The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of January 7, 2015.
Education, Gun Violence Prevention, Budget Shortfall and Redistricting on Legislature’s AgendaThe Virginia General Assembly will convene on January 15 in Richmond for a 45-day “short” session. This article is an overview of the session and my article next week will cover my legislative agenda.First, be sure to complete my 2015 constituent survey at www.scottsurovell.org/survey. You can also share your suggestions to the entire 25-member Fairfax County delegation on Saturday, January 10, 9 a.m., at the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax 22035)..Since we adopt a budget on a two-year cycle, the legislature will only make adjustments to the existing budget this session. Because of a flat economy, the revenue projections used last year were off by $2.4 billion. Last September, the General Assembly reached an agreement with Governor Terry McAuliffe to address a significant portion of those reductions, but we still need to cut $300 million to balance the budget.
On education, Governor McAuliffe has proposed revisions to school assessments and Standards of Learning (SOLs) tests. His goal is to create a fairer process for evaluating school performance.Also, the 2014 launch of Governor McDonnell’s “A-F” school grading system was postponed for consideration to this session and both changes and repeal have been proposed. Although I initially supported the idea, I now favor repealing this system because it creates an unfair stigma for some schools, especially schools in the U.S. 1 Corridor that have many hard-working teachers and students.Virginia’s elementary and secondary school funding crisis is festering. Although the amount of money that Virginia sends to Fairfax County for public schools has risen substantially over the last seven years, so has our student population and the amount Virginia spends per child statewide is less today than it was in 2007. Given our budget shortfall, a change in this trend soon is unlikely.When this article is in print, Governor Bob McDonnell’s sentence will likely be known. His case has highlighted the need for more ethics reforms. There are already bills pending to limit employment and pensions of former legislators, cap gifts and enhance reporting. Ethics are going to be a major focus.The Governor has announced several gun violence prevention proposals including reinstating the “one-gun-a-month” purchase law, revoking concealed weapons permits for people delinquent in child support payments, requiring universal background checks and closing the gun show-background checks purchasing loophole. He has also proposed prohibiting firearm possession for anyone convicted of stalking, sexual battery, brandishing or multiple assault and battery convictions.Gun rights advocates are expected to push for lifetime concealed weapons permits and reciprocity among states for concealed weapons permits so that if people are denied a Virginia concealed weapons permit, they can get one in another state to use here.Governor McAuliffe has also proposed several initiatives to encourage investments in green energy such as solar and energy efficiency. As he works to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s new regulations requiring Virginia to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent, several legislators have proposed bills to obstruct these plans.Immigration is also likely to be a hot topic. President Obama recently acted to grant provisional legal status to individuals who register, submit biometric data, pass criminal background and national security checks and pay fees and penalties. He also proposed creating a path to citizenship for children brought to the U.S. by their parents.In light of these changes, Attorney General Mark Herring advised our universities that children who are granted legal status by the federal government will be eligible for in-state tuition if they otherwise meet requirements. Legislation to put this policy into law failed last year, but legislation has already been introduced to prohibit these children from getting in-state tuition. More legislation directed at new residents of our country is likely coming.Finally, the General Assembly is under court order to redraw all eleven congressional districts before April 15, 2015. This rewrite is likely to be contentious. I continue to believe non-partisan redistricting is more appropriate than politicians picking their voters, but that approach is not likely to pass.
It is an honor to represent you in the House of Delgates. Please contact me any time at firstname.lastname@example.org with your views and suggestions.