Monday, February 29, 2016

Weekly Column: The Senate Budget Emerges

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 February 16, 2016.
The Senate Budget Emerges
This week, the seventh of this session of the Virginia General Assembly, both the Senate and House of Delegates are considering the state’s two-year budget. After each house passes a budget, a joint conference committee resolves the differences. The Senate budget has good news and bad news.
Good News
Revenues have increased more than expenses for the first time in seven years, offering opportunities to address unmet needs.  The Senate Budget makes significant investments in education including an additional $80 million for Fairfax County, $32 million for Prince William County and $22 million for Stafford County over last year’s appropriations including $16 million for a program called “Cost to Compete” which is supplemental funding for high-cost areas like Northern Virginia to pay teachers and support staff.  The plan also includes a two-percent salary increase for all elementary-secondary school teachers.  

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Supervisor Dan Storck 2016 Town Hall Report

Today, I attended Supervisor Dan Storck's Town Hall which is the 29th we've had in Mt. Vernon.  The town hall is always the best place to find out what's going on in Mt. Vernon and what's coming in the next twelve months.
Fairfax County
First, we heard from Board Chairman Sharon Bulova.  Chairman Bulova said that schools were the County's top priority.  She talked about the County's attempting to prioritize shifting to diversion for mental health crises instead of jail. 

Next, we heard from Ed Long. 
  • County tax revenue has started to grow again albeit not at our historical rates due to lagging job growth.
  • Strong schools are the County's top priority
  • Recommended a $0.04 advertised tax rate although did not explain why given that was $68 million short of FCPS' request. 

LAST DAY for In Person Absentee Voting

Today is the last day for in-person absentee voting for the Democratic and Republican Presidential Primaries.

You can vote at one of eight locations in Fairfax, five in Prince William and one in Stafford.  Click below for the locations.

Make sure you vote and your voice is heard!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Fully Fund Fairfax County's Schools and Advertise a Dime

Next week, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors takes an important vote which will determine whether the community is allowed to engage in a debate to fully fund our schools or not.  Hopefully, they will vote to allow a discussion. 
My father attended Mt. Vernon High School.  I went to the same elementary school as my father and graduated from West Potomac High School.  All four of my children attend the same schools I did and will continue to do so over the coming decade.
As a parent and your State Senator, I have been disturbed by the proliferation of trailers, teachers resigning to take higher salaries elsewhere, Fairfax County Public Schools' (FCPS) unprecedented faculty vacancy rate, and other systems that offer superior technology and services to children's education due to lagging funding from both the State and Fairfax County. 
In the seven years I have served in the General Assembly of Virginia, the Commonwealth has increased funding to FCPS by over $200 million per year or 48%. Here are the numbers:

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Weekly Column: Week #6: Electronic Textbooks, Sunshine and Other Bills Moves

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 February 16, 2016.
Week #6: Electronic Textbooks, Sunshine and Other Bills Moves
As we pass the mid-point of this General Assembly session, many bills are moving. 
After a 30-minute debate, the Senate approved my bill prohibiting the use of electronic textbooks in public schools without a plan to provide school broadband and digital devices to every student required to use an electronic textbook.  Virginia’s constitution requires that every child receive a free textbook.  
On the floor, I argued that without home computers, electronic textbooks create a two-tiered education system for the haves and the have-nots.  Senators Adam Ebbin and George Barker joined me in stressing that even Northern Virginia’s schools have significant low-income student populations who face  disadvantages in the classroom without their own devices.  The bill now moves to the House of Delegates.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Weekly Column: Week #5: Regional Gas Tax, Digital Divide, and Identity Protection

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 February 16, 2016.
Week #5: Regional Gas Tax, Digital Divide, and Identity Protection

The fifth week of the General Assembly Session brought some long days and nights as we rushed to complete work on bills before our mid-session deadline called “Crossover.”

First the Senate passed legislation to plug a hole in the Northern Virginia 2.1% regional gas tax that is used to fund transit.  This legislation was the top priority for Fairfax, Prince William and Stafford Counties.  It now goes on to an uncertain future in the House of Delegates, but without the legislation, localities will be under even more pressure to raise real estate taxes if we expect to maintain the same level of transit service. 

Eleven of my bills have passed the full Senate with two more still waiting for final passage.  One bill involved improving the fairness of protective order proceedings and another ensured that Virginians can enforce subpoenae in civil and criminal cases in Virginia due to a recent Supreme Court of Virginia opinion.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Embark Richmond Highway Embarks!

There are exciting things afoot on U.S. 1 in Fairfax County.  The condition of U.S. 1 is tied to everything in our community - property values, schools, environment, and quality of life.  When I was elected in 2009, I promised voters that my number one priority would be facilitating the redevelopment and revitalization of the U.S. 1 Corridor. 

After consulting with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), we determined that the first step was to develop a coherent consensus view of transit and land use in the corridor.  In 2011, Senator Toddy Puller and I pushed through SJ292 which commissioned the Route 1 Multimodal Alternatives Analysis and Senator Puller and I secured $2 million to fund the study working with Governor Robert McDonnell and Secretary of Transportation Sean CoNnaughton. 

The study wrapped up last year and included collaboration from myself, Senators Toddy Puller and Adam Ebbin, Delegates Mark Sickles and Dave Albo, and Supervisors Gerry Hyland and Jeff McKay.  The final report is 500 pages long and you can read it here:

The study recommended a four phase approach to construct:
  • Sidewalks down the entire 14-mile length of U.S. 1 and a multi-use path for pedestrian and cycling.
  • Widening U.S. 1 to six lanes its entire length.
  • Constructing a median-dedicated bus rapid transit system from the Huntington Metro to the Woodbridge Virginia Railway Express Station.
  • Extend the Yellow Line from Huntington Metro to Beacon Hill and Hybla Valley. 
This was endorsed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors last year.  Making this a reality will require long-term hard work and collaboration between the Federal, State and Local governments and all of Mt. Vernon and Lee District's elected officials.   

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

VDOT's Response on January 20 Storm Preparation

On January 20, 2016 (before the major storm), a small storm brought Northern Virginia's evening rush hour to a halt.  I received a series of emails from constituents stuck on U.S. 1 whose 30 minutes commutes turned into three hours.

Below is correspondence I wrote to VDOT and VDOT's response.  Please let me know if you have any feedback!

Weekly Column: Week #4: Coal Ash Bill Fails, Other Bills Move Forward

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 February 2, 2016.
Week #4: Coal Ash Bill Fails, Other Bills Move Forward

As we move towards the midpoint of the General Assembly Session called “Crossover,” we are required to finish work on all bills in our respective chambers.  Things are picking up in Richmond.

First, I am on track to pass about a dozen bills out of the Senate and several bills were passed by the Senate.  First, my legislation to raise Virginia’s threshold between misdemeanors and felonies from $200 to $500 was incorporated into a Republican senator’s bill and passed 26-14 with wide bipartisan support including the support of the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys.  

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Fighting for SB390 and Temporary Driver's Licenses for Immigrants

Yesterday, I was joined by the New Virginia Majority, Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO), CASA, the Commonwealth Institute, Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health to present SB 390 to the Transportation Committee, which would allow temporary driver’s licenses to be issued to applicants unable to demonstrate legal residency in Virginia. Unfortunately, the bill was passed by indefinitely by a vote of 7-6 and will not be advanced through the General Assembly.  You can watch the video below.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Weekly Column: Week #3: Firearm Compromise, Equal Rights Amendment Passes, & Vulnerable Users to be Studied

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 February 2, 2016.
Week #3: Firearm Compromise, Equal Rights Amendment Passes, & Vulnerable Users to be Studied
The third week of the General Assembly saw a major agreement emerge on firearm violence issues, and action on several of my bills.
Bills Moving Through
Three of my bills passed the full Senate this week.  My resolution ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) passed on a bipartisan 21-19 vote.  ERA remains five states short of ratification.  The Senate also passed my bill to give consumers a remedy when consumer finance companies fail to include language protecting consumers in their agreements, and prohibiting local governments from requiring homeowners or condo association approval before granting a permit or license.
As trains, buses, bicycles and walking become more popular, many states have enacted “vulnerable user” laws – making it easier to convict vehicle drivers of a serious traffic offense when collisions occur with vulnerable users who are seriously injured.  My legislation will be studied this summer.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Senator Surovell's Prince William County Town Hall

This weekend I held my Prince William County General Assembly Town Hall in Dumfries, Virginia.  About 40 people attended.  The number one issue on people's minds were the status of coal ash ponds at the Possum Point Power Plant.  The second issue was education and third was probably education.

You can watch the entire Town Hall if you missed here online below.  Thank you to everyone who came out!