How Much Have We Lost?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Weekly Column: Special Session Begins Work on State Budget

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of April 2, 2014.
Special Session Begins Work on State Budget
Last week, we returned to Richmond for the first day of our special session to finalize Virginia’s two-year, $90 billion budget.
Governor Terry McAuliffe proposed amendments to the budget originally introduced. The major change was for Virginia to expand its Medicaid program to all adults earning less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level with the cost reimbursed by the federal government for the next three years and phased down to 90 percent of the cost by the year 2020 pursuant to the Federal Affordable Care Act.
Shifting this cost to the federal government frees up at least $225 million of Virginia taxpayer money to fund other programs this budget cycle. Governor McAuliffe proposes to use those savings to provide $100 million for a “rainy day fund” to cover potential future Medicaid expenditures as requested by Republican Senators. He also budgets $76 million to shore up the Virginia Retirement System because the General Assembly borrowed money to balance the budget back in 2010-2011.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Medicaid: The Actual Consequences of Obstruction

There's been a lot of talk about Richmond about alleged Medicaid fraud, the Federal deficit, and many other excuses for inaction on Virginia's stingiest-in-the-United States Medicaid system that have been around for about the last 20 years.

Back in January, The Health Affairs Blog posted an interesting analysis of the real consequences of failing to expand Medicaid on a state-by-state basis.


The blog uses the Kaiser Family Foundation's Status of State Action on the Medicaid Expansion Decision updated on November 22, 2013 as compared with the 2013 U.S. Census Estimates.

Here are their conclusions for the Commonwealth of Virginia for a twelve-month period:

  • 26,656 - Estimated Number of Individuals Suffering Depression (Lack of Antidepressants)
  • 15,819 - Estimated Number of Individuals Not Utilizing Diabetes Medications
  • 9,166 - Estimated Number of Women Foregoing Cancer Screening (Mammograms) 
  • 17,788 - Estimated Number of Women Foregoing Cancer Screening (Pap Smears)
  • 8,165 - Estimated Number of People with Catastrophic Medical Expenses 
  • 266 to 987 - Estimated Number of Deaths 
You can see the full chart below.



Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Weekly Column: Closing the Healthcare Coverage Gap Saves Virginia Taxpayers

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of March 25, 2014.
Closing the Healthcare Coverage Gap Saves Virginia Taxpayers
As the General Assembly attempts to complete work in Richmond on the $90 billion state budget, the  looming obstacle to an agreement is how to close the health insurance gap or cover uninsured Virginians.

There are an estimated one million uninsured adults in Virginia today or about one in every eight Virginians. The federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) is designed to provide coverage in three ways: (1) require large employers to provide health insurance; (2) create a  healthcare exchange to give uninsured adults bargaining power to purchase insurance in a pool at competitive rates, with subsidies for lower-income adults; and (3)  expand Medicaid eligibility for all adults whose incomes are 133% of the federal poverty level (FPL) or lower. Under this approach, people would be eligible if their income ranges from around $16,000 for an individual to $32,000 for a family of four.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Puller-Surovell Healthcare Town Hall

Today, State Senator Toddy Puller and I held a town hall meeting regarding proposals to close the uninsured healthcare gap in Virginia with Virginia Secretary of Health William Hazel.  About forty Mt. Vernon residents showed up to learn about closing the gap and ask questions.

Here are some bottom lines:
  • Closing the Gap Would Save VA Taxpayers Hundreds of Millions
  • Would Free Up General Fund Money for Other Purposes
  • Would Provide Last Uninsured with Dignity of Health Insurance
  • Will Create 30,000 Virginia Jobs
  • Will Bring VA Federal Tax Dollars Back to Virginia and Stop VA Subsidizing Other States
  • Will Control Exploding Private Medical Insurance Costs
  • Is Supported by:
             –  Health Care Industry–  Virginia Chamber of Commerce–  Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce–  Senate of Virginia–  Governor Terry McAuliffe
  • Is Opposed by:
             –  Virginia House Republican Caucus
You can see the presentation we gave below.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Weekly Column: U.S. 1 Version 2.0: Second Public Hearing Next Week!

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of March 18, 2014.
U.S. 1 Version 2.0: Second Public Hearing Next Week!

On Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 6:00 p.m., the second public hearing regarding the U.S. 1 Multimodal Transit Alternative Analysis Study will take place at the South County Government Center.

The study was funded by a $2 million budget amendment secured by Senator Toddy Puller and I last session and is being administered by Virginia’s Department of Rail and Public Transit.  It is probably the most important study for the future of our area to ever take place. 

The purpose of the study is to consider all factors clearly define the key transportation needs for our community, consider a range of multimodal transportation solutions to address the needs, and arrive at a recommended program of transportation improvements and accompanying land uses to lay the groundwork for development in our area through the year 2035. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Digital Divide and Standards of Learning

This past weekend, my wife and I were discussing our third grader's first academic right of passage - taking her first Standards of Learning or SOL test.

She was struggling with her math, so we had her practice with an online program called SOL Pass.

SOL Pass advertises itself as "Virginia's Leader in SOL Science and Social Studies Practice and Review for Elementary and Middle School."  It is a nice resource, but it also got me thinking again about The Digital Divide which I have written about in other articles on this blog:


Many children in the 44th District do not have parents who are sophisticated enough to know whether their children are struggling on SOL material or to understand it themselves.  Even if they do understand, many of the children in the 44th District do not have computers or broadband in their homes that are capable of accessing SOL Pass.

When I think about why every elementary school on the west side of U.S. 1, Bucknell Elementary, and Mount Vernon High School struggle to maintain their academic accreditation with the state, these issues should be front and center.

My children have the opportunity to practice and test for their SOL tests that many children in the 44th District cannot even attempt to access because they do not have the equipment of broadband connections.

I will be unveiling a project to begin to address in this in the 44th District very soon.  But we must also address this at the statewide level.  Closing The Digital Divide must also be at the forefront of education reform in Virginia.

Monday, March 10, 2014

44th District 2014 Paving Requests

After analyzing the results of my 2014 Constituent Survey, I have submitted all of my constituent paving requests to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The big winners were Fort Hunt Road, U.S. 1, Old Mill, and Sherwood Hall Lane.  You can read the full list below.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Weekly Column: The Top 20 Reasons the 2014 Session Mattered for the 44th District

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of March 11, 2014.
The Top 20 Reasons the 2014 Session Mattered for the 44th District
The 2014 General Assembly session has adjourned and now moves into a special session to finish the budget.
Notwithstanding many disputes, it has been a surprisingly productive session. The legislature passed twelve of my bills in some form and four of my budget amendments. The budget amendments are now part of ongoing budget negotiations.
Below are the top 20 reasons why this session was important for people of the 44th District. Even though some good bills were defeated, debating them has value and it moves us closer to solutions long-term.
(1)                Ethics Reforms. We passed a $250 cap on tangible gifts, all gift disclosures will be online, gifts to family members must be reported and tangible gifts during litigation with the state are banned. The legislature also passed my bill banning gifts and political contributions during Governor’s Opportunity Fund grant negotiations . We should have gone much farther and I will continue to work to strengthen ethics laws.
(2)                Standards of Learning (SOL) Reform. The number of SOL tests in grades 3-8 will be reduced and we created a new committee to recommend additional reforms.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Little Hunting Creek Cleanup Saturday, April 5, 2014!

Mark your calendars to come and join Delegate Surovell for his annual partnership with the Alice Ferguson Foundation and The Friends of Little Hunting Creek to continue the war on trash, litter and shopping carts in Little Hunting Creek!

Del. Scott Surovell's Annual Little Hunting Creek Cleanup
Saturday, April 5, 2014
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Three Sites in Hybla Valley 
At 166 Shopping Carts Removed & Counting!

Please RSVP so we know how many people we have along with how many bags, gloves, etc. we will need!


Here's some prior articles for your information.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Weekly Column: One Week Left!

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch in the week of March 3, 2014.
One Week Left for General Assembly

We have one more week before the General Assembly Session is scheduled to adjourn, and pressure is mounting to finish our work. 

On Friday, live on WTOP, Governor McAuliffe signed legislation repealing the $64 per year Hybrid Tax and mandating refunds to everyone who paid.  I am pleased that we will no longer be taxing virtuous conduct and that the wishes of 7,700 Virginians expressed in the petition I circulated with Senator Adam Ebbin were honored. 

Closing the healthcare coverage gap or the Medicaid expansion continues to dominate the discussion in Richmond.  Republicans in the State Senate have proposed a compromise plan which would use federal monies to fund a state insurance program to cover some, but not all of the individuals currently not insured.  It is not as comprehensive as a full Medicaid expansion, but it is at least something.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

"Revenge Porn:" A Crime or a Civil Action?

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907 by Pablo Picasso
(One of Picasso's girlfriend's - Revenge Porn?)

Last month, we sent legislation to the Governor about "revenge porn."  Much of the media has focused on legislatures making it a crime, but has not provided much analysis about this issue.

There's no question that ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends posting naked pictures of each other on the internet is stupid behavior.  However, whether the Commonwealth of Virginia should invest taxpayer resources in putting people in jail and then housing them for a period of time for that behavior it is a much more complicated issue.

First, here's what the "revenge porn" statute says:
§ 18.2-386.2. Unlawful dissemination or sale of images of another; penalty.    
    A. Any person who, with the intent to coerce, harass, or intimidate, maliciously disseminates or sells any videographic or still image created by any means whatsoever that depicts another person who is totally nude, or in a state of undress so as to expose the genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or female breast, where such person knows or has reason to know that he is not licensed or authorized to disseminate or sell such videographic or still image is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor....
It is important to remember that the courts review criminal statutes that deprive liberty and major life consequences totally different than civil statutes.  Criminal statutes must be very precise and carefully drawn.  In the civil world, almost anything is game because the only thing at issue is money.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Weekly Column: Schools, Medicaid at Issue in the State Budget

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch in the week of February 24, 2014.
Schools, Medicaid at Issue in the State Budget

Last week, the initial skirmish over the state budget erupted in the Virginia legislature.

The proposed House and Senate budgets are significantly different in how they address elementary-secondary education.  Virginia provides about 23% of Fairfax County’s public school funding. The federal government pays about 5% and the remainder comes from Fairfax County, which is largely funded by real estate taxes.  The only Northern Virginia County with lower real estate taxes is Arlington County.

Aside from Mount Vernon Supervisor Gerry Hyland, most members of the County Board of Supervisors appear to be unwilling to raise taxes of any kind to come close to our neighboring jurisdictions and meet the Fairfax County Public Schools’ (FCPS) request for an increase of $98 million. Therefore, the state’s contribution is critical to enable FCPS pay teachers and staff competitive salaries.

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