor McDonnell instructed the State Board of Elections to mail these new cards to voters after he signed into law Virginia’s new voter identification requirements. 

If you did not receive a card, it may mean your voter registration is not up to date. It may be that you moved or changed your mailing address, or this may be your first time voting in your locality. Regardless, if you did not receive a voter registration card in the mail recently you should consider checking your voter registration online. It’s easy to check your voter registration online. The State Board of Elections has a webpage set up just for that purpose. To get there, you can either click here or go to the State Board of Elections website at www.sbe.virginia.gov and click on the link near the top of the page that says “Check your registration.” That will take you to an online form. By selecting your locality and providing your first and last names, your date of birth, and the last four digits of your social security number, the site will confirm whether or not you are properly registered.
If you find out you’re not properly registered, it’s easy to rectify that as well. The Virginia Voter Registration Application Form is also available online. To obtain the form you can either click here or go to www.sbe.virginia.gov and click on the link on the far left side of the page (you may have to scroll down) that says “Voter Registration Application.” You have to print the form and complete it. Then, you mail it to your local Registrar, whose address is right on the form. If you are not already registered to vote, your local Registrar must receive your Voter Registration Application by Monday, October 15. 
This year’s elections are extremely important, and will determine our nation’s direction for generations to come. It is essential that you be counted. If you did not receive your new voter card in the mail, please take a moment to follow the steps detailed above to ensure your voice will be heard on November 6.

August 15, 2012

Virginia’s Budget Surplus

Filed under: Uncategorized — Senator Ryan McDougle @ 4:04 pm

This morning I attended a joint meeting of the Senate Finance Committee, the House Finance Committee, and the House Appropriations Committee to hear an update from Governor McDonnell on the state of the Commonwealth’s finances.

The news that Governor McDonnell shared was positive and demonstrated the benefits of having fiscally conservative Republican control of state government.  Consider some of these highlights:

-          On June 30, Virginia finished Fiscal Year 2012 (FY 2012) with a budget surplus of $448.5 million.  This surplus was the result of $129.2 million more in revenue than anticipated, $187.0 million in general fund savings, and $132.3 million in non-general fund savings.

-          This was the third straight year in which the Commonwealth has had a surplus.  In those three years, the combined revenue surpluses and budget savings have totaled nearly $1.4 billion.

-          In FY 2012, general fund revenues grew by 5.4% over the year before, exceeding the forecasted revenue growth of 4.5%.  Considering that revenues in FY 2011 grew by over 5% over FY 2010, this year marks the first back-to-back fiscal years of revenue growth since FY 2008.

-          Virginia seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has declined from 7.2% in February, 2010 to 5.7% today.  We have the lowest unemployment rate in three years and the lowest in the Southeastern United States.

Whenever Virginia ends a fiscal year with a surplus, the Constitution, the Code of Virginia, and the budget dictate certain priorities for the surplus funds.  Because of those requirements, we will deposit a percentage of the surplus in the Rainy Day Fund, a percentage in the new Federal Action Contingency Trust (FACT) Fund, a percentage in the Water Quility Fund, and a percentage in the Transportation Trust Fund.  With the deposit in the Rainy Day Fund, the balance will rise to about $689 million which is the highest balance since FY 2008.  That means that Virginia will be well-positioned to maintain its level of services should our economy falter again in the future.

Additionally, because state agencies returned their savings rather than trying to spend their entire budgets by the end of the fiscal year, Virginia saved enough general fund dollars to grant all state employees with a 3% performance bonus on December 1.  After five years without a pay raise, this bonus will be a welcome reward for our hard working state employees.

The news the Governor delivered today demonstrates the wisdom of the fiscal decisions made since his inauguration.  While some states, like California and Illinois, struggle just to remain solvent and others, like Maryland, want to enact massive tax increases, Virginia has taken a prudent course of fiscal responsibility.

During Governor Kaine’s term, the end of the fiscal year invariably brought another revenue shortfall.  Now we are experiencing our third surplus in a row, our Rainy Day Fund is being replenished, and taxpayers are not being threatened with another proposed tax increase.  A Republican governor, working in tandem with Republican majorities in the House and now in the Senate, has restored Virginia’s stellar reputation by enacting a conservative fiscal strategy, streamlining and reforming government, and employing wise and frugal budgeting.

June 6, 2012

Primary Elections

Filed under: Uncategorized — Senator Ryan McDougle @ 9:47 am

The Virginia primary election is fast approaching! Polls will be open from 6am to 7pm on Tuesday, June 12th. If you are unsure of where you need to vote, find your location here: https://www.voterinfo.sbe.virginia.gov/PublicSite/Public/FT2/PublicPollingPlace.aspx?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1.  If you will not be able to get to your polling location on Tuesday, you may still cast an absentee vote in person at your local registrar’s office until Saturday, June 9th. We hope to see you at the polls on Tuesday!

March 2, 2012

Budget Stalemate in Senate

Filed under: Uncategorized — Senator Ryan McDougle @ 11:59 am

 

This week, the General Assembly experienced a very dubious first.  For the first time since Virginia instituted its biennial budget process in 1920, the General Assembly found itself without a budget bill to consider.

Senate Democrats, who have been insisting that the Senate reorganize before they will agree to vote for any budget proposal, followed through on that threat and killed the budget bill on Wednesday.  Their action left the General Assembly in unchartered legislative territory with no clear way to resolve the impasse.

Last week, I explained that although the Lieutenant Governor can break ties in the General Assembly, the Constitution does not give him the power to do so with regards to the state budget.  Since passage of a budget requires 21 votes in the Senate, every Republican and at least one Democrat would have to vote for a spending plan.  So far, every Republican has voted in favor of the Senate budget proposal, but no Democrat has done so.

This budget impasse is not the first thatVirginiahas experienced, but this situation is much more serious.  During the previous stalemates of 2001, 2004, and 2006, the General Assembly could not agree on the terms of a budget agreement, but negotiations continued over specific details of the budget bills.  This time there is no budget bill or the terms of which to be discussed or negotiated; Senate Democrats killed it.

Without a budget bill, it will be very challenging to reach an agreement.  Making the situation much more daunting, Senate Democrats objections are not about spending priorities.  Instead, they want to reorganize the Senate and have more positions on certain committees, despite the Senate having been organized back on January 11.  Their complaints are about the politics of the Senate, not the policies and priorities in the budget.

By derailing the budget process, Senate Democrats are effectively holding hostage every core service the Commonwealth provides its citizens.  Frustratingly, the Senate budget plan was crafted with extensive input and active collaboration of Senate Democrats.  As a result, the Senate budget proposal has more funding for K-12 public education, health care, social services, and local governments than the plan originally introduced by Governor McDonnell or the one approved by the House of Delegates.

Is there a way out of this situation?  At this point, it’s hard to see one.  If the Senate Democrats continue to insist on holding the budget hostage until their unrelated demands are met, this stalemate could drag on.  Media outlets were not overstating the situation when they said a government shutdown is possible.

Since the Senate Democrats will not agree to proceed with any budget, the House of Delegates – with unanimous support of House Democrats – introduced a new budget for the General Assembly to consider.  The process will start all over again, although there’s no guarantee we’ll see a different result.

With just one week left, everything is winding down fast.  I’ll have a wrap-up for you next week, along with a report on the current budget standoff and the prospects for its resolution.

–Ryan T. McDougle

February 24, 2012

Week 7 G.A. Update

Filed under: Uncategorized — Senator Ryan McDougle @ 11:19 am

This week in Richmond began with snowy skies and ended with temperatures in seventies, moving from frigid to balmy.  If only things inside the Capitol moved in the same direction.  While it may be too early to predict a budget stalemate that could send this year’s session into overtime, Democratic Senators have made it clear they have no intention of voting to approve a new budget for the Commonwealth.  And,Virginiawill not have a budget unless at least one Democratic Senator votes in favor of a budget.

Virginia’s Constitution requires that a budget be approved by a majority vote of the members elected in both the House and the Senate.  While the Lieutenant Governor is empowered by the Constitution to break ties, the passage of a budget is one of the few areas where he is constitutionally prohibited from doing so.  That means that at least one Democratic Senator would have to join the twenty Republican Senators in approving a budget.

This week, Democratic Senators publicly stated that unless their demands are met, they have no intention of voting to approve a budget.  Are they demanding that more money be spent on some priorities or that spending be allocated differently than the budget crafted by the Senate Finance Committee?  Well, no.  In fact, the budget approved by the Senate Finance Committee contains multiple spending initiatives proposed, advocated, and sponsored by Democratic Senators.  What the Democrats are demanding is that the Rules of the Senate be changed so they can have more committee assignments than the number to which they are currently entitled under those rules.  This is a dispute over politics, not policy.

So more than 100 days after last November’s elections, the Democrats are still asking for the outcome to be changed.  If their requests were related to the budget, negotiations would be underway to iron out differences over spending priorities.  But, their complaints have nothing to do with the budget.  Hopefully in the week ahead, they will abandon obstructionism and fulfill their constitutional duties to approve a budget that meets the priorities of the people of Virginia.

LEGISLATION

In spite of the efforts of my Democratic colleagues to prevent the passage of budget, other legislation continued to progress through the General Assembly.  A number of my bills are either now being considered by the members of the House of Delegates or have successfully passed through the House.

This week my legislation Senate Bill 344, which would create the small business investment grant fund program and improve conditions for private sector job creation, reported successfully out of the House General Laws Committee.  In addition, Senate Bill 678, the Governor’s Government Reorganization bill passed the House with bi-partisan support this week on a vote of 76-22.  This legislation would make state government more efficient by combining several agencies, deregulating several professions and eliminating unnecessary boards and commissions.

VISITORS

Earlier this week, I was happy to be able to introduce Dr. David Sam, President of Germanna Community College on the Senate floor along with several students of the college from my district visiting the Capitol.  I also presented a framed copy of SJ24, memorializing Paul B. Ferrara to his family.  Dr. Ferrara was the former director of the Virginia Department of Forensic Science who transformed the field of forensic science with his visionary forensic DNA work.  He passed away earlier this year and I sponsored this memorial resolution in his honor.

With only two weeks left before the scheduled conclusion of the General Assembly session, there’s still plenty to come.  I’ll update you on the latest developments in next week’s column.

– Ryan T. McDougle

February 17, 2012

Crossover Reached at the General Assembly

Filed under: Uncategorized — Senator Ryan McDougle @ 2:27 pm

 

This week marked Crossover, the midway point of every legislative session.  The annual milestone marks the day by which the Senate must have completed work on the bills filed by Senators, while the House needs to have done the same on those filed by Delegates.

The date is traditionally marked by long sessions and lengthy debates on the floors of both houses of the General Assembly.  This year though, those sessions were not quite so long, with both houses completing their work well in advance of assigned deadlines.

Of the nearly 700 bills filed by Senators, more than 400 were approved and sent to the House for consideration.  Remarkably though, the Senate had already considered and approved a significant number of House bills – passing 77 to be exact – before the Crossover deadline.  This result is due to changes made by the new Republican majority.

During the previous four years under the Democratic majority, a significant number of bills did not emerge from the committee system.  Many bills opposed by the Democratic leadership were never even given a hearing.  Some were never called to be heard by the committees to which they were assigned, while others were sent to “special” subcommittees that never met.

Republican control has brought an end to bills being “bottled up” and refused a hearing in committee.  Standing committees still fulfill their roles as legislative clearinghouses to screen bills, but now those bills are actually heard and voted on in committee.  It turns out the legislative process actually runs more smoothly when extraordinary means are not taken to obstruct legislation.

A wide range of bills dealing with every major issue facing the Commonwealth have been approved by the Senate this session.  To create jobs and strengthen our economy, we’ve approved measures that provide incentives for investment in small businesses and for the placement of major business facilities inVirginia.

To improve the quality of education and workforce development, the Senate approved legislation streamlining diploma requirements for high school students, making them more rigorous and enhancing their value.  Legislation providing for the accreditation of new virtual schools and allowing more partnerships between local school boards and colleges and universities also won approval.

UPDATE ON LEGISLATION

Earlier this week my legislation Senate Bill 114, which would provide a state and local sales tax exemption for nationally recognized Veterans Service Organizations, passed successfully through a House Finance Subcommittee.  Due to the IRS change in their tax status to a 501(c)(19) some years back, these organizations such as American Legions and Veterans of Foreign Wars were not able to claim the tax exemption like similar charitable organizations who have the 501(c)(3) and  501(c)(4) status.  These Veteran Service Organizations give thousands of dollars and hours in support of community and youth activities for the citizens of the Commonwealth.  This exemption would free sales tax spent on fuel, maintenance, cleaning, office supplies and other items not for resale for additional community and youth service expenditures.

Groups of Virginians continue to descend uponRichmond, seeing the General Assembly in action and visiting their local legislators.  I enjoyed meeting with a large group of realtors visiting from theFredericksburgand Northern Neck areas.

The Senate’s version of the 2012-2014 Biennial Budget will be unveiled and considered next week.  In next week’s column, I’ll report on the details of the proposed spending plan. I continue to enjoy hearing your feedback about key legislation and budget items.  Your views are important to me and I want to thank you for staying in touch.

–Ryan T. McDougle

February 10, 2012

Moving Forward- Legislative Update

Filed under: Uncategorized — Senator Ryan McDougle @ 2:26 pm

 

The week before Crossover, the halfway point of the legislative calendar, is traditionally one of the most productive weeks of every General Assembly session.  This year was no exception.  As standing committees completed their work, legislation that had made it through that part of the process was sent to the full Senate for consideration.

I am the Chief Patron of Senate Bill 678, the Governor’s Reorganization Plan, to make the actual changes to the Code and this legislation is accompanied by SJ66, the related resolution which has already passed the Senate. In an earlier weekly update, I discussed this bold set of recommendations that the Governor and Governor’s Commission on Government Reform endorsed for action by the General Assembly.  After committee action on SB678, this bill proposes to eliminate two state agencies, merge six state agencies into others, and eliminate 17 boards and commissions. Additionally, 21 boards and commissions would merge to form 10 boards and commissions, four offices and initiatives would be moved, and two professions would be de-regulated.  Initial estimates by the Department of Planning and Budget find that these reforms would save at least $3 million per year in tax payer funds. This legislation is a positive step and part of the solution to make state government more efficient while saving tax payers money.

This week I enjoyed meeting with Westmoreland Supervisor Rosemary Mahan, King George Supervisor Ruby Brabo, and Spotsylvania Board Chairman Ann Heidig.

Please continue to stay in close touch with me by offering your feedback on legislation and budget items facing the General Assembly.  I may be reached by e-mail at district04@senate.virginia.gov or by phone at 804-698-7504.  As always, thank you for putting your trust in me as your representative to the Senate of Virginia.

– Ryan T. McDougle

 

 

February 3, 2012

Weekly Legislative Update

Filed under: Uncategorized — Senator Ryan McDougle @ 2:15 pm

As the third full week of the General Assembly session comes to a close, our work load has definitely increased and Senate committees have tackled a majority of the Senate bills that must be vetted before Crossover.  We approach February 14th, Crossover day at a fast pace and must vote on all Senate bills by this deadline before starting to consider all House bills.

In the Senate this year, bills are being considered and voted on by full committees.  This is a change from last year, when special subcommittees consisting of a handful of Senators could stop legislation from even being heard.  Committees that continue to use subcommittees have the Senators on them review bills to make a recommendation to the full committee. Even when a bill does not get a favorable recommendation from the subcommittee, it is still presented to the full committee, ensuring it receives a hearing.

If a bill is approved by the full committee, the legislation continues to the entire Senate for a vote.  If agreed to by the full Senate, the bill then resumes to the House of Delegates, where it will again be assigned to a committee and, if favorably reviewed, to the full House.  Any successful bill must receive a favorable vote at a minimum of four times before going to the Governor for his consideration.  This thorough review process is the legislative version of quality control.

LEGISLATION

Some of my bills have already made it through the first half of our quality control process and are headed for the House of Delegates, while others are still making their way through the Senate and its committee system.

Earlier this week, Senate Bill 112 reported out of the Senate Finance Committee and is now on the floor of the Senate for a full vote.  SB 112 stems from a need to keepVirginiacompetitive in attracting and retaining jobs in the ultra competitive data center industry.  My legislation would provide a sales tax exemption and incentive for data center operators and the tenants of data centers, collectively if resulting in the creation of at least 50 new jobs.  Companies have been moving operations out ofVirginia, such as Yahoo!, in large part due to the tax incentives that are currently unavailable to them here inVirginia.  Facebook declined to expand its presence inVirginiaand opted to go toNorth Carolina, where they receive a tax incentive and Oregan, which has no sales tax.  This legislation simply clarifies that this incentive is available to the data center owner and their tenets collectively.  As a valuable way to bring more jobs and opportunities for companies to locate inVirginia, this legislation is simply a win-win for the Commonwealth and its citizens.

This past weekend, the General Assembly convened in Williamsburgfor a special ceremonial session in the restored Capitol.  Virginia’s Capitol moved to Richmondduring the Revolutionary War, but, beginning in the 1930s, the General Assembly began a tradition of holding a legislative session in the Colonial Capitol.  This was the 25th ceremonial session inWilliamsburg.

In 2006, the General Assembly met in Williamsburgfor Governor Kaine’s Inauguration as the Capitol building in Richmondwas undergoing renovations.  Legislators were back the next year, meeting at Jamestownfor the opening day of session to initiate the 2007 Special Quadricentennial Commemoration and visit by the Queen.  Then, it was back to Williamsburgagain in 2008 for the regular quadrennial ceremonial session. This year’s ceremonial session was part of Virginia’s commemoration of the 150th anniversary (sesquicentennial) of the Civil War.  In addition to holding a brief session, lawmakers listened to an informative lecture by James I. Robertson Jr., who serves as director of theVirginiaCenter for Civil War studies.

VISITORS

This week I enjoyed discussing educational priorities with Superintendents Dr. Barr fromRichmondCountySchoolsand Dr. Lane from Middlesex County Schools.   I also met with Spotsylvania School Board members, Bill Blaine and Dawn Shelley.  Also visiting this week were Hanover Firefighters and constituents who are members of the Virginia Credit Unions.

During the coming week, we’ll be wrapping up our work on the overwhelming majority of bills filed by Senators, and I look forward to staying in touch with you with the latest news in Richmond.  Please continue to touch base with me by sending me your views and feedback.  And take a minute to fill out my 2012 General Assembly Survey on my homepage at www.ryanmcdougle.com and by emailing me at district04@senate.virginia.gov.

–Ryan T. McDougle

 

January 27, 2012

Week 3 Legislative Update

Filed under: Uncategorized — Senator Ryan McDougle @ 2:12 pm

The General Assembly session continues to move along quickly, as its second full week draws to an end.  We continue the often lengthy task of considering legislation in the committee process and debate and discussion on the Senate floor increased as more contentious bills reached the full chamber.

The deadline for submitting new legislation fell on January 20th.  This year’s session will consider 1,977 bills and at least 450 resolutions.  The average Senator filed 17 bills, while the average Delegate filed 13. While every bill does propose a change of some kind to the Code of Virginia, many of the changes are relatively minor and technical in nature, often requested by state agencies, localities, and citizens.  The vast majority of bills will never be mentioned in your local newspaper or on the nightly television newscast.

At the end of this week, one of the bills I have been working on over several sessions passed the Senate unanimously.

SB117  Biennial appropriation act; shall start on July 1 of odd-numbered years.

This legislation would change when the state budget is introduced.   Currently at the end of his or her term, a governor proposes the upcoming biennial budget weeks before leaving office.  The succeeding governor must transition into office in the middle of a former governor’s proposed budget and often does not support many items of the same proposed budget.  This long standing budget practice is an inefficient process and my legislation would afford new governors their entire first year to carefully model and draft their budget.   With the changes of my legislation, the state’s fiscal calendar year would begin in the odd numbered year with my colleagues and I reviewing the full budget during session that year. The budget would be introduced in the proceeding even numbered year by the governor.

I was pleased to meet with a number of constituents from my district.  Members of the Virginia Catholic Conference from parts of the Northern Neck andMiddlePeninsulavisited the office along with Hanover Board of Supervisors member, Angela Kelly.  Brenda Eggleston ofHanoverspoke with me about the importance of theMasseyCancerCenter.  I enjoyed my meeting with members of Hanover ARC and business owner Scott Shufflebarger of Mechanicsville.   I also spoke with Mr. Ray Scher fromCarolineCountyabout health care exchange legislation and Ms. Christy Evanko of Mechanicsville about House Bill 1106.

Please continue to stay in touch and offer me your feedback and views.  I can be reached by e-mail at district04@senate.virginia.gov or by phone at 804-698-7504.  Please also take a minute to fill out my 2012 General Assembly Survey at www.ryanmcdougle.com.

 

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