How Much Have We Lost?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Weekly Column: Time for Local Governments to Invest in Early Voting

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of July 10, 2017.
Time for Local Governments to Invest in Early Voting
In Virginia, we have a elections every year.  This year, we even have three including a special election for school board on August 29 and then elections for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General and State Delegate on November 7.
Turnout in our state and local elections plummets. In my experience, a large reason is that voting takes precious time away from jobs and families and given Northern Virginia traffic, time is at a premium.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Time is Now to Plan for NOVA's Boom

UVA's Weldon-Cooper Center recently came out with it's new population projection for 2040 (which isn't that far away!). 

The top lines from the newspapers project Virginia passing New Jersey and Michigan in population, but the local numbers are more interesting.

NOVA counties are going to see some major increases.  I have listed the counties in the 36th District here in blue.  Here's some comparisons:

Jurisdiction
2015 Population2040 Projected
Population
Total
Increase
Percentage
Increase
Total Delegates
Total Senators
Fairfax County
1,129,330
1,347,487
218,157
19.3%
13.2
5.2
Prince William County
443,463
682,111
238,648
53.8%
6.7
2.7
Stafford County
134,251
208,845
74,594
55.5%
2.0
0.8
Loudoun County
374,451
684,911
310,460
82.9%
6.7
2.7
Arlington County
234,678
313,352
78,674
33.5%
3.1
1.2
City of Alexandria
159,571
215,119
55,548
34.8%
2.1
0.8
City of Fairfax
23,193
25,286
2,093
9.0%
0.2
0.1
City of Falls Church
14,183
20,577
6,394
45.0%
0.2
0.1
Fauquier County
67,898
84,873
16,975
25.0%
0.8
0.3
TOTAL
2,581,018
3,582,561
1,001,583
38.8%
35.0
13.9
    Population will continue to shift to Northern Virginia - 35% of Virginia's population will be in Northern Virginia compared with 29.6% in 2010.

    Wednesday, May 24, 2017

    Trump Budget Impacts on 36th District

    Earlier this week, President Trump announced his budget. 

    Aside from the massive layoffs in federal workforce and actual workers actually to lose their jobs with the federal government who live in the 36th District, there are other programs which provide grants or funding to other local programs in the 36th District. 

    These are just some of the programs eliminated which have touched the 36th District that I have been able to determine so far:
    • Eliminates the New Starts Program - Entire U.S. 1 Multimodal Transit Study and EMBARK plan is designed around obtaining $1.5 billion in funding from this program to construct bus rapid transit and Yellow Line Extension on U.S. 1.
    • National Wildlife Refuge Fund - 36th District has three National Wildlife Refuges
    • National Infrastructure Investments (TIGER) - TIGER grants funding completion of the Fairfax County Parkway in southern Fairfax County and construction of the I-95 HOT Lanes
    • EPA Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Fund - Self Evident
    • NASA Office of Education - has provided scholarship and summer learning opportunities for 36th District students
    • Corporation for Public Broadcasting - PBS/NPR/WETA broadcast into 36th District
    • Legal Services Corporation - Funds civil legal services for low income populations throughout the U.S. 1 Corridor
    • National Endowment for the Arts - funds Virginia Commission for the Arts and has funded grants in the 36th District
    • National Endowment for the Humanities - has funded grants in the 36th District - including for example effort to result in comprehensive edition of George Washington's papers
    • NeighborWorks America - Invested $191 Million in Virginia including first time homebuyers grants, foreclosure prevention counseling, and affordable housing assistance
    • Community Services Block Grant - Funds human services in Fairfax, Prince William and Fairfax Counties
    There are dozens of other impacts as well that I have not assessed, but these cuts would cost the 36th District millions of dollars of aid, services, and jobs.  If you know of any others, post them up in the comments.

    Monday, April 10, 2017

    Weekly Column: Successes in the Final Session

    The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of April 8, 2017.
    Successes in the Final Session

    On April 3, 2017, the General Assembly met in Richmond to consider the Governor’s amendments to and vetoes of various bills.   Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed 40 bills, a one-year record in Virginia.  All of his vetoes were upheld.

    The Governor vetoed legislation requiring local governments to pay damages caused by undocumented immigrants in their locality, legislation requiring reports of resettled refugees, a bill prohibiting “sanctuary cities” from receiving state funds and bills requiring Virginia sheriffs to hold people without legal justification.

    He vetoed bills requiring identification to vote early by mail, allowing protective order subjects to carry concealed weapons and to be given weapons training information and allowing Virginians to carry concealed switchblades.  He also rejected bills that would prohibit local governments from requiring contractors to pay employees living wages, bills to expand charter schools in Virginia and numerous other bills designed to limit voting.

    Monday, March 27, 2017

    2017 Puller Institute Policy Projects

             On Wednesday March 22,  the 2017 Puller Institute students presented their 36th District policy projects and received certificates commemorating their completion of the program.

               In 2016, I created the Puller Institute to honor my predecessor, State Senator Elizabeth “Toddy” Puller who served in the Virginia General Assembly for 24 years.  Senator Puller was an avid fighter for the citizens of Virginia and this program is dedicated to her years of hard work for the 36th District. Over a decade ago, my predecessor in the House of Delegates,  Delegate Kris Amundson created her Young Leader Program.  Her program was designed to introduce top high school students in the Mt. Vernon area to Virginia State Government process. The Puller Institute is modeled after that program.
           
                During this year's program, eight students from four different high schools traveled to
    Richmond during the General Assembly Session to be immersed in the legislative process of Virginia.  They observed the legislative process and meet with legislators, policy-makers, advocacy groups, and others.  They also were fourtunate enough to meet with Governor Terry McAuliffe, First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe, Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam and Secretary of Education Dietra Trent.         
     

    Wednesday, March 22, 2017

    Governor Acts on Coal Ash


    Possum Point Coal Ash Ponds - 120 acres
    Today, Governor Terry McAuliffe offered his amendments to SB1398 which I introduced to provide better information to the public before we make final decisions on closing four ponds or impoundments holding millions of cubic yards of coal ash located in:
    • Possum Point, Dumfries, VA
    • Bremo Station, Bremo, VA
    • Chesterfield Station, Chesterfield, VA
    • Chesapeake Energy Center, Chesapeake, VA

    While Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has been following existing state and federal law, I have remained concern that DEQ needs more tools and more options need to be on the table. 

    Monday, March 13, 2017

    Winter Storm Stella Advisory!

    Winter Storm Stella is bearing down on the 36th District.  Here are couple important tips, websites and numbers to keep you safe, warm and dry:
    • Monitor your local news sources for the latest weather conditions, and check the  National Weather Service  for up-to-date storm information.
    • Prepare your home for winter weather conditions by closing all windows and doors as well as ensuring all lose items (furniture, children's toys, etc.) outside your residence are secured or brought inside.
    • Stay off the roads, if at all possible.
    • If you must drive, do so slowly and carefully, give yourself extra time to reach your destination, and leave plenty of driving room between you and the vehicle ahead of you.  Before getting on the roads, do the following:
      • Call 800-FOR-ROAD (800-367-7623to report road hazards or ask road-related questions at VDOT's 24-hour Customer Service Center.
      • Call 511, go to www.511virginia.org or download the 511 mobile app to get the latest road condition information.
      • Prepare for winter driving conditions by having an emergency kit in your vehicle.
    • Have all of your utility account information, additional light sources,  and supplies to keep you warm on hand, in case of power outages.
      Additionally, please use the link and the numbers provided below to stay up-to-date on the road conditions or to report any power outages and road blocks:


    Dominion Resources Power Outage Line

    Dominion Resources Storm Center Outage and
    Restoration Updates

    VDOT Online Up-to-date Winter Storm Information,
    Plowing Map and Road Issue Contact Number

    Northern Virginia Snow Information/Status
    call 1-800-FOR-ROAD (367-7623) to report road issues

    Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative 
    1-888-335-0500

    Washington Gas
    1-800-752-7520

    Columbia Gas
    1-800-544-5606

    Verizon Wireless

    1-800-837-4966
    Cox Communications
    1-800-961-0027

    Also, if you have any problems, you can always contact my office at 571.249.4484.  Stay safe!

    ***Additional Updates Will Be Posted***

    Monday, March 6, 2017

    Weekly Column: 2017 General Assembly Wrap Up Part II - Major Bills

    The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of March 5, 2017.
    Virginia General Assembly Approved New Policies
     
    Last week, I reported on my accomplishments in the recent session of the General Assembly.  This week, I am highlighting a few other important policy changes coming to Virginia because of our action.
    First, we passed several bills addressing the ongoing opioid crisis which is causing carnage across Virginia.  Community organizations will be authorized tothat possess the counter-overdose drug naloxone and after 2020 opioid prescriptions   will only be allowed to be transmitted electronically to minimize forgery risk. We passed legislation authorizing Virginia to sign onto the Interstate Metro Safety Compact.  This was absolutely necessary not only because of Metro’s ongoing problems, but to ensure that Metro continues to receive critical federal funding.
     
    I have heard from several communities about problems created by AirBnB, a company that allows people to temporarily rent rooms or their homes.  In some areas, neighbors feel like residential properties have become hotels.  We passed legislation to confirm that localities’ can regulate these temporary rentals. The bill also authorizes localities to create registries for people renting their rooms for fewer than 30 days and to fine abusers.

    Monday, February 27, 2017

    Weekly Column: 2017 General Assembly Session In the Books!

    The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of February 27, 2017.
    2017 General Assembly Session In the Books!

    In the 2017 General Assembly session, which ended on February 25, we were able to make some progress in spite of a $1.1 billion budget shortfall.

    First, we approved amendments to the state’s biennial budget.  After drawing on a $560 million Rainy Day Fund, the budget funds the state share of a long-overdue two percent salary increase for teachers, a three percent raise for state employees, and a $7,000-per-year increase in starting salaries ($36,000) for state troopers.   As always, we met our constitutional obligation to balance the budget.

    Monday, February 20, 2017

    2017 Fairfax County Town Hall Videos and Recap

    On February 11, I had approximately 200 Fairfax County residents attend my Mount Vernon Town Hall held at the Walt Whitman Middle School and my Lee District Town Hall held at Hayfield Elementary School, both in Alexandria. I was joined by Senator Adam Ebbin and Delegate Paul Krizek in Mount Vernon.  In Lee District, I was joined by Senator George Barker, Delegate Mark Sickles, Delegate Krizek, and Delegate Vivian Watts.

    At these events, I spoke in detail on my legislative goals, the status of my introduced legislation and answered questions from attendees.
    Senator Surovell at Hayfield Elementary


    Some of the topics of discussion were:

    Supporting our Immigrant Communities
    Coal Ash/Water Quality Issues
    LGBTQ Rights
    Environmental Concerns
    Public Education Funding 
                                    Mental Health Funding

    There was excellent turnout and good question from the attendees.

    If you were in able to attend, check out videos of the town halls below! You will be able to learn about my legislative agenda in-depth, the 2017 General Assembly legislative session, and hear your community's questions!

    Mount Vernon:

    Lee District:






    Weekly Column: Coal Ash Bill Passes, Computers and Predatory Lending to be Studied

    The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of February 20, 2017.
    Coal Ash Bill Passes, Computers and Predatory Lending to be Studied

    We have one week to go in session and negotiations are rapidly reaching conclusion as we push to finish out work so we can get back to our families and our jobs. 
    This past week, my legislation to raise Virginia’s threshold between misdemeanors and felonies from $200 to $500 failed.  Virginia’s threshold has not changed since 1981.  Our existing system unnecessarily focuses police and prosecutors on minor crimes instead of violent crime while tainting thousands of Virginia’s suffering from depression or drug addiction with felony charges for life. 
    The House of Delegates passed my legislation requiring Dominion to provide better information on coal ash pollution, disaster preparedness, and recycling.  I am not happy that a permitting moratorium was removed, it is better than no bill at all and the Governor will also have a chance to amend the legislation.

    Tuesday, February 14, 2017

    Weekly Column: Senate Budget, Town Halls and AirBnB

    The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of February 13, 2017.
    Crossover week of the 2017 Session came to a close as we finished initial action on over 3,000 bills.  Twenty-two of my bills of were passed by the Senate and moved on to the House of Delegates.

    My two Saturday Town Hall meetings had the largest crowds I have seen in eight years.  There was significant concern regarding federal immigration raids on U.S. 1.  On Friday, I received alarming reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had arrested numerous Latinos in a raid on U.S.1.  While the deportation of convicted felons has been consistent policy, random street sweeps and arrest or deportations of law abiding residents is unprecedented in our community.  I will work to get better information and seek to stop these actions.

    Monday, February 6, 2017

    Weekly Column: Progress On Water Quality & 2% Teacher Pay Raise Proposed

    The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of February 6, 2017.
    The last week of January was especially busy as the General Assembly approached February 7th – Crossover – the day we are required to complete all work on bills originating in our chamber.  The bills saved for last usually involve the hardest issues to resolve.

    Out of the 40 bills I introduced twenty-two have passed the Senate or are poised for passage before Crossover. 

    Last week saw another victory for water quality.  This session, I introduced three bills to help control water pollution caused by coal ash.  One of my bills was reported by the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee over the objection of Dominion Power.  The bill prohibits the issuance of any final permits until Dominion to identifies and describes all water pollution occurring at coal ash ponds and demonstrate corrective measures, evaluate coal ash removal or “clean closure,” and demonstrate that leaving coal ash in place or “cap in place” will not put the community at risk during hurricanes, floods or other major weather events.

    Saturday, February 4, 2017

    2017 Puller Institute Fellows

    When I moved across the hall in the State Capitol from the House of Delegates to the Senate. One of the things, I was most proud to bring with me was my practice of bringing a group of high school students from my district to Richmond each session to learn how their state government works.

    The Puller Institute, named for my predecessor in the 36th District, Toddy Puller, and the Amundson Institute that I had as a Delegate, have always been very successful.  The 2017 Puller Institute was no exception.

    This year's Puller Institute Fellows were:
    • Jacob Raman (West Potomac HS)
    • Amanda Ghiloni (West Potomac HS)
    • Celia Lane (West Potomac HS)
    • Mark Weil (West Potomac HS)
    • Mary Peterson (West Potomac HS)
    • Malcom Johnson (Forest Park HS)
    • Ian Peverall (Mount Vernon HS)
    • Kiley Finnerin (Mountain View HS).

    Thursday, February 2, 2017

    2017 Prince William County Town Hall Videos and Recap

    This past weekend, I had over 100 Prince William County residents attend my Northern Prince William County Town Hall held at the Occoquan Town Hall and my Southern Prince William County Town Hall at Forest Park High School in Montclair.

    Senator Surovell at Occoquan Town Hall
    During this time, I spoke in depth about my legislative priorities, my proposed legislation and answered questions.

    Some of the topics discussed were:

    Hands Free Driving
    Medicaid Expansion
    The State Budget
    Firearm Violence Prevention Legislation
    Environmental Concerns
    Transportation Funding
    Public Education Funding 
    Green Energy

    We saw excellent attendance and good questions.

    If you were unable to make these town halls, check out my videos that recorded both events. You will be able to learn about my legislative agenda in-depth, the 2017 General Assembly legislative session, and hear your community's questions!

    Check out videos of the town halls below!



    Northern Prince William County:


    Southern Prince William County:














    Tuesday, January 31, 2017

    Weekly Column: Week #3 - Town Halls, Cycling Safety and Tuition Transparency

    The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of January 24, 2017.
    Week #3: Town Halls, Cycling Safety and Tuition Transparency

                   Week three saw our General Assembly in full swing and movement on many bills.

                   First, over 100 residents came out for my two Town Halls in Prince William County.  There were many questions about my “hand’s free” legislation, coal ash legislation, increasing teacher salaries, tuition affordability, predatory lending, and other issues.

                   Thirteen of my bills have either passed or are poised for passage out of the Senate this week, ten bills were rejected, and sixteen are still awaiting action in committee.  One day, I had to defend eleven different bills in committee in addition to attending a floor session and two committees.   

    Two cycling safety bills passed this week.  First, one bill clarifies that no motor vehicle can use a bicycle lane to pass another vehicle on the right.  More bike lanes are being constructed across Virginia and our traffic code does not clearly prohibit the interplay between these lanes and passing on the right using pavement.  Cutting into a bike lane to pass on the right can be deadly and needs to be illegal.

    Thursday, January 26, 2017

    Fairfax County Interview With Cable Reports & Delegate Marcus Simon

    Yesterday, I lucky enough to once again sit for an interview with Woody Evans on Cable Reports along with fellow Fairfax County Delegation member Delegate Marcus Simon. 

    During the interview we were able to discuss our legislative agendas including my legislation to increase transparency in death investigations and closed meetings as well as  my bills to regulate internet-based lending and require public notice of public university tuition increases. We also discussed the state of the budget and its effect in Farifax County.

    Thank you to Comcast Cable and Cable Reports for having me on again!

    Prince William County Interview on Cable Reports

    Last week, I was honored to sit for an interview once again with Woody Evans on Cable Reports to discuss the 2017 Legislative Session and what it has in store for Prince William County.

    During the interview, we discussed my legislative agenda including my bills to address sewage runoff from the City of Alexandria, ground water pollution from coal ash, hands-free driving, driver Privilege Cards and much more.

    Thank you to Comcast Cable and Cable Reports for having me on the show again!  I hope to be on again soon.

    Tuesday, January 24, 2017

    Weekly Column: Raw Sewage and Predatory Lending Addressed and U.S. 1 Funding Update

    The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of January 24, 2017.
                   The General Assembly Session is in full gear and legislation has begun to move through the process as we start to take action on 3,000 bills. 
                   First, this weekend I am hosting two town hall meetings in Prince William County.  On Saturday, January 28 from 9-11 a.m. I will be at the Occoquan Town Hall with Delegate Luke Torian and Senator George Barker, and from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. I hold a Town Hall with Senator Jeremy McPike and Delegate Luke Torian at Forest Park High School.  Please come out, attend and ask questions.
                   Three of my bills have been passed by the Senate and moved on to the House.  Mostly importantly, we reached a compromise solution that will require the City of Alexandria to have measures in place to prevent 95% of all raw sewage discharges into the Potomac River by 2025. 
                   Reaching this conclusion was not easy and the City is not happy about it, but water quality is a concern to all Virginia’s regardless of political party.  The resolution would not have occurred without the help of City of Alexandria Senator Adam Ebbin and Committee Chairman Richard Stuart who represents the Northern Neck.

    Monday, January 16, 2017

    Weekly Column: Surovell Initiatives Moving in the Legislature

    The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of January 17, 2017.
    Several of my bills are moving quickly in the General Assembly’s “short,” 45-day.

    First, the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee passed my bill to require the city of Alexandria to expedite its cleanup of its primary raw sewage discharges into the Potomac River after consolidating my bill with Committee Chairman Senator Richard Stuart’s bill. 
    Many legislators agree that we cannot tolerate 70 million gallons of untreated sewage pouring into the Potomac River for the next 30 years while the city addresses the rest of what’s called a “combined sewer overflow” system dating from the 1800s.   Water quality is a nonpartisan issue.  I will continue to expedite this legislation with Senator Stuart and Delegate Dave Albo who is carrying similar legislation in the House of Delegates.

    Saturday, January 14, 2017

    Eastern Fairfax County Largely Missing from TJ

    Since it opened when I was a freshman at West Potomac H.S., Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology has achieved much academic acclaim by skimming off students from around Northern Virginia.  The success has also attracted corporate grants and additional funding that other schools - especially schools in Eastern Fairfax County - can only dream about obtaining. 

    The new admission statistics for Thomas Jefferson High School's Class of 2020 are out and it appears to be more of the same.  The full stats are below, but here are the highlights:

    Monday, January 9, 2017

    Weekly Column: Senator Surovell Previews 2017 Legislative Agenda

    The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of January 10, 2017.
    On Wednesday, January 11, the 2017 Session of the General Assembly Session will gavel in for a 45-day “short” session.  I am looking forward to a very busy six weeks and would like to update you on my plans for session.  I am introducing nearly 40 bills, but here are a few highlights.

    First, lagging state revenues continue to limit legislative initiatives and create funding priorities.  The Virginia State Police is hemorrhaging Troopers due to lagging pay and a planned two percent raise for teachers and state employees was delayed after anticipated revenues fell short.  They will be a priority this year.

    My number one legislative priority will be prohibiting drivers from having mobile phones in their hands while driving.  Between January 1 and July 1 of 2016, traffic fatalities in the United States were up by 10% - for the first time in 50 years.  Most experts attribute this to distracted driving.  Anyone driving our roads only has to look at the vehicle next to them to realize this is a problem that requires attention.
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