Senate of Virginia


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Mr. Carl Sell
6601 Cottonwood Drive
Alexandria, VA 22310

February 21, 2003

Dear Mr. Sell:

As the 2003 3ession of the Virginia General Assembly winds down, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your interest in the many issues impacting our Commonwealth. The tremendous number of calls, letters, and e-mails I received this session helped me to stay in touch with your opinions and concerns. Each vote I made in Committee and on Senate floor was done with my constituents in mind. Thank you for helping me make informed decisions.

I am pleased with my Senate committee appointments: General Laws, Privileges and Elections, and Rehabilitation and Social Services. Having served on the House General Laws and Privileges and Elections committees, I am familiar with the wide range and complexity of issues brought for their consideration. I am equally excited about the new opportunity to work on the Rehabilitation and Social Services committee.

Following our adjournment on February 22, Governor Warner will review the actions taken by the General Assembly and either sign, veto or amend the legislation. We will reconvene April 4 to consider the actions of the Governor.

In response to your interest in this Session's legislation, I have compiled a brief overview of the bills I submitted. Since we have not yet adjourned, several bills, including amendments to the Commonwealth's biennium budget, have not been finalized.

As we now know, seven of the nineteen terrorists who attacked our country on September 11, 2001 used Virginia driver's licenses to conceal their true identities and carry out their horrific criminal acts. In particular, four of the five hijackers on American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon used their Virginia licenses to board the ill-fated flight.

Ever since the tragedy of September 11, I have questioned this issue of secure identity. We find ourselves in a situation in which Virginia bears much responsibility for creating a climate that enabled terrorists to obtain licenses that were illegally used for identification purposes.

Although some strides toward improvement have been made, the Department of Motor Vehicles still operates an insufficient system that cannot review documents for legal presence. My Senate Bill 1058 provides that using or producing fake identity information to obtain a driver's license or identification card shall constitute a Class 4 felony, and that licenses, permits, and special identification cards will only be issued to citizens, permanent resident aliens, or to those granted a nonimmigrant visa. Additionally, a license shall be valid only during the period of time of the applicant's authorized stay in the United States or if there is no definitive end to the period of authorized stay, as in the case of an applicant for asylum, a period of one year. This bill is similar to one I sponsored in the 2002 Session that resulted in a DMV study to assess the feasibility of requiring legal presence when applying for a driver's license.

Senate Committees graciously devoted hours of debate on the bill and added two significant amendments. First, DMV will have the next nine months to further study the logistics of how to implement a legal presence requirement. They will seek the guidance of the other states that have successfully dealt with this issue and will offer a list of acceptable documents that establish legal presence. Second, DMV will report these findings to the 2004 General Assembly Session and if at that time the Members support DMV's efforts, it will be given until July 1, 2005 to implement the legal presence requirement. Well in advance of applying for or renewing a license, permit, or ID card, Virginia residents will know the parameters of the one-time requirement to present a legal document such as an original birth certificate, US passport, or military ID to prove their residency. The bill passed the full Senate 38-2.

Northern Virginia Delegate Dave Albo is the sponsor of the companion House Bill 1954, which has received overwhelming support. Our two bills have passed legislative scrutiny and are now in conference to reach a compromise bill that will be voted on by the end of the week.

I am dedicated to the further pursuit of this crucial issue. This is a homeland security issue that will appropriately scrutinize the process by which Virginia grants the privilege to drive in our state. The bill is one of my top priorities, and I have worked diligently throughout the past two Sessions to create a bill that is agreeable to the legislature.

Northern Virginia suffers from the second worst traffic Problems in the country. Currently, highway construction funds are based on miles traveled in a specific area. However, that formula does not take into account the congestion we suffer from in the area. Senate Bill 1271 changes the funding formula so secondary., highway construction funds are based on the number of vehicles registered in each county, that number more accurately reflects the true need of construction funds to alleviate our traffic congestion. The transportation committee took no action on the bill. I will continue to fight for this important issue.

Fairfax residents are well aware of our escalating property, taxes. I introduced SB 1273 that limits real estate assessment of property no more than a 5 percent increase in the total real estate tax levies. The average tax increase on individuals would not exceed 5 percent. However, some taxpayers could be above the average while others could fall below the average. Under current law, the annual growth rate in a locality's total real estate taxes from an assessment is not capped, provided the locality holds a public hearing in regard to its real property tax rate. My bill did not fare well as the Finance Committee took no action on the bill. Currently, there is a joint subcommittee studying the Virginia tax code has and will make recommendations on reforming our antiquated tax system. I am hopeful the committee will take into consideration my efforts with this bill.

Many of us are aware of the medical malpractice situation that many physicians are unable to afford their insurance premiums. As a result, these doctors are either forced to move their practices out of state or they retire. This is already the case in West Virginia and Kentucky and could quickly develop in Virginia if we do not take necessary precautions. Senate Bill 1316 requires the State Corporation Commission to commence an investigation of the voluntary market for medical malpractice insurance.

Senate Resolution 301 creates a constitutional amendment that the Transportation Trust Fund established in 1986 will be a permanent fund and be funded annually by the General Assembly. The amendment limits the use of Trust Fund moneys to highway construction, reconstruction, maintenance, and improvements, public transportation, railways, seaports, and airports. The General Assembly may borrow from the Fund for other purposes or reduce the level of required appropriations to the Fund only by a two-thirds-plus-one vote of members in each house and the loan or reduction must be repaid within 4 years. The resolution was left in Finance as the committee took no action on the bill.

It is an honor to represent our district and to report back to you. Please do not hesitate to contact my office with any comments or concerns you may have.


Jay O'Brien

DISTRICT:. (703) 750-0936 RICHMOND: (804) 698-7539 E-MAIL: DISTRICT39@SOV.STATE.VA.US


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