The Dixie Pig was my grandmother's favorite restaurant on U.S. 1 formerly located across from Beacon Mall where a Rite Aid now stands.
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The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of February 13, 2017.Coal Ash Bill Passes, Computers and Predatory Lending to be Studied
We have one week to go in session and negotiations are rapidly reaching conclusion as we push to finish out work so we can get back to our families and our jobs.This past week, my legislation to raise Virginia’s threshold between misdemeanors and felonies from $200 to $500 failed. Virginia’s threshold has not changed since 1981. Our existing system unnecessarily focuses police and prosecutors on minor crimes instead of violent crime while tainting thousands of Virginia’s suffering from depression or drug addiction with felony charges for life.The House of Delegates passed my legislation requiring Dominion to provide better information on coal ash pollution, disaster preparedness, and recycling. I am not happy that a permitting moratorium was removed, it is better than no bill at all and the Governor will also have a chance to amend the legislation.The House is also poised to pass my legislation that would require the police to provide police records to next of kin in deaths involving suicide or unattended deaths. Some police departments refuse to provide this information. I think it will help families achieve closure and assure high quality policing.Two of my more significant bills have been referred for further study. As a part-time legislature, we frequently refer meritorious, but complex proposals to groups who meet outside of session that have better staff support, can take a deeper dive into policy choices, and provide a longer period for stakeholder vetting.My legislation that would require school systems to purchase personal computing devices for all students expected to use electronic textbooks was sent to the Future of Public Elementary and Secondary Education Joint Committee. I am hopeful we will finally come up with some guidelines to make a personal digital device an essential learning tool in the Commonwealth.Also, my legislation requiring regulation of predatory internet lenders was sent to the Virginia’s Bureau of Financial Institutions who was directed to create a working group to propose a regulatory framework in 2018. Today, internet lenders are making loans in Virginia at rates north of 500%. For example, this week I went to www.cashnetusa.com and they are offering loans for $100, $300, or $1800 at a daily rate of 0.8192% or in other words - an APR of 299% before you include the 15% “transaction fee” on your initial loan. This means if you borrow $100 and make no payments you would owe $458.86 after one year before late fees. Others have seen rates as high as 5,000%. We need to get this under control.This week, I also hope to be part of negotiating the final terms of my legislation placing controls on the City of Alexandria’s raw sewage discharges. The House passed similar legislation that takes a different approach. Also, about 10 more of my bills are set to pass the House of Delegates this week.We will begin the process of packing up our office in preparation of moving to temporary office space for the next four years. The current General Assembly Building is an agglomeration of four asbestos-laden, leaky, and unreliable buildings with uncoordinated elevators and lousy accessibility. We will move down the hill for four years as “the GAB” is demolished and reconstructed through 2022.Finally, I have received nearly 400 responses to my Constituent Survey. Please make sure you provide your opinions soon at www.scottsurovell.org/
survey.It is an honor to serve as your state senator.
The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of February 13, 2017.
Crossover week of the 2017 Session came to a close as we finished initial action on over 3,000 bills. Twenty-two of my bills of were passed by the Senate and moved on to the House of Delegates.My two Saturday Town Hall meetings had the largest crowds I have seen in eight years. There was significant concern regarding federal immigration raids on U.S. 1. On Friday, I received alarming reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had arrested numerous Latinos in a raid on U.S.1. While the deportation of convicted felons has been consistent policy, random street sweeps and arrest or deportations of law abiding residents is unprecedented in our community. I will work to get better information and seek to stop these actions.Other questions focused on affordable housing, education funding, water quality, addressing the opioid crisis, respecting LGBTQ rights, proliferation of out-of-state license plates, and concerns about fracking. You can watch videos of both town halls on my You Tube channel.On Monday, we heard a spirited debate on the regulation of short-term rentals by services such as AirBNB. Since we considered legislation last year, I heard concerns from numerous residents about residences being effectively used as hotel or movie studios. The bill we passed reaffirms local government’s authority to regulate temporary rentals and the fine owners who fail to pay occupancy taxes for renting property to multiple tenants over 30-days per years.On Thursday, we passed the Senate Amendments to the State Budget. I am pleased that the Senate Budget Amendments provided unconditional matching funds for a two-percent raise for our teachers. These funds, coupled with other amendments would result in an additional $18.5 million for Fairfax County Public Schools, $26.6 million for Prince William County Public Schools and $7.1 million for Stafford County Public Schools.Unfortunately, the Senate has proposed to cut about $6 million from the Governor’s proposed budget to improve operation of our election system. Last year, Virginia’s voter registration system failed on the last day of voter registration due to Virginians attempting to register to vote. The Governor’s proposed funding would have solved this problem. I will work to ensure it is restored.On Thursday, my two pedestrian and cycling safety bills acquired a bit of a “fever” on the House side of the Chamber. Biking and pedestrian safety is a major problem in the United States, Virginia and the 36th District. Nationwide bike and pedestrian fatalities are rising faster than average. In Virginia, pedestrian fatalities were up fifty-one percent (51%) in 2016. That kind of increase is not an aberration.My legislation to clarify the use of bike lanes and specifically prohibit the use of bike lanes to pass cars was killed in a House Transportation Subcommittee by one vote. Members were concerned that it would be “confusing” to drivers. I argued that driver education and signage would solve the problem, but was not persuasive.My legislation to create a new standard and new penalties for seriously injuring a “vulnerable user” was sent to the House Courts Committee which previously killed a similar bill. Hopefully, I will have better luck.This week, my legislation to generate better information regarding coal ash regulation will be up for vote along with most of my other bills in the House of Delegates.As always, if you have any feedback, drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, please complete my constituent survey at www.scottsurovell.org/surveyif you have not done so yet. It is an honor to serve as your State Senator.