The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, the Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch in the week of January 29, 2013.
A Week of Sunshine, Online Textbooks and Car Title Lenders
Last week in the General Assembly was a busy one. I have introduced 15 bills, three constitutional amendments, one study resolution, seven budget amendments, and I am Chief Co-Patron on four bills. In two days, I presented twelve bills, cast about three hundred votes at four different committee hearings and two floor sessions. As a child of the 80s, it’s more like the late stages of Atari Missile Command (see left).
One would require the State Corporation Commission (SCC) to abide by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The SCC is an independent agency that regulates Virginia utilities, insurance, securities and corporations. My legislation to allow real estate brokers to determine who can close down their business upon death was also referred to the Housing Commission for analysis. Right now, it’s a race to the Realtor Board which is unfair to owners and heirs.
I also presented legislation highlighting the problems of low-income and rural children could have accessing online text books if schools move that direction. Three different Fairfax County students travelled to Richmond and testified including Cameron Coleman from Carl Sandburg Middle School. Each youngster talked about classmates without broadband or computers at home who could not do their homework. My legislation was referred to the Virginia Broadband Commission and Virginia Commission on Technology for study.
Several of my bills were killed this week. Currently, it’s harder to prove breath alcohol concentrations in personal injury cases, than criminal prosecutions. It’s usually the other way around because the legal system creates higher burdens when liberty is at stake instead of only money. My legislation to streamline evidentiary requirements was killed largely because the insurance industry argued that holding drunk drivers accountable for the injuries they cause would increase insurance premiums.
The General Assembly broadened car title lending in the 2011 session over my objection. Since then, seven new non-bank lenders have appeared on U.S. 1 and there are now 11 car title lenders, pay day lenders, check cashers or “We Buy Gold” shops between Huntington Avenue and Woodlawn. I am troubled by these businesses because if a consumer borrows $1,500 from a car title lender at the Virginia maximum legal interest rate of 22% per month for twelve months, they have to pay back over $5,400. This is predatory.
The U.S. 1 corridor has 10% of Fairfax County’s population and over 30% of its licensed car title lenders. Our proximity to the District of Columbia and Maryland (and a casino very soon) – who have tight restrictions on these businesses – creates even more demand. While Fairfax County has always had the authority to limit pawn brokers and currently limits them to one per supervisor district, the county has no zoning authority to limit others.
My legislation was killed unanimously after the car title lender lobbyists testified that they were only responding to demand and that the free market should govern. We need more high-end, family-oriented businesses in the U.S 1 corridor – not car title lenders and quick cash joints.
The Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee, on which I serve, approved legislation prohibiting Virginia law enforcement and governments from cooperating in the enforcement of any new federal gun laws enacted after the Newtown, Connecticut, incident. I voted no. I crossed examined the advocates in committee. One delegate pointed out that he was unaware of a successful state nullification effort since the end of the Civil War at Appomattox, but that doesn’t seem to dissuade my colleagues. The bill passed on a party-line vote and goes to the full House this week.
We are still waiting to see what happens on redistricting of state Senate districts. I will vote no on any attempt to draw new district lines outside of the decennial cycle.
Legislation making texting a primary offense and chargeable as Reckless driving is moving. I am partnering with several Republican legislators in my four-year fight to realign seats on the Commonwealth Transportation Board to get Northern Virginia fairer representation. I am also actively involved in bipartisan rewrites of several Virginia renewable energy laws.
Finally, I have posted a 30-minute interview with me and two other delegates with Cable Reports on my online newsletter – The Dixie Pig – at scottsurovell.blogspot.com. Please email your views and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is an honor to serve as your delegate.