Bipartisan Transportation Progress and A Week of Controversy
This week brings the midpoint of the General Assembly Session and “Crossover Day” – the day that the House and Senate must finish all work on bills originating from their own chambers.
After three years of work, my legislation to “redistricting” the Commonwealth Transportation Board (“CTB”) passed the House of Delegates. The CTB decides where transportation dollars are spent. There are nine commissioners representing districts derived from the congressional districts in 1930. Today, Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads and Richmond have 64.95% of Virginia’s population and three of nine regional votes. The other six districts represent 35.05% of the state and have six of nine regional votes. My bill requires representation based on current congressional districts.
This year, my bill was introduced by several Republican delegates and two state senators. On Monday, Delegate Tom Rust’s version of which I was Chief Co-Sponsor passed the House of Delegates on a 51-47 vote including 27 Republicans and 24 Democrats. The bill will move on to the Senate where a similar version was tabled for studying. I will be lobbying members over the next two weeks to see if we can move it through.
Historically, Virginia Northern Virginia worked with Southside and Southwest on transportation. That alliance is dead. This was the first time that Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, and Richmond stood together on transportation and it lays the groundwork for future cooperation. My Republican colleagues Delegate Tom Rust from Herndon and Delegate Chris Peace of Hanover were critical partners in the effort.
The rest of our week was spent on extremely divisive legislation. The House passed legislation mandating ultrasounds within twenty-four hours of an abortion, including invasive vaginal ultrasounds that are required in early pregnancies. We passed legislation defining human life as beginning at conception. Our caucus attempted to add a contraception exception, but this was rejected by the majority on a 64-34 vote. I voted against all of this legislation.
The House passed legislation expanding the death penalty, requiring police officers to inquire into someone’s place of birth upon arrest, prohibit public access to concealed weapon applications, and expand Virginia’s Castle Doctrine to allow someone to kill a person “unlawfully” in a “dwelling” if they feared any injury. For 400 years, Virginia Law has required one to fear death before being able to repel a person with deadly force. I gave a floor speech describing my concerns about the expansion of the Castle Doctrine you can watch on my website and I voted against all of this legislation.
The House passed the “Tim Tebow” Law allowing homeschooled children to play high school sports. I voted against this bill for several reasons. First, Fairfax County has grading and disciplinary policies that do not apply to homeschooled kids. A double standard would not be fair. Second, I do not view public schools as an a la carte system. Allowing people to pick and choose government services plays chaos with planning and extra-curricular activities are about a lot more than simply sports.
We passed legislation giving corporations tax credits for contributions to organizations that provide private school scholarships to children eligible for free and reduced lunches. I believe this violates the Constitution of Virginia’s prohibition on state support of private schools, contributions to charities, and support of religious education. I also do not see why existing charitable tax deductions are not sufficient to incentivize contributions today or why the Government should specifically preference contributions to private schools for turbo-charged tax status over other worthy causes. I am sure if asked, every charity on Route 1 could make the case that they deserve a tax credit as well.
It has been a long week. The coming weeks will shift the focus to bills from the Senate and the State Budget. We are still facing a $1 billion budget shortfall and there is little agreement about what to cut, plus the Lieutenant Governor cannot vote to break a tie on the budget.
I have now received over 500 responses to my survey. Please keep them coming and please continue the feedback on legislation this session. I have written over 280 articles like this on my blog – The Dixie Pig – at scottsurovell.blogspot.com, you can keep up on my website, or send me email at email@example.com.
It is an honor to serve as your state delegate.