How Much Have We Lost?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Legislature’s Pace Quickens

The following appeared in the Mount Vernon Gazette and the Mount Vernon Voice on February 10, 2010.

The work of the General Assembly is intensifying, as we approach this session’s mid-point. Several of my bills will be considered soon.

HB 831 requires out-of-state companies to establish that they are qualified to transact business in Virginia before they bid on government contracts. Most non-Virginia corporations do not pay the filing fees ($250 to $2,500) or annual fees ($100 per year) required of Virginia-based companies. Non-Virginia companies can take business away from law-abiding Virginia companies because the state and localities do not confirm that our law is being followed before they award a company a contract. If passed, my legislation would net millions for taxpayers and create more Virginia jobs.

I have talked to Governor McDonnell three times and urged him to block former Governor Kaine’s proposal to freeze the “Local Composite Index,” the school funding factor that could deprive Fairfax County of $61 million. Governor McDonnell assures me that he is focusing on it. He always reminds me that he grew up in the Mount Vernon communities of Hollin Hall and Riverside. We’ll see if he also remembers the high expectations we have for our schools and our schools’ many compelling needs.

We need people in decision-making positions who understand our region. That’s why I’m pressing for my bill to reallocate seats on the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB), the group that decides which major transportation construction projects to fund (when we actually have money). The Governor makes these appointments based on Virginia’s 1930 population patterns. My bill, HB 818, requires representation using current congressional districts. So far, the majority has refused to act on my bill. I am working to change that.

I have talked to Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton twice about U.S. 1. Mr. Connaughton lived in the Sequoyah Condominiums in Janna Lee on U.S. 1 and also represented Woodbridge, so he knows firsthand the importance of revitalizing the Route 1 corridor.

My bill modifying civil penalties for tobacco tax stamps passed the House of Delegates. The Department of Taxation requested this bill because they have problems enforcing penalties when machines fail to affix stamps to cigarette packs. The fines were out of proportion to the stamp costs and resulted in appeals in 42 of 50 of actions. For instance, $30 of missed stamps required a $25,000 assessment and missing stamps cannot be discovered, if at all, until packs are removed from cartons by inattentive stockers or cashiers. Innocent retailers, such as those who provide many of the jobs on U.S. 1, bear the brunt of the enforcement actions. This bill will result in fewer appeals, more fines paid and better results for taxpayers and for businesses.

Many people have visited me in Richmond. I welcome these meetings. If possible, call or e-mail in advance so we can arrange a tour of your historic Capitol, where the famous statue of Mount Vernonite George Washington is the centerpiece . Amtrak has three trains daily from Alexandria to Richmond’s Main Street Station.

Please share your views on my website, www.ScottSurovell.org or by calling 571-249-4484 and read about my work at ScottSurovell.Blogspot.com.

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