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.
Also, the legislation also requires Dominion to evaluate options to recycle coal ash using new technologies and identify locations where recycling might work. Coal ash recycling is being used in George, North and South Carolina to clean the environment and create jobs. Coal ash is used in concrete and we currently import significant amounts of coal ash into the United States from China. I am hopeful the bill will pass the full Senate next week.On Sunday, the Senate Finance Committee announced its proposed amendments to the State Budget. The good news is that the Committee found a way to fund 2% raises for teachers along with other state employees, and extra raises for court clerks and especially our State Police. The House Budget does not include a pay raise for teachers so that is not guaranteed. The bad news is that my request for funding the next stage of construction at Widewater State Park was not funded, nor my request to fill two vacant but authorized Fairfax County Judgeships.Several of my other bills passed the Senate this week. First, my legislation requiring 30-days’ notice before any tuition increase is voted on passed the Senate unanimously. The Senate also passed my bill making it easier to hold drunk driver’s liable for punitive damages in civil cases and legislation which requires community colleges and universities to publish lists of courses that are guaranteed to be given credit to transfer students. Many students take the wrong classes – this costs students more tuition and causes them to take up space at our four-year colleges that other students could fill when classes must be retaken.The Senate also passed my legislation that creates and electronic government document authentication system. The Federal Government and other states have already taken steps to electronically authenticate government records. If implemented, this allows citizens to access official copies of official records – such as vital records, deeds, or government licenses - must faster and saves taxpayer dollars.We will experience Crossover this week, debate on the State Budget and we will begin debate on bills from the House of Delegates.Please come to my town halls on Saturday, February 11 at 9:00 a.m. at Walt Whitman Intermediate School and 1:00 p.m. at Hayfield Elementary School. Also, please complete my constituent survey at www.scottsurovell.org/survey.I look forward to your feedback and appreciate your input. It is an honor to serve as your State Senator.