How Much Have We Lost?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Weekly Column: Predatory Lending Continues Its March Through Virginia and U.S. 1

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of June 23, 2015.
Predatory Lending Continues Its March Through Virginia and U.S. 1
The Virginia’s State Corporation Commission latest annual report says that predatory car title lending is thriving in Virginia .  With nearly three dozen car title lenders between Alexandria and Quantico on U.S. 1, this is troubling news, except to the lenders out to make big profits.    You can read the full report on my online newsletter –The Dixie Pig – at scottsurovell.blogspot.com 
Car title lending began in our state in 2010 after Virginia limited interest rates on payday loans and predatory lenders argued that a new option was needed.  Virginia law authorizes lenders to lend money at rates up to 30% per month which equates to around a 297% annual percentage rate (APR).  A consumer can  borrow up to 50% of their vehicle’s equity and the loan term is limited.   

Monday, June 15, 2015

California Ordered to Repay $331 Million - Is Virginia Next?

Today, $350 million worth of chickens came home to roost in California.  Virginia might be next and here's why. 

In the aftermath of the 2008 mortgage-driven financial crash, federal, state and local government budgets were walloped.  One of the jurisdictions hardest hit with foreclosures was Prince William County.  Property values plunged.  Vacant houses were everywhere as people dumped houses that they could never afford with adjustable rate mortgages coming due for readjustment purchased with "no doc" loans.

In 2011, Attorneys General across the United States reached a $25 billion settlement with five major banks regarding illegal and abusive mortgage lending practices.  Virginia's share of the settlement was over $66 million and was directed to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to disburse.  As part of a floor debate, I made the card on the right.   

Here's what the court's order said Virginia could do with the money:
Each State Attorney General shall designate the uses of the funds set forth in the attached Exhibit B-1.  
To the extent practicable,such funds shall be used for purposes intended to avoid preventable foreclosures, to ameliorate the effects of the foreclosure crisis, to enhance law enforcement efforts to prevent and prosecute financial fraud, or unfair or deceptive acts or practices and to compensate the States for costs resulting from the alleged unlawful conduct of the Defendants.  
Such permissible purposes for allocation of the funds include, but are not limited to, supplementing the amounts paid to state homeowners under the Borrower Payment Fund, funding for housing counselors, state and local foreclosure assistance hotlines, state and local foreclosure mediation programs, legal assistance, housing remediation and anti-blight projects, funding for training and staffing of financial fraud or consumer protection enforcement efforts, and civil penalties 
Accordingly, each Attorney General has set forth general instructions for the funds in the attached Exhibit B-2.
What did Virginia do in the 2012 Session? 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

My Endorsement for Mount Vernon Supervisor


With the retirement of Supervisor Gerry Hyland, Mt. Vernon is losing passionate fighter with decades of experience. Our next Supervisor must be an experienced leader that will fight for our community's fair share of resources and who has a track record and results.

Mount Vernon has four good candidates who are running.  Each have their accomplishments and positive attributes.

However, Dan Storck is the only choice for Mount Vernon and I am proud to endorse his campaign for Supervisor for the TUESDAY, JUNE 9 DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY. 

Dan has lived in the Stratford Landing neighborhood of Mount Vernon for over 25 years with his wife Deb and their three children. He previously served as President of the West Potomac High School PTSA and President of Good Shepherd Housing's Board. Dan was first elected as the Mount Vernon Representative to the Fairfax County School Board in 2004. 
 
Unlike the other candidates, Dan can also point to specific concrete results that he has achieved for the Mount Vernon District.
  • Opened three brand new schools (South County H.S., South County M.S. and Laurel Hill E.S.) in Mount Vernon in order to tackle overcrowding issues
  • Worked to fund construction for two entirely new elementary schools on the Route 1 Corridor in the next few years (at Fort Belvoir E.S. #2 and Pinewood Lake-Area E.S.)
  • Renovated or expanded ten existing Mt. Vernon schools with an additional Mt. Vernon seven schools in planning or currently under renovation
  • Personally re-worked the financing of the South County Middle School development and saved taxpayers $35 Million in financing
  • Fought for full-day kindergarten for all Fairfax County Schools
  • Created the Smart Services, Smart Savings initiative that has saved taxpayers $1 million by increasing efficiency and cutting unnecessary costs
  • Secured a needs-based staffing formula which secured a lower relative student-teacher ratio for most Mt. Vernon area schools
  • Fought to create the Priority School Initiative which supplements staffing at the neediest schools
  • Prioritized teachers' salaries in the budget
Dan understands the challenges facing Mount Vernon's schools because he has been forced to deal with the underfunding of our schools for the last twelve years and understands why Supervisor Gerry Hyland has been fighting to raise funds for our schools for years.  Like Supervisor Gerry Hyland, fully-funding Fairfax County Public Schools will be a priority for Dan.

Dan also understands that the strength of our schools is directly tied to the quality of housing and transit on the Route 1 Corridor and has made clear to me that he will work to revitalize Route 1 and extend the Yellow Line as soon as possible.

He has also made clear that he finds the explosion of predatory lending on U.S. 1 intolerable and that he will fight to get them under control. 

In order to fight for these priorities, he needs your support.   Please join me in voting for Dan Storck on Tuesday, June 9 and click below to get involved with his campaign this week.
 
http://www.danstorck.org/volunteer/

Monday, May 25, 2015

Weekly Column: VDOT Still has a Huge Amount of Catch Up

The following appeared in the Stafford and Potomac Local on May 25, 2015.
VDOT Still has a Huge Amount of Catch Up

As the weather warms and summer nears, we are approaching the road mowing and paving season in Northern Virginia.  Several paving projects are coming to eastern Prince William County and northern Stafford County in the 36th District. 

Click to Enlarge
VDOT plans to pave I-95 from Neabsco Creek to Smoketown Road, all of VA-123 and Old Bridge Road from VA-123 to Minnieville.  Cardinal Drive will get a new surface from U.S. 1 to Minnieville as well.  Southbridge will see new blacktop in on Wayside Lane, Pine Ridge Boulevard and several surrounding streets.  VDOT will pave the entire length of Joplin Road from U.S. 1 to Bristow Road and all the streets of the entire town of Quantico.  Main Street (U.S. 1) between Curtis Drive and Quantico Gateway Drive through Dumfries is also scheduled to be repaved. 
Many of Stafford County's secondary roads are in better condition than streets in other areas since many are newer.  In northeastern Stafford County, VDOT will resurface half a dozen streets around Dorothy Lane and Anita Drive in Garrisonville with all of Stefaniga Road.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

2015 Amundson Institute Presents Policy Projects

This past year, I held my 5th consecutive Amundson Institute. This engaging program was orginially
founded by my predecessor, the Honorable Kris Amundson. This program allows for the 44th District high school juniors and seniors that qualify for the program to join me during the Virginia Legislative Session. During this time, the students experience the Virginia state government first hand, while learning the intricate legislative process.

I was fortunate enough to have 6 very qualified students from Mount Vernon and West Potomac High School join me in Richmond this year and see what the politicians they read about do. From West Potomac High School, we had Kelly O'Meara, Margret O'Meara, Jayne Orleans and Emma Kelly. From Mount Vernon High School, we had Catherine Ming and Taamson Joshua. These 6 students were chosen because they demonstrated a passion for their school work, community and leadership. 
   While the primary component of the institute is the trip to Richmond, I also require that each individual student pick an issue to present that they are both passionate about and pertains to the 44th District. In the former years, I have drafted bills based on these projects.


       This year, the students addressed a variety of subjects:

***To see a specific student's presentation, please click on their name and you will be redirected to their project***
  • Ms. Emma Kelly, a junior at West Potomac High School, presented on the need for free screenings for 504 Plans for standardized testing. A 504 Plan is used to ensure that students with mental or phyiscal handicaps receive the help and assistance they need in order to succeed in school. Currently, children who are physically and mentally disabled that need a 504 Plan evaluation, but cannot afford it are suffering during standardized tests due to lack if assistance. Ms. Kelly proposes a bill that would allow these economically disadvantaged households easier access by requiring schools to have therapists in place that are able to diagnose and implement a plan to help these students succeed. 
  • Ms. Jayne Orleans, a senior at West Potomac High School, proposed implementing riparian buffers to protect the Potomac River from nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. In large quantities, these pollutants create Dead Zones, areas of water with excessive nutrient pollution, that causes aquatic life to either leave the area or die. Ms. Orleans proposes that by utilizing riparian buffers, we would be able to help protect our local water and environment from excessive runoff.
  • Mr. Kelly O'Meara, a senior at West Potomac High School, proposed mandating school programs that would teach both parents and students how to effectively manage teen stress. Mr. O'Meara came up with this proposal due to the recent increase in teen suicide because of academic and social pressures. He proposes that by encouraging more mandated and open communication between students and their families, we might be able to help parents and children learn how to balance school work, while encouraging stress-reliving personal time. 
  • Ms. Catherine Ming, a senior at Mount Vernon High School, presented a project that would implement a container deposit law that would encourage recycling by refunding those who return recyclable bottles. This bill would require a refundable deposit on containers that are turned into mandated locations. This practice would encourage responsibility and reduce waste. 
  • Ms. Margaret O'Meara, a senior at West Potomac High School, presented the need for crosswalks along US 1 to ensure pedestrian safety. With the increase in traffic on US 1, there is an increase in the need for protective travel measures. Ms. O'Meara proposed installing more cross walks and traffic lights to help ensure pedestrian welfare.

From environmental issues to disability service accessibility, the Amundson Institute students provided well-researched and thought out projects. It was my pleasure to show such a distinguished group of young leaders an inside look of their state government. 


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Weekly Column: Major Paving Operations Set to Start this Summer in 44th District

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of May 9, 2015.
Major Paving Operations Set to Start this Summer in 44th District
As the weather warms and we approach the summer, it also means that we are approaching the road mowing and paving season in Northern Virginia, and good news is coming for the 44th District.
From 1987 to 2013, the General Assembly refused to raise Virginia’s $0.17/gallon gas tax to even keep up with inflation.  As salaries, the cost of materials, and infrastructure needs all increased, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) had to prioritize funds for other critical maintenance needs.  As a result, grass mowing was massively limited, primary and interstate maintenance was prioritized and secondary road paving was limited.  Over 70% of secondary roads in Northern Virginia were rated to have substandard pavement quality (secondary roads are roads numbered over 600).
Over the last six years I have been in office, I have consistently received complaints about pavement quality – especially on major secondary arteries like Fort Hunt Road and Sherwood Hall Lane.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Surovell Receives Consumer Protection Award


**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**
May 6, 2015
 
More Information: Megan Howard, 703.850.8618


SUROVELL RECEIVES CONSUMER PROTECTION AWARD

Mt. Vernon, VA- Delegate Scott Surovell (D-44) was presented with the "Champions of Consumer Rights" Award by the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) over the weekend. The award recognizes his years of advocacy to protect consumers, push back against predatory lending and House Bill 2015 which seeks to provide exemptions related to child care support.
 
NACBA President Edward Boltz stated, “We are pleased to recognize Delegate Scott Surovell with the award in recognition of his tireless advocacy for consumers, including his work in combatting abuses by payday lenders and car title lenders, and particularly his successful effort, working with NACBA members in Virginia, to enact legislation to protect Virginians in bankruptcy from having their child support, spousal support, and earned income tax credits taken by bankruptcy trustees.”
 
The legislation, House Bill 2015, provides modifications to bankruptcy exemptions related to child care support and allows an individual filing bankruptcy or subject to judgment collections to exempt child and spousal support arrearages from actions to collect debts by creditors.  It also allowed debtors to spread existing exemptions for individual vehicles or firearms among multiple assets instead of having to claim only one car of firearm as exempt.  
 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Congress Tries to Breach Metro Obligations Again

The House Appropriations Committee has once again threatened to pull money the Federal Government promised for Metro.

Back in 2005, then-Congressmen Tom Davis, Frank Wolf and Jim Moran, began the push to secure $150 million per year for ten years from the federal government to fund infrastructure upgrades on Metro provided that such monies were matched dollar-for-dollar by Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.  In 2009, it came close to passing, and it was finally secured in the appropriations act for 2011 which was passed in 2010. 

Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia began budgeting to make their contributions and has met their obligation since this deal was struck.  Also, all three jurisdictions also changed the WMATA Compact to add another seat for the federal government in light of its contribution.  Now - Metro is on track to receive a $3 billion infusion over a ten year period.

However, after the change in party control of Congress, the new majority immediately started talking about revoking this promise.  In 2011, Congress attempted to remove this funding, but it was rebuffed by Congressman Connolly, Moran, Hoyer, Edwards, and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Horton.  I spoke on the floor of the House of Delegates about this attack.  You can see my remarks on the right. 

This week, House Appropriators have once again opening their budget negotiations by trying to cut these monies

One would think after multiple deadly accidents due to failing infrastructure, clearly documented infrastructure problems, and a system that is bursting at the seams due to heavy use, Congress would see the need to continue funding this program.  Metro is a service, not just to our region, but to the entire country.  Without Metro, Washington, D.C.'s ceremonial core, inaugurations, and other public events would not be nearly as feasible. 

Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia have kept up their end of the bargain.  It's time for Congress to stop playing politics with the Metro system and honor its promises.

Friday, April 24, 2015

NVTA, CTB ANNOUNCE NEW FUNDING FOR U.S. 1 IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS

**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**
April 24, 2015

More information:   
Megan Howard, 
703.850.8618

NVTA, CTB ANNOUNCE NEW FUNDING FOR U.S. 1 IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS
Local Leaders Applaud Acceleration of Funding for U.S. 1 Road Widening & Multimodal Transit Improvements

Mt Vernon, VA—The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) and Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) announced two separate projects this week to improve the U.S. 1 Corridor in Northern Virginia.

The CTB’s new Six Year Improvement Plan (SYIP) proposes $4 million allocated to fund the preliminary engineering and environmental impact analysis for Phase I and II recommended by recently completed the Route 1 Multimodal Study. This would include planning to lay the groundwork to implement median-dedicated bus rapid transit from Huntington to Fort Belvoir as an intermediate measure leading to a two-stop extension of the Yellow Line to Hybla Valley.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Weekly Column: Veto Session on Ethics, Voter ID, Government Surveillance

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of April 5, 2015.

Veto Session on Ethics, Voter ID, Government Surveillance

Last week, we returned to Richmond for the annual Reconvened or Veto Session where we considered about 20 vetoes and 60 Governor's amendments to various bills. 
First, Governor McAuliffe signed the state budget we passed so there were no budget amendments to consider for the first time in my six sessions. However, that did not speed things up. 
Governor McAuliffe vetoed several bills relating to firearm violence prevention. These included bills that would enhance Virginians ability to purchase machine guns and carry loaded shotguns in vehicles. I voted to sustain these vetoes and they were ultimately sustained by the Senate. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Quantico Creek Area Coal Ash Remediation to Move Forward

Picture of coal ash on hand of Amy Adams from
Appalachian Voices during Dan River Spill (NBC News)
Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued new rules on the construction, maintenance and remediation of coal ash ponds which are used at coal-fired power plants.  This has consequences for the 36th District and communities along the Potomac River and other areas of the Commonwealth.

There are currently five old coal ash ponds at Dominion Resources Possum Point Power Station in Quantico, Virginia which is in the 36th District.  Coal ash or fly ash is the end product of burning coal to create electricity.  Decades ago, it was common practice to mix it with water and store it in ponds into a "slurry."

If ponds are not properly lined with impermeable barriers, then they can leach toxic metals into ground water and surface water.  According to some sources, depending on the coal used, they can leach toxic elements such as arsenic, beryllium, boron, cadmium, chromium, hexavalent chromium, cobalt, lead, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, selenium, strontium, thallium, and vanadium, along with dioxins and PAH compounds.  Metals like this store in the fatty tissues of fish and can aggregate in fish consumers such as birds or humans.  Modern practice is to store ash in dry landfills. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Weekly Column: Transportation Funding Hearing Comes to Route 1

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of April 5, 2015.
Transportation Funding Hearing Comes to Route 1
Last week, the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) held public hearings at the South County Government Center at the request of Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff McKay and  Board Chairman Sharon Bulova.


These deliberations include whether to help fund the $14 million estimate for the initial design and environmental analysis of widening U.S. 1 from Fort Belvoir to Napper Road near the Costco, including reserving space for bus rapid transit to Woodbridge and constructing a sidewalk and multi-use path along the entire length.  It also includes about $60 million for widening U.S. 1 in Prince William County (Featherstone to Mary’s Way and Fraley Boulevard to VA-234).
First, here’s some background. Virginia’s transportation system suffered from a twenty-year funding shortfall, and the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) “borrowed” maintenance money (paving and bridge reconstruction) so there was something to spend on construction. This is why about 75% of the secondary roads in the 36th Senate District now require paving.   In 2013, the General Assembly passed legislation, now law, raising taxes to fund about 20% of our known long-term new construction needs. The bill had statewide and local components.

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