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Rebate checks are coming

The Commonwealth of Virginia ended the fiscal year with a $797.7 million revenue surplus, according to final figures provided at the Aug. 20 joint meeting of the General Assembly’s money committees.

Virginia will have over $1.6 billion, or approximately seven percent of general fund revenue, in its reserve funds at the end of the biennium.

The surplus will allow Virginia to set aside $431 million in our state reserve funds to fund rebate checks.

This surplus means that Virginia taxpayers will either get a $110 (single) or $220 (married) rebate check as planned.

Rebate checks are scheduled to be sent between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15.

Republicans in the General Assembly have been careful stewards of the public’s funds; this surplus highlights that conservative approach.

Democrats attempted to raise taxes on Virginians by more than $1 billion this session, but Republicans stood firm and insisted that not only should taxes not go up, but that taxpayers should get some relief from their tax bills.

The same policies that made Virginia the Best State for Business are what led to this surplus.

Due to the Republican-led General Assembly, Virginia has once again maintained its triple-A bond rating.

As directed during the July 9 Special Session, the Crime Commission met Aug. 19 and 20.

The Commission heard from experts in law enforcement and academia on gun violence and various actions on how to curb violence in our communities.

The meeting included speakers from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Virginia State Police, the Virginia Department of Health, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, U.S. Secret Service, National Center for Health Research, and a presentation by David Kennedy, the director of the National Network of Safe Communities, on programs proven to specifically reduce gun violence.

Notable findings from expert testimony on Day One included:

Suicide accounts for the vast majority of those lost by gun violence. Programs like Colorado’s Safe2Tell program have been successful in helping high school students sound the alarm for peers who might be at risk of suicide or violent actions. — Steven Driscoll, M.Ed., lead research specialist, National Threat Assessment Center, U.S. Secret Service.

Mental illness per se is not a risk factor by itself for gun violence. However, most shooters exhibit some sort of behavior that has caused concern for others: stalking, obsessive behavior, threats, domestic violence, etc. Some of that behavior is criminal and in a number of cases could have headed off tragedy had it been prosecuted. — Steven Driscoll, M.Ed., lead research specialist, National Threat Assessment Center, U.S. Secret Service.

The types of firearms available in societies do not matter in regard to the number of shootings and victims. What does matter is keeping firearms of all kinds out of the hands of potential bad actors. Additionally, a ban on so-called “assault weapons” would be ineffective. — Claire Boine, research scholar, Boston University Report from the Rockefeller Institute of Government.

Some 99 percent of homicides are not mass shootings, and assault weapon bans only impact law-abiding sportsmen. Such bans and magazine capacity limits were found to have no statistically significant reduction in homicides.  — Claire Boine, research scholar, Boston University Report from the Rockefeller Institute of Government.

Urban violence isn’t caused by “bad neighborhoods.” There are no bad neighborhoods, only communities with a small number of interconnected people who are likely to commit violent acts. — David Kennedy, director of the National Network for Safe Communities, John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

The “grinding, every day violence” that makes up most of the homicides in Virginia are more often than not the work of a small group of people in a small community — 0.5 percent of the people cause 50 percent of the shootings — David Kennedy, director of the National Network for Safe Communities, John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Prevention programs such as Project Ceasefire work because of their narrow focus on bad actors, rather than the community at large. — David Kennedy, director of the National Network for Safe Communities, John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Virtually all of the gun buyers in Virginia who ran afoul of the “one gun per month” law were Virginians who had concealed carry handgun permits. When permit holders were exempted from the law, violations all but vanished. — Lt. Keenon Hook, assistant CJIS officer, Criminal Justice Information Services Division, Virginia State Police.

Young, African American men are by far the most frequent victims of gun violence in Virginia, both in terms of injury and death. More than half of all gun deaths in Virginia are young, African American men. — Kathrin “Rosie” Hobron, MPH, statewide forensic epidemiologist, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner; Lauren Yerkes, MPH, Injury and Violence Prevention Epidemiologist in the Division of Population Health Data, Virginia Department of Health.

Group Violence Intervention programs focus law enforcement resources and community services on especially high-risk individuals – producing real results. The program significantly reduced gun violence in cities like Boston (the so-called “Boston Miracle”) and Oakland, California.  — David Kennedy, director of the National Network for Safe Communities, John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Republicans are committed to reducing gun violence in Virginia, but our response must be thoughtful and evidence based. Rushing to “do something” just to do something is a poor use of the General Assembly’s power and could be counterproductive.

Del. C. Matthew Fariss represents Buckingham in the Virginia House of Delegates. His email address is DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov.