Working for Your Interests in Richmond and on the Hill

A photo of the county's Government Relations staff in Richmond.

Decisions are being made 100 miles away in Richmond that impact almost every resident in Fairfax County.

The 2016 General Assembly began its 60-day session on Jan. 13. Our small four-member Government Relations Office (as well as staff from the county’s Department of Transportation and the County Attorney’s Office) is there to look after our interests by reviewing an avalanche of bills and resolutions, while attending countless meetings.

“The pace of the General Assembly can be exhausting, but it is also exciting,” says Claudia Arko, the county’s legislative director. “Subcommittee meetings can start as early as 6:30 a.m. and other committee meetings, as well as preparation for the next day’s work, can last well into the night.”

The volume of legislation introduced each year can be a challenge, notes Katie Boyle, the deputy legislative director. “Last year more than 2,700 bills and resolutions were introduced, and we will likely have more in 2016.”

“Our job in Richmond is to ensure that the county maintains its existing authority, particularly in the areas of land use and taxation. This session, we are optimistic about the prospects for movement on our top priority, K-12 funding, as the governor has included a significant infusion of funds in his budget.”Claudia Arko, Fairfax County Legislative Director

Rapid review of bills is essential as the votes come quickly during the 60 days. Throughout the session, the county has a team of subject matter experts who provide technical expertise by reviewing nearly all the bills that are introduced, looking for potential effects on the county.

This helps determine what recommendations Arko and her staff make to the Board of Supervisors.

“During the General Assembly, we meet with the Board’s Legislative Committee most Friday afternoons to provide them with an update on activities in Richmond, as well as staff recommendations for positions on specific bills,” explains Arko.

Arko and other members of the legislative team are registered lobbyists, officially authorized to lobby on behalf of Fairfax County during the 2016 General Assembly. County policy prohibits independent lobbying by county agencies, boards, authorities or commissions on issues that are not included in the adopted legislative program and/or policies of the Board of Supervisors.

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On The Hill

In addition to shepherding the county’s legislative program at the state level, the Government Relations office oversees county interests in federal legislation. Staff coordinates lobbying with the county’s congressional offices. These efforts are supplemented on Capitol Hill by a contract lobbying team for a variety of issues of interest to the county (transportation, human services and federal facilities and installations, among others).


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