*****FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE*****
January 21, 2016
Surovell Budget Amendments: Blue Line Extension, Coal Ash Well Testing, Derelict Barge Removal, Judgeships, Court Appointed Counsel, and Prohibiting Taxpayer Funding of Partisan Litigation
More information: Nadine Slocum, Legislative Aide
Jack Gaughan, Communications Director
Richmond, VA- Senator Scott Surovell (D-36) released budget amendments today that address a wide range of issues.
· Funding a study on extending the Blue Line to Woodbridge, Potomac Mills and Quantico and extending planned bus rapid transit on U.S. 1 from Woodbridge to Quantico
· Prohibiting taxpayer dollars from funding third-party counsel expenses for redistricting litigation
· Fully-funding court appointed attorney expenses
· Filling two vacant Fairfax County judgeships
· Funding well water tests for heavy metals associated with coal ash
· $130,000 to fund the removal of a derelict barge from Belmont
Senator Surovell also introduced an amendment to fund a study by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transit to evaluate the feasibility of extending the Blue Line from Springfield to Lorton, Woodbridge, Potomac Mills and Quantico, plus extending the planned construction of median-dedicated bus rapid transit from Woodbridge to Quantico. “The U.S. 1 Corridor is in substantial need of redevelopment and where we build transit, redevelopment follows,” said Senator Surovell.
First, Senator Surovell introduced two budget amendments that he attempted to enact last year that would prohibit taxpayer dollars from funding expenses incurred for third party counsel for redistricting litigation that was not hired by the Attorney General. Senator Surovell said “The voters elected an attorney to represent them and his name is Mark Herring. Taxpayers should not be funding counsel hired by a partisan caucus to advance their Caucus’ partisan interests.”
Court Appointed Counsel
Virginia Law allows sets specific flat fees for attorneys who are appointed to represent individuals in criminal cases. Local courts are also allowed to approve waivers from the statutory fees for good cause. However, each year, the Supreme Court of Virginia runs out of funds to fund waivers for court appointed attorneys. Senator Surovell has requested $600,000 each year to fully fund anticipated expenses.
Fairfax County Judgeships
When Fairfax County had a population of 800,000 people, the General Assembly allocated a fifteenth circuit court judge to the County. However, over the last six years, the General Assembly has allowed various judgeships to remain vacant to save money in light of budget shortfalls including the fifteenth circuit court position and one Juvenile and Domestic Relations Judgeship.
Senator Surovell has introduced two budget amendments to fund both judgeships at a cost of $301,302 and $274,791 respectively to restore Fairfax County’s judiciary to full capacity. “Fairfax County’s population has grown by 300,000 since our fifteen circuit court judgeship as authorized,” said Senator Surovell, “the legislature needs to restore this position immediately to avoid unnecessary delays in Fairfax County residents obtaining justice.”
Coal Ash Well Testing
Senator Surovell has also introduced legislation to require the removal of coal ash stored near homes at rivers at six Virginia power plants to modern landfills. However, drinking water has not been tested at all sites, in part due to the cost homeowners face in having their wells tested. Coal ash leeches numerous heavy metals including boron, lead, arsenic, and hexavalent chromium – the heavy metal that was the subject of the movie Erin Brokovich. “Prince William County’s residents did not dump billions of cubic yards of coal ash next to their property and should not bear the cost of testing their own wells to see if they are polluted,” said Senator Surovell.
Finally, in 2003, Hurricane Isabel deposited a 1940’s era barge into shallow water in Belmont Bay at the mouth of the Occoquan River. The barge has sat there for over a decade as no entity has found the funds to pay for removal. Senator Surovell has requested $130,000 to fund the demolition and removal of the barge which has been an annual request from the Mason Neck Citizen’s Association. A picture of the barge is below.
Photo courtesy of Connection Newspapers and Joe Chudzik
“These are things Virginia needs and are well worth paying for,” said Senator Surovell. “The ugly barge sitting in Belmont Bay needs to be taken care of appropriately, our water needs to be safe to drink, and we need to find ways to fix our transportation issues.”