This column was submitted by State Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36), and does not necessarily represent the views of Covering The Corridor.
On January 8, I was sworn in for my second term as the State Senator for the 36th District for the next four years. This this session will be my 11th Regular Session and it is proving to be an exciting time to be in the General Assembly of Virginia.
This marks the first time that the Democratic Caucuses have held a majority of seats along with a Democratic Governor since I was in law school 26 years ago. We are poised to make significant policy changes in Virginia that will provide long-term benefits to the Commonwealth.
The Senate Democratic Caucus chose me to serve under the Majority Leader and Caucus Chairman as the Vice Chairman of the Caucus. I am excited and honored to serve in this new role — especially as we assume the majority.
I was also appointed to four new committees including Judiciary, Commerce and Labor, Transportation and Privileges and Elections. I will also serve on the Criminal Law Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee and I am returning to the Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee.
I have filed over 60 bills and 25 budget amendments covering a variety of topics including criminal and civil justice reform, consumer privacy, predatory lending reform, firearm violence prevention, women’s rights, immigration reform, affordable housing, economic justice, and environmental protection. You can see my bills online at the Legislative Information System at lis.virginia.gov.
More specifically, I am proud of the coalition we have assembled to create a new Public Defender’s Office for Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park. The combined jurisdictions are 100,000 larger than the second largest jurisdiction in Virginia and it will be the first time since 2005 that Virginia has expanded its 25 public defender offices. Gov. Ralph Northam included funding in his budget and I am very optimistic.
My legislation prohibiting Virginians from driving with a phone in their hand should have an easier time this session. Likewise, my bills to enhance remedies against drivers who injure pedestrians and cyclists have passed the Senate repeatedly should have a good chance of becoming law. Cyclists and pedestrian deaths are increasing over the last five years after decades of declines.
I am carrying three firearm violence prevention measures. One would give localities the authority regulate firearms at locally permitted events such as farmer’s markets and protests. The second would allow individuals to voluntarily place themselves on a firearm “Do No Sell List” as a precaution against suicide. The third will prohibit duck blinds in Little Hunting Creek where hunting is illegal but the Commonwealth has continued to lease duck hunting blinds.
I have again introduced my bill to authorize localities to regulate loose shopping carts – a major problem in the U.S. 1 Corridor and other retail areas like Springfield. Neither state or federal environmental law have any regulation of above ground chemical tanks. My bill will fill that void. I am also carrying bills to promote energy audits, provide grants for solar panels, solar thermal heating, electric vehicles and geothermal heat pump systems.
I have also introduced legislation to require utilities to allow groups of homeowners to pool their resources, erect solar panels and net the output against their home meters which is needed in established wooded neighborhoods in much of the 36th District.
The Joint Rules Committee also adopted rules prohibited any person, including legislators, except for full-time law enforcement officers from bringing firearms into the State Capitol or our office building. Through the years, it was common to see AR-15s or pistols in the Capitol or our offices – especially on the Martin Luther King Holiday (which is also gun lobby day). I am optimistic the new rules will make safer for everyone.
If you have any feedback, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is an honor to serve as your state senator.