How Much Have We Lost?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

2014 44th District Water Quality - Little Improvement

2014 44th District Water Quality Map
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is back out with their 2014 Water Quality Report.  The Richmond Times Dispatch framed it pretty clearly "Thousands of Miles of Va. Rivers are Polluted, Report Shows."  DEQ found that 71% of Virginia's rivers and 75% of estuaries (what we have in our community) are polluted.

The 44th District is no exception.  I've written about previous reports for the 44th District here:
The Dixie Pig: Lee & Mt. Vernon's Streams & Rivers Are Polluted says VA DEQ (Apr. 3, 2012)
The Dixie Pig: No Progress - Creeks in the 44th District Still Polluted (Mar. 31, 2012)

Here are the top lines:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Weekly Column: Virginia Education Official’s Visit Focuses on Improving Student Testing

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of December 3, 2014.
Virginia Education Official’s Visit Focuses on Improving Student Testing
Two weeks ago, Virginia Education Secretary Anne Holton toured Walt Whitman Middle School and Hybla Valley Elementary School at my invitation as part of the state’s effort to change the way we assess school progress.
 
Virginia school accreditation is largely based on student performance on the Standards of Learning (SOL) tests, tests created in 1995 by then-Governor George Allen.  

Thirty schools in Fairfax County were accredited with warning and seven of those schools, including Mount Vernon High School and West Potomac High School, are in the 44th Delegate District along the U.S. 1 Corridor.

Friday, November 28, 2014

My Lawyer Hat: Time to Check Your Auto Insurance Coverage

In my other job, I practice law for a living, including personal injury, wrongful death and medical malpractice. 

I posted this article below on my law firm blog which is generally applicable to anyone who owns a car. 
Time to Check Your Auto Insurance Coverage
This weekend, I received  a text message from GEICO regarding my policy renewal so I thought I would take a minute to check out my coverages.  Surprisingly, they were not what I thought they were.

The number one problem I see when people come to see me when they are injured is a lack of coverage.  Frequently, the worst drivers on the road are either uninsured or have bare bones minimum policies.
I have settled countless cases for extremely low values simply because there is not enough coverage and the person who injured my client had no assets.  Most people do not realize that you can protect yourself and your family against these kinds of situations. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Squirrels of Capitol Square

I just saw squirrels highlighted in the second issue of the 2014 newsletter of the Virginia Natural History Society.  

Style Weekly has an entire article on it you can read here:


Both articles have a vivid account of the murder of one squirrel by a dog and the attempted murder of a dog by a brick-wielding Capitol Policeman named Mr. Eustice who apologized for only maiming the dog because "he attempted to kill it."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Weekly Column: U.S. 1 Multimodal Study is Done – Now It’s Time for Action

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of November 3, 2014.
U.S. 1 Multimodal Study is Done – Now It’s Time for Action

Last week, a long-standing debate in our community was finally resolved – what should the U.S. 1 Corridor look like? It was a long time coming.

When I was a sophomore at James Madison University, one of the first steps that newly-elected Senator Toddy Puller took was to try to generate some consensus around the long-term vision for U.S. 1.

In 1998, Senator Puller won passage of legislation requiring the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to create a master design for U.S. 1 from Alexandria to Fredericksburg. Prince William and Stafford Counties found their consensus, but the Fairfax County process stalled.  

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Are Race & Class Barriers Also a Problem in FCPS?

I was driving between court appearance last week, and I ran across this story by Kavitha Cardoza on WAMU regarding race and class divisions in the District of Columbia.  As I listened, it occurred to me that much of it might just be just as applicable to Fairfax County as it was the District.

For example, one of the points made during he story was that kids from low income families tend to do better when they go to school with kids from other background.

In the story, a Harvard Fellow with the Century Foundation, Richard Kahlenberg, pointed out that packing low income children into one schools doesn't is problematic.  He said "one of the best things you can do to improve the education of all children is to give them access to an economically integrated environment.... low income kids will do better if you give them the right environment."

He points out that putting low income families in schools where (1) you have parents in a position to engage, (2) peers are academically engaged, and (3) where you have strong teachers, is the best way to maximize the ability of all children to learn.  He pointed out that packing all of the lower income kids into schools doesn't work.

First, Kahlenberg's description of successful schools reminded me of West Potomac H.S. when I attended between 1984-1989.  I had lots of friends from lots of different backgrounds.  As kids, we didn't think or judge - we all competed for the same grades (and in full disclosure, I was nothing special - #74 out of 420 something).

Second, this story brought to mind the existing situation on U.S. 1 where we have multiple schools with over 70% free and reduced lunch populations.  This just reiterates why we need to get to work on U.S. 1.

Listen to the story and let me know what your thoughts!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Weekly Column: Annual School Accreditation Reports a Mixed Bag

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of October 2, 2014.
Annual School Accreditation Reports a Mixed Bag

The Virginia Department of Education has issued accreditation reports on our public schools. For our area, the results are mixed.

First, it is important to understand that the state instituted new math tests this year. Statewide, 32% of schools were not fully accredited, largely because of new math tests. In Fairfax County, 171 of 191 schools (11%) were not fully accredited - 7 of the 20 Fairfax County schools with accreditation challenges were in the U.S. 1 Corridor.

Hybla Valley ES returned to full accreditation this year notwithstanding having the highest free and reduced lunch (90.3%) and limited- English proficient populations (66.96%) in Fairfax County. Hybla Valley shows that committed teachers, principals, students and families can meet accreditation’s steepest challenges.  They deserve a round of applause. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Weekly Column: U.S. 1 Transit Study: It’s Time to Speak Up

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of October 15, 2014.
U.S. 1 Transit Study: It’s Time to Speak Up
Last week, Virginia’s Department of Rail and Public Transit held the last public hearing on the U.S. 1 Multimodal Transit Study. This study will determine the most appropriate road configuration, mode of transit and accompanying land uses for the U.S. 1 corridor for the next 30 years. As the study ends, public input is absolutely critical.

In 2012, Senator Toddy Puller and I won approval of $2 million to fund the study.  After sixteen months taking input and considering various alternatives, the consultant team is recommending the “Hybrid Option” – (1) a six-lane U.S. 1, (2) a bike-pedestrian path the entire length, (3) a median-dedicated bus rapid transit system from Huntington Metro station to Woodbridge, and (4) a two-stop Yellow Line Metro extension with stops at Beacon Hill and Hybla Valley. The total cost in 2014 dollars would be about $2.4 billion.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Protecting Mt. Vernon's Fisheries

The 44th District is fortunate to serve as the sentinel "guarding" our border with Maryland.  The Potomac River is a true asset and Virginia's Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) helps to keep it thriving and to restore it.  Outdoor activities like fishing and hunting create millions of dollars of economic activity in the Commonwealth.

DGIF's has a team of biologists who continually monitor the our areas creeks and rivers.  It is funded nearly entirely by licensing fees for fishing and hunting, and grants.

DGIF's biologist in our area is John Odenkirk.  I have taken several trips with him to learn about his efforts to study and monitor the Potomac's Snakehead population which originated in Dogue Creek and Little Hunting Creek.  Here's some of my prior posts:


DGIF publishes a series of videos called "The Fish Head Chronicles" on Facebook.  One of their latest versions focuses on John's Mount Vernon fish monitoring and removal of an invasive species called the water chestnut.  You can see the passion he brings to his job in the video.  You can watch it here.


Enjoy the video and make sure you "Like" their page on Facebook!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

44th District School Report Cards

The Virginia State Board of Education has issued its academic report cards for all of the schools in the 44th District.

I will write more later on the significance of these results.  The schools that changed status from last year are West Potomac HS, Whitman MS, and Hybla Valley ES.

44th District Schools 2012-13 Academic Report Cards 

SchoolAccreditedFRM
Population
Limited
English
Proficient
Link
Overall Fairfax County
Fully
Accredited
27.83%
West Potomac HS
With 
Warning
42.22%16.03%
Mt. Vernon HS
With 
Warning
55.8%16.83%
Hayfield Secondary
Fully
Accredited
32.16%9.32%
Carl Sandburg MS
Fully
Accredited
44.82%17.74%
Whitman MS
With 
Warning
60.45%22.54%
Belleview ES
Fully
Accredited
33.64%23.22%
Bucknell ES
With 
Warning
78.09%44.17%
Fort Belvoir ES
Fully
Accredited
30.5%4.14%
Fort Hunt ES
Fully
Accredited
32.31%12.65%
Groveton ES
Fully
Accredited
72.29%54.66%
Hayfield ES
Fully
Accredited
10.93%11.66%
Hollin Meadows ES
Fully
Accredited
54.15%34.77%
Hybla Valley ES
Fully
Accredited
90.39%66.96%
Mt. Vernon Woods ES
With 
Warning
84.3%53.18%
Riverside ES
Fully
Accredited
66.04%40.27%
Stratford ES
Fully
Accredited
18.96%5.84%
Washington Mill ES
With 
Warning
56.4%34.86%
Waynewood ES
Fully
Accredited
1.66%4.28%
Woodlawn ES
With 
Warning
63.29%25.10%
Woodley Hills ES
Fully
Accredited
69.64%52.16%

Monday, August 25, 2014

Weekly Column: The Top Three Issues: The Future of U.S. 1, Improving Local Schools, and Helping The Uninsured

The following is my column that will exclusively appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette in the week of August 25, 2014.

The Top Three Issues: The Future of U.S. 1, Improving Local Schools, and Helping The Uninsured
There are many issues facing the communities between the Potomac River, Huntley Meadows Park, Fort Belvoir and the City of Alexandria.  The top three are U.S. 1, the future of our local schools, and a burgeoning uninsured population. 

First, our quality of life revolves U.S. 1.  The future of U.S 1 not only functions as the spine of our mobility, but it drives housing, retail choices, property values, schools, environmental quality, crime levels, and tax revenue.     

A year ago, Senator Puller and I secured $2 million to fund the U.S. 1 Multimodal Study and determine the optimal transit, road, pedestrian, cycling, and accompanying land configuration for the U.S. 1 Corridor.  That study will come to a conclusion in the next few months.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Weekly Column: Children’s Issues Dominate First Hispanic Town Hall

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of August 18, 2014.
Children’s Issues Dominate First Hispanic Town Hall

On Saturday, August 16, 2014, I held my third town hall meeting of the year and my first ever Hispanic Community Town Hall.  I was also joined by the first Democratic elected Latino State Delegate - Alfonso Lopez - who represents South Arlington and Bailey's Crossroads.  

The Hispanic population has grown from less than one percent in Virginia in the 1970s to 8.6% today.  Here in our area, there was virtually no Hispanic population when I was a kid.  Today, the Hispanic population is the largest minority demographic in the 44th District.  One in four people who lives in the 44th District is Hispanic.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Mulligan Road/Jeff Todd Way Set to Open!

The Mulligan Road - newly renamed Jeff Todd Way - saga is set to come to an end very soon.  The new road will run from the Roy Rogers in Woodlawn to the bottom of the large hill on Telegraph Road just south of Hayfield Secondary School.  It is a hugely needed improvement for East-West traffic flow in the Mt. Vernon-Lee Area. 

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) advised me today that the road will be open on August 18, 2014 with a ribbon cutting on August 25, 2014.  Here's some older articles I've written about it:



On Sunday, August 10, 2014, I "inspected" the new road on my bike with my new GoPro camera.  You can see my video at 4x speed below the flip (sorry there is no music).


Judge Martin V.B. Bostetter, Jr.

When I got out of law school, the economy was still in the doldrums.  The firm seemed to have a few post-divorce bankruptcies coming through and the partners needed someone to figure them out so it fell to the new guy - me.  That's how I became a bankruptcy lawyer among other things.

At the time, there were two judges in the Alexandria Division Courthouse - Stephen Mitchell and the Chief Judge - Martin V.B. Bostetter, Jr.  I went on to try a few cases to both of them.

Last week, I learned of the passing of Judge Bostetter at the age of 88.

While I did not practice regularly before him and only practice before him for three of his forty years on the bench, I will never forget the day I was sworn in.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

New Sherwood Hall Lane Bike Lanes

While I was on vacation, VDOT finishing the paving operations on Sherwood Hall Lane.

The striping is still in progress, but the new bike lanes are on the ground.  VDOT still has to pain bike lane symbols in the ground, a few stripes here and there, and install signage, but they are now on the ground and usable.

I took them for a test spin with my new GoPro camera on Sunday, August 10, 2014 around 11:30 a.m.  You can see my ride a double speed below.

Multimodal improvements are critical to get more cars off the road.  It is also hoped that by restricting lane size, this will help to lower speeds and illegal passing on Sherwood Hall Lane which has become a real problem with increased cut through traffic. 

These improvements were the result of two public hearings and significant public input.   These lanes will eventually link into to a multiuse path on U.S. 1 and other bike lanes as U.S. 1 is redone, properties are redeveloped and road repaved.

Legislative Inaction and Legislative Efficiency?

I was reading the Washington Post this morning and an article about legislative inaction in the U.S. Congress.

Congress passed 140 in the 112th Congress (2011-2012) resulting in 2,324 pages of new laws.  As of July 8, 2014, the 113th Congress has passed 125 new laws resulting in 2,597 pages of new law.

While there are definitely shortcomings in Virginia's 60 and 45 day sessions and the entire part-time legislature concept, I went to look at a couple metrics.

For example, in the 2014 General Assembly, around 2,750 bills were introduced (minus commending resolutions), 902 were passed, 234 continued to next session, and 980 killed.  The Acts of Assembly are the compilation of every bill we pass.  The 2014 version isn't out yet, but the 2011 Acts of Assembly was 2252 pages long.

Much of what we do is "housekeeping" where there is no meaningful objection to the legislation.  For example, of the 902 bills we passed, 502 were unanimous.

Obviously, the Federal Government is a complex entity, it's budget is probably three times longer than Virginia's.  You would think that the U.S. Congress needs to pass at least 5-10 times as much "housekeeping" legislation (or at least pages) as the Virginia General Assembly.  They are not even doing that.

I recognize that pages do not necessarily reflect substance, and it's not unusual to see a bill that has ten new words and takes up 10 pages.  However, it is really remarkable just how little the U.S. Congress has achieved in a two year session when you compare it to the typical product of our part-time, 45-60 day legislature.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Few Thoughts on Week One of the McDonnell Trial

Johnnie Williams' Smith Mountain Lake Vacation Home
It has been a sad and sordid week in Richmond.  My General Assembly Office overlooks the Federal Courthouse.  I'm glad I'm not there to see this depressing spectacle in person.  A few initial thoughts.  

First, this trial is highlighting some of the worst parts of the political system in Virginia.  The talk about a New York shopping trip$5,000 bottles of cognac, free yard work, requesting free Land Rovers for children, Ferarris and rolexes, free golf equipment, no interest $120,000 and $50,000 loans, covered wedding receptions, and $10,000 wedding gifts has not been pretty.  

Johnnie Williams unabashedly asserting that he gave money and gifts to gain "access" and legitimize his company and its product only serves to reinforce the most pessimistic assumptions that many Virginians hold about politicians and donors that government is for sale.  Not every donor is looking for "access" or something in return for their contribution.  Some donors, mainly individuals, contribute because of their interest in public policy issues or over-arching government philosophies.  However, this trial - no matter what the outcome - will only serve to further undermine public confidence in government.

This trial only reiterates the need for actual ethics and campaign finance reform in the Virginia, and the problems created by the Citizen's United ruling and its progeny.  

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

VDOT Unveils Extended U.S. 1 Merge Lane for I-495 Express Lanes

Last month, I posted that VDOT had agreed to extend the merge lanes for all traffic from U.S. 1 onto the Beltway's southbound/eastbound express lanes after one of my constituents noticed the unsafe merging conditions.

The interchange is used by many 44th District residents and City of Alexandria residents on a daily basis.

A diagram of the new lane design is attached and it was implemented on July 23.  Let me know if you have any feedback!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Newly Released - Mount Vernon History Revisited!

Waynewood resident Michael Bohn and former Patch Reporter Jessie Biele have come out with a new book that focuses on local history called, Mount Vernon - Revisited.

I picked up a copy a few weeks ago at the Village Hardware.  It's a good primer into the early 44th District and provides some perspective as to how we got to where we are today in the 44th District.

Over the past two decades, Mike has written several series in the Mount Vernon Gazette focused on the Mount Vernon Trolley, old prominent homes in the Mt. Vernon area, and old Mount Vernon schools.  I published a series of them on this blog:


My favorite pictures are the old shots of U.S. 1 before it was four-laned and straightened out in the 1930's.

It's a quick must read for anyone whose zip code is between 22306 and 22309!

The text of the press release from the publisher is below the fold.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Gum Springs Pride Circa 1966

The 44th District is home to Gum Springs - the oldest historically black neighborhood in Fairfax County tracing its roots back to its found Wes Ford - a freed slave of George Washington.

Gum Springs has endured many challenges through the years and often had to fight for its fair share of resources from the federal, state, and local government.  My grandparents were involved in many of these fights starting when they moved to Mt. Vernon in 1941.

The President of the New Gum Springs Civic Association has forwarded me a link to this fascinating movie made in Gum Springs nearly fifty years ago when Fairfax County was first beginning to confront the effects of desegregation in 1966.

It is a fascinating glimpse into Mt. Vernon's past including a great cameo from then-Mt. Vernon District Supervisor and future Eighth District Congressman Herb Harris.




Tuesday, July 22, 2014

DoD to Contribute $23,798,603 to Expand Ft. Belvoir Elementary

Fort Belvoir Elementary School opened in 1998 and quickly became one of the largest elementary schools in Washington Metropolitan Area.  Population at the base has continued to explode as the Army has renovated and added housing units on base.

Normally, when new development brings new families and infrastructure needs, localities can require developers to pay proffers, which are passed along to homeowners, to help cover the public infrastructure costs.  When the Federal Government creates development, that is not possible.

Last week, the Department of Defense announced a grant of $23,798,603 to Fairfax County Public Schools.  The press release says:
Fairfax County Public Schools will use its grant to renovate, repair and construct new classrooms at Fort Belvoir Elementary School to address the capacity and facility condition deficiencies that placed the school on the Deputy Secretary of Defense Priority List at #26. The school will serve over 1,590 military connected students in grades kindergarten through sixth.
Given that FCPS is currently facing a capital backlog of over $1 billion, this will allow the FCPS to focus on other renovation priorities.

Thank you Uncle Sam!

Monday, July 21, 2014

44th District's Osprey Impress!

As the Potomac River continues to recover, raptors have begun to rebound including Osprey.

William Young and Ashley Bradford has done an amazing job documenting an Osprey family near Bellehaven Marina (just north of the 44th District, but frequented by many 44th District residents!).

You can find Osprey nests all over the 44th District along the Potomac River including Little Hunting Creek and Dogue Creek.  I've also seen Osprey nests on the softball field light poles at Walt Whitman Intermediate School and Mount Vernon High School.

It's only ironic that these nests include plastic bags (thank you AutoZone for helping our Osprey make their nests). What would these birds do without plastic bags?    They attempted to reproduce with plastic bags attached.

 Excellent videos and resources about a striking predator in our area.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

10 Years & $15,000 of Saved Gas Later, The I-95/I-395 Hybrid Exemption Coming to An End

In July, 2004, the papers were buzzing with news about the new super fuel efficient vehicles coming out - hybrids.

They were a little bit more expensive, but the fuel savings were significant.  The federal and state government adopted tax credits.  Virginia also exempted hybrid vehicles from emissions testing and allowed these new cars to be plated with "Clean Fuel" license plates that were granted a then little used exemption for High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV) in 1994.  The affordability of this new technology coupled with the HOV exemption pushed thousands of Virginians to purchase these new cars.

I was one of them.  

My wife and I had two children.  After our second child was born, I bought my dad’s 1995 Honda Accord and sold a two-door Saturn.  The gas mileage on the Accord was average and the fuel efficiency of hybrid’s intrigued me.  A local Toyota dealership said I would have to wait eight months for a Prius.  Sheehy Honda on U.S. 1 in Hybla Valley told me they could put me in a Honda Civic Hybrid in a week and this week, my 2004 Honda Civic Hybrid has 180,000 miles on it and turns 10 years-old.  


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Easing the Burden on Military Spouses

Fort Hunt has always been a popular community for military families and growing up, I always had friends coming and going as their parents were moved around the country.

As a child, your perspective is focused upon your friend who is leaving, but not the effects upon the entire family  As a practicing family law attorney, I really come to appreciate the emotional and economic stresses that transfers, deployments, and the combat injuries can place on the entire family. 

For example, whenever a military family goes through a divorce, the issue of spousal support frequently comes up if only one spouse is serving in uniform.  Due to frequent location transfers, it is often very difficult for the non-military spouse to develop a substantial career or earning history.  Unemployment rates for military spouses are three times the rate of civilian spouses. Some studies suggest 90% of military spouses are underemployed.  Frequently, it is difficult for military spouses to start to focus on a career until their active duty spouse has retired.  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

SFDC Pushes U.S. 1 Revitalization!

Great job by the Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation (SFDC) putting together this video featuring redevelopment possibilities in the U.S. 1 Corridor.  Share it around!


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Weekly Column: A State Budget, A Federal Grand Jury, and Court Challenges

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of June 24, 2014.
A State Budget, A Federal Grand Jury, and Court Challenges

The last two weeks in Richmond have been unusually busy.  

First, ethics are back at the forefront.  in the wake of the resignation of State Senator Phil Puckett and change in control of the State Senate, the new state budget was written under one-party control.  A $1.6 billion shortfall due to lagging income tax collections forced cuts which I detailed two weeks ago:  K-12, higher education, affordable housing, healthcare, and funding for continued planning for improvements on U.S. 1 was removed from the budget.

Last week, press reports suggest a Federal grand jury was summoned to investigate the resignation of Senator Puckett and allegations that a judgeship for this thirty-three year-old daughter and a six-figure job at the Virginia Tobacco Commission were offered in exchange for his resignation. The lack of any state investigation spotlights the weakness of the ethics reforms we just passed.  

Friday, June 20, 2014

Vetoes Drop and Virginia Moves Forward

This morning Governor Terry McAuliffe announced seven vetoes and other administrative actions.  In summary, he has vetoed legal prohibitions to expanding Medicaid and he is moving forward on Medicaid expansion due to political obstruction.

Administrative Action
First, the Governor announced that he is going to expand Medicaid administratively using his power as Chief Executive.  There was bipartisan support to do this legislatively, but the most conservative members of the House of Delegates were blocking it.

He has directed the Secretary of Health and Human Resources to have plans drawn up by September 1, 2014.

He has also directed officials to hold all plans to construct a new $300 million General Assembly Building. He said that he cannot support this construction while Virginia cuts funding from homelessness.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Weekly Column: No Medicaid, U.S. 1 Cut, and a Frustrating Week

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of June 16, 2014.
No Medicaid, U.S. 1 Cut, and a Frustrating Week
Last  week was one of the most frustrating weeks in the General Assembly since my 2009 election.

First, on Sunday afternoon, we learned that Democratic State Senator Phil Puckett from Southwest Virginia had announced his resignation to be considered for a job on the Virginia Tobacco Commission and clear the way for a judgeship for his 33- year-old daughter.  This effectively gave the Virginia State Senate a Republican majority (20-19). 

On Monday, 21 senators signed a letter requiring the Senate reconvene and the Speaker called the House of Delegates back for a session on Thursday.
When we arrived in Richmond on Thursday, we got more disappointing news.  Apparently, the state’s revenue projections for purposes of building the FY14-15 budget were off because of incorrect assumptions.  The primary problem was that revenue collections were up last year because wealthy taxpayers recognized significant increased income from stock liquidations done in anticipation of increased capital gains tax rates.  The budget experts did not consider this in preparing this year’s revenue projections.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Finalizing a State Budget - Not Pretty

The new proposed amendments to the state budget are now up online.  You can see them here:


The biggest issue is that revenue collections came in well below what was expected largely due to lagging capital gains tax revenues.  The overall shortfall is expected to be about $1.6-$2.0 billion.

What follows below is my initial impressions of what has changed versus Governor McDonnell's introduced budget.  Don't kill me if there are a couple mistakes.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Weekly Column: Five Myths About Medicaid Expansion

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of June 4, 2014.
Five Myths About Medicaid Expansion
As the deadline to pass a budget approaches, Virginians will likely hear that state government could shut down because of a stalemate over expanding Virginia’s Medicaid program as encouraged by the Affordable Care Act.  I would like to clear up a few misconceptions. 
Myth #1 – Virginia’s Medicaid Stalemate Is a Partisan Dispute
               There have been media reports that the Medicaid expansion fight is a Democrat-versus-Republican battle.  It is not.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Government Shutdowns and Legal Reality

Today's papers were full of headlines about focused on some of my colleagues demands that the Governor explain his legal basis for keeping state government running if the House continues to refuse to compromise on Medicaid.

They issued a letter citing a presentation given by staff attorney's with the legislature's Division of Legislative Services (DLS).  You can read the presentation here if you are curious.

I have received a few calls over the last couple days.  I have not spoken to anyone in the Govenor's Office, nor have I done any heavy duty legal analysis, but it seems pretty simple to me.

If you follow the DLS legal rationale to its logical conclusion, then all state employees must stay home and the state government cannot spend any money after July 1, 2014.  While, I have the utmost respect for DLS' attorneys and they are right most of the time, but the practical reality of their legal conclusion leads to nonsensical practical outcomes, and just like we cannot maintain segregated schools or prohibit interracial marriages (or refuse to implement the Affordable Care Act), there are a few legal obligations, we cannot simply choose to ignore.

The Governor was elected by the people of Virginia to be the CEO of the government and one branch's failure to act, does not tie his hands in a crisis.  The Courts will grant him temporary powers to govern necessary government functions.    Here's why.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Shadding on the Potomac

Me, Rob Hartwell, Del. Jackson Miller, Jackson, Jr., the Harley
Brothers & Family, Delegate David Ramadan, and Jim Cummins
On Monday, May 12, 2014, I was lucky to tag along with Biologist Jim Cummins and his crew to help restore Virginia's Shad runs.  His work is funded by the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basis, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries via funds made available from the Environmental Protective Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery near Hopewell.

We shoved off from Mason Neck just before high tide around 6:00 p.m. with skiffs operated by the Harley Brothers - Brad and Mike.  The brothers are the last two licensed commercial fisherman who operate out of Fairfax County.  They fifth generation Fairfax County fishermen and their family has a long history on Mason Neck and they know this stretch of River like the back of their hands.

Panorama shot of the "Mother" Ship
where we processed the fish.
Our crew consisted of myself, Delegate Jackson Miller, his son Jackson, Jr., Delegate David Ramadan, Jim Cummins, Mason Neck native Rob Hartwell, the Harley Brothers, their long-time co-fisherman Rusty Zuppello, and a four-person crew from Virginia's Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.  The fishing crew ran in two boats which DGIF manned the "mother ship" where the fish would be processed.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Weekly Column: Yellow Line Petition, Hybrid Tax Refunds & I-495 Changes

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of May 12, 2014.

Yellow Line Petition, Hybrid Tax Refunds & I-495 Changes 
Last week, I wrote about the status of some transportation projects in our community.  Here are a few more important things. 
Sign the Yellow Line/Hybrid Option Extension PetitionThe state’s consultants are busy crunching numbers, population projections and funding options and evaluating community input to prepare recommendations on the  mode of transit we should have on U.S. 1 for the next 20 years.  I strongly believe that the “Hybrid Option” or the two-stop Yellow Line Extension with stations at Beacon Hill and Hybla Valley with dedicated bus rapid transit to Woodbridge is the best option.  Having Metro on U.S. 1 will help revitalize the corridor, generate economic development, and enhance the environment, our schools, and  our quality of life  in the Mount Vernon and Lee areas.
I have set up a petition for people to sign, show  support and comment on why the Hybrid Option is the best option.  Over 400 people have already signed, in addition to the 400 who indicated support for a Yellow Line Extension on my 2014 constituent survey.  Please go online and sign my petition at www.bit.ly/route1petition.   
Get your family and neighbors to sign - It will take you less than a minute.  We need to show strong community support!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Flipping the Script on Medicaid

There's been some interesting protestations from many of my colleagues about reports that Governor McAuliffe may be interested in pursuing an administrative expansion of Virginia's Medicaid program without a vote from the legislature.

  • “I don’t believe that he has that authority,” said Del. S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk).  Washington Post.
  • “You see President Obama certainly using executive orders, executive fiat, to delay [portions of] the Affordable Care Act, and you’re seeing the same thing with the attorney general and the governor, with these vague statements,” said House Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox (R-Colonial Heights). “He certainly looks like he’s going to go down this road of using executive orders.”  Washington Post.
  • Matthew Moran, spokesman for House Speaker Bill Howell, told Watchdog: “We firmly believe that the authority to expand Medicaid rests with the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission, not with the governor.”  Watchdog.org
Given their statements, you would think that Governor McAuliffe was the first person to assert this power.

Interestingly, Governor McDonnell took the position that he and only he had the authority to expand Medicaid - even after the creation of the Medicaid Innovation and Review Commission.  On March 5, 2013, Governor McDonnell wrote the following to Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  

What a difference a new Governor makes.  

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Weekly Column: Spring Transportation Update

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of May 5, 2014.
Spring Transportation Update 
Spring has arrived which means a beginning to the construction season.  Here’s an update regarding transportation improvements in our area. 
U.S. 1 Widening  
Last week, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) started construction to six-lane U.S. 1 from Mt. Vernon Memorial Highway to Telegraph Road and reserve transit right-of-way in the center.  The project will take two years and is funded by the federal government thanks to U.S. Congressman Jim Moran. 
Jeff Todd Way/Mulligan Road Opening 
In September 2014, Jeff Todd Way will open between U.S. 1 (Roy Rogers) and Telegraph Road finally restoring cross-county connectivity between Woodlawn and Hayfield after access through Fort Belvoir was shut down thirteen years ago.  Listen for the loud sigh of relief in 22309 after opening.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

2014 DMV Updates: Hybrid Tax, Birth Certificates & Mopeds

July 1 is always an important date for new laws, but here are a few things people should be aware of effective July 1 when it comes to vehicles this year.

Hybrid Tax Repeal
Senator Adam Ebbin and I made repeal of the hybrid tax a priority.  That goes into effect on July 1, 2014 and customers who have pre-paid to register their hybrid vehicles for multiple years will be entitled to a refund for the pre-paid registration years that begin on July 1, 2014 and after.

Individuals whose registration expires prior to July 1, 2014, but who do not renew their registration until after that date, will still owe the $64.  They will also be assessed a $10 late fee, per the Code.

I will post more information regarding the refund process when I have it, but DMV expects to have a refund process ready by July 1, 2014.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

2014 Paving Projects in 44th District

Last year, I raised an issue with the Virginia Department of Transportation about the lack of paving projects in the 44th District on some of the lists I was seeing.

This year, VDOT provided me with a map showing all paving projects in our part of the County.  I was glad to see a large increase in the number of projects.  If you have any questions or would like to suggest some roads that are in dire need, feel free to shoot me a note at scottsurovell@gmail.com.

2014 Paving Projects in the 44th District
2014 Repaving Projects in the 44th District
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2014 Paving Project List
Street Length
Sherwood Hall Ln 1.73
Fort Hunt Rd 1.488
Fort Hunt Rd 2.27
Paul Spring Rd 0.446
Bedford Ln 0.05
Stafford Rd 0.29
Rippon Rd 0.37
Drury Rd 0.12
Boswell Ave 0.304
Hollindale Rd 0.3
Whiteoaks Dr 0.66
Radcliffe Dr/Rollins Dr 0.37
Roanoke Dr 0.13
Duke Dr 0.39
Dartmouth Dr 0.24
Colgate Dr 0.32
Rollins Dr/Westgrove Blvd 0.76
Mary Baldwin Dr 0.35
University Dr/Canterbury Ln 0.25
Canterbury Ln 0.14
Davis St/Oberlin Dr 0.26
Smithway Dr 0.13
Westhampton Dr 0.17
Temple Ct 0.05
Memorial St 0.346
Groveton St 0.367
E Lee Ave 0.195
E Side Dr 0.273
Schelhorn Rd 0.47
Frances Dr 0.436
Elm Dr 0.03
Covertry Rd 0.29
Woodlawn Ln 0.07
Rebecca Dr 0.716
Stone Hedge Dr 0.15
Devonshire Rd 0.31
Glasgow Rd 0.13
Memorial Heights Dr 0.222
Marlan Dr 0.11
Ridgecrest Dr/Park Terrace Dr 1.73
Rita Ct 0.05
Davenport St 0.065
Brentwood Pl 0.087
Daphne Ln 0.08
Bluebill Ln 0.276
Hollindale Ct 0.04
Morningside Ln 0.452
Evening Ln 0.17
Earldale Ct 0.13
Midday Ln 0.61
Daybreak Ct 0.036
Custis St 0.32
Courtland Rd 0.57
Shannon Ct 0.05
Leric Ln 0.05
Lida Ct 0.05
Traies Ct 0.18
Jube Ct 0.09
Shiver Dr 0.66
Mason Hill Dr 0.84
Windmill Ln 0.08
Kimbro St 0.17
Maid Marian Ct 0.07
Saville Ct 0.05
Cheshire Ln 0.09
Delafield Pl 0.13
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