How Much Have We Lost?

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Constitution Contemplates Mass Civil Rights Restoration

Governor McAuliffe Signs Order Restoring
206,000 Virginians' Voting Rights
Today, I read that several members have hired counsel to litigate the constitutionality of Governor McAuliffe's decision to restore the civil rights of 206,000 Virginians.  Some are questioning whether he has that power. 

I think he does.  Here's why. 

While prior Governors have not chosen to exercise the authority to restore civil rights in the same way as Governor McAuliffe, prior Governor's practical application is not binding on a court.  What matters is legal authority.

The primary legal argument I have heard is that some claim the second sentence of the Constitution only contemplates individual restorations.  After about twenty minutes of legal research, I do not read it that way.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

2016 Little Hunting Creek Cleanup!

With the weather warming up and the flowers blooming, it can only mean one thing: it is time for the 2016 Little Hunting Creek Cleanup! In coordination with the Friends of Little Hunting Creek, Delegate Paul Krizek and myself, I am excited to say that we will be hosting our annual cleanup on Saturday, April 9th. 

Details are are follows:

           2016 Little Hunting Creek Clean Up
                               April 9th
                           11 a.m. - 5 p.m.


Dubbed "Fairfax County's Trashiest Steam," back in 2007, Little Hunting Creek has seen continuous pollution due to the significant retail presence, inefficient storm water management systems, and unregulated waste disposal. In the past, volunteers and I have collected a total of 8,500 pounds of waste, 186 grocery carts, over 50 tires, a dozen bikes, multiple car seats and one .22 caliber rifle. 

We have three sites staged for the event:

  • Janna Lee Avenue BridgeFrom Route 1, turn west on Buckman Rd, Right on Janna Lee Ave., to the bridge over little Hunting Creek  

  • Creekside Village Apartments: Take Janna Lee Avenue all the way through Creekside Village Apartments, until it dead ends at the end of the parking lot 
  • Mount Vernon Shopping Plaza Near the Duron Store: Meet on Fordson Rd., beside the Duron Store at the northeast corner of Mount Vernon Plaza. Parking is available behind Shopper's Food Warehouse and the post office, or on Cyrene Drive in South Meadows Condos. DO NOT park in the limited parking in front of Duron and neighboring stores. Be sure to wear rubber boots- the easiest access is to walk in the channel. 

We have a responsibility to help ensure the quality of our environment and protect the health of our local watershed and it is a great opportunity for young adults to gain community service hours, learn about local ecosystems impairments and what they can to to improve them.

Again, please pick a site and volunteer by clicking the link provided below:


Please note that all volunteers are strongly encouraged to wear close-toed or sneakers. Additionally, we will be providing water, light snacks and pizza for all those who come out and volunteer!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Government ID's For All Virginian Residents

Supporters at Senate Committee Hearing On SB390
(Photo Courtesy Bob Brown, Richmond Times Dispatch)
In August of 2014, I organized a Hispanic Town Hall Meeting in Hybla Valley.  I spent the first hour going over issues with constituents. 

Then, I asked attendees for feedback - what was the #1 issue?  Lack of government identification.  Attendees said that they and their friends and family were weary of obtaining ID's from Maryland or not having them at all.

At the beginning of this session, I was approached by Virginia New Majority and the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACALAO) about working together to bring this issue forward.  I introduced Senate Bill 390 that would have allowed the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue a temporary driver's visitor's driver's license or identification card to anyone who met the following requirements:
  • Must show have lived in Virginia for one year.
  • Must file a Virginia tax return or claimed as a dependent on a Virginia resident's tax return.
  • Must pay a $53 fee for the initial card and $20 for every year thereafter.
These licenses would be conspicuously marked with language stating "NOT FOR FEDERAL USE" so it is clear that they are not compliant with the Real ID Act.  

Monday, March 28, 2016

Weekly Column: Proffer and Firearms Reforms; the Electric Chair Returns

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and The Potomac-Stafford Local in the week of March 28, 2016.
Proffer and Firearms Reforms; the Electric Chair Returns
In the past two weeks, I reviewed action on my legislation and the state budget.  This column covers some of the major bills to pass the state legislature.
We passed legislation to reform the proffer process for residential rezoning.  Many localities have abused the process by requiring builders to make flat cash payments as high as $40,000 per home instead of improvements linked to increase infrastructure demands created by a specific rezoning.  This practice abuses the intent underlying the proffer process, drives up the cost of housing and lacks any meaningful accountability in Virginia’s courts. 
Going forward, for rezonings, proffers must be tied to an infrastructure impact specifically caused by the proposed development.  Additionally, the law completely excludes commercial rezonings and at the request of Fairfax County, excludes rezonings in tax districts servicing Metro stations and land zoned for higher densities adjacent to transit facilities – e.g. most of Route 1.   These changes will incentivize local governments to zone future development as mixed-use, higher-density, “smart growth” instead of more sprawl. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Nine Days in Bavaria & Austria

The Surovell Family at Neuschwanstein Castle
(aka "Cinderella Castle")
A few days after session ended, I headed off to Germany and Austria with the family to unplug a bit, experience some new countries, and reconnect.

I had not been to Germany since I backpacked it back in 1995 a few years after the wall fell.  Even then, I only spent about twelve hours in Berlin, an evening in Frankfurt, and some time in Strasburg and hiking around the Alps in Innsbruck.  This time, I really got to see things. 

We spent most of our time around Bavaria: two days in Rottenberg, two in Bachrach (Rhine Valley), two days in Reutte, Austria on the border, two days in Salzburg, Austria and the last two days in Munich itself. 

Last night, I asked everyone in the family to tell me what differences they noted between Germany/Austria and Virginia.  Everyone's lists had to be mutually exclusive. My kids' lists are first and mine is last.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Weekly Column: The State Budget: More for Schools, the Disabled, State Troopers

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and The Potomac-Stafford Local in the week of March 14, 2016.
The State Budget: More for Schools, the Disabled, State Troopers
Last week, I covered the good news in the state budget for the 36th Senate District.  This week, I am detailing some of the important features of the state budget that help the entire state.
First, the budget restores some honesty to the budgeting process.  During the McDonnell Administration, the state skipped state employees' retirement plan contributions for two years and then promised pay missed contributions over a 10-year period with interest.  I repeatedly voted “no” on those budgets, in-part, because they were an end run around our state constitution's requirement for a balanced budget.  The proposed budget prepays all of the entire remaining obligations and funds 100% our recommended pension obligations for this biennium. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Weekly Column: Over $210 Million in New Funds Coming to the 36th District

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and The Potomac-Stafford Local in the week of March 14, 2016.
Over $210 Million in New Funds Coming to the 36th District

The last week of the 2016 General Assembly session brought a flurry of activity on some of our most difficult bills, along with approval of a state budget.   
In this column, I will detail highlights in the final budget affecting our area.  Next week, I will report on other important budget items.  In the near future, I will cover some of the more important legislation that we considered and the fight over the state Supreme Court.  I will also let you know about my eight bills the Governor has signed or are awaiting his signature.  
The legislature approved a final budget, including two of my amendments.  First, I advocated for an additional $100,000 to fund the Virginia Star Program which provides refurbished computers to low-income, public school students.  Prince William County’s public schools are using this program extensively in the U.S. 1 corridor.  The final budget includes my complete request.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Weekly Column: Bills Becoming Law As Session Ends

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and The Potomac-Stafford Local in the week of March 5, 2016.
Bills Becoming Law as Session Ends
The eighth week of the General Assembly session brought a few vetoes and heated debates as the most contentious bills of the session moved toward final passage.

Eight of my bills have either been signed into law, passed by both houses or are on Governor Terry McAuliffe’s desk awaiting signature.  My legislation to revive the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) cleared a final hurdle.  FOIA applies to all state and local agencies, from the governor to local  school boards and is how citizens can ensure their government is operating openly and fairly.  

Last year, the Supreme Court of Virginia held that government agencies rarely have a duty to redact documents if the documents contain even the smallest amount of information that is exempt from FOIA and that agencies can withhold entire documents.  The court also held that government officials’ decisions to withhold documents should receive “great weight” during court reviews.  

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Voter ID Disenfranchises

Tonight, I received the following email from a former 44th District constituent.

Tonight at Paul Springs a women was turned away because her Virginia drivers license was expired.  I approached the poll worker who told me the law is the license can't be more than 12 months expired. The poll worker pointed out a sheet with the rules in Virginia. I was furious, I asked if the women could be given a provisional ballot and the poll worker said not in a primary. She apologized and said she wished things were different . I just wonder how many other people were turned away today.

Voter identification rules disenfranchise voters.  If one person was turned away at every precinct in Virginia, it would negate over 5,000 votes. 

Monday, February 29, 2016

Weekly Column: The Senate Budget Emerges

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and The Potomac-Stafford Local in the week of February 16, 2016.
The Senate Budget Emerges
This week, the seventh of this session of the Virginia General Assembly, both the Senate and House of Delegates are considering the state’s two-year budget. After each house passes a budget, a joint conference committee resolves the differences. The Senate budget has good news and bad news.
Good News
Revenues have increased more than expenses for the first time in seven years, offering opportunities to address unmet needs.  The Senate Budget makes significant investments in education including an additional $80 million for Fairfax County, $32 million for Prince William County and $22 million for Stafford County over last year’s appropriations including $16 million for a program called “Cost to Compete” which is supplemental funding for high-cost areas like Northern Virginia to pay teachers and support staff.  The plan also includes a two-percent salary increase for all elementary-secondary school teachers.  

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Supervisor Dan Storck 2016 Town Hall Report

Today, I attended Supervisor Dan Storck's Town Hall which is the 29th we've had in Mt. Vernon.  The town hall is always the best place to find out what's going on in Mt. Vernon and what's coming in the next twelve months.
Fairfax County
First, we heard from Board Chairman Sharon Bulova.  Chairman Bulova said that schools were the County's top priority.  She talked about the County's attempting to prioritize shifting to diversion for mental health crises instead of jail. 

Next, we heard from Ed Long. 
  • County tax revenue has started to grow again albeit not at our historical rates due to lagging job growth.
  • Strong schools are the County's top priority
  • Recommended a $0.04 advertised tax rate although did not explain why given that was $68 million short of FCPS' request. 

LAST DAY for In Person Absentee Voting

Today is the last day for in-person absentee voting for the Democratic and Republican Presidential Primaries.

You can vote at one of eight locations in Fairfax, five in Prince William and one in Stafford.  Click below for the locations.

Make sure you vote and your voice is heard!

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