How Much Have We Lost?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Solar Gets a Jumpstart in Virginia

There was big news on the Virginia renewable energy front this past week.

Virginia has been one of the slowest states to invest in solar or have any meaningful amounts of solar energy go live on its grid - either utility scale (big) solar installations or community level solar.  Earlier this week, Dominion Resources made a big announcement, but it barely received any press.  You can read their release here:

Press Release - Dominion Virginia Power Planning Commonwealth of Virginia's First Large-Scale Solar Project
First, they are building a utility-scale project that will be a 125-acre solar project in Fauquier County hearing Remington containing 90,000 panels that can power 5,000 residences.  This is a huge investment and a major commitment to renewable energy.

Second, they are also investing in community solar.  This is something that I have been fighting for over the last three years.  Current Virginia Law only allows Virginia homeowners to count the energy generated by a solar panel against their usage on a utility meter if it is connected to the system at their home - this is called "net metering."  Therefore, if you don't own your roof - apartments, condominiums, and small businesses - you cannot purchase solar power.  Also, if you live in an established community with significant tree cover - such as most communities near the Beltway - solar power just doesn't work.  Here's how you solve that problem. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Announcing Scott Surovell for State Senate!

In June of 2009, I announced my run for the Virginia House of Delegates and declared my intention to fight for the people of Southeastern Fairfax County's where I have lived my entire life.

Since that time, we have achieved much together:
  • I have brought back over $300 million in new funding for Fairfax, Prince William and Stafford County's public schools since 2009.
  • Worked with Senator Toddy Puller to secure $2 million for the U.S. 1 Multimodal Transit Alternatives Analysis which recommended extending the Yellow Line to Hybla Valley and bus rapid transit to Woodbridge
  • Fought the expansion of predatory lending on U.S. 1
  • Repealed Virginia's wrong-headed $100 tax on hybrid vehicles with Senator Adam Ebbin
  • Expanded mental health services at Virginia's community colleges.
  • Led the fight to make texting while driving a primary offense
  • Passed legislation to allow parents to protect children from identity theft. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

VA State Police Funding Falls Off a Cliff

On Friday, we heard a briefing from the Virginia State Police (VSP)  regarding the status of their budget.  The briefing left my jaw on the floor after I heard about how much they are struggling.

The Virginia State Police perform many different functions and they interact with the public in different ways in different parts of the Commonwealth.  In Northern Virginia, the provide mainly traffic enforcement, but in other parts of Virginia, the VSP conduct many high-profile and highly technical investigations.

They have divisions that investigate high technology crimes such as financial fraud, identity theft, and child pornography investigations.  They maintain Virginia's Criminal Information Network which contains criminal histories, run the vehicle inspection program, conduct background checks for concealed weapon permits, and maintain Virginia's Sex Offender Registry.

You can read the entire proposal below but here are some highlights:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Statement on Retirement of Senator Toddy Puller

Senator Toddy Puller has represented me as state delegate or senator since 1991 when she was the first modern Democrat to win the 44th District and I was a junior at James Madison University.  I have had a “front seat” to her dedicated public service since I was a child.
Senator Puller’s career has been dedicated to the improvement of the quality of life for the U.S. 1 Corridor in Fairfax  and Prince William Counties.  Because of her legislation, the first U.S. 1 Centerline Study was started in 1998 and the $2 million U.S. 1 Multimodal Study would not have been funded or concluded in 2014 without the seniority and wisdom she brought to the process. Tens of millions of dollars are currently being directed to enhancing transportation in Fairfax and Prince William Counties due to her three generations of leadership.

Growing up as a “military brat,” as the incredibly dedicated wife of a disabled veteran and as the daughter in-law of the most-decorated Marine in the history of the U.S. Marine Corps, Lt. Gen. “Chesty” Puller, there is not member in the Virginia legislature who is more focused on moving our state government to address the concerns of our nation’s veterans and their families. Whether it is government services, tax exemptions or  helping Virginians’ recognize the long-term consequences that combat injuries have on military families, Senator Puller has lived her public life on the frontlines fighting for resources for our community and the larger community.
Like her predecessor in the 36th District of the State Senate, Joe Gartlan, Toddy stood up for the voiceless as the Chairwoman of the Senate Health and Rehabilitation Committee, led the way to find innovation and efficiency in our healthcare system and helped lay the groundwork for decades of savings.

Senator Puller’s retirement is a significant loss for the Mount Vernon and Lee areas of Fairfax County, the Occoquan, Woodbridge, and Montclair areas of Prince William County and Northern Stafford County. Her three decades of seniority and policy experience are an irreplaceable asset for her 200,000 Fairfax, Stafford and Prince William County constituents.

I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Puller as she continues to focus on developing the Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic at the William and Mary Law School and enjoying time with Lewis, Jr., Maggie and her grandchildren. Senator Puller has changed the lives thousands of Virginians. It has been an honor to serve with her and she will be difficult to replace. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Weekly Column: Focusing on U.S. 1, Predatory Lending, Electronic Textbooks and Human Rights

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of January 13, 2015.
Focusing on U.S. 1, Predatory Lending, Electronic Textbooks and Human Rights
The 2015 General Assembly session starts this week. Last week, I previewed the overall session. This week, I will outline my legislative agenda.
First, I invite you to complete my constituent survey online at The online version is more comprehensive than the mail version.
One of my top priorities since being elected in 2009 has been the improvement of U.S. 1. In 2012, Senator Puller and I secured $2 million for the U.S. 1 Multimodal Transit Alternative Analysis Study. That study concluded in October when officials signed a resolution recommending a six-lane road, multi-use paths, a median-dedicated bus rapid transit system to Woodbridge and a two-stop Yellow Line Metro extension to Hybla Valley.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

2015 Pre-Session Fairfax County Public Hearing

Every year, the Fairfax County Delegation has a public hearing where anyone from Fairfax County can provide testimony to our entire delegation.  We hold it at the Fairfax County Government Center in the Supervisors' Meeting room.

These hearings are always a reminder of how broadly our actions are felt and how many people depend on state government safety net to sustain their quality of life.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Weekly Column: Education, Gun Violence Prevention, Budget Shortfall and Redistricting on Legislature’s Agenda

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of January 7, 2015.
Education, Gun Violence Prevention, Budget Shortfall and Redistricting on  Legislature’s Agenda
The Virginia General Assembly will convene on January 15 in Richmond for a 45-day “short” session. This article is an overview of the session and my article next week will cover my legislative agenda.
First, be sure to complete my 2015 constituent survey at  You can also share your suggestions to the entire 25-member Fairfax County delegation on Saturday, January 10, 9 a.m., at the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax 22035)..
Since we adopt a budget on a two-year cycle, the legislature will only make adjustments to the existing budget this session. Because of a flat economy, the revenue projections used last year were off by $2.4 billion. Last September, the General Assembly reached an agreement with Governor Terry McAuliffe to address a significant portion of those reductions, but we still need to cut $300 million to balance the budget.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

School Boundary Changes Discussed in the FCPS Capital Improvement Plan

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has a public hearing tonight on the approval of their Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) which decides how FCPS spends about $155 million per year in renovation and construction monies created by bond referenda passed by the voters. 

For the first time, this year's CIP included references to possible school boundary adjustments including approximately seven school changes in the 44th District including adjustments at Stratford Landing ES, Hybla Valley ES, Hollin Meadows ES, Groveton ES, the creation of a new GT/AP center at Bucknell ES and a new Arts & Science Focus School at Virginia Hills.

I lived though boundary changes when I was a student.  My original elementary school (Hollin Hall) was shut down in 1980, my intermediate school (Stephen Foster) no longer exists, and I was at West Potomac HS on the day it opened.  I am very aware of the effects these changes have on students and the interest the community takes in these issues.  These issues are completely controlled by the FCPS School Board.

Several constituents brought the proposed CIP to my attention last week and an impromptu meeting was held last night at Stratford Landing Elementary School that approximately 200 people attended. 

I have spoken with Mt. Vernon School Board Member Dan Storck and School Board Chairmen & Lee District Member Tamara Devereaux Kaufax and both have assured me that the CIP is not a an actual vote on boundaries.

There is a public hearing tonight where the FCPS School Board is taking public testimony regarding the proposed CIP:
January 6, 2014 at 6:00 p.m.
Luther Jackson Intermediate School
3020 Gallows Road
Falls Church, VA 22042

I have attached three things below the fold:
  • My letter to the FCPS School Board
  • An email that was sent to Stratford Landing parents by their PTA for with information on the process
  • School Board Member Dan Storck's latest communication to the Mt. Vernon District on the process.

Monday, January 5, 2015

New JLARC Report Highlights Education Funding Challenges

My constituent from the Hayfield community,
Chris Braunlich, penned an Op-Ed in this weekend's Richmond Times Dispatch that hits the highlights of a recent JLARC report regarding the state of our education funding

Here are the highlights:
  • State education spending per student dropped by 0.4 percent this year.
  • Virginia is spending $100 less per student than we spent in 2005 on an inflation adjusted basis.
  • ESL/Disabled children population is up 15%. 
  • On inflation adjusted basis VA teachers saw a 5% drop in purchasing power of their salaries
  • Fairfax County salaries are 98th nationally
  • State funding formula dates to 1972 when Fairfax poverty rate was 3.5% and largest immigrant group was Germans.
Today's education costs are being driven by factors that are completely unrelated to the factors set forth in the current state funding formula the "local composite index" or LCI, and Virginia is short changing education spending on top of that. 

Clearly, Virginia must do better for its children.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

2014 44th District Water Quality - Little Improvement

2014 44th District Water Quality Map
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is back out with their 2014 Water Quality Report.  The Richmond Times Dispatch framed it pretty clearly "Thousands of Miles of Va. Rivers are Polluted, Report Shows."  DEQ found that 71% of Virginia's rivers and 75% of estuaries (what we have in our community) are polluted.

The 44th District is no exception.  I've written about previous reports for the 44th District here:
The Dixie Pig: Lee & Mt. Vernon's Streams & Rivers Are Polluted says VA DEQ (Apr. 3, 2012)
The Dixie Pig: No Progress - Creeks in the 44th District Still Polluted (Mar. 31, 2012)

Here are the top lines:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Weekly Column: Virginia Education Official’s Visit Focuses on Improving Student Testing

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of December 3, 2014.
Virginia Education Official’s Visit Focuses on Improving Student Testing
Two weeks ago, Virginia Education Secretary Anne Holton toured Walt Whitman Middle School and Hybla Valley Elementary School at my invitation as part of the state’s effort to change the way we assess school progress.
Virginia school accreditation is largely based on student performance on the Standards of Learning (SOL) tests, tests created in 1995 by then-Governor George Allen.  

Thirty schools in Fairfax County were accredited with warning and seven of those schools, including Mount Vernon High School and West Potomac High School, are in the 44th Delegate District along the U.S. 1 Corridor.

Friday, November 28, 2014

My Lawyer Hat: Time to Check Your Auto Insurance Coverage

In my other job, I practice law for a living, including personal injury, wrongful death and medical malpractice. 

I posted this article below on my law firm blog which is generally applicable to anyone who owns a car. 
Time to Check Your Auto Insurance Coverage
This weekend, I received  a text message from GEICO regarding my policy renewal so I thought I would take a minute to check out my coverages.  Surprisingly, they were not what I thought they were.

The number one problem I see when people come to see me when they are injured is a lack of coverage.  Frequently, the worst drivers on the road are either uninsured or have bare bones minimum policies.
I have settled countless cases for extremely low values simply because there is not enough coverage and the person who injured my client had no assets.  Most people do not realize that you can protect yourself and your family against these kinds of situations. 

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