How Much Have We Lost?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Weekly Column: Legislature Needs to Examine UVA’s $2 Billion Cash Reserve

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 August 8, 2016.

Legislature Needs to Examine UVA’s $2 Billion Cash Reserve
In July, it was revealed that the University of Virginia had managed to retain over $2 billion of excess revenues – exclusive of their $5 billion endowment maintained by their foundation.  An outgoing member of the Board of Visitors called it a “slush fund.” 
This was very concerning to me for several reasons.  First, UVA has increased its tuition by nearly 100% in the last ten years.  UVA’s debt at graduation is up by over 50% in the last years to over $23,000.    Tuition has been exploding in Virginia while UVA has been pocketing over $2 billion of excess revenue. 
Second, while every school needs working capital and a modest financial reserve to operate, I do not believe any school needs to keep cash reserves on hand that amount to $50,000 per student.  UVA is a public school – not a private university.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Supreme Court of Virginia: PWC School Board Must Choose Replacement

Last month, the elected member of the Brentsville District on the Prince William County School Board, Gil Trenum advised his colleagues that he had received orders to report for active duty service for twelve months.  However, he attempted to condition his notice on being able to choose his temporary successor.

Virginia Law provides that when any local government official is called into active duty, they do not forfeit their position for serving our country, but only take a temporary leave of absence.  Confusion arose as to whether Mr. Trenum could select his replacement or the School Board could choose.

In light of the confusion about the process, I requested an Attorney General's opinion.   You can read my request and the response below.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

3 Quick Steps to Goose the VA Economy

Potomac Local asked me to comment on Virginia dropping to the 13th "Best State for Business" in CNBC's annual rankings. 

Here's my comments:
Virginia's rank dropped to thirteenth largely due to weakness in the Virginia economy relative to other states.  Our economy is lagging because our largest source of business - The Federal Government - has imposed across-the-board spending cuts via the Sequester.  This economic weakness was predicted two years ago.  There are three quick ways we can ramp up the Virginia economy. 
#1 - Raise The Minimum Wage
There are some small short term steps we can take here at home to fix this.  First, raising the minimum wage would help to stimulate more economic activity by giving millions of Virginians more money to spend - 6 of 12 states ranked higher than Virginia (CO, MN, WA, MI, FL, NE) have higher minimum wages than we do here in Virginia.  
#2 - Expand Medicaid
Second, Virginia needs to expand Medicaid.  Virginia has left $4 billion on the table so far.  Numerous studies predict that Medicaid expansion would create 30,000 jobs in Virginia, about 2,000 jobs in Prince William and Stafford Counties, save Virginia taxpayers $180 million per biennium that could be spent elsewhere, and provide healthcare to 400,000 people including at least 20,000 in Prince William and Stafford Counties..
#3 - Clean Up Coal Ash
Third, cleaning up coal ash would generate at least a billion dollars in new spending right here in Virginia and clean our environment.  If the average coal ash job pays $50,000/year, $1 billion in coal ash remediation spending equates to at least 20,000 new jobs and would cost the average rate payer less than $1 per month.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Weekly Column: Summer Is Here: Time to Visit Your State Parks!

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 July 4, 2016.
Eighty years ago this month, Virginia created the first state park system in the United States.   With 35 miles of Potomac River frontage in the 36th Senate district, our community is lucky to have access to many natural resources, including our state parks. 
Our state park system has its origins in the Great Depression.  In 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built numerous park and recreational areas throughout the nation, as well as in Virginia. My grandfather grew up in Franklin County, Virginia, a county with no public high school so he had an eighth grade education and when he turned 22 in 1933, no job.
He enrolled in the CCC and was directed to report to the Arlington County “countryside” (yes, countryside).  Every day, he walked through farm fields to construct trails and plant trees on Analostan Island in the Potomac River, which had recently been renamed Teddy Roosevelt Island next to Rosslyn.  The CCC also helped build the George Washington Memorial Parkway.   

Monday, June 13, 2016

Public Comment Deadline on Route 1 Widening!

On Tuesday (6/14) at 6:30 p.m., there will be a public hearing at the South County Government Center regarding allocating $267 million of annual funding for transportation in projects in Northern Virginia possibly including Route 1. 

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) has $267 million to spend this cycle.  Multiple jurisdictions submitted funding requests.  Fairfax County submitted requests for funding seven projects - (1) I-66 and VA-28 interchange, (2) Frontier Drive extension near Springfield Mall, (3) VA-7 widening in Great Falls, (4) Braddock Road HOV, (5) Fairfax County/Dulles Toll Road widening, (6) VA-28 widening from Prince William to U.S. 29, (7) widening U.S. 1 from Woodlawn to Napper Road (Hybla Valley).

Last year, the NVTA funded $10 million for project design and environmental compliance work for this project.  Delegate Paul Krizek and I submitted over 430 comments in support of the project. 

The NVTA recently announcing scoring for each of the submitted projects.   The NVTA scoring criteria focuses on congestion relief and projects that are shovel ready, and the U.S. 1 widening scored 20th out of 24 projects  because other projects were proposed to be completed earlier.   

Excerpt from Project Description Form Submitted
By Fairfax County
This year's NVTA project application submitted by Fairfax County staff stated that construction will start in 2023 and the project will be open for traffic in 2025

The main reason U.S. 1 in Fairfax County scored low was because of the proposed construction timetable as compared with other projects Fairfax County (and other jurisdictions) submitted.  The NVTA is required by law to give greatest priority to the projects that will give the greatest congestion relief the soonest.

For example, the two U.S. 1 projects submitted from Prince William County scored #6 and #13 on the list. 

Clearly, I am very disappointed both that current planning has this project going scheduled for completion in 2025 and that it is not looking good for getting NVTA funding this round.  I have been a staunch advocate for widening Route 1 and construction bus rapid transit and a Yellow Line extension as soon as possible - not in decades!

The public comment deadline is this Friday.  I have included a form below where you can provide public comments that I will deliver to NVTA on Friday. 

Last year, Delegate Krizek and I delivered a petition with 430 comments to NVTA.  We need to do it again -  Please explain why we need to fund Route 1 improvements now and how congestion on Route 1 is affecting your quality of life today. 

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.
There was an error in this gadget
There was an error in this gadget