Issues: Continuing Priorities

Edwards remains dedicated to working with members of both parties to fight for his initiatives.

Improving Transportation

Infrastructure is the lifeblood of our economy and vital to ensuring we all get home safely each day. We need to continue to invest in improvements to provide the safest roads in the nation.

Increasing Access to the Ballot Box

Edwards will keep working to ensure all Virginians age 65 and older can vote absentee without having to provide a reason or excuse. Edwards believes voting should be made more convenient, and not more burdensome.

Fighting the Pipeline

Edwards has voiced opposition to plans to build the Mountain Valley Pipeline through our mountains and neighborhoods on both environmental and safety grounds.

Medicaid Health Care Expansion

Accepting the Medicaid dollars we have already sent to Washington will grow our economy, create 30,000 new jobs, and provide up to 400,000 Virginians the health care they need.

Connecting Roanoke

The Department of Rail and Public Transportation anticipated 4,400 riders on the Smartway Connector Bus from Roanoke to Lynchburg.

Actual ridership for 2011 vastly exceeded the expected volume, and ridership for 2012 continued to increase.

Passenger Rail is Coming to Roanoke in 2017

Senator Edwards' budget amendment in 2011 established the "Connector Bus" from Roanoke to Lynchburg's Amtrak station. The popularity of the convenient, low cost bus has enabled its ridership to grow beyond expectations and, in turn, showed there is a market for passenger rail service in our region. In fact, Amtrak has announced it is coming to Roanoke in 2017 and, a few years thereafter, to the New River Valley. The 2013 transportation legislation includes funding to expand passenger rail.

Amtrak will open up the Northeast Corridor to our region and give people an alternative to the congestion and hazards of the interstate. Riders will have comfortable "same seat" rail service to places like Washington DC, New York City and Boston. The benefits to our region will increase immeasurably with Amtrak.

In November 2014, Governor McAuliffe with Senator Edwards announced plans for the new Amtrak station in downtown Roanoke.

Virginia Senator John Edwards receiving Legislator of the Year award from the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Conservation, Energy and the Environment

SB 1023 expanded the scope of permitted retail competition for electric generation service. In particular, the bill allows individual retail customers that are eligible customer-generators to purchase electric energy provided 100 percent from renewable energy exclusively for their own consumption from a renewable energy seller. This bill helps customer-generators and renewable energy sellers in the electricity markets to work outside of the current "exclusive service territories" of the electric utility.

Lowering barriers to entry into the renewable energy market and increasing the opportunities for competition in that market will benefit consumers and new generators.

The Sierra Club (Virginia Chapter) named Edwards "Legislator of the Year" in July 2013, recognizing his outstanding public service. In 2011 the non-partisan Virginia League of Conservation Voters (VLCV) designated Senator Edwards a "Legislative Hero," because of his dedication to conservation priorities. Senator Edwards has been ranked in the top quartile of Virginia Legislators by the VLCV for the past five years.

Roanoke Higher Education Center

Senator Edwards was the chief patron of SB 1180 in 1997, which established the Roanoke Higher Education Center; he currently chairs the Center's Board of Trustees.

Since opening in 2000, the Roanoke Higher Education Center has enhanced opportunities for college, graduate and workforce training programs for our region and has boosted higher paying jobs for graduates.

According to a recent study, the Center has a $32 million annual economic impact on our region.

  • Those completing bachelor's degrees at the Center saw an average increase in income of $17,477 per year.
  • Those completing masters and doctorate degrees saw income increases of $10,145 and $16,166, per year, respectively.
  • Among those completing teacher licensure programs, salaries have increased by an average of $14,000 per year.

Thus, incomes have increased an estimated $35 million per year for those completing degrees at the Roanoke Higher Education Center.

In 2008 the Claude Moore Education Complex was established from rehabilitating and preserving the historic Henry Street shops - the cultural and economic center of African Americans in Roanoke for many years. The facility houses the Culinary Arts Institute, offering Associate Degrees to prepare students to be Executive Chefs and to operate restaurants and catering services.

Now Edwards is working to double the size of the popular program, which will create even more jobs.

Read the Strategic Plan and the progress report

Issues: Legislative Achievements

Edwards champions policies that will strengthen our families and businesses

Bringing Amtrak to Roanoke and the NRV

Amtrak is coming to Roanoke in the fall of 2017, and in a few short years, to the New River Valley. We will have "same seat" rail service to Washington, New York and Boston on the Northeast Corridor.

Supporting Small Businesses & Entrepreneurs

Edwards' "crowdfunding" legislation, which was signed by the Governor, allows Virginia-based companies to solicit to a larger number of small investors, giving them more options to put their creative ideas to work.

Expanding the Roanoke Higher Education Center

Edwards obtained funding to double the size of the Culinary Arts Institute. This popular program educates students to operate a restaurant or catering company, or to become an executive chef.

Virginia State Senator John S. Edwards at the dedication of the SWVA Veterans Cemetery in Dublin, VA

Senator John S. Edwards at the dedication of the Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery in Dublin.

Virginia Department of Veterans Services

In 2003 Senator Edwards sponsored SB 1092 which created the Virginia Department of Veterans Services.

For eight years, he served on the Virginia Board of Veterans Services, which is responsible for enhancing veteran's services across the Commonwealth, and claims services for veterans seeking VA benefits. It oversees the Commonwealth's Veterans Care Centers for seniors, Veterans Cemeteries, and claims services for Virginia Veterans seeking VA benefits, and Virginia Veterans Cemeteries.

In 2011, Edwards spoke at the opening of the first Veterans Cemetery in Western Virginia, located in Dublin. He served on the subcommittee of the Board of Veterans Services to make the cemetery a reality.

Signing the crowdfunding legislation

Governor McAuliffe signs Edwards' crowdfunding legislation

Growing The Corporate Research Center

The Corporate Research Center at Virginia Tech has been such a success since opening in 1985.

To make room for future growth, in 2011, Senator Edwards sponsored SB 119 to double the size of the Center to expand its mission of turning ideas stemming from research into commercially useful innovations.

Innovations from research and development at our universities is the key to our future progress and prosperity, as the success of the Corporate Research Center proves.

Read more about the CRC

Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Programs

Senator Edwards sponsored legislation (SB 1294 in 2009) that created Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) pilot programs throughout the state. Modeled after the highly successful New River Valley CIT program, these programs train law enforcement officers to detect signs and symptoms of mental illness and direct the people they encounter to mental health facilities to obtain proper treatment for those in crisis. This better protects the public, saves tax dollars and improves the health and lives of people with mental health care needs.

Improving Security On Campus

Following the tragedy at Virginia Tech of April 16, 2007, Senator Edwards co-chaired the Senate subcommittee, and sponsored bills, that lead to a number of improvements to the mental health system of Virginia in 2008 and 2009. Additionally, in 2009, Senator Edwards introduced legislation (SB 608) that will require annual review of Crisis and Emergency Management Plans put in place by schools.

In 2010, Senator Edwards further sponsored legislation for the families of victims to improve on-campus security by better monitoring those students known to have troubled histories. Edwards' bill (SB 207) authorized administrative Threat Assessment Teams to receive confidential health, academic and criminal information on identified students in order to assess and intervene as necessary to prevent potential tragedies.