Danny's Desk
Feb 18, 2014

The Marriage Amendment Ruling and the Budget: Virginia voters went to the polls in 2006 and overwhelmingly adopted an amendment to the Virginia Constitution that defined marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman. Last week a federal court judge ruled that the Virginia amendment violated the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, basically overturning the wishes of Virginia voters to limit the definition of marriage in our state.


The overwhelming response to surveys and other communications from the folks in my district give strong support to traditional marriage as the law they wish to have for Virginia. While I realize that some people disagree, the many Virginians who share this view deserve to have their voices heard and their view defended in court. Unfortunately, Attorney General Mark Herring refused to defend the Virginia Constitution in court. As in any court case, it is important to have representation. Would the ruling be different if there had been a strong defense of the Virginia law?


A number of you have contacted me with concerns about this and asked, “So what happens next?” Because the federal judge “stayed” the ruling that means that our marriage laws stay the same while the new ruling goes through the appeal process. The courts may continue to debate the issue for years to come. Ultimately, the Supreme Court may end up resolving the issue.


Our current work at the House of Delegates is focusing on a Budget. Unlike the Federal level, the General Assembly must estimate available revenues over the next 2 years and produce a budget that balances. We must use taxpayer dollars wisely and spend within our means, just like a family must set priorities and stay within a budget.


The process begins with a basic budget that, in this case, was prepared by the former governor. Then amendments are offered on the House side and the Senate side which adjust amounts and add and remove items. The budget is a bill and budget committees hold hearings just like the process for other bills that are introduced. We end up with a House version and a Senate version. In the end, those budgets must be reconciled, so that one budget comes forth. We have a proposed House version and will vote on it this week.


This year I am working on two special budget items and it appears that they have both been included in the overall House Budget. These items are important because they are to help with jobs and job training in our area.


One budget item was in the introduced budget and is for the Capstone training program at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR). The other is for the New College Institute programs.


The Capstone training at the IALR is a “next step” in advanced manufacturing training that follows increased training at Danville Community College. The direction for all of this was set from a study commissioned by the Tobacco Commission to identify skills that are needed in the “tobacco footprint region.” The 2012 report from Boston Consulting led to efforts to increase capacity for training precision machinists.


In 2013 I put in the budget amendment that helped to expand that program. Following the expanded program, Macerata Wheels announced intent to locate in Danville bringing120 jobs and North American Tire Mold announced they were locating in the former Corning plant, with130 jobs to come. Both companies indicated that it was the precision machining training program expansion at DCC that influenced their decision to locate in our area.


In coordination with Danville Community College, a first-year precision machining program has been started at the Pittsylvania County Career and Technical Center. It offers the first year of precision machining training as dual enrollment, so that students can enter DCC with one year of the 2-year program already completed. Parents like the money savings and students, when they graduate high school, are a year closer to having a certified skill and getting a good job.


How does this relate to Capstone? The IALR Capstone project takes the training a step further to provide community college precision machining graduates (2-yr certificate) one more year of intensive training in Advanced Manufacturing. The overarching objective of Capstone is to provide manufacturers with above entry-level prospective employees with advanced skills. Those graduates would enter the job market at a higher skill and earning level.


My other training support is a budget amendment to help the New College Institute in Martinsville. It will bring $440,037 each of the two budget years to support expansion of workforce development programs. The money will be used to operate the new 52,000 square foot building and to provide personnel for the basic functions needed to offer training classes, including trades managers, marketing and security.


These budget dollars are an investment in our students and our workers and will hopefully attract more of the economic development that comes to areas where workers are skilled. We have to use every possible tool to bring the jobs.


If you live in my district and have not taken the 2014 Legislative Survey, please go to www.dannymarshall.com and find it on the lower right section of the homepage.


Also, if you want to read or keep up with Virginia legislation, you may go on line to: http://legis.virginia.gov/  As always, I hope that my 14th District constituents will let us know how you feel about the state issues that are before us.