How Much Have We Lost?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Weekly Column: U.S. 1 Transit Study Advances & Numerous Bills Pass

The following column appeared in the Mount Vernon Gazette, Mount Vernon Voice, and Patch.com on February 25, 2011:

This session of the General Assembly will end soon and we have a full plate this last week. We will vote on the deregulation of consumer telephone service, revisions to the Governor’s Transportation Plan, the expansion of car title
lending, the strengthening community-based care for developmentally disabled adults, changes to the state retirement plan, loosening advertising restrictions on liquor, the appointment of two Supreme Court Justices and we have a big budget battle looming.

Here is an update. Senator Toddy Puller and I are very close to passing a resolution to authorize the U.S. 1 Transit Study. It cleared the Senate and two House committees unanimously and will be before the House of Delegates for a vote on February 22. There is also language in the Senate budget to lock in funding for the study. Senator Puller and I are also working with the Governor Bob McDonnell and his administration to ensure that the language is included the final budget, and they have been extremely helpful.

My legislation to close a DUI (driving under the influence) loophole clarifying that Commonwealth Attorneys are allowed to participate in first offense refusal prosecutions passed the House and Senate unanimously and is waiting signature by the Governor. If this bill becomes law, prosecutors will be able to prosecute both the DUI and the Refusal charge.

Both the House and Senate approved my bill to correct a typo in the school bus passing statute. I asked the Senate to add an emergency clause after the Fairfax County Police reported that school bus passing incidents are up and that four children have been struck this year en route to school. The Senate agreed and that bill is also awaiting the Governor’s signature.

The House has passed two bills that Delegate Mark Keam introduced for me due to individual member filing limits. One would exempt computer forensic services from private investigator licensing as recommended by the American Bar Association. Ambiguity in the law has created unnecessary litigation in Virginia divorces and criminal cases. The second bill would facilitate the prosecution of unlicensed contractors by clarifying that violations of Fairfax County ordinances are subject to the same statute of limitations as violations in state law.

I also introduced a bill to authorize the licensing of home energy auditors. Licensing will help ensure that auditors have a minimum level of training and help consumers understand the minimum services to be provided in an audit. Even though my bill was supported by Governor McDonnell, a House committee tabled it. However, I am working with a Republican Senator, Frank Wagner, from Virginia Beach and he conformed his bill in the Senate to mine. The Senate passed that legislation unanimously, and it has passed two House of Delegates’ committees. It will go to the Governor this week if it is passed by the House.

Five of my bills were tabled to either be studied over the summer or introduced next year after further consideration by the Administration. Here is a short summary of
those bills:

- Requires that seats on the Commonwealth Transportation Board be allocated by current population instead of 1930 population numbers.

- Requires that all committee and subcommittee meetings be digitally
recorded and put on the internet.

- Authorizes a system to reward individuals who disclose or “whistle blow” on tax cheats, paralleling an existing federal program.

- Streamlines paperwork and filings in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts.

- Directs the Department of Social Services to study ways to enhance child care subsidies.

- Prohibits gifts and political contributions to local government officials and
employees while employees are considering government contracts or procurements.

I appreciate all of the feedback you have given me during this session, including the 730 survey responses you returned. Please continue to send me your ideas and views. Some of my best ideas come from the people of the 44th District. You can learn more about my work on your behalf on my blog – The Dixie Pig (scottsurovell.blogspot.com).

It is an honor to serve as your state Delegate and I hope to see you soon around the community.

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