Surovell: Session wins included transportation funding, undergrounding bill

Surovell talking into microphone
State Sen. Scott Surovell discusses legislation on the Senate floor on February 7. (YouTube screenshot)

This column was submitted by State Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36), and does not necessarily represent the views of Covering The Corridor

The 2019 Session is now in the books. Notwithstanding the controversy generated by our statewide officials, it was one of the most personally successful sessions in the 10 years I have served in the General Assembly. This column focuses on my personal legislative agenda.

First, Governor Northam announced a deal to widen I-95 southbound between VA-123 and the Prince William County Parkway in three years using no taxpayer funds and no penalty payment to Transurban. I have been urging this solution for three years and it will save millions of drivers millions of hours per month when implemented.

Sixteen of my bills are on the Governor’s desk. The most significant was my bipartisan bill to address Virginia’s coal ash crisis. The legislation we ultimate passed will result in a $3 billion plan to cleanup Dominion’s 27 million cubic yards of coal ash in Virginia in an environmentally responsible way and represents the first time Virginia has exceeded EPA standards on environmental protection.

Late last week, the House of Delegates passed my legislation giving Fairfax County the ability to pass a $1/mo. utility tax to raise $30 million over 20 years to pay for electrical line undergrounding on U.S. 1 between Woodlawn and Hybla Valley. I also secured Verizon’s commitment to place their wires underground at no cost if a duct bank is constructed large enough to handle their wires, saving millions. Coupled with a $15 million contribution from VDOT and legislation I passed last session making two additional funding streams available, there is now no excuse for Fairfax County to hold back on placing utilities underground on U.S. 1 and I am urging them to take action immediately.

My legislation to facilitate a legal pathway for undocumented abandoned, abused and neglected immigrant children passed the House and Senate nearly unanimously and will help thousands of children escape tragic circumstances.

I also passed legislation requiring homeowner and condo association to publish their budgets and capital reserve shortfalls, and limited their ability to prohibit homebased childcare which is a critical need.

My legislation to create fines for government officials who destroy public records to avoid disclosing them in citizen requests passed long with a remedy to punish local governments who violate closed meeting rules while their counsel is present. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

We passed my legislation requiring the Commonwealth to create model memorandum of understanding for school resource officers to be templated across the Commonwealth. Virginia leads the nation in student criminal referrals and this will help to stop the School to Prison Pipeline.

Elections for Dumfries Town Council will now occur in November saving taxpayer dollars and increasing voter participation.

I passed legislation allowing restricted driver’s licenses for out-of-state drug offenses to prevent Virginians from losing their jobs passed, along with better due process for protective order proceedings, streamlining no-default divorce procedures and filing fee waivers for indigent divorcing parties.

My bill to allow parents to recover damages for wrongfully killed children who provide family support passed unanimously, along with legislation to make it easier for LGBT couples to become parents through surrogate mothers.

The failure of the House of Delegates to once again ratify the Equal Rights Amendment was a major disappointment to me and 160 million American Women. Also, the hand’s free (texting while driving) bill died in the House after passing the Senate. Governor Northam has a bill on his desk he could amend to achieve the same result and I am urging him to do so.

My predatory lending reform legislation died in the Senate even after passing last year 38-2. Loan sharks rejoiced, but I will be back next year. I was also disappointed that my bill to close a wage withholding loophole for child support deadbeats failed after passing the Senate and making it on to the House Floor, along with my bill to create a temporary driver’s privilege card for taxpaying undocumented immigrants.

Next week, I will discuss the state budget. The following week I will discuss other major pieces of legislation that passed including redistricting reforms, early voting, Amazon and Micron incentives.

Please email me at scott@scottsurovell.org if you have any feedback. It is an honor to serve as your state senator.

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