The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, the Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch in the week of January 1, 2013.
Some of My 2013 Legislative Agenda
The 2013 Virginia General Assembly will convene on January 8 in Richmond for a 45-day or “short” session.
I would like to share with you some of the bills and budget amendments that I will propose. Next week, I will talk about some of the broader issues in play this session.
When I requested suggestions from my constituents, I received over 50 ideas and I considered all of them in putting together my agenda. Thank you.
I covered one of my bills in my column two weeks ago , a bill to prohibit use of a mobile phone while driving for any purposes other than a voice call.
Improving U.S. 1
Richmond Highway/U.S. 1 continues to be a top focus. For the fourth time, I will introduce legislation to reorganize the Commonwealth Transportation Board (“CTB”) . The CTB decides how transportation dollars are spent in Virginia and where. Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads and Richmond have 66% of the state’s population but only 33% of the regional votes on the Board. My legislation passed the House with broad bipartisan support last year, but was tabled in the Senate. I’ve worked with the McDonnell Administration over the summer and I am optimistic this round.
Senators Toddy Puller, Adam Ebbin and I are working to secure $2 million to fund the balance needed to complete a required study of U.S. 1 to initiate road widening and transit improvements. I am also hoping to secure Fairfax County’s authority to limit the number of car title lenders, payday lenders and precious metal dealers (“We Buy Gold”!) that can operate in specific areas.
My creek cleanups have removed 136 shopping carts from Little Hunting Creek over the last year. I am considering legislation to give Fairfax County additional authority to fine retailers for abandoned shopping carts.
Preventing Violence, Enhancing Learning
I will introduce legislation to require community colleges to have a mental health coordinator and a plan in place to refer students who are in distress to counseling services. This was the top recommendation from the Virginia Tech Shooting Commission.
This past year, the Fairfax County instituted an online textbook program. Many low income families in my district do not have broadband internet or home computers. It is not fair for a public school to give tools to one child that cannot be used by another at home because of income disparities. Some school systems have also refused to help market affordable broadband programs. I will introduce legislation to prohibit the use of online textbooks unless a school system can show they’ve taken steps to ensure that every child has home access to broadband and a home computer.
I hope to require the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to electronically transmit address changes to local voter registrars instead of requiring voters to request and file separate paperwork. I will also introduce a bill to require the Supreme Court of Virginia to study providing law clerks to every Circuit Court Judge in the state reducing the need for judgeships by allowing judges to spend more time on the bench instead of processing routine paperwork. It could save taxpayers millions of dollars.
I hope to allow parents to file one petition in child custody cases instead of two per child, the practice currently required. Also, I will introduce legislation requiring court-appointed counsel in appeals to file voluminous records electronically. If this becomes law, taxpayers will not have to fund thousands of pages of copying expenses at $0.37 per copy and more funds will be freed up to provide representation to indigent parties.
Less-Polluting EnergyVirginia’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard allows utilities to charge Virginia homes and businesses millions in extra fees for purchasing a certain amount of renewable energy. Virginia utilities are currently collecting over $50 million per year for putting no new renewable energy on the grid or developing Virginia jobs. I will introduce legislation to require all renewable energy to be generated in Virginia from new sources and to expand the definition of “solar energy” to include “solar thermal systems.”
As always, there is more information in my online newsletter at scottsurovell.blogspot.com or my website at www.scottsurovell.org and you can always send me a note at email@example.com. It is an honor to serve as your voice in Richmond. Please share your views and suggestions.