How Much Have We Lost?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sales Tax Holiday #1: Emergency Preparedness

Yesterday marked the start of a week long sales tax (5%) holiday on emergency preparedness equipment. As we watch parts of the Commonwealth and the nation recover from severe weather, we should make sure we're ready to cope with hurricane season and other natural disasters.

Until next Tuesday May 31, many emergency preparedness items, including flashlights, first aid kits and bottled water are exempt from Virginia Sales Tax. The list can be found on the Department of Taxation website.

List of Tax Exempt Emergency Preparedness Products


This weekend is the time to buy batteries, bottled water, flash lights, portable generators, cell phone chargers, bungee cords, and tarpaulins.

There are two other scheduled sales tax holidays this year- for school supplies(in August) and for energy and water efficient products(in October). I'll be sure to mention them as they approach.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Autism Insurance Coverage & Making a Difference

This year, we finally passed legislation that requires medical insurance companies that are regulated by the Commonwealth of Virginia to cover certain kinds of services for autistic children up to $35,000 called applied behavior analysis. These services can cost up to $50,000 per year for families, but they are proven to work and to reduce the need for services in the future.

Autism diagnoses are exploding and the pressure is mounting on Virginia's Community Services Boards as autistic children become adults. While not perfect, this legislation will provide some welcome relief to families who have been struggling to pay for these services.

The cost to insurance policies was predicted to be minimal, but the business community generally opposed the legislation for various reasons. The bill was also opposed by Tea Party groups due to their opposition to health care mandates.

From my point of view, the entire point of insurance is to spread the cost of sickness across our entire population so that people who have the misfortune to have an ailment do not bear the entire financial brunt of their condition. Excluding a specific proven therapy for children was inexcusable, especially in light of the exploding incidence of this condition.

I recently emailed a friend who has an autistic child to let her know the legislation had passed. The autism community is pretty tight and she already knew, but her email was still inspiring.

Hi Scott,

Thank you so much for the email and your support of the bill. I am
thrilled with the passage and confess that I am still holding my breath, too
good to be true:-)


Lucy is seven now and though we have always had what is considered great coverage, not a penny was ever covered by our carrier for ABA and Luci's autism needs.

We continue to live under the debt we incurred which was huge. That being said, if we had to move to a one room shack somewhere, it was worth every penny for the early intervention.

Lucy is thriving in first grade thanks to money well spent and will not be a burden of the State of Virginia when she is older because of what we did on credit
cards:-)


Your work is most appreciated and I hope you keep up the fight for not only our kids with autism but all of Virginia's children:-)

Emails like that help you remember that every vote we take in Richmond has consequences in real people's lives.

I'm glad we were able to get it done.

Virtual Tour of New Mt. Vernon Library

On April 14, the Mount Vernon Estate held a formal ground breaking for their new $30 million library that will be constructed in the forest between the Post Office and Mount Vernon Memorial Highway.

You can read some data points regarding the library here.

They have also posted this virtual tour of the new library which is pretty cool.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Petition for the Future of U.S. 1

During my election campaign in 2009, as I knocked doors throughout the 44th District, I kept hearing the same thing from people- we need to do something about Route 1.

The condition of Route 1 is not just a traffic problem. It's an economic development, environmental, jobs, and quality of life issue. The improvement of Route 1 is the most critical issue in our community.

This year, the McDonnell Administration thankfully agreed to fund the Route 1 Transit Study which is a legally necessary small first step, but there are many more legally required steps before the road can be improved or the Yellow Line extended.

This year, we passed legislation speeding up $3 billion of transportation spending. The Governor announced a proposed project list and there is not one single project involving Route 1 between Alexandria and Fort Belvoir on the Six Year Plan.

Unless this is changed immediately, the remaining planning to improve Route 1 cannot even begin until 2017 at the earliest. If planning waits for six years from now, engineering and right of way purchases would start some time after 2020 and actual construction would begin sometime after my four year-old son goes to college.

Your community needs your help right now. Last week, I was one of only two legislators at a public hearing - click here to watch my speech demanding action. Public comment closes on the next Six Year Improvement Plan on May 27. Here's what you can do.

Step #1 - Sign my online petition demanding that Route 1 be added to the V.D.O.T. Six Year Improvement Plan.

Step #2 - Write a letter to Governor McDonnell and Secretary Connaughton.


Governor Robert F. McDonnell
P.O. Box 1475
Richmond, VA 23218

Secretary Sean Connaughton
Virginia Department of Transportation
P.O. Box 1475
Richmond, VA 23218

Step #3 - Forward the petition to all of your friends in the Mt. Vernon Community.

The future of our community depends on it.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tell the State to Improve U.S. 1

The following column appeared in the Mount Vernon Gazette, Mount Vernon Voice, and Patch.com on May 7, 2011:


Virginia has announced the draft transportation Six-Year Improvement Plan, a plan that includes the $34 million long-delayed and long-needed widening of Telegraph Road , but there is not a single project or dollar listed in the 22306, 22307, 22308 or 22309 zip codes. Route 1 was left off the list yet again.

Last week, I was one of two state legislators who spoke at the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s (CTB) public hearing on the draft plan. (You can watch video of my comments on my blog, The Dixie Pig at scottsurovell.blogspot.com.)

I made several points. First, I thanked the McDonnell Administration for agreeing to fund the U.S. 1 Transit Study after a six-year wait. This is the first legally-required step to improve U.S. 1. However, none of the legally-required steps after that study were included in the Six-Year Improvement Plan at all.

The Route 1 Transit Study will take three years to complete. A Route 1 Centerline Study must also be completed to confirm the center line of the road. That process involves public hearings and environmental reviews.

Once these two studies are done, VDOT can do preliminary engineering and make right-of-way purchases. Then construction can start. VDOT has neither planned or budgeted for any of these steps.

I argued to the CTB that while there are dozens of million-dollar projects scheduled in the northern and western parts of Fairfax County, the eastern part of Fairfaxs has not and still will not be receiving infrastructure investments necessary to sustain our quality of life, not even a small study.

CTB is accepting public comments until May 27. I am gathering petition signatures asking the Commonwealth Transportation Board to add the Route 1 Centerline Study, preliminary engineering and right-of-way acquisition to the current Six-Year Improvement Plan. Please take two minutes and sign the petition online at www.bit.ly/route1petition.

I also encourage you to write directly to the Board. You can find information on the petition site or my blog The Dixie Pig (http://scottsurovell.blogspot.com/) as well.

Maintenance, Mowing Lag
By law, regular revenues in the Transportation Trust Fund are distributed to administrative costs first, maintenance second and construction last. The state gas tax is levied in pennies per gallon. As cars have become more efficient and gas prices have risen, people are using less gas per mile and generating less revenue per miles driven.

Plus, while today’s gas tax ($0.175/gal.) is still the same as when I was a sophomore at West Potomac High School in 1987 and gas cost $0.99/gal., now it's almost $4.00 and the cost of concrete, steel, asphalt and labor has gone up. Maintenance has completely consumed the highway construction budget.

Secondary roads are the ones numbered 600 and higher. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) allocates funds to localities every year to construct secondary road improvements. Fairfax County’s secondary road allocation went from $28 million two years ago to $1,800 last year and $0 – zero -- this year. It will remain $0 into the future unless there is a new infusion of revenues. Additionally, road maintenance is being deferred. This includes paving, which is why Fort Hunt Road resembles rumble strips in some patches. Today, there are 2,500 and growing lane miles of substandard secondary roads in Fairfax County.

Spring is here, it’s been raining, and road medians are starting to resemble prairies. Because of funding shortfalls, VDOT has laid off 30 percent of its employees in the last three years and has cut way back on mowing.

One neighborhood association in Stratford contacted me asking to take over maintenance of a right-of-way. VDOT will agree to allow organizations to maintain medians if certain procedures are followed and a formal contract is signed. If your local association would like to look into this, please contact my office and we can connect you with VDOT.

It is an honor to be your state delegate in Richmond.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

New Six Year VDOT Plan Skips Route 1

In Virginia, the projects to be constructed are decided by the Commonwealth Transportation Board or the CTB. The CTB includes one member from each of Virginia's 10 transportation districts, plus four at-large members and a few others. The construction schedule is contained in something called the Six Year Improvement Program or the SYIP.

Over the last few years, the CTB has been taking projects off the SYIP because of declining revenues. However, this past session, the legislator approved $3.4 billion in new spending by accelerating planned bond sales. The CTB is now advertising a new proposed SYIP.

You can view a presentation on the new plan here or search for projects in the SYIP by clicking here. You can search by zip code or road.

Tonight, I gave public testimony which you can watch my comments or read (what I meant to say) by clicking below:


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

2nd Annual Cinco de Surovell!

CAMPAIGN KICKOFF
and

Saturday, May 7, 2011

2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

With Former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe


Dos Equis on Tap, Food by Chevy's and Live Music With
Las Mariachi Estrellas

Donations Not Required But Appreciated!


Paid for and Authorized by Surovell for Delegate

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The New 44th District

After passing one bill, a Governor's veto, and a weeks worth of negotiating, the General Assembly passed a new redistricting plan that was signed by Governor McDonnell on Friday. The plan will now go to the Department of Justice for preclearance pursuant to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The legislature put Westgate Precinct into Delegate Albo's district and Huntington Precinct into Delegate Sickles District. Kirkside Precinct (Gum Springs, Hollin Hills, Kirkside), Marlan Precinct (Bucknell, Marlan Forest, Villamay & Hollin Glen), most of Hayfield Precinct, and part of Belvoir Precinct (the main post plus Accotink Village) were added.

You can see the difference in the map below. The pink is everything that stayed the same. The red are new parts of the 44th, and blue are the parts that were removed.


View 44th District 2011 Redistricting in a larger map

I'm pleased that the new district keeps the Mount Vernon community mostly together. Many other communities were chopped in pieces. However, I'm disappointed to lose my constituents in Westgate and Huntington Precincts.

I've always thought high school boundaries are a good way to look at communities of interest. The 44th district loses one elementary school territory - Mount Eagle - and picks up Hayfield Elementary and Fort Belvoir Elementary School - the largest elementary school in Fairfax County. Plus, the 44th District picks up students that attend Hayfield High School.

From my point of view, the redistricting process is seriously flawed. Voters should pick their elected officials - elected officials should not pick their voters. The present system is designed to minimize public input and maximize incumbent protection. It is time to pass nonpartisan redistricting when the next redistricting is ten years away and no one knows how it will affect things.

It is nice for this to be over. I have been away from my job and family too much and it is nice to be back home.
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