How Much Have We Lost?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Weekly Column: Budget Tweaks, Execution Secrecy and Ethics

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of March 2, 2015.
Budget Tweaks, Execution Secrecy and Ethics
In the last week of the recent General Assembly session, we passed a budget and some of the most contentious legislation of the session.  We actually adjourned one day early on Friday, the first session in the six regular sessions in which I have served that has finished early.
Here's a quick rundown on several bills:
Four of my bills passed both houses and are with the Governor for his action.  I described them in my column last week.  I hope they will be signed into law without any amendments.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Begging for Education Technolgy in Fairfax County

Ensuring every public school student has access to technology has been a goal of mine for the last three years. Electronic textbooks are here and the learning resources that are now online are critical resources for our children to access. 

Kids get it.  Watch this news story by Peggy Fox featuring my Janetzy Marisco where she lays it out. 

However, most school systems, including Fairfax County, have failed to prioritize funding technology purchases.  Obviously, some blame for this lies with a lack of state funding, but in jurisdictions like Fairfax County where the state only provides 20% of the school budget, waiting for the state to show up is not a plausible excuse.   

Several large Virginia jurisdictions are already purchasing computing devices for all of their students - Henrico, Albemarle, Arlington, Alexandria, and Chesterfield.  Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun Counties continue to lag behind.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Weekly Column: Ninja Weapons, Shotguns and State-run Local Schools Struck

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of February 24, 2015.
Ninja Weapons, Shotguns and State-run Local Schools Struck
In the fifth week of the General Assembly session, several of my bills moved toward passage and a few controversial bills are being debated. 
Surovell Legislation Moving
First, my legislation to protect Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit proceeds, plus child support and spousal support arrearages from creditors, passed the full Senate Courts Committee and should clear the full Senate on Monday as I write this column.  Second, my legislation to simplify the process of continuing lawsuits when parties pass away cleared the Senate last week and was sent to the Governor.
Third, my bill to waive Standards of Learning tests for elementary and secondary students with high scores on Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests was added to another bill to grant greater flexibility to school systems to waive Standards of Learning tests. That legislation will likely pass the Senate as well.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Weekly Column: Ethics, Electricity Bills and Budget Negotiations

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of February 17, 2015.
Ethics, Electricity Bills and Budget Negotiations
The General Assembly is now in its fifth week of the 45-day session and starting budget negotiations.  Four of my bills are moving through the legislative process.   The Senate will consider two this week.

This past weekend about 75 people shared their views at my town hall meeting with Senators Toddy Puller and Adam Ebbin at the Mount Vernon Government Center.  We appreciate the interest and the feedback. 
Ethics "Reforms"
Each body passed ethics bills last week.  The legislation creates a new overall gift cap of $100 for all local and state elected officials in Virginia .  It allows an exception for educational travel approved in advance by an Ethics Advisory Council.  It also contains an exception for “widely attended events,” such as the banquets in our area for local charities, and the bill incorporates a proposal I made last session to prohibit the Governor from accepting a gift or contribution from an entity seeking a Governor’s Opportunity Fund grant.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

February, 2015 Winter Storm Information

Weather Underground Forecast as of 10:20 p.m.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning, from 4 p.m. Monday February 16th to noon on February 17th for Northern Virginia. They expect the storm to dump 4 or more inches of snow and sleet on the Mount Vernon area. Snowfall is expected to begin on Monday afternoon and could become heavy at times.

I have cut and pasted an excerpt from the Weather Underground's forecast as of 10:20 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 15 on the right.  You can click on it to enlarge.

Although I am in Richmond for the General Assembly Session and we will remain in session during the storm, my staff will be available to deal with problems and I will continue to post updates about outages and other information as it is available. 

The following information should help you prepare for the storm:

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Weekly Column: Bills on Protecting Child Support, SOL Flexibility, and Consumer Protection Pass

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of February 10, 2015.
Bills on Protecting Child Support, SOL Flexibility, and Consumer Protect Pass
The third week of the “short” session of the General Assembly brings us to “Crossover.”  “Crossover” is the midpoint of the session when both houses must complete work on their own bills and begin work on bills from the other chambers.    
Several of my bills have moved forward.  First, last year, one of my Amundson Fellows from West Potomac High School, Colleen O’Grady, suggested that I introduce legislation allowing school systems to waive Standards of Learning (SOL) testing for students who achieved a certain score on an Advanced Placement test in the same subject.  My bill was rolled into legislation proposed by another member granting local systems more flexibility to waive SOL tests and passed the House of Delegates unanimously.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Weekly Column: Gerry Hyland, the Epitome of Public Service

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of February 3, 2015.
Gerry Hyland, the Epitome of Public Service
At Saturday’s town hall meeting, we learned that we are losing another 28-years of public policy wisdom, seniority and experience. 
In 1987, Mount Vernon was a different place. In 1987, we had just emerged from a divisive high school merger battle driven by a decline in the number of students. Mount Vernon had seen a tsunami of homes built between 1955 and 1970 and about ten years after the construction stopped, the area found itself with thousands of aging empty nesters, fewer children and vacant schools.
U.S. 1 was blighted by over a dozen old motels, a reputation for its hard knocks and crime, two strip clubs and curiosities like Northern Virginia’s last duck pin bowling alley and the Thieves’ Market. Lorton was known for its prison, from which inmates escaped periodically, a landfill and not much else.  
In 1987 when I got my driver’s license, Mount Vernon elected a local PTA activist, former President of United Community Ministries, 30-year Air Force officer, farmer and lawyer to the Board of Supervisors on a campaign focused on nourishing schools  and closing prisons, landfills, and incinerators and bringing our area a better quality of life. That was Gerry Hyland.

FCC Changes Broadband Definition

Access to broadband is an issue in nearly every corner of the Commonwealth. 

In some areas, affordability is an issue.  In others, older buildings present problems providing access.  In rural areas, geographic and low population densities create challenges.

As the internet continues to expand and more people use it for more functions such as watching movies, the definition of broadband has been pressured as well. 

This week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) changed its definition of broadband from 4Mbps/1Mbps to 25Mbps/3Mbps (Mbps = Megabits per second and download/upload speeds). 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cable Reports: Sexting Education, Electronic Textbooks, and U.S. 1

This morning, I was able to appear on Cable Reports with my colleagues, Delegate David Bulova and Delegate Kaye Kory, to talk about this session and a little bit about my legislative agenda with Woody Hayes.  You can watch below. 

Thank you Cox Communications for making this service available so our constituents can learn more about what's going on in Richmond!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Weekly Column: The First Ten Days: Sunshine, Pregnancy Discrimination and Firearms Safety

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of January 26, 2015.
The First Ten Days: Sunshine, Pregnancy Discrimination and Firearms Safety
The first ten days of the General Assembly session are usually slow, but were full of surprises this year. 
First, while on my way to Governor Terry McAuliffe’s State of the Commonwealth Address, I learned that Senator Toddy Puller had announced her retirement. After digesting the shock and speaking to Toddy, I walked into the House of Delegates chamber to hear the governor’s address.  
Most of the first week was focused on organizing committees, passing non-controversial bills developed over the summer and putting the finishing touches on our own bills. 
I introduced several bills that I did not cover in my prior columns. First, I introduced legislation prohibiting a Virginia employer with more than 15 employees from either discriminating against or firing a woman because she is pregnant. This issue, as it is addressed in federal law, is currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. However, Maryland adopted similar legislation last year and nothing prohibits Virginia from strengthening its own laws.

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. 

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