The 2014 session of the Virginia General Assembly is underway. This session will produce a biennial budget, consider the expansion of Medicaid to provide health insurance to 400,000 working Virginians, improve SOL testing and make important changes to our mental health system.
The legislation I have introduced deals with reforming the SOL’s, good government initiatives and several bills to protect our children.
Here is a description of some of my major initiatives:
Eliminating Two SOL’s for 3rd Graders – Virginia is one of only five states that require third graders to take four SOL tests. These are cumulative tests - testing students’ knowledge from kindergarten through third grade. This means that third graders are tested on more knowledge in third grade than they will be during the rest of their school experience. After reviewing the statewide scores for the 3rd grade reading SOL, I was shocked to learn that more than half of Virginia’s schools have a pass rate of less than 75%. In order to focus on strengthening students’ reading skills, my legislation will eliminate the History and Science SOL’s for 3rd graders. This does not mean that History and Science will not be taught in third grade – just not SOL tested. We must give our 3rd graders a solid foundation in reading and math if they are going to be academically successful.
Requiring 30 Minutes of Physical Activity – Childhood obesity has become an epidemic in Virginia and across the country. Statistics show this may be the first generation who does not outlive their parents. In addition to the health benefit, educators confirm that students are more attentive and exhibit greater comprehension skills when physical activity is included in their school day. My legislation will require a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity daily for all elementary school students.
Bipartisan Redistricting Commission – For the past six years, I have introduced legislation removing the redistricting pen from the hands of politicians and give it to individuals who do not have a vested interest in the outcome. Nothing is more critical to our democracy than to ensure our elections are competitive and that we increase voter participation. Elections ought to be decided on the basis of a candidate’s vision and not their party affiliation. This year I am asking for an advisory referendum on this issue so you will have the opportunity to express your views on who should draw the lines.
Absentee Voting for 65 and Older - For many senior citizens, getting to the polls on Election Day can be difficult. Poor health, inclement weather and transportation issues are just a few of the concerns our seniors face when attempting to exercise their right to vote. We need to make voting as easy as possible for our older population and allow seniors to vote when it is most convenient for them. My legislation will allow registered voters, 65 and older, to vote absentee without having to provide an excuse to the Voter Registrar, as the law now requires.
Removing the Hybrid Car Tax – Included in last year’s legislation to fund transportation projects across the Commonwealth was a $64 yearly tax on hybrid cars. It is unfair to require those who are making an effort to conserve gas, to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and to help protect the environment to be charged an additional amount. My legislation will seek the repeal of this tax.
Banning the Sale of E-Cigarettes to Minors – The Food and Drug Administration says "e-cigarettes may contain ingredients that are known to be toxic to humans, and may contain other ingredients that may not be safe.” A recent study shows use by middle and high school students of e-cigarettes has doubled between 2011 and 2012. We must protect our children from the dangers of nicotine.
Payday Loans – Payday loans are a source of financial burden and trap many people in a cycle of debt. The federal government has capped the interest rate for members of the military who have payday loans at 36%. We should not have one rate for the military, and another much higher rate, for civilians. As I have for the past six years, I will once again introduce legislation to limit this rate to 36%.
As the session progresses, please feel free to contact me on issues that are important to you. You can call my Richmond office at 804 698-7501 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is important for me to know what is important to you. I look forward to hearing from you.
Senator John Miller