How Much Have We Lost?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Weekly Column: Time for Local Governments to Invest in Early Voting

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 July 10, 2017.
Time for Local Governments to Invest in Early Voting
In Virginia, we have a elections every year.  This year, we even have three including a special election for school board on August 29 and then elections for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General and State Delegate on November 7.
Turnout in our state and local elections plummets. In my experience, a large reason is that voting takes precious time away from jobs and families and given Northern Virginia traffic, time is at a premium.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Time is Now to Plan for NOVA's Boom

UVA's Weldon-Cooper Center recently came out with it's new population projection for 2040 (which isn't that far away!). 

The top lines from the newspapers project Virginia passing New Jersey and Michigan in population, but the local numbers are more interesting.

NOVA counties are going to see some major increases.  I have listed the counties in the 36th District here in blue.  Here's some comparisons:

Jurisdiction
2015 Population2040 Projected
Population
Total
Increase
Percentage
Increase
Total Delegates
Total Senators
Fairfax County
1,129,330
1,347,487
218,157
19.3%
13.2
5.2
Prince William County
443,463
682,111
238,648
53.8%
6.7
2.7
Stafford County
134,251
208,845
74,594
55.5%
2.0
0.8
Loudoun County
374,451
684,911
310,460
82.9%
6.7
2.7
Arlington County
234,678
313,352
78,674
33.5%
3.1
1.2
City of Alexandria
159,571
215,119
55,548
34.8%
2.1
0.8
City of Fairfax
23,193
25,286
2,093
9.0%
0.2
0.1
City of Falls Church
14,183
20,577
6,394
45.0%
0.2
0.1
Fauquier County
67,898
84,873
16,975
25.0%
0.8
0.3
TOTAL
2,581,018
3,582,561
1,001,583
38.8%
35.0
13.9
    Population will continue to shift to Northern Virginia - 35% of Virginia's population will be in Northern Virginia compared with 29.6% in 2010.

    Wednesday, May 24, 2017

    Trump Budget Impacts on 36th District

    Earlier this week, President Trump announced his budget. 

    Aside from the massive layoffs in federal workforce and actual workers actually to lose their jobs with the federal government who live in the 36th District, there are other programs which provide grants or funding to other local programs in the 36th District. 

    These are just some of the programs eliminated which have touched the 36th District that I have been able to determine so far:
    • Eliminates the New Starts Program - Entire U.S. 1 Multimodal Transit Study and EMBARK plan is designed around obtaining $1.5 billion in funding from this program to construct bus rapid transit and Yellow Line Extension on U.S. 1.
    • National Wildlife Refuge Fund - 36th District has three National Wildlife Refuges
    • National Infrastructure Investments (TIGER) - TIGER grants funding completion of the Fairfax County Parkway in southern Fairfax County and construction of the I-95 HOT Lanes
    • EPA Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Fund - Self Evident
    • NASA Office of Education - has provided scholarship and summer learning opportunities for 36th District students
    • Corporation for Public Broadcasting - PBS/NPR/WETA broadcast into 36th District
    • Legal Services Corporation - Funds civil legal services for low income populations throughout the U.S. 1 Corridor
    • National Endowment for the Arts - funds Virginia Commission for the Arts and has funded grants in the 36th District
    • National Endowment for the Humanities - has funded grants in the 36th District - including for example effort to result in comprehensive edition of George Washington's papers
    • NeighborWorks America - Invested $191 Million in Virginia including first time homebuyers grants, foreclosure prevention counseling, and affordable housing assistance
    • Community Services Block Grant - Funds human services in Fairfax, Prince William and Fairfax Counties
    There are dozens of other impacts as well that I have not assessed, but these cuts would cost the 36th District millions of dollars of aid, services, and jobs.  If you know of any others, post them up in the comments.

    Monday, April 10, 2017

    Weekly Column: Successes in the Final Session

    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 April 8, 2017.
    Successes in the Final Session

    On April 3, 2017, the General Assembly met in Richmond to consider the Governor’s amendments to and vetoes of various bills.   Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed 40 bills, a one-year record in Virginia.  All of his vetoes were upheld.

    The Governor vetoed legislation requiring local governments to pay damages caused by undocumented immigrants in their locality, legislation requiring reports of resettled refugees, a bill prohibiting “sanctuary cities” from receiving state funds and bills requiring Virginia sheriffs to hold people without legal justification.

    He vetoed bills requiring identification to vote early by mail, allowing protective order subjects to carry concealed weapons and to be given weapons training information and allowing Virginians to carry concealed switchblades.  He also rejected bills that would prohibit local governments from requiring contractors to pay employees living wages, bills to expand charter schools in Virginia and numerous other bills designed to limit voting.

    Monday, March 27, 2017

    2017 Puller Institute Policy Projects

             On Wednesday March 22,  the 2017 Puller Institute students presented their 36th District policy projects and received certificates commemorating their completion of the program.

               In 2016, I created the Puller Institute to honor my predecessor, State Senator Elizabeth “Toddy” Puller who served in the Virginia General Assembly for 24 years.  Senator Puller was an avid fighter for the citizens of Virginia and this program is dedicated to her years of hard work for the 36th District. Over a decade ago, my predecessor in the House of Delegates,  Delegate Kris Amundson created her Young Leader Program.  Her program was designed to introduce top high school students in the Mt. Vernon area to Virginia State Government process. The Puller Institute is modeled after that program.
           
                During this year's program, eight students from four different high schools traveled to
    Richmond during the General Assembly Session to be immersed in the legislative process of Virginia.  They observed the legislative process and meet with legislators, policy-makers, advocacy groups, and others.  They also were fourtunate enough to meet with Governor Terry McAuliffe, First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe, Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam and Secretary of Education Dietra Trent.         
     

    Wednesday, March 22, 2017

    Governor Acts on Coal Ash


    Possum Point Coal Ash Ponds - 120 acres
    Today, Governor Terry McAuliffe offered his amendments to SB1398 which I introduced to provide better information to the public before we make final decisions on closing four ponds or impoundments holding millions of cubic yards of coal ash located in:
    • Possum Point, Dumfries, VA
    • Bremo Station, Bremo, VA
    • Chesterfield Station, Chesterfield, VA
    • Chesapeake Energy Center, Chesapeake, VA

    While Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has been following existing state and federal law, I have remained concern that DEQ needs more tools and more options need to be on the table. 

    Monday, March 13, 2017

    Winter Storm Stella Advisory!

    Winter Storm Stella is bearing down on the 36th District.  Here are couple important tips, websites and numbers to keep you safe, warm and dry:
    • Monitor your local news sources for the latest weather conditions, and check the  National Weather Service  for up-to-date storm information.
    • Prepare your home for winter weather conditions by closing all windows and doors as well as ensuring all lose items (furniture, children's toys, etc.) outside your residence are secured or brought inside.
    • Stay off the roads, if at all possible.
    • If you must drive, do so slowly and carefully, give yourself extra time to reach your destination, and leave plenty of driving room between you and the vehicle ahead of you.  Before getting on the roads, do the following:
      • Call 800-FOR-ROAD (800-367-7623to report road hazards or ask road-related questions at VDOT's 24-hour Customer Service Center.
      • Call 511, go to www.511virginia.org or download the 511 mobile app to get the latest road condition information.
      • Prepare for winter driving conditions by having an emergency kit in your vehicle.
    • Have all of your utility account information, additional light sources,  and supplies to keep you warm on hand, in case of power outages.
      Additionally, please use the link and the numbers provided below to stay up-to-date on the road conditions or to report any power outages and road blocks:


    Dominion Resources Power Outage Line

    Dominion Resources Storm Center Outage and
    Restoration Updates

    VDOT Online Up-to-date Winter Storm Information,
    Plowing Map and Road Issue Contact Number

    Northern Virginia Snow Information/Status
    call 1-800-FOR-ROAD (367-7623) to report road issues

    Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative 
    1-888-335-0500

    Washington Gas
    1-800-752-7520

    Columbia Gas
    1-800-544-5606

    Verizon Wireless

    1-800-837-4966
    Cox Communications
    1-800-961-0027

    Also, if you have any problems, you can always contact my office at 571.249.4484.  Stay safe!

    ***Additional Updates Will Be Posted***

    Monday, March 6, 2017

    Weekly Column: 2017 General Assembly Wrap Up Part II - Major Bills

    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 March 5, 2017.
    Virginia General Assembly Approved New Policies
     
    Last week, I reported on my accomplishments in the recent session of the General Assembly.  This week, I am highlighting a few other important policy changes coming to Virginia because of our action.
    First, we passed several bills addressing the ongoing opioid crisis which is causing carnage across Virginia.  Community organizations will be authorized tothat possess the counter-overdose drug naloxone and after 2020 opioid prescriptions   will only be allowed to be transmitted electronically to minimize forgery risk. We passed legislation authorizing Virginia to sign onto the Interstate Metro Safety Compact.  This was absolutely necessary not only because of Metro’s ongoing problems, but to ensure that Metro continues to receive critical federal funding.
     
    I have heard from several communities about problems created by AirBnB, a company that allows people to temporarily rent rooms or their homes.  In some areas, neighbors feel like residential properties have become hotels.  We passed legislation to confirm that localities’ can regulate these temporary rentals. The bill also authorizes localities to create registries for people renting their rooms for fewer than 30 days and to fine abusers.

    Monday, February 27, 2017

    Weekly Column: 2017 General Assembly Session In the Books!

    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 27, 2017.
    2017 General Assembly Session In the Books!

    In the 2017 General Assembly session, which ended on February 25, we were able to make some progress in spite of a $1.1 billion budget shortfall.

    First, we approved amendments to the state’s biennial budget.  After drawing on a $560 million Rainy Day Fund, the budget funds the state share of a long-overdue two percent salary increase for teachers, a three percent raise for state employees, and a $7,000-per-year increase in starting salaries ($36,000) for state troopers.   As always, we met our constitutional obligation to balance the budget.

    Monday, February 20, 2017

    2017 Fairfax County Town Hall Videos and Recap

    On February 11, I had approximately 200 Fairfax County residents attend my Mount Vernon Town Hall held at the Walt Whitman Middle School and my Lee District Town Hall held at Hayfield Elementary School, both in Alexandria. I was joined by Senator Adam Ebbin and Delegate Paul Krizek in Mount Vernon.  In Lee District, I was joined by Senator George Barker, Delegate Mark Sickles, Delegate Krizek, and Delegate Vivian Watts.

    At these events, I spoke in detail on my legislative goals, the status of my introduced legislation and answered questions from attendees.
    Senator Surovell at Hayfield Elementary


    Some of the topics of discussion were:

    Supporting our Immigrant Communities
    Coal Ash/Water Quality Issues
    LGBTQ Rights
    Environmental Concerns
    Public Education Funding 
                                    Mental Health Funding

    There was excellent turnout and good question from the attendees.

    If you were in able to attend, check out videos of the town halls below! You will be able to learn about my legislative agenda in-depth, the 2017 General Assembly legislative session, and hear your community's questions!

    Mount Vernon:

    Lee District:






    Weekly Column: Coal Ash Bill Passes, Computers and Predatory Lending to be Studied

    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 20, 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.

    Tuesday, February 14, 2017

    Weekly Column: Senate Budget, Town Halls and AirBnB

    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.

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