Cox reaches 8,200 constituents in 2nd town hall
Just past the half-way point of the 2014 General Assembly Session, Delegate M. Kirkland “Kirk” Cox (R-Colonial Heights) hosted his second telephone town hall of the year with some 1,800 households participating. Cox was able to leave messages with another 6,400 households. This call included constituents from across the 66th district which includes Colonial Heights and portions of Chesterfield County.
“I am pleased to use the telephone town hall format to reach you directly,” said Cox during his introduction, “By staying on the line, you assure me that you find this hour as beneficial as I do.” Cox also noted “Crossover is the mid-point of the General Assembly session. Each chamber must complete action on all bills, with the exception of the budget, introduced in their chamber for the other body’s consideration.”
During the call, Cox fielded 11 questions from constituents on several topics to include Sunday hunting, Medicaid expansion, transportation, and education. The call also included a chance for participating constituents to “cast their vote” on a number of major issues facing the General Assembly. Poll questions addressed many areas to include those raised by callers, as well as ethics reform, mental health, minimum wage, budget priorities, and Virginia’s one term Governor.
The major issue in this General Assembly session is Medicaid expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Cox and the Republican House leadership support an independent audit of the current Medicaid system before any expansion. They want to put in reforms aimed at improving care for those in the current Medicaid system. Participants were asked if they supported auditing Medicaid before expansion; 88% agreed with Cox that Medicaid must be audited.
The bipartisan ethics package, supported by Cox and House Minority Leader David Toscano (D-Charlottesville), places a $250 per item cap on tangible gifts that legislators and their immediate family may receive from lobbyists. It also establishes a State Ethics Advisory Commission to review all financial disclosures and creates a number of reforms to modernize the disclosure system, promote greater transparency, and require mandatory training. Cox noted this plan represents many months of hard work from a bipartisan ethics work group. He stated “I believe the bill is a positive step forward and allows us to keep an open dialogue on how best to maintain transparency in government.” 78% of participants supported this approach.
When asked if a reduction in SOL tests by 23% for third through eighth grades was a step in the right direction, 86% of respondents agreed. The House unanimously passed a bill sponsored by Delegate Tag Greason (R-Loudon) to reduce SOL tests for third through eighth graders from 22 to 17 tests.
The “A” through “F” grading system was favored by 74% of those polled. This approach would grade schools based on student progress and the school’s ability to meet state and federal benchmarks so that parents would have a simple way to understand how their child’s school is performing.
HB 1237 introduced by Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) would allow hunters to hunt on Sundays only on private land with written permission of the landowner and not within two hundred yards of a place of worship. Cox’s constituents were evenly divided on this issue—51% in favor and 49% against.
Another prevalent issue this session is a minimum wage hike. Federal law mandates that no person can be paid less than $7.25 per hour but allows states to increase the minimum wage within their state. Cox stated that while raising the minimum wage may result in higher wages for some, others will lose their jobs as a result of businesses not being able to meet payroll. In response to a poll question to retain the present minimum wage, 60% agreed that the minimum wage should not be raised. The House also agreed with retaining the present minimum wage by taking no action on the Senate’s bill that raised the minimum wage by $2.
The House is working to increase access and availability to various mental health resources to better care for citizens in need. A plan to create a live, on-line bed registry to track psychiatric beds available across the Commonwealth received favorable support from constituents. 71% supported this measure. The live bed registry would cost approximately $122,000 per year to maintain.
When given the option on which area should receive priority for additional funding, 67% of respondents supported fully funding the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) before funding universal pre-K or providing a raise to state employees.
The “Kings Dominion Law” requires school districts wishing to start the school year before Labor Day to get a special waiver from the state Department of Education. HB333, introduced by Delegate Tag Greason (R-Loudon) would allow school districts to start the school year prior to Labor Day without getting a waiver. 73% of respondents supported this idea.
Cox asked constituents about a proposed statewide Virginia Virtual School that would allow students to take online courses. 60% of respondents supported a statewide virtual school.
To see more poll results from Cox’s Telephone Town Hall visit his website www.kirkcox.com.
This Town Hall had an added dimension! As Majority Leader, Cox works with freshmen Republican Delegates to get them acquainted with different ways to stay in contact with their constituents. As part of this effort, freshman Delegate Dave LaRock (R-Loudon) and his staff sat in on this call to learn the ins and outs of the telephone town hall system. LaRock said “The hour spent with Cox was well worth our time.”
Cox closed the call by thanking participants for allowing him to represent their voices in the House of Delegates. “I hope that you have found this town hall format informative and beneficial,” Cox said. “I am very grateful for your participation and I hope you will join me in future town hall meetings.”
"Del. Dave LaRock (3rd from left) and his staff (standing) observe Majority Leader Cox (2nd from right) during his latest telephone town hall."