The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of January 13, 2015.
Focusing on U.S. 1, Predatory Lending, Electronic Textbooks and Human RightsThe 2015 General Assembly session starts this week. Last week, I previewed the overall session. This week, I will outline my legislative agenda.First, I invite you to complete my constituent survey online at www.scottsurovell.org/survey. The online version is more comprehensive than the mail version.One of my top priorities since being elected in 2009 has been the improvement of U.S. 1. In 2012, Senator Puller and I secured $2 million for the U.S. 1 Multimodal Transit Alternative Analysis Study. That study concluded in October when officials signed a resolution recommending a six-lane road, multi-use paths, a median-dedicated bus rapid transit system to Woodbridge and a two-stop Yellow Line Metro extension to Hybla Valley.The next phase requires $4 million for environmental reviews and preliminary engineering. My number one priority this session will be securing funds for those studies to keep this project moving along.Next, the proliferation of predatory lending on U.S. 1 is out of control. Recently, I discovered that car title lenders have begun evading consumer protections by setting up “consumer finance companies,” which have virtually no restrictions. These lenders are offering unregulated, even higher-interest products out of the same storefronts. I have introduced legislation to make this illegal. I have also introduced legislation to make it illegal to require someone to install a device on their vehicle to allow a lender to disable the vehicle and prevent it from starting remotely. These lenders are charging outrageous interest on these loans and preying on vulnerable people.Fairfax County Public Schools requires all students to use electronic textbooks and access Blackboard online for assignments, although a substantial number of children in the Mount Vernon-Lee community do not have either computing devices or broadband at home. Between 2013-2014, I was able to secure the endorsement of the Joint Commission of Science and Technology for my legislation prohibiting any school system from using electronic textbooks without providing each student computing devices. I have modified last year’s legislation and hope to gain passage this year.I am considering legislation suggested by one of my Amundson Institute Fellows to create a uniform statewide high school grading scale. Right now, a 72% is an “F” in some jurisdictions.Last year, I introduced legislation to make the transmission of sexually explicit photographs between minors or “sexting” a misdemeanor under most circumstances. After I served on a national panel this summer and heard testimony from expert child psychologists, I decided to introduce legislation requiring children to be taught about online safety and the consequences of sending sexually-explicit pictures and communications as part of their sex education classes.I have introduced legislation to repeal Virginia’s constitutional and statutory prohibitions on marriage equality. Now that the courts have declared marriage equality the law of the land, we should purge these discriminatory statutes from Virginia’s laws. I have also introduced legislation to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment for my third session. I have also drafted legislation to prohibit employers from discriminating against women who are pregnant.I will propose bills to allow Virginia governors to serve two terms and remove the state Constitutional requirement that voters submit a social security number when registering to vote.Bankruptcy trustees have begun seizing child and spousal support arrearages as assets in bankruptcy proceedings. I think this practice is wrong and punishes the wrong people who are bankrupt due to the behavior of guilty ex-spouses or parents. I’ve introduced legislation to ban it.This summer, a drone-house collision and dispute in Fort Hunt motivated me to introduce legislation to allow local governments to regulate the use of drones.I am also introducing legislation to decriminalize adultery so that guilty spouses cannot hide behind the Fifth Amendment in divorce proceedings. Adultery is rarely prosecuted in Virginia today, and fights about Fifth Amendment privilege in divorce proceeding unnecessarily cost litigants thousands of dollars and unnecessarily wastes of time in our courts.As always, if you have any feedback or want to communicate with me you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is an honor to serve as your state delegate.