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Monday, February 23, 2015

Weekly Column: Ninja Weapons, Shotguns and State-run Local Schools Struck

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of February 24, 2015.
Ninja Weapons, Shotguns and State-run Local Schools Struck
In the fifth week of the General Assembly session, several of my bills moved toward passage and a few controversial bills are being debated. 
Surovell Legislation Moving
First, my legislation to protect Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit proceeds, plus child support and spousal support arrearages from creditors, passed the full Senate Courts Committee and should clear the full Senate on Monday as I write this column.  Second, my legislation to simplify the process of continuing lawsuits when parties pass away cleared the Senate last week and was sent to the Governor.
Third, my bill to waive Standards of Learning tests for elementary and secondary students with high scores on Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests was added to another bill to grant greater flexibility to school systems to waive Standards of Learning tests. That legislation will likely pass the Senate as well.
Fourth, Republican Delegate Manoli Loupassi and I crafted legislation providing new remedies for people whose criminal charges are publicized by private data companies after the individuals are found not guilty and the charges have been expunged from their record.  We also proposed to create a remedy against companies who post criminal conviction information on websites and will only remove the information after extorting a payment of money. These companies have been popping up around the world and republishing information from Fairfax County.  
The Senate modified our bill to remove the expungement cause of action, and we will continue to refine the legislation. The legislation creating an action for extortion passed the Senate Courts Committee and will move through both bodies as modified this week. 
Ninja Weapons and Shotguns
On Tuesday, the House of Delegates passed legislation legalizing the sale of switchblades, ballistic darts and throwing stars. After a public outcry, the House reconsidered the bill the following day and killed it.
 
That same day, the House, on a 62-34 vote, approved legislation allowing individuals who hold concealed weapon permits to carry loaded shotguns in vehicles even if local ordinances ban this conduct. I led the floor debate against this legislation, arguing that the last thing Virginia needs is loaded shotguns in Northern Virginia traffic.  I highlighted numerous road rage incidents involving shotguns, including one that took place just 20 hours before we debated the bill.
Also, all of Virginia’s hunter education courses specifically teach hunters not to transport loaded shotguns and all shotgun manufacturers specifically advise shotgun owners to never transport loaded shotguns. We heard testimony about a Virginia state trooper who was killed when a vehicle was rolled over and the shotgun went off. 
You can watch my speech on my You Tube channel. 
I discovered that Fairfax, Arlington, Prince William and Loudoun Counties have not taken advantage of their authority to enact local bans on transporting loaded shotguns. Supervisor Gerry Hyland has started work on a Fairfax County ordinance. 
“Tim Tebow” Bill Advances
Each year, we debate legislation to allow home-schooled athletes to participate in public school sports programs. I routinely vote against this because I feel that it is unfair to public school athletes who must meet grade and conduct standards when it is impossible to enforce the same standards with home-schooled students. Also, public education cannot be a la carte or the entire system will become dysfunctional.  this legislation normally dies in the Senate, but this year, it was amended to allow the policy to become a local option instead of a state mandate. The bill is heading for a likely veto.
 
Repeal of McDonnell Education Measures
Both houses voted to repeal A through F grading of public schools and former Governor McDonnell’s “Opportunity Education Institute” (OEI), an effort to allow state takeover of local schools. In hindsight, school grading was seen as potentially destructive of communities and the OEI was held to be unconstitutional. 
 
The Last Week
We should conclude writing the budget this week and complete work on all legislation in joint conference committees. We appear to be heading for an on-time conclusion, which has been a rarity since I have been in office.
Please continue emailing me your feedback at scott@scottsurovell.org. It is an honor to serve as your state delegate. 

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