Cosgrove gears up for session
As Sen. John Cosgrove prepares for his first year in the General Assembly’s upper house after 12 years in the House of Delegates, he expects a number of issues to catch his attention during the session, which begins Jan. 8 and is set to last 60 days.
Ethics reform, the budget and local issues all are on his agenda.
“I think ethics reform is going to be a big deal,” he said. “I think there will be numerous bills introduced that we’re all going to have to look at.”
Ethics has been on the radar for the past year, since revelations that Gov. Bob McDonnell and members of his family had accepted gifts from a troubled dietary-supplement manufacturer.
“I think it’s about time after the Phil Hamilton debacle and Gov. McDonnell’s troubles this year,” Cosgrove said, also referring to the former delegate who went to prison in 2011 after taking a job at Old Dominion University for which he had helped obtain state funding through his position as delegate.
Cosgrove said he believes the state needs an ethics committee but questioned what would be the best way to structure it.
“I think getting some advice from an ethics committee is probably a good idea,” he said.
Cosgrove also said he’ll pay close attention to specific issues in the budget, particularly mental health reform.
“We’ll have to look and see where all the money needs to go,” he said. “I certainly am very concerned with the mental health issues.”
The state’s mental health treatment system is under the microscope after Sen. Creigh Deeds’ 24-year-old son, Austin Deeds, stabbed his father and killed himself shortly after being released from an emergency custody order without receiving treatment.
“I think with Sen. Deeds’ tragic issue this year, that’s probably going to be one of the front and center issues with the budget, and we’ll be looking at that very closely,” Cosgrove said.
On other budget issues, he noted last year’s historic transportation bill that will pump billions into the state’s road network was a big step forward.
“I think transportation is something that was desperately needed,” he said, adding this year’s final budget is still up in the air. “I don’t think anybody can figure out what the final budget is going to look like.”
In local matters, Cosgrove will carry a bill requesting the state to examine moving the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Hampton Roads District office on Suffolk’s North Main Street to another location.
“That’s very valuable property there,” Cosgrove said. “They can put something very, very nice there, and it would be a great benefit to the tax base for the city of Suffolk.”
Cosgrove also will carry a budget amendment to put an extra $10 million on an environmental impact study on Interstate 64’s high-rise bridge. It is nearing the end of its lifespan, he said.
“That’s going to be a very, very expensive project,” he said, “but I do not under any circumstances want that to be a toll road. We already have three toll facilities in Chesapeake, and we can’t toll everything.”