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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Weekly Column: Bills on Protecting Child Support, SOL Flexibility, and Consumer Protection Pass

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of February 10, 2015.
Bills on Protecting Child Support, SOL Flexibility, and Consumer Protect Pass
The third week of the “short” session of the General Assembly brings us to “Crossover.”  “Crossover” is the midpoint of the session when both houses must complete work on their own bills and begin work on bills from the other chambers.    
 
Several of my bills have moved forward.  First, last year, one of my Amundson Fellows from West Potomac High School, Colleen O’Grady, suggested that I introduce legislation allowing school systems to waive Standards of Learning (SOL) testing for students who achieved a certain score on an Advanced Placement test in the same subject.  My bill was rolled into legislation proposed by another member granting local systems more flexibility to waive SOL tests and passed the House of Delegates unanimously.


Second, several attorney’s advised me that U.S. Bankruptcy Trustees were seizing child support and spousal support arrearages along with refunds of low income families’ tax refunds attributable to the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.  None of these assets should be available to creditors so I introduced legislation adding them to the list of assets that could be exempt from creditor collections.  Frequently, a child support or spousal support payor’s failure to meet their court-ordered obligations puts people into bankruptcy.  My legislation passed unanimously. 
Third, I partnered with a Republican Senator to carry legislation simplifying the process for appointing a person to represent the interests of an individual who dies during or before litigation is commenced in their name.  This legislation passed both houses unanimously.
Fourth, for the last three years, I have been pressing legislation to enhance consumer remedies with data providers sell or publish information relating to a criminal charge that has been expunged.  Today, consumers only have remedies if incorrect information is put out in connection with an employment application or landlord-tenant application.  The industry is pushing back very hard and I will continue to fight to push this bill through.
 
Unfortunately, my legislation to remove the requirement that a voter provide a social security number during voter registration from the Constitution of Virginia died by one vote in committee.  If it had made it to the floor, it would have passed.  Requiring all nine digits of a social security number is no longer necessary. 
 
My legislation to prohibit predatory lenders from evading consumer protections by lending money through unregulated “subsidiaries” in the same storefront died in committee.  However, one Republican member offered to help me push the bill through next year.  In the meantime, low income Virginians will continue to be victimized by 200% loans.
 
We have also passed some other major legislation.  We passed legislation allowing companies like Uber to operate.  While Uber does provide a very attractive product and is an innovative company, I voted against the legislation for several reasons.  First, the company is providing insurance for vehicles that is 50% of what Fairfax County currently mandates for taxicabs.  Also, if an Uber driver takes cash for a ride, then their driver is not covered at all so if they collide with a completely innocent vehicle or pedestrian, there is no insurance. 
 
Additionally, Uber does not provide wheelchair lift vehicles which is required of most taxicab companies.  If Uber puts taxicab companies out of business, this service will become a taxpayer function.  The filing fee for new companies is also $100,000.  This effectively bars new startup companies from entering the market, especially in smaller jurisdictions. 
 
In response to the Hannah Graham case, we passed legislation expanding DNA collections for several misdemeanors associated with a higher incidence of sexual violence and also passed legislation attempting to increase responsiveness to sexual assault on college campuses.  It will continue to change as it goes through the system.
 
This coming week will bring debate over the budget and some very controversial bills involving utility regulation and the death penalty.  Please continue to provide me with your feedback at scott@scottsurovell.org
 
It is an honor to serve as your state delegate.  

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