How Much Have We Lost?

Monday, February 28, 2011

2011 Budget Highlights

Last night, we ended the session by voting on the proposed amendments to the State Budget as worked out by the House and Senate. The Budget cleared both houses unanimously for the first time in a long time.

The budget was truly a bipartisan compromise where both sides gave. It was negotiated by twelve "Budget Conferees" (Delegates Kirk Cox, Chris Jones, Beverly Sherwood, Steve Landes, Johnny Joannou and Senators Dick Saslaw, Chuck Colgan, Janet Howell, Edd Houck, William Wampler, Walter Stosch, and Tommy Norment) who worked tirelessly over the last week to produce a the result. The fact that there were no dissenting votes say a lot about their effectiveness, efforts, and creativity.

Governor Bob McDonnell also deserves to be commended for moving the parties along through their negotiations.

It now moves on to the Governor for his review, line item vetoes, or acceptance and will be our state budget through June 30, 2012 once finally approved.

Here are some highlights.

Overall Highlights
  • No General Fund money was contribued to transportation other than amounts required by previously enacted statutes. Transportation in Virginia has historically been funded by taxes deposited into a separate fund called the Transportation Trust Fund.
  • The budget makes a $64 million prepayment to the constitutionally-required Rainy Day Fund contribution required next year which will be massive (over $200 million due).
  • A gimmick used to balance the State Budget last year - early payment of sales tax revenue by businesses - was removed for 80% of Virginia businesses (businesses with less than $5.4 million of revenue).
  • The budget gave state employees a 5% raise, but required state employees to contribute 5% to the Virginia Retirement System. State employees previously made no contribution to VRS.
  • The Budget contains no new taxes and removed some fee increases from last year.
Education Funding

  • K-12 funding was increased over and above what the Governor proposed by about $80+/- million. That will result in Fairfax County receiving $4.1 million over what the Governor proposed.
  • The "hold harmless" payment to localities whose education funding should have gone down last year due to budget cuts was maintained (does not affect Northern Virginia).
  • The House's proposal to take funding from low income preschool programs to fund full-day kindergarten was rejected.
  • The Budget directed at least $20 million in new monies to various state universities to increase Science, Technology, Engineering and Math programs and increase college capacity.

Health Care

  • The budget increased Medicaid provider funding by $100 million to partially make up for the $400 million in cuts last year. This will help avoid further doctors refusing Medicaid patients and will help with everyone's insurance rates.
  • We also increased the number of Medicaid waivers for profoundly disabled adults and set aside $30 million to assist in the transition from institutional facilities to community care centers to comply with a Department of Justice investigiation and request.
  • Funding for AIDS drug programs was restored. I had constituents who specifically lobbied me about this issue and had been cut off due to budget cuts.
  • The Governor proposed to cut $2 million of funding for the Healthy Families Program - a proven program that reduces the incidence of domestic abuse in Northern Virginia. The budget we approved restored $500,000 of those cuts. Plus, a small increase funding for Northern Virginia Family Services which helps low income households in Northern Virginia was budgeted.

Judicial System & Public Safety

  • Last year, we froze elections on judges due to budget constraints. This resulted in the loss of one open judgeship in Fairfax County, two in Arlington County due to retirements and one in the City of Alexandria due to retirements. Alexandria gets its judgeship, the rest of Northern Virginia does not.
  • $15 million in new "599" funding for new police positions in localities.
  • The House's effort to terminate drug court funding was avoided.
  • The Governor's effort to substantially scale back funding for Juvenile non-incarceration sentencing programs was avoided. '
  • The Governor's proposal to raid $5 million from attorney bar dues to fund the general budget was rejected.
  • The state had to appropriate $270,000 for new mandatory minimum sentences enacted this year.

State Parks

  • $1.2 million was provided to create 15 new positions in our State Parks which are seeing record visitation.

Social Issues & Other Items

  • The House's proposed cuts to public television were largely avoided.
  • The House's proposed ban on stem cell funding was rejected.
  • The House's proposed ban on Planned Parenthood funding was rejected.
  • Rejected a Senate proposal to spent $500 million on new office space in Capitol Square including a $300 million new General Assembly Building.

I will write about the transportation bill we passed this year later this week. In the meantime, if you have any specific questions about the state budget, please post them up below or shoot me an email at scottsurovell@gmail.com.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

2011 Session Legislative Highlights

My second session has been an interesting experience. In some ways, it has been less contentions than last year, but there have been some interesting moments on the floor.

We still do not have a budget yet, but here is a quick summary of some important legislation from this session.

You can also read an official summary prepared by the Division of Legislative Services here.

PASSED LEGISLATION
Care of Disabled Adults (Surovell - Yes)
We were hit by a bombshell this year when the Department of Justice issued a report that cited Virginia's Central Virginia Training Center with civil rights violations. Virginia's "Training Centers" are institutional facilities where adults with profound disabilities live. The Northern Virginia Training Center is located on Braddock Road between the City of Fairfax and the Beltway.

The DOJ Report alleged that residents were not provided adequate care, properly informed of treatment decision, improperly restrained, improperly refused discharge, and was generally inappropriately treated. The report also criticized Virginia's entire system and said that we were only one of five states that still maintains treatment centers instead of using community based care via Medicaid "waivers."

We passed legislation authorizing additional waiver funding and providing the Governor with flexibility needed to begin address the concerns in the report. This issue isn't over.

Anti-Choice Legislation (Surovell - No)
Last year, we saw a steady stream of anti-choice bills that were killed in the Virginia Senate. This year, the Senate unanimously passed legislation regarding hospital regulations regarding infections. When it got to the House, an amendment was added that required clinics providing first trimester abortions to be regulated like hospitals. Because it was a House amendment, the bill went straight to the Senate floor where a 20-20 tie was broken by Governor Bolling. Given the constructions standards that hospital regulations create, this will jeopardize 17 of the state's 21 clinics providing these services. Litigation will certainly ensue. This was a rare breakdown in the Senate which has historically been a bulwark against anti-choice legislation.

Autism Insurance Coverage (Surovell - Yes)
After a decade-long fight, we passed legislation mandating limited coverage for some services for autistic children. It was not as robust as it should be but it is a good first step which will help thousands of Virginia families to cope with a very painful and expensive problem.

Expansion of Sexual Abuse Victim Remedies (Surovell - Yes)
We adopted legislation extending the statute of limitations for personal injury actions for sexual abuse against persons to twenty years.

Criminal Law (Surovell - Yes)
We banned "synthetic marijuana" also know "spice" or "K-2" and passed my legislation to fix an typo in the Reckless Driving statutes regarding passing a stopped school bus, created authority to create sentencing diversion programs for war veterans, and allowed a judge to order restitution to a child pornography victim.

Education Requirements (Surovell - No)
The legislature passed legislation requiring elementary and middle schools to have students engage in at least 150 minutes per week of physical education.

Deregulation of Home Telephone Service (Surovell - No)
We passed legislation that removes the requirement that Verizon provide telephone coverage to a home if there is alternate coverage available such as wireless service or broadband service.

Car Title Lending (Surovell - No)
The legislature passed legislation allowing car title lenders to lend money to individuals who live outside of Virginia.

Civil Justice Changes (Surovell - Yes)
We passed legislation putting in place a system for raising the medical malpractice award cap for the next 20 years, raised the jurisdictional limits of General Districts Courts to $25,000, and required the disclosure of Chineese drywall in homes.

E-Verify (Immigration) (Surovell - Yes)
The one immigration related bill that was passed required state contractors that have more than 50 employees to use the federal E-Verify system.

FAILED LEGISLATION
HPV Vaccinations for Children (Surovell - No)
Legislation that would have repealed a requirement that girls receive vaccinations against the human papillomavirus, which causes cervical cancer was killed in the Senate. There is an opt-out provision under current laws.

Privatization of Alcoholic Beverage Control (No Vote)
The Governor's proposal to privatize the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control was never given a committee hearing in either chamber.

Immigration (Surovell - No)
There were approximately 12-15 different bills addressing immigration that were introduced this year. These ranged from requiring police to check the immigration status of any person taken into custody, to banning immigrants from public colleges and universities in Virginia, to requiring employers to use an system called E-Verify to check employee's immigration status. A limited E-Verify bill passed. All other bills were killed in the Senate.

Texting While Driving (No Vote)
Legislation to make texting while driving a primary offense (one you can be stopped for) was killed in the Senate.

Cigarette & Plastic Bag Taxes (No Vote)
A proposal to increase the cigarette tax from 30 cents to $1.45 per pack to help pay for health care through Medicaid and smoking prevention programs was rejected along with a $0.05 and $0.20 tax on plastic bags.

Employment Non-Discrimination (No Vote)
Legislation to prohibit discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, in state employment was rejected.

Constitutional Amendments (No Vote)
Constitutional Amendments to ratify the Equal Rights Amendments, create a VRS Lockbox, repeal Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage, automatically restore the voting rights of convicted felons who have served their sentence, and allow states to repeal federal law (Surovell - No) were all killed.

Criminal Policy (No Vote)
Legislation to raise Virginia's lowest-in-country misdemeanor-felony threshold on property crimes from $250 to $500 was killed (Surovell Bill). An effort to require ignition interlock devices for all first offense DWI convictions was killed in the Senate (Surovell - No).

Civil Justice Policy (No Votes)
The legislature refused to extend the mandatory retirement age for judges.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bipartisan Group Legislators Demand Restoration of Metro Funding

Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of 24 Northern Virginia legislators sent a letter to Virginia's Congressional Delegation demanding the restoration of $150 million of federal Metro Funding.

I previously blogged about this here:

The Dixie Pig: Congress Slashes Metro Funding

Congress' proposal to breach a bipartisan agreement regarding Metro funding is an unjustified attempt to torpedo Northern Virginia infrastructure.

You can read the release and letter below.

Letter to Virginia's Congressional Delegation Demanding Restoration of Metro Funding - 2-21-11

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Politifact Agrees House Budget Cuts Education

Over the last couple days, I've been getting a bunch of emails regarding the House Budget and Fairfax County education funding and there has been some confusion. Hopefully, this will clarify that.

First, Virginia adopts a two-year budget after each election. In the "short session" that we are in this year, we adopt revisions to the budget based upon revenue adjustments or proposed policy changes.

In Virginia, the State sends education funds to each locality called "Direct Aid" determined by a formula called the Local Composite Index or the "LCI" which is based on a locality's ability to pay. Roughly speaking, here's how it works.
  • True value of real property (weighted 50 percent)
  • Adjusted gross income (weighted 40 percent)
  • Taxable retail sales (weighted 10 percent)
Putting aside the entire question of how fair this is, Fairfax County doesn't do very well under the LCI because one of the largest variables is property values and income, and our property tax base and incomes are so much larger than everyone else in Virginia we only get around 19% of our education funding from Virginia - other areas get as much as 80%.

At the beginning of this session, the Governor proposed to increase the Direct Aid by $92 million. The House of Delegates took the Governor's proposal and approved changes to it. The changes reduced the Direct Aid transfer and accordingly Fairfax County's K-12 transfer as follows.

Governor's Proposal for Fairfax County--------->$486,956,136
House Budget Amendments-------------------->$481,033,661
Difference Between Governor & House ---->$5,922,475

That's the math.

If there was any doubt about this, yesterday, the non-partisan site Politifact.com tested the assertion that the House Budget Amendments cuts education spending. They rated that claim as TRUE. You can read the analysis here or click on the Politifact "Truth-O-Meter" to the right.

I voted NO on the House Budget in-part because a vote for the House Budget Amendments was a vote to cut Fairfax County education funding by $6 million. You can read the statistics yourself by clicking here. In light of the unfunded mandates and new program needs in Fairfax County, the last thing we need in Fairfax County is less money from the state. See The Dixie Pig, $93 Million of K-12 Cuts.
The Senate proposed amendments that would result in Fairfax County receiving another $100,000,000 **on top** of the Governor's proposal. The net difference is about a $12,000,000 swing for Fairfax County.

There's also been some confusion as to the annual numbers. The State's Direct Aid appropriation in 2009 was $7,103,974,141. In 2011 the adopted transfer was $6,279,724,961. About a $900M difference. In other words, Virginia cut about $1 billion from education last year. That's the math.

There is confusion about this because although the overall amount of state Direct Aid went down, Fairfax County did not get hurt as bad. The reason for this is because Fairfax County's property values cratered much more deeply than the rest of Virginia. Therefore, our relative proportionate share of funding under the LCI actually went up so the amount of money we got in the end was not substantially diminished.

Finally, if you want to take a macro long-term view of education funding in Virginia and what the recent budget actions represent, here's another way to look at it. In FY2011, Direct Aid for Education represented 16.58% of the State General Fund. In 1990 it was 20.15%. In FY2009, the share at 19.17% but the cuts dragged us back down.

FY2012 will have the lowest Direct Education Aid transfer proportional to the overall General Fund in the last 22+ years. I don't have data from before that but state education funding today is at an historical low point.

Those are the facts.

2011 Capitol Classic: House Wins in a Landslide

Last night, I participated in the annual Capitol Classic Basketball Tournament. The tournament is an annual event where the Governor's Office plays the Lobbyists and the House plays the Senate. The event raised $10,000 for the Massie Cancer Center at Virginia Commonwealth University.

This year the House beat the Senate 29-13. I scored the first basket of the game and had one assist.

The Senate never quite got it in gear. They didn't have a basket until there was about 3 minutes left in the first half. They ultimately put some points on the board to make it a bit more respectable, but it was hard for them to keep up with the number of players we had.

Our team included our Coach Delegate Chris Jones (R - Suffolk) and Delegates John Cosgrove (R - Chesapeake), Tag Greason (R - Loudoun), Terry Kilgore (R - Scott), Manoli Loupassi (R - Richmond), Glen Oder (R - Newport News), Dave Toscano (D - Charlottesville), my intern Greg Manuel and a few other staffers. The Senate team included my law partner Senator Chap Petersen (D - Fairfax) along with Senators McEachin (D - Richmond), Emmit Hanger (R - Augusta), Ralph Northam (R - Norfolk), George Barker (R - Fairfax), Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, and a few other staffers and interns.

I used to play a lot of basketball in the Fort Hunt Youth Athletic Association and in law school, but I haven't kept up my game much in the last 15 years. The game was a good reminder to me of how much I need to work on getting in shape.

If I'm lucky enough to be back next year, I'll be looking forward to getting it in gear next year. The Massie Center is a terrific program that provides cancer treatment options closer to home for thousands of people.

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.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Happy Birthday To The 44th's Most Famous Resident

Tomorrow, would mark George Washington's 279th Birthday. Senator Puller tells me that he has a tradition of giving a speech in honor of General Washington every year. I thought that sounded like a good idea and intend to do the same.

If you ever come to visit here in Richmond, one thing you will notice is the life-sized statue of Washington in the Capitol Rotunda by Jean Antoine Houdon. Houdon took measurements and a life mask of Washington in a 1785 visit to Mount Vernon before returning to France to sculpt his final product.


The statue in Richmond is the most valuable piece of art in the Capitol art collection. When the Capitol underwent a recent renovation, it was estimated to be worth over $40 million. Seeing the statue is worth the trip in and of itself.
I'll post up my remarks when I get them.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Structural Flaws in Virginia Government - #1 Short Sessions

Robert McCartney has an interesting column in today's Washington Post regarding Virginia's shorten legislative sessions. Also, my law partner, Senator Chap Petersen also posted up a piece on his blog yesterday which completely captured my thinking about some concerns he has regarding some legislation we're voting on tomorrow.

I'm coming up on my fifteenth month and I'm starting to come to some conclusions about the structure of Virginia's system that really ought to be changed. I'm going to post up a series of articles about these problems which I've summarized in my little picture to the right regarding the some of the Foundations of Virginia Government. I've got some other ideas about structural policy problems, but that's for another day.

McCartney points out that our 45 and 60-day sessions limit opportunities for public input and reasoned decision making. I couldn't agree more.
The practice dates from when a farm-based society squeezed the session into a
few weeks before spring planting. The quaint tradition is outdated for a state
whose population exceeds that of more than 50 countries, including Norway,
Ireland and Israel.


An involved, vibrant, and engaged legislature sheds more sunshine on policy making. The idea that we can carefully consider 2,500 bills and take 2,000 votes with the care and consideration that we owe our constituents is unrealistic in the present system.

When I'm sitting on the House Floor trying to process all of the information coming at me through the firehose sometimes I feel like I'm shooting skeet on the Floor of the House. The Clerk shouts out the bill number, the bills start flying and we wildly start shooting trying to hit them as they fly past.

Policymaking is supposed to be careful, thoughtful, deliberative and above all - done in the open. McCartney is correct that our current system maximizes the influence of special interests, lobbyists, House & Senate Staff, and the full-time state employees. Under our present system, all of our legislators and their staffs simply do not have the time process all of the details necessary to make decisions on 2,000 votes and appropriate an $80 billion budget.

As a freshman, I actually have time than most to study legislation. I do not chair any committees, I only serve on two committees that do not have a large volume of legislation, and I am not in leadership. But the longer you are are around, you tend to accumulate more responsibilities which brings demands on time without additional help.

It's not a system that designed to yield the best results for our constituents.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Senator Ticer Retires

Last week, State Senator Patsy Ticer announced her retirement.

She has been involved in Virginia Democratic politics for a long time. She is an institution in the City of Alexandria.

Patsy previously served on the City of Alexandria City Council and as the first woman Mayor of Alexandria after Jim Moran was elected to Congress in 1991. In 1996, she was elected to the Senate of Virginia. My delegate district shares four precincts with Senator Ticer's district.

Patsy currently serves as Chairman of the Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee. She has been a consistent voice for women, children, the environment, and progressive policies in the State Senate.

With her retirement our area will lose a reliable friend and ally for policies and programs that benefit the citizens of Mount Vernon and the U.S. 1 Corridor. Her steady presence and leadership will be missed.

Her successor will be selected sometime this fall. If a primary method of election is selected, it will take place on August 23.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Congress Slashes Metro Funding


Last week, I blogged about the new National Academy of Sciences study authorized by U.S. Senator Mark Warner. The Dixie Pig, NAS Says Feds Need to Pony Up for BRAC. The Report concluded that existing federal standards regarding federal contributions to local transportation improvements due to military relocations were inadequate and that the federal government needs to fund improvements for changes caused by BRAC.

Earlier this week, Congressional Republicans submitted a budget that entirely eliminated the $150 million per year contribution to Metro. This contribution was part of a multi-jurisdiction deal brokered by Congressman Tom Davis. Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia each contribute $50 million so that Metro received an additional $300 million per year to help with their multi-billion dollar maintenance backlog.

Congressman Connolly introduced legislation to restore the federal money, but House Republicans ruled it out of order. Yesterday, I spoke on the House Floor and demanded that the Governor get involved. The second-ranking Republican in Congress is from Virginia. Metro is a national concern and is a fundamental part of Northern Virginia's economic infrastructure. Northern Virginia powers the economy of this state and the State Budget. We shouldn't be treated this way.

Thousands of people in my district use Metro to get to work or pleasure every week. The extension of Metro will require cooperation and funding from the federal, state and local government. It is critical that we protect all of Metro's funding sources.

My speech, an interview with Congressman Connolly, and my press release are below.





Scott Surovell Press Release - Metro Funding 2-16-11

Weekly Column: House Budget Fails Our Schools, Transportation System

The following column appeared in the Mount Vernon Gazette, Mount Vernon Voice, and Patch.com on February 17, 2011:

The Budget took center stage this week in Richmond. Virginia budgets in two-year cycles. We passed the “big” budget last year. This year, the legislature tweaks
it to address changes in revenue or policy.

Under our system, the Governor proposes his amendments first, then the House and Senate pass competing measures which are then worked out in a conference committee and passed at end session. I voted no to the House amendments this week because of several serious flaws. First, the House reduced education spending by $92 million over what the Governor proposed - a $6 million cut for Fairfax County. The House also voted to mandate stricter physical education requirements – an $18 million mandate - but provided no additional funding . The state mandated standards of learning (SOL) testing be taken online this year - an $8 million unfunded mandate. If the state keeps mandating without funding, then Fairfax County will have to choose between higher real estate taxes or deferring the complete implementing full-day kindergarten. I voted against $34 million of unfunded mandates for Fairfax County Public Schools. This kind of irresponsible policy-making is not sustainable.

The House amendments also use $150 million of General Fund money to transportation to fund a “Transportation Infrastructure Bank” designed to float more bonds, i.e., to borrow. Transportation in Virginia has been historically funded with cash, not borrowing, and with gas taxes, 30 percent of which are paid by people who don’t live in Virginia.

Virginia’s General Fund money pays for schools, colleges and public safety. Most General Fund money we send to Richmond does not come back because Northern Virginians make more money and the state only funds 19% of our school budget. Dipping into General Fund money instead of the Transportation Trust Fund for roads not only compromises schools, colleges, and public safety, but it means that Northern Virginia taxpayers would pay for even more for downstate roads than already - in this state, services that everyone in Virginia should support. I stood up and spoke out against this on the House Floor and will continue to do so because it is not fair.

The House also passed a $2 million winery tax credit and a $25 million tax credit for corporations funding private school scholarships. A tax credit means lost revenue and this one is like asking every four-person Virginia family to write a $12 check to fund private school scholarships. I will not vote to fund wineries and private schools while we cut our public schools.

The House budget amendments also allowed localities to use Pre-School Initiative monies to fund full-day kindergarten, basically taking money from poor families to fund full-day kindergarten in more affluent areas instead of simply funding education directly. The House budget also prohibits stem cell research which will impede progress in curing diseases and limit opportunities for research and development and job growth in Virginia.

Finally, since the General Assembly failed to fully fund state employee (including teachers) pension obligations over the last decade, Virginia has a $17 billion unfunded pension liability. This is about one-half of a year’s worth of spending. The Governor proposed to stop the damage by undoing a 1983 agreement where state employees agreed to forego a raise and restructure the state pension plan to require employees to contribute five percent toward their pensions and to give them a three percent raise. The House and Senate Budgets basically rejected this proposal although in different ways.

Either way, this is a ticking time bomb that will ultimately affect our bond rating. We need to start funding these obligations now instead of continually pushing them off on to our kids.

Finally, last week, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce announced their Top 50 Transportation Projects in Virginia. U.S. 1 and a Yellow Line extension were not on the list. These projects will never happen without the support of the broader business community or statewide leadership. I hope the Governor and his team can help the downstate business community better understand our needs. We must start beating the drums now for the widening of U.S. 1 and extension of the Yellow Line. Look for me standing on a box on a street corner in Richmond with a megaphone.

Good government requires your involvement so please be in touch or come visit in Richmond so I can best represent you in the General Assembly. As always, you can find more information regarding my bills or my agenda on my blog – The Dixie Pig
(scottsurovell.blogspot.com). It is an honor to serve as your State Delegate.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

School Bus Fix Moves Towards Passage

Last Fall, a criminal defense attorney friend of mine pulled me aside in the courthouse and told me about an error he discovered in the statute that makes is Reckless Driving to pass a school bus. He told me that he thought I should put in a bill to fix it.

Here's the language.

A person is guilty of reckless driving who fails to stop, when approaching from any direction, any school bus which is stopped on any highway, private road or school driveway for the purpose of taking on or discharging children, the elderly, or mentally or physically handicapped persons, and to remain stopped until all the persons are clear of the highway, private road or school driveway and the bus is put in motion.

He pointed out to me that if you remove the parenthetical that was added in the 1970's, the statute reads like this and doesn't accomplish its purpose because it is missing the word "at":
A person is guilty of reckless driving who fails to stop . . . [AT] any school bus which is stopped on any highway, private road or school driveway for the purpose of taking on or discharging children, the elderly, or mentally or physically handicapped persons, and to remain stopped until all the persons are clear of the highway, private road or school driveway and the bus is put in motion.

I immediately agreed with his assessment and put in a request to for a bill in October. A few weeks later, a Circuit Court Judge agreed with his interpretation and the story hit the newspapers and television.

View more videos at: http://www.nbcwashington.com/?__source=embedCode.

I did not introduce the bill immediately because I did not want to highlight the error. Bills that are filed very early, tend to get more press attention and I did not want the press talking about it.

Now, the Washington Post is reporting that Fairfax County Police are reporting that school bus drivers are reporting increased incidents of people passing stopped school buses. Here's what the Washington Post reported:

"Professional bus drivers with years of experience told us they're seeing record numbers of motorists driving recklessly around buses picking up and discharging students," said Lt. Butch Gamble of the Fairfax police traffic safety division on Monday.

"In the past year, we have had four students hit by motorists while on their way to school," County Schools Superintendent Jack Dale said. "In one instance, a child was crossing the street in a crosswalk when he was hit. I urge all motorists to exercise extreme caution when driving near school buses and bus stops."
About two months after I introduced my bill, another delegate put an identical bill in. My bill was incorporated into his (a common practice when you are a freshman), and it was passed by the House on February 4, 2011. It is scheduled to be passed by the Senate tomorrow, back to us to confirm some amendments and then off to the Governor.

Hopefully, it will become law in short order.

Friday, February 11, 2011

$93 Million of K-12 Cuts


Yesterday, the House of Delegates voted to pass budget amendments proposing to cut over $92 million from the Governor's proposed budget. The final vote is here.

This is also after the Governor Office says there is $500 million in unanticipated new revenues. The House of Delegates voted to divert $150 million in General Fund monies to transportation (I voted no).

The Senate Budget Amendments do not do this.

The House of Delegates voted to cut K-12 education last year for the first time in anyone's recent memory (I voted no). I do not support further cuts to K-12 education. Virginia already gives Fairfax County only 19% of its school funding.

The House of Delegates also voted to do the following:

- Fund a $25 million tax credit for private school funding
- Mandated physical education classes which Fairfax County estimates will cost Fairfax County $8 million

This is at the same time Fairfax County Public Schools is struggling to find $8 million to fund full-day kindergarten.

You can see how much each school system is cut on the document below by comparing the column "HB 1500 As Introduced" with "Recommended House Budget FY 2012."

2011 HOD Budget Amendments - Education Aid Appendix

NAS Says Feds Need to Pony Up for BRAC

Last year, Senator Mark Warner pushed through legislation directing the National Academy of Sciences to study whether existing federal law on the funding of local transportation improvements relating to military facilities was adequate. The Washington Post also covered the report here.

Existing military regulations require a doubling of local traffic before the military will invest in local off-base transportation improvements. On U.S. 1, this would require traffic through the base to go from 60,000 cars per day to 120,000 cars per day because of BRAC. That's basically equal to interstate traffic and is an unrealistic standard. The study is now out.

The Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) recommended moving over 181,000 personnel to military bases. The largest relocation in the United States was the 24,100-person relocation to Fort Belvoir. The Belvoir relocation is expected to add 13,000 people to surrounding roads (1,200 cars per day to U.S. 1 near Woodlawn and thousands more south and west).



The study states the following:

The Fort Belvoir BRAC action will have significant adverse impacts on the region’s transportation system, but especially Fairfax County’s primary and secondary road network. … These adverse impacts are especially significant along Richmond Highway (U.S. Route 1), as it bisects the Main Post. … Additionally, Fairfax County’s secondary roads surrounding [the Main Post and Fort Belvoir North] will experience severe congestion, particularly during peak periods. This includes increases to delay times, queuing lengths, volume/capacity ratios (V/C) and overall degradation of the level of service (LOS) at numerous intersections. (DoD 2009, p. 50)

Deputy Garrison Commander Mark Moffatt reported to the committee that it can take 45 min to travel 1 mi in and around the Main Post during peak periods. Shuttles to the transit station 7.2 mi from the Main Post require 18 to 20 min in the peak and considerably longer in the off peak.
The report goes on to talk about the effects BRAC is expected to create.

Costs At least 30 major highway or transit projects have been identified as necessary to serve Fort Belvoir (including the Mark Center discussed next), only 10 of which have some funding and only four of which are fully funded (DoD 2009, p. 53). The estimated capital costs of unfunded BRAC-related transportation projects for the three Fort Belvoir facilities range from $626 million estimated by the Army to $1.9 billion estimated by Fairfax County and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) (DoD 2009). The latter estimate includes approximately $600 million to extend Metro to Fort Belvoir as well as road improvements not included in the
Army’s estimate. The implication of these remaining unresolved problems is that an already heavily congested area will become even more so when 13,000 additional employees, as well as hospital patients and contractors, are added to the traffic mix.
Finally, it goes on to talk about the long-term implications:

It is clear that many thousands of employees, both military and civilian, are being moved from employment centers located nearer the center of the region, with well developed highway and transit networks, to more remote locations further from the center where road and transit service is comparatively poor, where long experience has shown that competitive transit service is virtually impossible to achieve, and most people do and will travel in individual cars.

Existing transportation facilities serving the Fort Belvoir area are already overloaded and suffer severe congestion even before the new employees arrive. As discussed in Chapter 4, these changes are occurring when funds available for transportation improvements are inadequate and large backlogs of unfunded projects lie dormant on extended waiting lists. Even if funding were available, the time required to achieve planning and environmental clearances and public participation associated with new transportation facilities is outside the 2011 deadline locked into the BRAC legislation. Both military and local authorities charged with planning for these changes have been working diligently to solve these problems and have put in place some road expansions, planned new transit and shuttle services, and prepared aggressive traffic management plans. While they have found some new funds and reprioritized others, it is also clear that they have added to the long lists of unfunded transportation projects in the region. They have sounded warnings about possible dire conditions that may be on the horizon.

The report concludes by pointing out that existing federal law is not adequate to address the issues presented by BRAC relocations occurring in metropolitan areas. The report makes several significant recommendations:
  • Better coordination in developing base master plans between the military and local government;
  • Department of Defense should fund off-base transportation improvements;
  • The U.S. Department of Transportation should also coordinate transportation planning with military authorities;
  • The military needs to think more about transportation in making its personnel decisions;
  • The Federal Government should consider a special one-time appropriation to address the transportation problems created by BRAC.
Basically, it's time for the federal government to pony up for the disaster that's about to occur. Our federal elected officials - Senators Webb & Warner, and Congressmen Moran & Connolly are doing all they can to do this, but it's clear this is a national problem and time is running short to do something.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Senator Jim Webb's Retirement

Yesterday, our senior U.S. Senator, Jim Webb, announced his retirement.

Senator Webb is somewhat of an enigma as a politician. He once told me that he's the only U.S. Senator with a Union Card, three tatoos, and two Purple Hearts. He served as Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the Navy. He's written books and movie scripts. He's a very interesting guy.

I have vivid memories of his hotly contested U.S. Senate primary in the Spring and early summer of 2006 when I first met him. He won a hard-fought campaign which was famous for Senator Allen's the Maccaca Moment in late August. I was chair of the Mount Vernon Democratic Committee that year and we ran a constant battle against yard sign theft (here, here, and here). I have vivid memories of the Tyson's Hilton at midnight when Fairfax County's absentee ballots were reported, putting Senator Webb over the top and switching control of the U.S. Senate.

Senator Webb strongly felt that the Democratic Party lost its moorings in the 1970's and ceased its focus on working people and economic fairness. I couldn't agree with him more.

As a U.S. Senator he pushed a new G.I. Bill through, served as a measured voice on military policy, and improved our Asian relations. Senator Webb also was very focused on improving our criminal justice system. He expressed frequent concern about the plight of the poor in our country pointing out that you measure the strength of a society at its base, not its apex.

Senator Webb frequently pointed out that we have 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's prison population, we over-incarcerate the mentally ill, drug offender prison populations are up 1200% since 1980, and prisoner re-entry programs are virtually non-existent. His Commission passed Congress, but was never voted on in the Senate. In his remaining term, he will continue to press for movement on this issue.

While I did not agree with Senator Webb on everything, he has been a voice of reason and a passionate advocate for very important causes. Serving in public office is an incredibly time-consuming sacrifice. I can understand Senator Webb's desire to return to private life. His retirement will not only be a loss for Virginia, but also for our country.

Chief Justice Hassell Dies

Yesterday, Chief Justice Leroy Hassell passed away.

Justice Hassell grew up from humble beginnings in Norfolk and went on to attend Harvard Law School. He turned down a Rhodes Scholarship.

After practicing at McGuire Woods, he was appointed as the first African American Chief Justice on the Supreme Court of Virginia. He was appointed by Governor Gerald Baililes in 1989 at age 34. He served as Chief Justice from 2003-2011.

I have argued appeals to Justice Hassell on several occasions. In my first appearance before him in 1999, I asked the Court to accept an appeal of a case involving fraud in the sale of a $4,500 car. I have a vivid memory of my opposing counsel trying to minimize what his client had done and Justice Hassell cutting him off and reminding him that fraud was a very serious, nearly criminal matter and that having adequate remedies for fraud was a very important deal to him. I went on to lose my appeal with Justice Hassell in dissent, but his passion for justice was undeniable.

He passed away at age 55.

Weekly Column: Governor's Transportation Plan Shortchanges Fairfax County

The following column appeared in the Mount Vernon Gazette and Mount Vernon Voice on February 10, 2011:

Governor’s Transportation Plan Shortchanges Fairfax County

Last week, I voted against Governor McDonnell’s transportation
plan. I had several concerns.

First, the Virginia Department of Transportation estimates our construction revenue shortfall to be $6-7 billion every year. The Governor’s plan will provide enough money to fund Virginia’s construction needs for about nine months and does nothing – zero -- to fund our rising road maintenance shortfall which results in the potholes you see on Fort Hunt Road, deteriorating sidewalks, and crumbling bridges. As it stands, the plan is a band-aid on a hemorrhage. We should be focusing on long-term solutions, reliable funding sources instead of minor patches that give the public an impression that we are solving this problem.

Second, the plan is almost entirely debt spending. The largest component of the plan is $4.3 billion in debt. The project schedule given out by the Governor included only $540,000 or 0.02% for the 44th District (U.S. 1). Only 6.65% of the projects are in Fairfax County although we have 13.5% of the State population and 75% of its traffic. This is unacceptable.

To engage in this debt spending, the Governor had to convince the state’s Debt Capacity Advisory Committee to change its long-standing debt limit formula so that the state would be legally permitted to borrow more money. Additionally, historically, state debt has primarily been used to support higher education, not roads which are normally funded with cash. If $4.3 billion in new bonds are issued, there will be no remaining debt capacity to issue bonds to expand Virginia’s colleges and universities for the foreseeable future. I have serious reservations about sacrificing the expansion of our struggling higher education system that is already rejecting over-qualified students because of the schools’ limited capacity.

The second component of the Governor’s plan was a “Transportation Infrastructure Bank.” This “bank” was entirely funded with General Fund money – revenues now used to support schools, health care for the poor and disabled and public safety – which would then used to pay the debt service on even more bonds. The General Fund is already out of money. Adding new obligations to it and taking funds away from other legitimate needs is not realistic.

The Governor is also proposing to use GARVEE bonds, more debt secured by future toll revenues. The federal government pays the interest on the bonds, but the new majority in the U.S. House of Representatives has indicated that they would like to eliminate the GARVEE program to help shrink the federal deficit.

The Senate has amended the Governor’s transportation plan and a compromise will be worked out in a House-Senate conference committee. I will evaluate the new bill when it emerges, but given the starting point, it is highly unlikely that anything will emerge this session that provides any relief to my constituents, the U.S. 1 corridor and Northern Virginia’s schlerotic transportation system. Stay tuned.

The House and Senate proposed their budget amendments this week. The Senate included language to fund the U.S. 1 Transit Study. The House bill did not. Senator Toddy Puller and I will work hard to see that this language is included in the final budget at the end of the session.

The House of Delegates also approved two of my bills and sent them to the Senate. The House also passed two other bills that I authored but were carried by another delegate, at my request due to filing limits. Five of my bills were also referred for studies. I will write more about these in subsequent columns.

The House of Delegates has also been focused on a slew of social and federal issues. For example, we voted on whether to give criminal and civil immunity to people who shoot people in their homes and numerous bills targeting undocumented immigrants. We passed five resolutions condemning the federal government and we reaffirmed state sovereignty and the importance of the 10th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. Most of these bills will likely die in the Senate. I am disappointed that my colleagues are focusing our limited time here on hot button social issues like these instead of improving education, transportation and the economy.

Over 700 households responded to my constituent survey. Please read my blog, The Dixie Pig at scottsurovell.blogspot.com regarding the results. You can also comment on legislation, set up a meeting or request a Capitol tour at http://www.scottsurovell.org/.

Good government requires your involvement so please be in touch or come visit in Richmond so I can best represent you in the General Assembly. It is an honor to serve as your State Delegate.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

U.S. 1 & Yellow Line Not on Anyone's Lists

One thing that I always on the front of my mind is how do we get the improvement of U.S. 1 and the extension of Metro to the top of everyone's list (let me know what you think of my new map on the right). There won't be any funding for anything until there is a broad consensus that the condition of U.S. 1 and the extension of the Yellow Line is a priority.

Yesterday, in a story entitled "What Do Va. Comuters Need?", Dr. Gridlock reported that the organization TRIP reported on the Top 50 Transportation Projects that need to be funded in Virginia. U.S. 1 and the extension of the Yellow Line are not on it.

The Governor's Office has given me a list of projects that they expect to fund with their transportation plan. There is one small project $540,000 project to realign Old Mill Road with Mount Vernon Memorial Highway. Other than that, nothing for U.S. 1.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance has a list of Northern Virginia Regional Priorities. It only has one transit project listed (Metro to Dulles) and U.S. 1 and the extension of the Yellow Line are not on it.

My number one focus is getting U.S. 1 and the Yellow Line extension on to everyone's list. In the meantime, we must do the following so that when funding is available, we will be in the best position to achieve it:
  • Complete the U.S. 1 Transit Study;
  • Update our environmental impact statement;
  • Revise the U.S. 1 Centerline Study;
  • Agree on a U.S. 1 Transit option; and
  • If light rail or a Metro Extension is adopted as a feasible option, then Metro must agree to make a Yellow Line extension part of their extension.
As Senator Puller and I wrote last July in the Washington Post - to make this happen it will also take a joint Task Force encompassing local, state, federal leaders along with citizens' grounds, the Mount Vernon Lee Chamber of Commerce and affected property owners to bring this to some conclusion.
It will also take some money from Virginia and statewide attention which is why I wrote an editorial this past summer that appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch.
There's no question the above process will take some time, but until that happens, we will not appear on any list. In the meantime, I intend to make as much noise as possible so that our part of Fairfax County is heard from.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

RTD Endorses Surovell Tax Cheat Whistleblower Legislation

Practicing law and litigating financial disputes, I get to look at a lot of financial statements and tax returns for quite a few businesses and people. One thing that has always shocked me is the amount of tax fraud that is out there and the lack of government enforcement.

Our tax system is largely based upon the honor system - honesty and voluntary compliance. Most people get a paycheck from someone else. Your income is reported to the IRS via a W-2 or 1099. Dividend income, capital gains from stock and mutual fund sales, mortgage interest, and real estate taxes paid are electronically reported by two parties. If you don't report all of it or claim too much of some deductions, the IRS computers will flag you and you will get assessed for a deficiency and the burden is on you to prove they are wrong.

Some estimates say that thirty to forty percent of taxpayers cheat on their returns. Estimates say this costs the federal government at least $300 to $400 billion per year - four times the Virginia Budget.

In Virginia, people who actually live in Virginia claim they live in other states to avoid paying 5.75% Virginia income taxes.

When it comes to small business, there are no computerized checks on gross income or business expenses. Most business owners over-deduct for cars, mobile phones, home offices, and equipment (computers) used for businesses that are primarily used for personal purposes. People claim life insurance is "key-man" insurance when it's really just regular life insurance. I could go on - I've seen some very creative accounting. Many businesses for sale like laundromats or restaurants openly brag about the percentage of their revenue in cash as a selling point - the implication being you can not report all of it.

It's not just income taxes. When I was a Governor's Fellow working in the Department of Motor Vehicles I learned about gas tax fraud. The mafia was bringing down tanker trucks full of heating oil and selling it as diesel gas (it is chemically identical) on I-81. Gas stations were listing gas for retail under the wholesale price because they weren't paying $0.33/gal. of state and federal gas taxes. Failure to report implicates meals taxes, hotel taxes and event taxes.

In the early days of the Bush Administration, IRS enforcement programs were completely gutted and largely defunded. Random audits dropped. Only 1% of taxpayers allegedly earning under $100,000 per year are audited. For people making $200,000 per year it's 3% and if you're lucky enough to make over $1,000,000 per year 8% odds.

In 2006, the U.S. Congress authorized an expanded whistleblower reward program. The regulations were implemented around 2008. If you blow the whistle on a federal tax cheat, you can receive a reward of between 15% to 30% of the recovery. However, I was surprised that Virginia has no similar program although tipping off the federal government is likely to result in recovered Virginia tax revenue. I did not think that was right.

California, Indiana, Illinois, Nevada and Rhode Island have adopted their own whistleblower reward programs, and I introduced HB 1805 which would have created a similar program in Virginia. Today, the Richmond Times Dispatch issued an editorial supporting my bill:

Start Snitchin'?

Using ordinary citizens as an extra set of eyes and ears for law enforcement is nothing new, and lawmakers do not seem to have tired of the concept —– as two bills introduced this year at the General Assembly attest.

HB1805 would award payments to citizens who brought tax-dodgers to state attention. The whistleblower could get up to 30 percent of the delinquent taxes collected. So far, so good. However, the legislation stipulates that the award system does not apply when the tax dodger earns less than $100,000 (or, for a business, $500,000).

Why the cutoff line? The entire notion of the rule of law rests on the principle that a person's station in life does not determine how the government treats him. A scofflaw is a scofflaw — period....

The House has passed the two measures by for the year, meaning they won't be taken up again until next session. Still, the mind wonders: Shouldn't Virginia lawmakers stand up for the toiling and exploited masses everywhere? Or are they singling out strip clubs in the hopes of doing some, er, undercover investigation?



At the Committee hearing on the bill, no one spoke against it and no one spoke for it. The Department of Taxation said they were agnostic about it. The bill was tabled although one member told me he thought it was a good idea.

If I'm lucky enough to be back next year, I will be refiling this one. Cheating on your taxes is un-American and I have zero tolerance for it.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Revisiting the Poll Tax - One More Time

For the last two sessions we have seen efforts to restrict an individual's right to vote. Last year, we fought over legislation that would have prohibited anyone from voting without a driver's license. I spoke out on the floor and blogged about it here:


Delegate Jennifer McClellan also gave a great speech about the problems African Americans had getting a identification due to discrimination in the Jim Crow days. You can watch her speech is in the post above as well. After our floor debate, the bill was pulled and not debated.

This year, HB 1560 was introduced. It requires a registrant to vote provisionally if you do not have a picture ID. When you vote provisionally, your vote is not counted until post-election canvass 1-3 days after an election and it is subject to challenge. If your vote is challenged and you are not there to present evidence and prove your identity, your vote might not be counted.
This could present a huge impediment to voting to large numbers of elderly voters in my district or working poor on U.S. 1 who have limited access to transportation. Being the grandson of people who were poll taxed, literacy tested and thoroughly intimidated by Virginia election officials who did not like their politics in the 30's and 40's, this is something that I am very passionate about.



This year, this legislation passed the House of Delegates 68-31. Hopefully, the Senate will do the right thing.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Satisfying My Constituents' Needs

Last Tuesday, my wife and kids came and visited me at the Capitol. They saw their daddy in his office, and then observed us in action from the Gallery where I introduced them as "three constituents from Waynewood Elementary School, one constituent from my alma mater Tauxemont Preschool...." After that it was off to the Richmond Science Museum and they left me to make sausage with my colleagues.

Per my mother, my son, Colin (Age 4), had the following conversation with his preschool teacher, Mrs. Matthews ("MM") during "Sharing Time" today upon his return to Tauxemont Preschool.

Ms. Matthews: Colin, you went to Richmond?

Colin: Yes.

Ms. Matthews: What did you do in Richmond?

Colin: I went to Daddy’s office.

Ms. Matthews: Was it a big office?

Colin: Yes

Ms. Matthews: What did you do there?

Colin: I ate M&Ms.

Ms. Matthews: Did you eat one or two?

Colin: I ate a whole lot of M&Ms. Mara and Leia and Eva did too. They were good. I like M&Ms. Daddy has lots of M&Ms.

Ms. Matthews: What letter was on them?

Colin: M! Two Ms!

No one better ever accuse me of not appreciating my constituents' needs.

Weekly Column: Young Leaders Visit, Fighting for Fair Transportation Funding and Improving Access to Childcare

The following column appeared in the Mount Vernon Gazette and Mount Vernon Voice on February 3, 2011:

The legislative session is now moving at a furious pace. On Monday, I presented one bill at 7:00 a.m., a bill and a budget amendment at 8:30 a.m., another bill at 10:00 a.m., our caucus met at 11:30 a.m., and our floor session ran for two hours at noon. Our committees are all pressing to complete action on bills so that they can be heard before next “Crossover Day” next Tuesday when the House and Senate swap bills.
Also, I was honored by a visit from my Young Leaders this week. Delegate Amundson started the Young Leaders Program and we restarted it this year. I was visited by four students from West Potomac and two from Mount Vernon. The program introduces students to state policy and state government. The students met several policy makers, myself and Senator Puller, attended committee hearings, and watched a floor session. During one committee hearing, they were able to observe debate on repealing the state gay marriage ban, a constitutional limit on state debt, and restoration of felon voting rights. They are now beginning to work on a project as a result of their visit. I appreciate the support of Cox Communications who helped to cover the program’s cost.
My bills are also moving through the system. Although not adopted, several of my bills were referred for study. The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) decides which transportation projects to fund in Virginia. It has ten commissioners representing each transportation district and four at-large members who represent the interests of transit, rail, airports, and ports. The transportation districts are based on the 1930’s congressional district lines, plus a Northern Virginia seat that was added in 1985. Presently, the three urban/suburban districts have 62% of the state’s population and 3 of 10 votes. The rural districts have 38% of the state’s population and 7 of 10 votes.
My legislation requires the commissioners to be appointed based upon congressional districts. It would more than triple Northern Virginia’s current representation plus help Hampton Roads and Richmond. It would give Northern Virginia the seat at the table that it deserves. The Governor’s Office and Transportation Subcommittee agreed this needs to be addressed so it was referred to the Governor McDonnell’s Government Reform Commission for further study.
Senator Puller’s U.S. 1 Transit Study resolution is moving through the Senate and the Secretary of Transportation continues to assure me that my budget amendment to fund it should be included in the final budget. I am hopeful we are finally seeing some progress.
During my campaign, I noted that there were fourteen preschools east of U.S. 1 and not a single preschool or childcare center on the west side of U.S. 1 (Woodlawn, Janna Lee, Hybla Valley & Groveton) in my district. After several meetings of my Preschool and Childcare Working Group, I introduced legislation this year to ask the Department of Social Services to study ways to maximize federal childcare matching funds and increase the availability of subsidized childcare in Virginia. There are 20,000 children on Virginia’s subsidized childcare waiting list and 2,000 in Fairfax County – many of which are in the U.S. 1 Corridor. Making high quality childcare and preschool more affordable and available to families in our community is critical to improving our school performance. My legislation was amended and then tabled this year with a commitment from the Department to further study the measure over the next year and revisit the issue in 2011.
About 100 constituents attended my Town Hall Meeting with Senator Toddy Puller on Saturday, January 29. We had a two-hour discussion on a wide variety of topics ranging from redistricting, retirement benefits, and education funding to the extension of the Yellow Line and transit expansion. It was great to be back home and get some feedback on how we are doing.
Also, nearly 700 households have responded to my constituent survey. Improving the economy, working on transportation and education were the top three issues. A majority of respondents did not favor further cuts to the state budget and said we should consider raising taxes. A majority of respondents also favored some form of modest tax increase for transportation. If you are interested, I will be posting more complete results on my blog, The Dixie Pig at scottsurovell.blogspot.com over the next two weeks. You can also continue to submit feedback online at www.scottsurovell.net/survey.
You can also comment on legislation, set up a meeting or request a Capitol tour at www.scottsurovell.net. Good government requires your involvement so please be in touch or come visit in Richmond so I can best represent you in the General Assembly. It is an honor to serve as your State Delegate.
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