John Chapman “Chap” Petersen represents central and western Fairfax in the Virginia State Senate. He grew up and lives in Fairfax City. His family has a long history in Fairfax.
Chap has been an attorney in private practice since 1994, successfully representing thousands of local people and businesses. In 2011, his peers selected him as one of thirty “Leaders of the Law” in Virginia. His law firm is located in downtown Fairfax, across the street from Fairfax County courthouse.
Chap began his career in politics by serving on the Fairfax City Council (1998-2002) and as a member in the Virginia House of Delegates (2002-2006).
In 2007, the voters of the 34th Senate District elected Chap as their State Senator. As a Democratic challenger, he defeated the incumbent Jeannemarie Devolites Davis in one of the most expensive legislative races in Virginia history. In doing so, he walked the entire district and wore out several pairs of shoes.
With his historic win, Chap earned the distinction of defeating an incumbent for a seat in both the Virginia House (2001) and Virginia Senate (2007). He is the only member of the legislature to hold that distinction.
In 2011, after redistricting, voters of the “new” 34th Senate District re-elected Chap with 60% of the vote. The district stretches from Annandale to Centreville and includes the Town of Vienna and City of Fairfax.
Chap is a student of Virginia history, authoring his college thesis on economics and politics in antebellum Virginia. He enjoys traveling the Commonwealth with his family.
Chap’s other love is competitive sports and the outdoors. He is a long-time member of the Northern Virginia Rugby Football Club “Old Boys.” He has completed the “Marine Corps Marathon” three times and the “Richmond Marathon” twice. Chap also enjoys hiking, fishing and hunting with friends and family.
Chap is married to Sharon Kim Petersen, who was born in Daegu, South Korea and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. Chap and Sharon have four children.
The Petersens live in Fairfax City and attend Truro Anglican Church, where Chap was baptized in 1968 and where he is active in youth education and the choir.
Chap's Legislative Record
- Upgrading energy system: The 2010 "SAVE Act" (SB 112), which successfully upgraded Virginia’s natural gas system.
- Protecting clean energy: The 2010 “PACE bill” (SB 110), which created an innovative system for allowing property-assessed clean energy investments.
- Cracking down on pollution: SB 843 in 2011 toughened environmental laws on corporate polluters like the Fairfax tank farm in northern Virginia.
- Allowing solar panels: SB 627 would allow homeowners in HOAs to protect their property rights and save energy by installing clean solar power.
- Fighting to protect the Chesapeake Bay: An avid fisherman and hunter in the bay, Chap has sponsored a series of bills to protect the bay, including 2015's SB 886, which would have established a 5¢ fee on plastic bags to fund bay recovery programs. While the measure was not successful, Chap intends to reintroduce the measure until passage.
Improving the Environment:
- Protecting students: 2008's SB 510 guaranteed college students the right to a fairly priced student loan.
- Redefining "small businesses:" 2015's SB 885 redefined small business in the Code of Virginia to actually reflect business size by category. The law will now allow true small businesses to receive more Virginia government contracts and benefits.
- Established the "Homeowners' Bill of Rights in 2015: SB 1008, the "Homeowners' Bill of Rights" ensures a series of constitutional rights and liberties for citizens who live in HOAs or condo associations.
- Building international business cooperation: SB 883 would establish the "Virginia Korea Advisory Board" that would unite business leaders in Virginia and Korea. Although stalled due to lack of funding, Chap will reintroduce the board and fight to secure funding in the 2016 subsequent session.
- Protecting patients from abusive counselors: 2015's SB 1417 requires client notification and too-free numbers to report abuse for patients of licensed counselors.
Protecting Citizens and Businesses:
- Establishing "Good Samaritan" protections for overdoses: 2015's SB 892 allows those who witness a drug or alcohol overdose to call emergency services while establishing an affirmative defense for simple drug possession.
- Requiring mental health coordination for colleges: SB 1342 requires colleges to coordinate with local mental health treatment centers to ensure student safety. The bill passed in 2013.
- Requiring child abuse reporting and penalties: 2012's SB 662 required establishments that care for children to report suspected child abuse or neglect, and established a penalty for those who do not do so.
Ensuring a Heathy Virginia:
- Protecting academic free speech: SB 831 protected the rights of students to express themselves while attending public colleges and universities. The 2011 measure eventually led to increased 1st amendment protections for Virginia students.
- Repealing Sunday hunting ban: A hunter himself, Chap's efforts led to the repeal of the Sunday hunting ban in 2012 (SB 173).
- Protecting citizens from government surveillance: Chap led the effort to stop unwarranted police surveillance. Though SB 965 was vetoed, Chap will continue to introduce the measure until passage.
Fighting for Constitutional Rights:
- Fighting for NVCC and GMU: Chap has sponsored numerous budget measures to bring funding for George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community Colleges to expand their facilities and curriculum. Chap is an avid booster of GMU's Seoul Korea campus and exchange programs.
- Limiting campaign contributions: For years, Chap has introduced measures to limit the currently unlimited campaign donations. Although his most recent measure in 2015 (SB 1400), was defeated, Chap will continue to introduce campaign finance reform.
- Calling for accountability: Chap was the first legislator to call on then-Governor Bob McDonnell “to come clean or resign”.
- Introducing ethics reform: Along with his colleague, Senator Richard Stuart (R-Stafford), Chap introduced the first comprehensive ethics reform bill for the 2015 session (SB 696). The gift limits in the bill later became the basis of the 2015 ethics reform act.