October 2008

Minutes from the Sunday Supper Club
October 12th, 2008

Thank you to Ike and Julie Broaddus for hosting our meeting!

Five Minute Flash Reports:

Treasurer’s Report-  Our much-appreciated treasurer Lisa Richard was unable to make this meeting.  We will be expecting bills for our website and domains (ssc.org and fauquierprogressives.org) so all contributions, large and small, are appreciated.

Location, location,location- Linda Swanson opened a discussion about whether or not we wish to move the SSC meetings to a public location: possibilities are the New Baltimore fire house on Rt. 29 or a future community center at Vint Hill.  Ike and Julie Broaddus very generously offered to hold the November and December meetings at their lovely home.  We plan to try out the New Baltimore fire house location for January and February.

Vote Security-  Linda Swanson spoke about Steal Back Your Vote, the new book on voter fraud by Bobby Kennedy Jr. and Greg Palast.  This book, in comic book format, is available by download or in print form at www.stealbackyourvote.org.

Time Management- We’ve noticed that time management has become a bit of an issue at recent meetings and therefore we would request that our members hold questions until the end of the speaker’s presentation.

Contacts needed-  Linda reported that a good friend  and classmate of hers, who is in the country on a Fulbright scholarship, needs to find a federal government job in order to avoid having to return to her country for two years.  She is getting her Masters Degree in Conflict Transformation and would prefer to work near San Francisco.  If any one has any suggestions of people she could contact or places to visit in search of employment please contact Linda at Linda@baldwinridge.com

For the Good of the Community

A number of people addressed the concern of what to do about political signs on public property such as highway medians.  Rather than removing these yourself, please contact VDOT and request that they do so.

Due to ongoing problems with touch screen voting machines the suggestion was made that you vote by paper ballot.

Linda Swanson has created an SSC bulletin board which will be displayed at all meetings.  Thank you, Linda!

The Obama campaign is conducting phone banks, canvasses and a postcard writing campaign up until the day of the election.  If you don’t want to wake up on Nov. 5th asking yourself “What more could I have done to get Barack Obama elected” please contact Chris at (571)839-0711 or cmammen@vaobamaforchange.com

The next SSC planning committee meeting will be on December 2nd at 6:30 at Panera Bread in Warrenton.

Guest Speaker

We were pleased to host as our guest speaker state Senator Jill Vogel.  Jill represents the 27th district in Virginia which extends from Leesburg to West Virginia.  She was elected to the senate in Nov. of 2007, replacing retiring senator Russ Potts.  Jill shared with us her impressions of her first year in the general assembly as well as her experiences working on particular legislation.

Jill began by mentioning that while the campaign was more difficult than she expected, her first year in the General Assembly was a “fantastic experience” and she feels she is far better as a legislator than as a campaigner.

Legislation introduced by Jill in 2007 includes the following:
SB431- requiring the underground location of transmission lines.
SB435- modifying the computation of the composite index for funding schools
SB432- requiring compensation for landowners whose land values were damaged by the proximity of the new electrical transmission lines.
For information on these or other bills introduced by Jill visit her website at: http://senatorjillvogel.com/index.html

Jill also told us of her opposition to SB525 which would “establish the Virginia Uranium Mining Commission as a legislative branch advisory commission to assess the risks and benefits of developing uranium resources in Virginia.”  Jill voiced concerns that the Mining Commission is unlikely to return an unbiased report on this issue.  She was the only senator to vote against this bill and was told that “A vote against a study is a vote for ignorance.”

She spoke repeatedly of the importance of bipartisanship and related that the biggest surprise of her first year was the collegiality of the Senate.  She also mentioned that she found the freshman senators to be a great group of individuals who were quite interested in working across the aisle.  Jill observed that the real battles in the senate were not broken down on partisan lines but rather on urban vs. rural lines with those representing urban districts historically being democrats and those representing rural areas historically being Republicans.  She and other senators representing rural areas tried to stick together on issues important to rural residents such as land use and conservation.

Jill believes that the state budget will be the “transcendent issue” in this year’s session.  Legislation often wins or loses based on the budget.  Jill believes that Governor Kaine’s revenue projections for the New Year were rather optimistic and that the current budget could cause a 2 billion dollar deficit.

Kaine himself has stated that due to the state of the economy all programs are fair game when it comes to budget cuts.

The budget is a reflection of our priorities.  Jill urged communication with your legislators concerning your priorities for the state’s limited resources.  The more a legislator knows about the concerns of his/her constituents the greater the chance that these programs will be reflected in his/her legislative priorities.  Because Jill is a product of the public schools, and has children in the school system, funding education is one of her main priorities.  For more urban districts, where up to 90% of the residents commute, transportation remains a high priority.

On another topic, Jill discussed the issue of local land use and conservation.  She mentioned Delegate Clay Athey’s bill, HB3202, which would require that Urban Development Areas (UDA’s) be a part of every localities development plans.  A UDA is, by definition, “an area designated by a locality that is most suited for development due to proximity to transportation facilities, the availability of a public or community water and sewer system, or proximity to a city, town, or other developed area.”

Jill mentioned that in the 2009 General Assembly session she plans on introducing the “Right to Retrieve” bill which would allow hunters to go onto another person’s property to retrieve their dog.  This bill is of great importance to many of her constituents.  She also plans to introduce a bill which would help fund Transfer of Development Rights programs.

The issue of the ongoing fight over Dominion’s proposed power lines received a lot of attention.  Unfortunately Virginia’s State Corporation Commission (SCC) has approved the lines but has made the building of the lines contingent upon their approval by Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Senator Vogel shared with us a few facts and impressions about Dominion Power:
§         Dominion Power is as powerful as any entity she has ever encountered.
§         Dominion has not been a good steward of our resources.
§         Dominion is the most powerful influence in Virginia, in part because they have no competition.
§         Every lobbyist in Virginia is employed by Dominion Power- some are paid NOT to lobby against them.
§         The end user of the energy to be generated by the power lines is the North East.
§         Dominion is profit driven; therefore they have no incentive to encourage conservation or to educate consumers.
§         The SCC just approved for Dominion Power a massive rate increase of 39-55%.
§         The legislature has little power over construction of the power lines- Governor Kaine and the SCC hold all the cards.
§         The legislature’s only power is to throw up road blocks such as mandating compensation for property owner’s affected by the line and requiring the burial of the lines wherever feasible.

As she closed her presentation Jill stressed the importance of bipartisan redistricting and encouraged us to push this issue with our legislators.  She believes that if redistricting is not pursued on a non-partisan basis that the districts will become increasingly representative of the urban communities and the concerns of the rural communities will be pushed aside.

Jill encouraged us to communicate with her on any issue.  She may be reached by email at jillvogel@senate27.com , on her cell at 703-597-7100 or at her district office at (540)662-4551

Resources for staying informed about the General Assembly and Upcoming Legislation

If you are interested in staying abreast of what is happening with your legislator and/or specific bills coming before the general assembly I highly recommend the following sites.  You can read a summary of upcoming bills or the full text, view which committees your legislator serves on, check out their sponsored and co-sponsored legislation and track the progress (or lack thereof) of  a bill.

http://legis.state.va.us/- general assembly home page

http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?081+men+BIL- for tracking individual bills

Save the Dates

Nov. 9th- Happy birthday to us!!  Please join us as we celebrate our 4th year and plan for the 5th (yes, there will be cake).  Dr.  Ellen Stofan will be our speaker, addressing the topic of “NASA after 50 years- What’s next?”

Dec. 14th-  We’ll show the excellent Frontline video “Sick Around the World: Other Rich Countries Have Universal Health Care.  Why Don’t We?” and discuss the issues raised.

January 11th, 2009-  We’ll welcome in the new year with SSC member Georgia Herbert addressing the issue of uranium mining in Fauquier County.

We hope to see you all on the 9th!