“Surveillance” bill rolls on to the Governor

The 2015 Assembly struck a major blow for liberty this afternoon, as we passed the conference committee report for SB 965, my legislation which states that law enforcement cannot use “surveillance technology” to covertly track citizens, when there is no warrant or pending investigation.

The bill was initially directed as “license plate readers,” which have been in use in northern Virginia for the past few years — and which can still be used in a very limited capacity.  However, the conference report was written broadly to address any future surveillance technologies.  We don’t want to be doing this every year.

The bill went through various iterations, even in the final hours, as I worked closely with Delegates Rich Anderson (R-Woodbridge), Ben Cline (R-Lexington) and Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) to get the final version.  On the Senate side, the conferees were me, Richard Stuart (R-Stafford) and Tom Garrett (R-Cumberland).

The final version passed the Senate 38-0 and the House 95-2.  You really can’t beat that in terms of a unified message.  Now the Governor can sign a piece of legislation, which will be a model for the other fifty states.

Special thanks to Tom Jackman of the Washington Post, who wrote a series of articles in 2014 which addressed the exploding use of LPR’s and first brought this to my attention.  More special thanks to Claire Guthrie Gastanaga of the Virginia ACLU who tirelessly promoted this issue and our bipartisan solution.

Rich Anderson was a great partner in this endeavor and carried the House bill which should pass tomorrow.  It was a team effort.


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“Small Business” Definition Bill Due to Pass

On many occasions, I have written or spoken about Virginia’s “small business” program which does an uneven job of distributing contracting opportunities to small or minority-owned businesses for state-related business.

For the past two years, I’ve sat on the Procurement Reform Commission which has looked at ways reform Virginia’s laws so as to deliver best value  for the taxpayer, while giving small business a chance to compete.  (Yes, I’m aware there’s an internal tension).

One of the major problems has been Virginia’s existing definition of “Small Business” which is any business that has less than 250 employees or does less than $10 million in annual receipts.  Basically that’s everyone, except retail monsters like Target, Wal-Mart and others.

This year, I borrowed an idea from Delegate Alfonso Lopez and filed SB 885, which sought to refine that definition.  He carried a similar bill in the House.

After a drawn-out process (and a couple false starts), we are on the verge of passing twin bills this week which will eventually replace Virginia’s outdated definition with the Federal standard that has a sliding scale for businesses based on capital and labor needs.  It will ensure that a “small business” in Virginia will actually be a small business.

This will have the added bonus of uniformity for firms that seek Federal and state small business awards.  I was happy to get the blessing today from Commerce Secretary Maurice Jones, as well as various small business stakeholders.

(Another small business measure, SB 891, should also pass the House today.  It protects small businesses from being forced to sign lien waivers before they begin work on a project — thereby waiving their ability to collect.  It is strongly supported by the building trades in Virginia).

For some mysterious reason, this has been my most productive session in my twelve years in Richmond.  Either I’m getting smarter or everyone else is coming down to my level.

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“Tebow Bill” Goes to Governor …

I have a confession to make:  I loved to watch Tim Tebow play football.  I loved his hard-nosed running, his passion to win and his faithfulness.

I even loved his inability to throw a spiral.

So why can’t I seem to wrap my arms around the bill that bears his name?

A week ago, the Senate passed the Tebow bill on a vote of 22-13.  It essentially allows home school students to play scholastic sports, at least in those counties which choose that option.  I voted “no.”

I have several friends that home school their children.  I also believe that local School Boards can set policy for extracurricular activities.  However, there are two things that I can’t seem to get past.

First, the Virginia High School League, or “VHSL”, is a non-profit organization which administers high school sports.  In general, the Assembly should not be telling it how to run its business, as long as it’s following the law.  To date, it has refused to permit athletes to play unless they are enrolled students.

Second, there are consequences in life, when you make decisions.  If you choose not to attend the local high school, there is a consequence — you don’t get to play for its team.  That only makes sense; especially when you consider that high school athletes have class attendance and grade requirements.

Here’s a corollary question:  would we allow a major college athlete to play  if he failed to enroll in the university?   (ironically, we may be moving there for some  Division I programs that rely on “one and done” athletes)

The Tebow bill is now on the Governor’s desk.  I expect him to veto it, which will undoubtedly get criticism or praise, depending on your political leanings.

I’d prefer that we reach a middle ground here — but nobody seems to have found it yet.

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