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Legislative successes, frustrations are cited

Sunday, December 22, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

During his six years in the General Assembly, Del. Don Merricks introduced at least 50 bills and of those, at least 75 percent became law, he estimated.

Merricks, R-Pittsylvania County, said that includes bills integrated into others put forward by other lawmakers.

Asked what he considers to be his major feats as a delegate, he mentioned two pieces of legislation.

One streamlines the permitting process for electrical lines at industrial sites. That should help localities attract companies, Merricks said.

The other, he said, lets the state medical and nursing boards take military training and experience into consideration when issuing licenses and other certifications for various medical professionals, including nurses, physician assistants and occupational therapists.

Merricks said that will help military members who do medical jobs, such as those who work at field hospitals in combat, get certifications and licenses they need to do private sector medical jobs.

Among other bills introduced by Merricks that became law, according to the website, were ones that:

• Let economic development organizations extend performance agreements with companies,

• Created a 10 percent tax credit on qualified small business investments for eligible investors,

• Require local school boards to be notified when any school employee — not just a teacher — is determined to have abused a child, and

• Allow the state to let organized groups of patients from veterans or military hospitals go hunting without having a license.

Merricks voiced frustration over his several failed or stalled efforts to try to repeal a law that requires Virginia’s public schools to open after Labor Day.

The so-called “Kings Dominion law,” which has exemptions, is designed to ensure tourist attractions have ample supplies of summer workers, officials have said. Critics of the law say starting classes so late puts students at a disadvantage on nationwide exams.

Merricks cited other disadvantages. They include students having to take semester exams after Christmas break, potentially making it hard to recall knowledge gained beforehand, and delaying the last day of school, which could hurt students in getting summer jobs, he said.

Also, Merricks said, “Schools are locally operated, so localities should have a say-so as to when school starts and ends.”

Merricks described himself as “more of a behind-the-scenes person” who never sought recognition or glory for anything he accomplished or tried to achieve, by himself or with help from other lawmakers.

What matters to him, he indicated, is that he and other lawmakers he worked alongside tried to do things to benefit people.

“I don’t care who gets the credit,” he said.


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