Del. Brian J. Moran (D-Alexandria) was online Tuesday, Jan. 11, at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the upcoming legislative session which begins Wednesday in Richmond.
Programming Note: Live Online will present a Republican delegate at a date and time to be determined later this week.
A transcript follows.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Brian J. Moran: The General Assembly Session begins tomorrow at 12 noon. It promises to be challenging session. The Commonwealth faces enormous challenges relative to transportation. Along with important budget issues, we can expect a myriad of social conservative bills reflecting an extremist agenda. I welcome your questions.
Is there any chance that this session of the legislature might increase the minimum wage?
Brian J. Moran: The establishment of a minimum wage is federal issue. However, Arlington and Alexandria have initiated a living wage. We can expect efforts like last year to forbid them to adopt these local ordinances.
Re: Hybrids in the express lanes:
With all due respect, sir, you are wrong, wrong, wrong not to extend the ability of hybrids to use the express lanes. Those lanes were originally built, you will remember, to reduce our area's horrid air pollution. A better idea would be to change the lanes to Clean Fuel lanes and only let clean fuel cars use them. Once the clean fuel-only lanes get too busy, then you can re-impose HOV, only using clean fuel cars exclusively.
Brian J. Moran: This has been an important issue to me. I have been an ardent supporter of HOV use by hybrid motor vehicles. I have sponsored legislation to extend the exemption beyond 2006. I had even suggested we go further and eliminate the sunset clause. However, in light of the most recent study indicating significant increased usages - as much as 19% - I need to look at alternatives. I plan to patron a study of the creation of clean fuel lanes.
As a gay resident of Virginia, I am afraid the right wing may try to pass an anti-gay marriage amendment.
How can that be stopped?
Brian J. Moran: You need along with other members of the community, including straight and gay, to advocated for the constitutional amendment's defeat. The constituent viewpoint number is 1-800-889-0229.
Marian Van Landingham (45th) is retiring for health reasons. Do you have any insight into how the Democratic party will choose her replacement?
Brian J. Moran: The decision to adopt the method will be made later this month or sometime in early Feb. It will be either a caucus or the June primary. My longtime Aide Elsie Mosqueda has expressed an interest.
Marian has been a tremendous advocate for her district and she will be sorely missed in Richmond.
Washington, D.C. suburbs:
I am very concerned about HB 1677, which proposes to add a penalty provision to Virginia's requirement that women report fetal deaths. The current draft of this bill would require a woman to report a first-term miscarriage or face potential felony charges. As a mother of two who experienced a miscarriage at six weeks' gestation exactly two months ago, I am very concerned about the possibility of this bill being enacted.
I understand Del. Cosgrove has received numerous comments from women across Virginia, and has expressed his agreement with the concerns. I just hope that these statements are reflected in action.
Brian J. Moran: I share your concern. I opposed this bill last year. It is one of many bills to invade our individual liberties. It seems like an obnoxious intrusion into a woman's right to privacy. Be vigilant and watch it's progress and contact your Delegate and Senator.
Del. Moran, you write "we can expect a myriad of social conservative bills reflecting an extremist agenda." These type of bills are submitted every year by delegates who are reelected every two years in their districts. Seems to me these delegates are just reflecting the wishes of their constituents, just as you are. Whether they or you can summon a majority is why we have a General Assembly, right?
Brian J. Moran: That's fair. I believe in a citizen legislator that convenes to do the people's business. As a former football player, I view the people's business as the blocking and tackling, not like a Randy Moss distraction. We should spend our brief time here in Richmond on improving our children's education, making our streets safer, and ensuring our economic prosperity. I don't believe we should submit legislation merely to gain political points.
Do you know who has replaced Del. Bryant on the Appropriations Committee? Do you think Bryant is being punished by voting with you for tax increases last year?
Brian J. Moran: The Speaker of the House possesses the unilateral authority to make committee appointments. I was disapointed to hear that Delegate Bryant was removed from Appropriations. I don't think there is any doubt that it is retribution for his courageous vote for the budget and tax reform bills of last year.
As some legislators jockey for better positions to seek the lieutenant governor and attorney general nominations this spring, what types of political posturing should we be looking for this year?
Brian J. Moran: No doubt there will be a great deal of election posturing during the coming Session. The main attraction will be the duel between the Lt. Gov and Attorney General. They both have submitted legislative packages that are appeals to the political center.
As Caucus Chair you are responsible for the candidates Democrats put forward. In my district (Dillard) we have a Republican running as a Democrat. What will you do to stop this?
Brian J. Moran: As Caucus Chair I have a responsibility to support Democratic candidates this fall. It is up to the local democratic committees to choose their candidate. Del. Jim Dillard has been a champion of a number of issues, such as education, which would make him a welcome addition to the Democratic Party.
Looking at all the housing going up in Prince William county and other outlying suburban areas, it's clear that our transportation problem is going to get worse. It seems to me that VDOT's problem has less to do with available funding than poor planning. Look at a map -- I-95 and Rt. 1 are the only major north-south arteries. How was that a smart plan? Don't ask for more money unless you can show that you've used well what you already have.
Brian J. Moran: VDOT's well documented management and planning problems were a leading cause of the 2002 transportation referendum defeat. Governor Warner has focused on remedying these deficiencies. VDOT's Phil Shucet is a professional with no partisan political agenda. In addition to VDOT's improvements we need to secure the Transportation Trust Fund. This year I will support a constitutional amendment to forbid transportation money to be used for any other purpose.
Will the Republican majority block any progress on cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay?
Brian J. Moran: There is no need for this to be a partisan issue. There are a number of Republicans who share my concern for the Bay's health. Governor Warner recently concluded his chairmanship of the commission. The Governor of Pennsylvania is the new chair. This requires a multistate solution. There has been a proposal to adopt a $1 a week flush tax to generate funds dedicated to Bay cleanup. If you are in support contact your Senate and House finance committee members.
Do you know the state of the Alexandria circuit judge appointment? Can we move this past politics or is this a situation where legislative muscle-flexing is destined to subvert local will?
Brian J. Moran: I know the state of the Alexandria circuit court judge all too well. Over the last 19 months I have spent hours on this issue. One of the biggest disappointments of my legislative career was the failure to secure Judge Dawkins' elevation to the Circuit Court. It was a blatant exercise of power by the majority to deny an extremely deserving candidate the position. I am please that Judge Lisa Kimler has accepted the Governor's appointment and hope to obtain her appointment this session.
I, too, recently heard about the proposed bill requiring mothers an inordinately small time frame in which to report miscarriages (something like 12 hours). I cannot believe that our legislators don't have better things to concern themselves with, but my main question is this: What's the state's justification for such a requirement (the current statute, I believe, requires that the death be reported within a more practicable three days)? I honestly don't understand, and am hoping you can explain the rationale, even if you don't agree with it. Thank you.
Brian J. Moran: My discussions with Del. Cosgrove last year led me to believe that he was trying to address the abandoned baby tragedy. In his district a young mother abandoned her newborn child. This bill has far more unintended consequences. there are better alternatives for this problem. Two years ago I successfully patroned a bill to provide immunity against criminal prosecution to a mother who would safely drop off a child to a hospital. I will monitor this bill very closely and certainly oppose it in committee.
I disagree with an earlier comment that right-wing extremists such as Dick Black and Bob Marshall represent their constituencies. As a Del Black constituent I can tell you that the reason these people get elected is that not enough people are informed about what they do when they get to Richmond. Del Black takes credit for roads and education bills that he votes against. Only 7 percent of eligible voters elected him in his first term and only about 20 percent voted for him last time. It is hardly a mandate.
Brian J. Moran: Then it's up to you and others like you to educate their constituents. They sponsors some of the most extreme legislation in the General Assembly. They are both very personable individuals and I am sure they can be charming when they are back in their districts. I would agree that the politics of hate and division do not represent the views of the majority of Virginians.
I am concerned more and more with the right wing attitude of our state. I've lived here my entire life and can't believe some of the proposed legislation:
Requiring a woman to report a lost fetus? Who's bright idea was that?
Not allowing gay marriage but allowing concealed weapons laws? That reek of hate and violence before love and commitment. What, are they afraid the gays and lesbians are going to start reproducing little gays and lesbians? Again, do these people who are representing us have an aptitude test before they take office to see if they know how to think? (present company excluded of course)
I want to get my voice heard not just through some recorded message or random on-line petition. How can I make sure my opinions and views are really heard? I know there are thousands in the Northern Virginia area who would like their representatives know they oppose these "dark ages" views.
Brian J. Moran: Last year's budget debate proved to be an extraordinary example of a legislature responding to the people. Governor Warner's tax reform plan passed with Republican votes, some of whom were elected on anti-tax platforms. But when they returned home the advocates for education, public safety and human services made their voices heard. This year's gubernatorial campaign will again serve as a referendum on the progress we have made.
Fort Washington, Md.:
Do you think it's fair for House Speaker Howell to remove his own party members from key committees just because they sided with the Democrats to pass the budget last year? Where's the loyalty in the Republican Party?
Brian J. Moran: One of the interesting dynamics of the current political situation in VA is the battle over the identity of the Republican Party. Last year's budget debate crystallized the battle between anti-tax Republicans and the more moderate Senate Republicans. There was more rancor between the House and Senate Republicans than there was between House Democrats and Republicans. The removal of Del. Bryant is unfortunate, but indicative that the battle continues.
Del. Moran, do you plan to support Gov. Warner's "Virginia Works" initiative, the $20 million plan to help Southside and Southwest Virginia? Why or why not?
Brian J. Moran: Thanks for your question. I apologize for not getting to it sooner. Yes I do support the Governor's initiative. This is a Commonwealth and we need to make sure that all of the Commonwealth prospers economically. Let me use this as a plug to help Northern VA alleviate our traffic congestion. We will need the support of southside legislators.
Brian J. Moran: Thanks for all of your great questions. We are out of time. I wish I had been able to respond to all of you. You can contact me via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the constituent hotline (in Virginia) 1-800-889-0229.