By Taylor Boyd
State Sen. Bill Stanley, (R-Moneta), was among those attending the Patrick County Fourth of July Festival.
Stanley, who has been in the State Senate since 2011, expressed some concerns about the upcoming General Assembly special session on August 2.
Stanley said he is particularly concerned about the budgeting of a one-time 4.3-billion-dollar grant from the federal government due to the Democratic Party being in control.
“What I’m afraid of is they’re going to spend it on priorities of Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, and Richmond, rather than where it needs to be spent,” he said.
He previously suggested using the money to fund the modernization of rural and inner-city schools, but that idea was rejected.
“I think what they’re going to be doing is investing in things that are going to increase our budget, which likewise will increase our taxes to pay for pet projects after they spend it that first year,” Stanley said.
He said he believes the money should go to the people who have been hurt the most from the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly to “helping small businesses that can’t find people to hire to work for them. Right now, Northern Virginia and their legislatures in the Democratic Party are calling the shots, and they’re not good shots.”
Stanley said he believes a major issue facing the state and the country is the lack of incentives for people to rejoin the workforce. While he does not know if people should be offered bonuses, Stanley thinks “if we’re going to spend money, and taxpayer money, we should spend it on the backbone of our communities, the lifeblood of our communities, which are small businesses.
“The ones who stayed open during the pandemic and helped us get through it, or the ones who shut down because of the governor’s unconstitutional orders,” he said.
Stanley supports tax reliefs or subsidies that would help small businesses hire more employees.
“In our rural areas right now, public health is a real concern because you have to drive 70 to 80 miles to see a doctor or go to a hospital,” Stanley said.
For years, Stanley said he has focused on increasing the region’s ability to access healthcare through telemedicine or telehealth services.
“That is where a doctor may live in Richmond or Northern Virginia and practice there, but through telemedicine and the internet, they can actually come down here and serve patients and provide the same kind of care if they were sitting here and working here,” he said.
Stanley added improving rural healthcare is one of the vital necessities to bring jobs back to the area.
Stanley believes one problem with the public education system is that most of the schools in rural areas are not modern.
“Most of them have been built before World War II. There’s big shiny new schools in other areas like Loudoun County, and we have schools that are falling around the ears of our children,” he said.
This means that when children in both areas graduate, those diplomas are different as the quality of education provided.
“Kids in Loudoun County are getting taught computer coding in first and second grade, and we’ve got some schools that only have one computer per classroom. That’s not right and it creates a disadvantage to the child, and it prevents us from building a robust workforce and a workforce pipeline that would bring jobs to our area,” Stanley said, and added that graduates of more modernized schools are more prepared for the workforce.
“We need to put more tools in the toolbox for our teachers. We’ve got great teachers — that’s not the problem. But there’s only a capacity, and it’s limited, in what they can teach when they don’t have the modern instruments before them to help those kids learn,” he said.
While he notes that this is a big job and a big bill for all of Virginia, Stanley believes it is the number one obligation for future generations.
A longtime supporter of broadband, Stanley said he believes the service should be treated like a utility and not a luxury item because it is a necessity for business, learning, and public health.
“Therefore, just as natural gas or electricity is a necessity, we need to treat broadband like a necessity,” he said.
In a bill that he put before the Virginia State Assembly, Stanley proposed that all utility easements should include a broadband easement. He also has been working to promote broadband in Patrick County with the easement on Bull Mountain with the AEP (American Electric Power) tower.
“AEP has an easement that they can run their utility cables up for electricity, but not the same for broadband. We need to actually recognize that broadband is a utility, and that way with broadband we can run that cable the same way we run electricity and we can get it all the way around Patrick County and accessible to everybody in Patrick County,” he said.