How Much Have We Lost?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Weekly Column: Proffer and Firearms Reforms; the Electric Chair Returns

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 March 28, 2016.
Proffer and Firearms Reforms; the Electric Chair Returns
In the past two weeks, I reviewed action on my legislation and the state budget.  This column covers some of the major bills to pass the state legislature.
We passed legislation to reform the proffer process for residential rezoning.  Many localities have abused the process by requiring builders to make flat cash payments as high as $40,000 per home instead of improvements linked to increase infrastructure demands created by a specific rezoning.  This practice abuses the intent underlying the proffer process, drives up the cost of housing and lacks any meaningful accountability in Virginia’s courts. 
Going forward, for rezonings, proffers must be tied to an infrastructure impact specifically caused by the proposed development.  Additionally, the law completely excludes commercial rezonings and at the request of Fairfax County, excludes rezonings in tax districts servicing Metro stations and land zoned for higher densities adjacent to transit facilities – e.g. most of Route 1.   These changes will incentivize local governments to zone future development as mixed-use, higher-density, “smart growth” instead of more sprawl. 

We also passed the first significant firearm legislation in a decade.  First, Virginia will give universal reciprocity to out-of-state, concealed weapon permits, unfortunately, even if you are legally prohibited from obtaining such a permit in Virginia.  We also passed legislation requiring people subject to protective orders to turn in their weapons within 24 hours and to require a State Police presence at all gun shows to conduct voluntary background checks upon request.
Virginia's Electric Chair
We passed legislation requiring execution by electric chair if lethal injection drugs are unavailable with little transparency or accountability on the drug procurement process.  The last two state supreme courts to review this method, Georgia and Nebraska, found that the electric chair is unconstitutional torture and it has been repealed by 85 percent of states formerly allowing it.  I am urging Governor McAuliffe to veto the bill. 

We passed the first legal framework in the United States to regulate fantasy sports.  We also approved significant tolling reforms so that no tolls can be imposed on Virginia roads without legislative approval and private toll road operators cannot sue first-time offenders for more than $2,100.  We passed a framework to start the widening of Interstate 66. 
Finally, a vacancy on the Supreme Court of Virginia created a major conflict.  The General Assembly refused to elect former Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Jane Roush to a full-term.  This is the first time in 115 years and 33 recess vacancies that the legislature has refused to elect a gubernatorial appointee.  While the newly-elected justice, Stephen McCullough, is qualified, I am deeply concerned that the legislature’s action will discourage future qualified judges from accepting recess appointments. Also, it has unduly politicized the judiciary.  
We will reconvene in two weeks to consider the Governor’s amendments to or vetoes of our legislation.  It is an honor to serve as your state Senator.  Please email your feedback at scott@scottsurovell.org.

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