Friday, January 18, 2013

Del. Mike Watson - Session Newsletter 1-18-2013






Meeting with members of the Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance in Richmond

2013 Session

January 18, 2013


We have now wrapped up ‘Week Two’ of the 2013 General Assembly session.  It has been an incredibly active and busy week, so much so that I’ve come to the opinion that we do the same amount of work as in a long-session, just in less time.  In all, it was a very successful week as I presented three bills to subcommittees, one for business, one for education, and one to address a historic asset issue in James City Co. I carried over a fourth bill, one supported by Newport News, for presentation next week as we work out its final language.


Additionally, we had an exciting week of events with the Business Development Caucus, the caucus that I co-founded with three other business-owner Delegates to promote business success and job growth in Hampton Roads and throughout the Commonwealth. I am excited by the overwhelming support and attention this group is getting now that we’re back in Richmond.  We’ve already had requests by the Governor, Secretary of Education, and several Delegates to include some of their bills in our legislative agenda.  We garnered statewide news coverage earlier this week, and have been invited to do interviews with various media outlets next week to discuss our group, mission, and bills.

I’ll likely present several bills next week and will soon see some up for consideration by the entire House of Delegates.  Work in committees and in the House will be ramped up as we work to address over 2300 bills in the next few weeks before sending them to the Senate, then taking up their bills.  I also have a full line up of meetings with stakeholders, interest groups, and representatives from our district.  

Among others, I’ve already met with several constituent groups including York and JCC Registrars, Retired Military Officers of the Peninsula, National Guardsmen from Hampton Roads, and the Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance (pictured above).

On a personal note, I did travel home for a short weekend last Friday night, caught up on some business on Saturday, and attended my son’s, Adam, Eagle Scout Court of Honor on Sunday afternoon before traveling back for a late evening meeting in Richmond.   We’ll be accompanying Cody, my eldest, back to Virginia Tech on Saturday to finish out his senior year. But, I’ll see him again soon when he travels to Richmond with the college for ‘Hokie Day’ to represent the Corps of Cadets as they meet with legislators.


We have started receiving responses to our survey and I welcome your thoughts.  If you haven’t filled one out, please visit and submit yours as soon as you finish this newsletter.  Finally, I hope that you will share this newsletter with others by using the “forward” button at the bottom of this email.  As always, I appreciate your interest in my efforts here and am grateful for the opportunity to make a difference in our district and for Virginia.


Have a great weekend.



Contact Me:


As always, whether in Richmond or in the district, we are here to serve you. Until the 2013 session ends, you should contact my Richmond office at:  (804) 698-1093 or email:



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Bills presented to committees
This week I presented three of my bills to House subcommittees, each with a positive outcome.


1. I drafted HB 1579 to place emphasis on the Historic and Scenic value of the James River and the historic region that is under consideration for tower and power line construction.  Recognizing that it is the duty of the SCC to make the final routing decision, I had to be cautious that my bill did not attempt to usurp that duty, but rather that it express the will of the General Assembly for full consideration.  HB 1579 was heard by a subcommittee of the Agriculture, Chesapeake Bay & Natural Resources committee on Wednesday evening. Following a recommendation by Del. Lynwood Lewis (D- Accomack) and a unanimous vote by the committee, Chairman Del. Lee Ware (R-Powhatan) agreed to draft a letter to the State Corporation Commission, expressing the committee’s support for the intent of my bill.   Now, the SCC will hear from the General Assembly in a few weeks rather than going through the entire legislative process and receiving notice in July, potentially after SCC action.  I believe that this is the most favorable outcome, an opinion that members of the James River Association shared during their Thursday visit to Richmond.


2.  HB1671 was drafted to address one of the many seemingly senseless business regulations.  Under Virginia ABC law, if the owners of a restaurant also have interest in a winery that is not located in Virginia, the restaurant is not allowed to sell that particular wine, even if purchased through a third party distributor.  This regulation is intended to enforce the 3-tier system which separates manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers and prevents a monopoly effect.   My bill will allow a VA restaurateur that has an interest in just one out-of-state winery to sell that wine in a single restaurant, keeping in place the requirement of purchase through a distributor.  On Thursday, HB1671 unanimously passed out of the ABC/Gaming subcommittee of General Laws.


3.  HB2094 establishes the Virginia Longitudinal Data System to assist schools, lawmakers, and businesses in evaluating the effectiveness of programs and curriculum throughout school and to the workforce.   The VLDS collects anonymous data along student’s paths through the school system, higher education, and workforce. It utilizes a system of statistical process control to evaluate the effectiveness of the programs implemented by legislators and educators.  I presented the bill Thursday night to an Education subcommittee that unanimously passed it on to the full committee.   Governor McDonnell has chosen to make HB2094 a part of his 2013 legislative agenda on job creation and workforce development.



Big Week for the BDC

Each Monday morning the Speaker of the House of Delegates promotes the legislative agenda for the General Assembly session in a press conference held by House leadership to highlight certain bills or issues. Recognizing the importance of our pro-growth agenda, Speaker Howell asked the Business Development Caucus (BDC) to host the House press conference this week.  Caucus Chair, Del. Chris Head (Roanoke), started by discussing the BDC’s mission to pass legislation that promotes business  growth and success in order to foster new job opportunities. He concluded his remarks by announcing the launch of the new BDC website.

I then presented our legislative agenda, covering four of the BDC bills in some detail and referencing several others.  It was a great opportunity to reach out to employers and potential employers across the state. It is our hope to let these employers know that they have a voice in the General Assembly.

On Wednesday, the BDC held its first full caucus meeting of this session.  Over 20 members, representing both parties, members of business organizations, and lobbying groups participated.  We discussed bills that were filed as part of the BDC legislative agenda and reviewed additional bills from members who wished to submit legislation as part of the BDC package.  Following the meeting, I was approached by several business organization representatives who praised our commitment to addressing business concerns in the Commonwealth.  I look forward to seeing many of these bills progress through the legislative system.  If you would like to see the legislation we’re presenting, visit



Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland confirmed
On Monday the General Assembly confirmed several judges who had received appointments after our 2012 session.  Among them was The Honorable Tracy Thorne-Begland, the state’s first openly gay judge.  I think it is important that I discuss my ‘no’ vote on his confirmation.  

Mr. Thorne-Begland was nominated during the 2012 session but failed to attain the necessary 51 votes for confirmation. There was much controversy over this vote, with accusations that he was rejected only because of his sexuality.  Personally, I decided to cast a ‘no’ vote last year after speaking with several retired military officers, now colleagues in the General Assembly, and after reviewing one of his previous media interviews.  Mr. Thorne-Begland had voluntarily joined the Navy and successfully sought to go through Aviation Officer Candidate School and Aviator’s School in Pensacola, FL, a commission that required a commitment of 6-years active military service at the cost of approximately $2.5m to taxpayers.  Upon completion of his training and assignment in Virginia, he chose to address his sexual orientation on national television, in violation of his enlistment contract and with full knowledge that it would cost him his commission.  Upon dismissal, he sued the Navy and was reinstated by the courts.  It is important to note that just prior to going public, he had received a waiver from his extended service commitment.  This meant that he was just months away from eligibility for honorable discharge, when he could have challenged Navy policy freely.

Last fall, I met with Judge Thorne-Begland and explained my no vote.  I asked him to confirm each of these facts, and he did. I asked why he didn’t simply wait a few more months, fulfill his commitment, then challenge the policy.  He responded that he, “thought that (he) could fight the Navy more effectively from within”.  In my opinion, this decision to challenge the contract that he voluntarily sought cost United States taxpayers millions of dollars unnecessarily.  Furthermore, by attending Aviation school another otherwise qualified sailor did not have that opportunity.  As judge, he will hear contract law cases and is expected to follow the letter of the law in deciding each.  It was my opinion that his prior action demonstrated a disregard for the contract that he had signed and that another candidate should have been nominated for this judgeship accordingly.

Having met Judge Thorne-Begland, I want to be clear that my opposition was not based on any concern for his ability to perform this job or his sexuality.  By all indications, he has demonstrated competence and fairness during his tenure as Judge and I am confident that he will serve the people of Richmond well.


Del. Watson holds tele-town hall meeting
On Thursday evening we hosted a live tele-town hall conference with over 600 participants.  During a Wednesday night phone call to advise constituents of the event, we asked over 8,000 citizens in the 93rd district to join us.  I started the call by covering some of the early happenings in the General Assembly, the Governor’s agenda, and some of the bills that I’m carrying. For the next 30 minutes we took questions from the participants on multiple issues including education, transportation, gun rights, and uranium.

It’s important that you have the opportunity to keep up with legislative activities Richmond and we will continue to seek ways to make that as convenient as possible.  If you are interested in some of my daily activities as a Delegate, we make routine posts to our Facebook Page, , and Twitter  @Watson4Delegate.  Of course, you are always welcome to send an email to or call (804) 698-1093.

Contact Delegate Watson

General Assembly Office Phone: (804) 698-1093    


Mail: PO Box 6628 Williamsburg, VA 23188                                                                                           

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