How Much Have We Lost?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Weekly Column: Week #2: Reigning in Predatory Towing, Equality for Women, and Budget Requests

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and The Potomac-Stafford Local in the week of January 25, 2016.
Week #2: Reigning in Predatory Towing, Equality for Women, and Budget Requests 
Aside from the snowstorm of the century, this week brought the start of consideration of legislation and initial work on our state budget. 
Four of my bills were acted on this week.  First, earlier this year, Congress passed the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015.  Congressman Don Beyer successfully included an amendment that confirmed state and local governments’ authority to regulate towing which had been in doubt. 
My legislation reconfirmed state and local authority to regulate towing, but also banned the use of spotters.  Towing companies are increasingly using spotters –employees whose sole job is to call in tows and who initiate tows before unwary consumers even realize they are illegally parked.  The bill also required written authorization from property owners for each tow and confirmed that predatory towing victims can sue towing companies for violations of local ordinances.  My bill was referred to the Joint Commission on Transportation Accountability to be studied outside of session and acted on next session.   
My resolution to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) cleared committee.  ERA was first proposed in 1923 and was ratified by Congress in 1972.  It fell only five states short of ratification and has been ratified by every state sharing a border with Virginia except for North Carolina.  It is necessary to ensure that discrimination and legal classifications based on sex are given that same judicial scrutiny as race, religion and national origin.  My resolution was reported by the Privileges and Elections Committee on a bipartisan 7-6 vote and goes to the floor this week. 
Unfortunately, my legislation to decriminalize adultery was passed by in committee.  Virginia is one of twelve remaining statutes with this ancient and unnecessary law on the books.  Its existence allows divorce litigants to assert the Fifth Amendment and needlessly prolong and run up litigation expense.  I was also proud to partner with the Family Foundation on this bill and hope to pass it next year. 
We also presented our budget requests to the Finance Committee this week.  My amendments included a $130,000 to fund the removal of a derelict barge in Belmont Bay, $2 million to study the extension of the Blue Line to Prince William County, $50,000 to fund well water tests for homes near coal ash ponds in Dumfries, $50,000 to fund computer recycling for students in low income families, about $600,000 to fund two vacant Fairfax County judgeships, and $600,000 to fund the gap in compensation for court-appointed counsel. 
I also proposed language to prohibit the expenditure of taxpayer dollars for partisan redistricting litigation.  The House Republican Caucus has spent over $1 million of taxpayer dollars defending a legal action also being defended by the Attorney General – this partisan activity should be funded with their own campaign funds. 
This week, my legislation reforming predatory lending will be heard in committee along with consumer protection legislation and my bill to ban the use of conversion therapy with children – a particularly abusive form of purported psychotherapy which is associated with an increased tendency towards suicide among lesbian, gay, and bisexual children.   
Our Mt. Vernon and Lee District Town Halls have been rescheduled to February 20 at 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.  In the meantime, you can read other articles I write and watch two thirty minute interviews regarding my legislative agenda from Public Television and Comcast Cable interviews on my online newsletter, The Dixie Pig, at scottsurovell.blogspot.com.  
Also, over 500 constituents have responded to my constituent survey – please keep the responses coming in by responding online at www.scottsurovell.org/survey.   
Finally, my staff has also fielded about a dozen requests for service due to the snow storm.  As the snow melts, you are likely to find curb damage or other problems related to snow removal.  As always, if you need any help with state government services or have any feedback, please drop me a note at scott@scottsurovell.org or call my staff at 571.249.4484.   
It is an honor to serve as your state senator.

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