Last week, the Fairfax County delegation to the General Assembly held a public hearing prior to the upcoming 2022 session. 

Several topics were brought up for the discussion led by Senator Richard L. Saslaw (D-35), majority leader of the Virginia Senate, including the funding for education, specifically a request for a pay raise for the county’s educators.

Senator Ghazala Hashmi (D-10) said that the state will push to ensure that they have enough high caliber professionals in the classroom to help students learn effectively.

“We’ve got two bills that are going to help to address the expansion of our teacher’s workforce and address the teacher shortages that we face,” said Hashmi. 

More than 50 speakers, allotted three minutes, spoke virtually each representing a different organization and district and highlighting their desire for the General Assembly to help them bring their issues to light while asking for help, awareness, or financial aid to support their cause. 

Diana Rodriguez, a representative of the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board,  brought attention to key priorities for developmental disability and substance use disorder services, providing details on the board’s struggle during the pandemic and its need for financial assistance. 

“Over 5,000 people with developmental disabilities receive support coordination services, or support coordination, residential and employment in day services help people with developmental disabilities live and thrive in the community,” said Rodriguez. “We request your support for the governor’s proposed budget, which provides for the addition of 1,200 new waiver slots for individuals who are waiting for these essential services for support.”

Rodriguez also asked the General Assembly to allocate funds to cover the actual costs of delivering the life-saving services as the current reimbursement rates do not cover the cost of providing the need for 24/7 care. 

Among the other issues brought up involved the environment and living conditions. Rick Galliher is the President of the Bottle Bill Organization of Virginia and has owned the Chantilly franchise of a local junk removal business for 18 years before recently retiring. Bottle Bill’s mission has centered around reducing environmental waste, particularly the reduction of plastic material. Galliher asked the Assembly for help in passing a bottle bill to help their cause.  

“With the new administration and redistricting. There’ll be a lot of pressure on existing environmental programs without adding significant new ones,” said Galliher. “We need to plant the seed now. We need Fairfax to come out in support of a bottle bill to help other municipalities have a movement to join, instead of letting a handful of small towns do it alone.

Galliher also stated that the Assembly should help organize local governments to provide broad public support and have a board of supervisors publicly endorse a bottle bill by adding it to the legislative agenda.

Mary Paden of the South County Task Force asked the Assembly for their assistance in helping mobile homes prosper. Paden mentioned how more mobile home owners are considering selling to developers, while also referencing the ongoing situation at Harmony Place Mobile Park in Alexandria. 

“The land owners make money, and the developers make money, and the county makes money, but the mobile home owners, the families who we applaud as mostly essential workers, can lose their homes and their lifetime investments,” said Paden. “We need your help at the state level as well as new county policies to correct this injustice.”

Paden concluded her thoughts by saying that it costs between $5,000 and $10,000 to move a mobile home and how limited space is to move the homes, while bringing up how many states are recognizing mobile home parks as legitimate communities. 

Saslaw said that in addition to the concerns brought up during the session, issues like childcare development will be addressed by eliminating the duration of time that families may participate in the childcare subsidy, ensuring that they have access to the program as long as they meet federal requirements.

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