How Much Have We Lost?

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.
 
We passed legislation allowing robotic ground-based drones to make deliveries of goods like food or other products.  We also modified our “Uber legislation” from two years ago to authorize services like Uber to allow drivers to make deliveries.  I believe the legislation has sufficient insurance protections.  This compromise measure had wide support.
 
Virginia finally took some steps to alleviate our overly-harsh, post-conviction driver’s license suspension process.  First, we passed Senator Adam Ebbin’s bill to eliminate license suspensions after marijuana possession dispositions.  Second, we approved a bill to require judges to consider a person’s individual financial circumstances when devising payment plans for unpaid fines. 
 
We passed Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn’s legislation to require health insurance plans to cover a one-year’s supply of birth control.  This will save many Virginia women time and hassle.
 
We took some minor steps to improve mental health services.  First, we authorized local community services boards to provide same-day mental health services.  Second, we required that the governor appoint to the Board of Corrections someone who has professional mental health experience. 
 
The General Assembly also finally addressed “SLAP” suits or “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public” interest.  The legislation basically provides civil immunity to citizens who make statements about matters of public concern in good faith at public hearings.  I always have mixed feelings about immunity bills, but this bill ultimately passed on unanimous votes after lots of tinkering.   
 
We approved Delegate Dave Albo’s bill that prohibits an entertainment venue like Ticketmaster from denying access to people if they purchase a ticket secondhand,  such as from a friend. 
 
Governor McAuliffe is likely to veto over 20 bills.  We will reconvene on April 5 to consider the governor’s actions.  I will report more about those next week along with other legislation that did not pass.
 
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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