Sunday, November 27, 2011

General Washington's Whiskey is Back!

Last year, I wrote about the Mt. Vernon Estate's newest round of whiskey production.  You can read more about it here: 

The Dixie Pig: Rye Back of Sale At Mt. Vernon (Dec. 1, 2010)

I wrote about the history of General Washington's whiskey production and the legislative hurdles that were cleared to make it possible.  Senator Toddy Puller was a big part of making it happen. 
Last month, the Mount Vernon Estate sold their newest batch of rye whiskey made from General Washington's recipe (in the left picture, pictured on the left side, click to enlarge).  The newest batch was aged which is why it is brown in color.  However, General Washington did not age his rye - the stuff he produced was clear (in the bottle on the right).

The bottle on the right (the clear whiskey) costs $99/ea.  The newest aged batch runs $185/ea.  I bought several of each.  Apparently, among liquor afficiondos, they are a very in-demand curiosity.  They actually hand-number each batch so you can prove their authenticity.  The picture on the left side of the page shows the numbering. 
I'm not really much of a liquor drinker, so I can't really comment on how they taste.  I tried the first batch and I thought it tasted kind of "grassy" compared to what I'm used to - I think that's why they call it rye. 

As for my new bottles, I'm still trying to figure out when it's appropriate to drink something that costs about $20 per shot.  If you have any ideas, let me know.

Keep your eyes open for the next round.  Yet another part of our community that makes this area a unique place to live.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

2012 Session Looms

The 2012 Session awaits in January.  "Prefiling" or the process to request legislative drafts and file them has started.  Several bills have already been introduced.

The Budget continues to be in horrible shape. The money committees have told us to expect a $1 billion shortfall that we have to plug. The condition of the budget will have effects across all kinds of programs and issue debates.

Due to changes in the Virginia Senate, there are a lot of issues that are likely going to be coming up:
  • Bills on "personhood" for fetuses and abortion restrictions will be front and center.
  • Legislation to marginalize undocumented immigrants will be a hot topic.
  • Bills to remove restrictions on firearms will be coming.  For example, legislation to allow a person to manufacture, sell and possess a gun in Virginia free from federal restrictions is introduced annually. 
  • Removing the moratorium on uranium mining.  I wrote about that here.
  • The Governor has made noises and changing Virginia's pension system to a 401K-style pension. 
  • Legislation to limit people's ability to vote will be introduced again.
  • There is some talk about pushing some transportation responsibilities to localities.
The Division of Legislative Services has published a newsletter which is a fairly good non-partisan recap about what is coming and has some interesting statistics.  You can read it here.  In 2011, we considered 2,692 bills and resolutions and passed 890. 

Personally, I have about 110 different ideas I've collected over the last eight months that I am narrowing down for the session.  If you have any legislative ideas for me, please feel free to drop me a note.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thank You 44th District Voters

Things have been slow over here at The Dixie Pig over the last couple weeks.  I've been busy engaging with my family, getting my law practice back up an running, and I had four-day trial last week. 

Between September 27 and November 11, the Republican leadershrip invested nearly $200,000 into my opponent’s race.  Here are the final results:

Surovell: 8,738 Votes (59.43%)
Barsa:  5,742 Votes (39.05%)
Glean:  223 Votes (1.52%)

Thank you.

I was also very pleased to see Senator Puller, Senator-Elect Ebbin, and School Board Member Dan Storck win by commanding margins as well while we held on to our majorities on the Fairfax County School Board.  These results would not have been possible without the time and effort of hundreds of volunteers, and the financial support of nearly 1,300 donors.

If you are interested in how your precinct turned out, you can look up more specific results here.   We won 15 of 18 precincts and the absentee vote. 

We tried to run a positive, issues-focused campaign that focused on my record and vision for the future of our part of Fairfax County and Virginia.  The voters of the 44th District rejected the overwhelmingly negative and nasty campaign of my opponent. 

I never publicly responded to my opponent's attacks, but here are a few thoughts.

Route 1 
My opponent said my only accomplishment on Route 1 was "a little brown sign."  During my first year in 2010, Delegate Sam Nixon proposed legislation designating a portion of Route 1 in Chesterfield County as "Historic Route 1" as part of their Route 1 revitalization efforts.  I lead a bipartisan coalition of thirty-two legislators who sent Governor McDonnell a letter asking him to designate the entire road.  Governor McDonnell followed suit and the amendment was passed unanimously.  I wrote more about it here:

I've also led many other efforts on Route 1 since being elected including:
  • Passage & funding of the Route 1 Transit Study
  • Obtaining over 500 signatures demanding that Route 1 be added to the state's Six Year Improvement Plan (letter & signatures here);
  • Being only 1 of 2 Northern Virginia legislators to speak out at the Commonwealth Transportation Board public hearing on its Six Year Improvement Plan (watch video here);
  • Introduced legislation two years in a row to study the creation of a special Route 1 Transportation Funding District (legislation here);
  • I've also written countless letters and articles that you can access here.
"The Third Least Effective Delegate In Richmond"
My opponent cited a statistic published by Virginia FREE which surveys Richmond lobbyists every year regarding legislators' effectiveness.  Virginia FREE is an organization that promotes business interests in Richmond.  It provides us with a questionnaire every year that is designed by the state's largest corporate interests. 

The Washington Post reported that although I had raised more money than any incumbent who won re-election in my Caucus, I raised less money from Richmond interests than any legislator in the entire legislature. 

On the other hand, my opponent has reported raising at least $193,000 so far.  Of his total, $176,000 came from the Republican Leadership committees and he reported an additional $25,000 in late reported leadership money as well.  These are largely funded by Richmond interest groups.  He only raised about $10,000 (five percent) from people inside the 44th District.  I have raised about $82,000 from voters in the 44th District over the last two years (approximately one-third of my total fundraising). 

VA FREE's rankings consistently rank freshman Democrats very low.  Nearly all of the bottom ten members are Democratic freshman.  Freshmen in the minority are rarely given lobbyists' bills to carry and their bills are routinely killed by the majority. 

Notwithstanding that, I introduced more bills than any freshman in the minority and passed more bills (seven) than any other freshman in the minority. 

92% Partisan Voting History
My opponent said that I "voted with my party 92% of the time."  His citation for that statistic was the entire legislative database.  I have no idea what that statistic is based upon.  Having said that, given that my chamber is controlled by the Republican Party, there are very pieces of legislation that come to the floor that I would characterize as being Democratic. 

Meals' Taxes
My opponent also attacked me for attempting to undermine the will of Fairfax County's voters on the meals' tax. 

Due to the Dillon Rule, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors cannot enact a meals tax.  Counties only have the authority to enact a meals tax by referendum.  Five counties (Arlington, Rockingham, Rockbridge, Roanoke & Frederick County) have been given the authority to enact a meals tax by unanimous vote of the Board of Supervisors.  In 2001, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors proposed a referendum on the meals tax.  It was rejected by the voters. 

Fairfax County's Public Schools faced a $180 million deficit two years ago.  A meals tax is projected to raise $80 million per year.  Meals taxes are also currently levied by the City of Alexandria, Arlington County, the City of Falls Church, the City of Fairfax and the Town of Vienna.  I introduced legislation that would allow Fairfax County to be added to the list of jurisdictions that could enact a meals tax by a unanimous vote of the Board of Supervisors.  Given that Fairfax County has three Republican Supervisors, enactment would require bipartisan agreement. 

Negative campaigning did not work.  At the end of the day, the voters of the 44th District have spoken and I am honored to have two more years to serve our community.  Thank you so much for your support during the campaign and on election day.  If I can ever be of any service please don't hesitate to contact my office.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

$180 Million to Widen U.S. 1 Finally Released!

Congressman Jim Moran has been working hard over the last three years to obtain federal funding to help mitigate some of the traffic problems caused by BRAC at Fort Belvoir.
I have written about some of his previous efforts here:

Today, the U.S. Army announced that it was awarding $180 million to Fort Belvoir.  This is significant on a number of levels. 

First, Route 1 is desperately in need of widening along this stretch of road due to current and future traffic and this will bring some relief. 

Second, this lays the ground work for transit along this stretch of U.S. 1.  The improvement will likely include dedicated right-of-way for some kind of future transit improvements.

Third, this project will have taken place due to the efforts of the federal, state and local government.  Senator Toddy Puller initiated the Route 1 improvement process in 1994 with her legislation authorizing the Route 1 Centerline Study.  Fairfax County funded the engineering design process last year with a $2 million appropriation.  Finally, the Federal government has come through with the funding for the improvement.

Lastly, federal funding of a local transportation improvement validates the importance of Fort Belvoir to the United States Military and demonstrates that the Federal Government will fund local transporation improvements when they benefit a military asset like Route 1.  This demonstrates why the Federal Government will be involved in funding the extension of the Yellow Line to Fort Belvoir once we have laid the groundwork for that as well. 

My joint press release with Senator Puller is below.
RELEASE- Puller Surovell Applaud $180M for Rt 1-1