How Much Have We Lost?

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.
Fifteen of my bills now await Governor McAuliffe’s action.  The legislature referred two of my bills for further study.  In the session’s last week, I served on seven conference committees to negotiate final language for several bills.

My legislation requiring the city of Alexandria to address raw sewage discharges passed both houses.  Although the bill will allow Alexandria to discharge an additional 550 million gallons of raw sewage into the Potomac River, it requires all discharges to stop by 2025.

While this will cost the city about $150-$200 million to fix, I am committed to helping locate state funds to support construction over the next eight years.  I especially appreciate Agriculture and Natural Resource Chairman Senator Richard Stuart’s dedication to finding a solution and the support of Senator Adam Ebbin and Delegate Paul Krizek who consistently supported solving this problem.

My legislation requiring owners of coal ash ponds to provide the public better information passed.  I hope the Governor will restore some of the key provisions removed in the House of Delegates.
My legislation to make it easier to hold drunk drivers accountable for injuring victims passed both houses unanimously.  This bill was necessary in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Birchfield v. North Dakota decision last year which now requires a search warrant for nearly all withdrawals of blood.

I introduced two college transparency bills.  One requires 30-days’ notice of a proposed tuition increase, an explanation of the need and the date and time of any vote on a tuition increase at state-supported colleges.   My second bill requires colleges and universities and community colleges to publish a list of all courses guaranteed to transfer so that students do not mistakenly take non-transferable classes and delay graduation.

During the last year, I have been involved in cases in which child support payors passed away while in arrears for child support.  I was surprised to learn that this was not a priority debt during the administration of an estate and basically gets treated like credit card debt.  My legislation to require child support arrearages to be paid before general debts passed both houses without a single dissenting vote.

All bills passed by the legislature now go to the Governor who must either amend, sign or veto them by March 27. Next week, I will cover some other bills that the legislature passed and the following week I will report on some bills that the legislature did not pass.

In the meantime, please complete my constituent survey at www.scottsurovell.org/survey and email me at scott@scottsurovell.org if you have any questions.

It is an honor to serve as your State Senator.

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