Week #4 of the General Assembly saw two of my bills pass and many controversial proposals starting to hit the floor of the House of Delegates.
I had two pieces of legislation that passed the House of Delegates unanimously. Both bills clarify the Code of Virginia on technical issues. I have several other bills that are working their way through committee.
I also saw some progress on transportation — at least on the procedural side. The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) decides how transportation money is spent in Virginia. The regional commissioners represent districts that were based on 1930’s congressional districts. Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads and Richmond have 65 percent of the state’s population but only 33 percent of the regional votes on the CTB (3 of 9). In 2010, 2011 and this year, I introduced legislation requiring them to be allocated by current congressional districts. This would give Northern Virginia at least three votes instead of one.
This year, my legislation was also introduced by three Republican delegates and two senators. We agreed to consolidate our proposals into one bill being carried by my colleague Del. Tom Rust and we now have over 51 bipartisan cosponsors from around the state and the bill should be on the floor by the end of the week. I am pleased it is finally moving.
When I turned 40 years old this year, I had to renew my driver’s license. While going through the process, I noticed that if I indicated a change of address, the DMV intended to mail me a voter registration form which I would then have to mail in. I introduced legislation that would require the DMV to electronically transmit the change request to the local voter registrar saving the need for printing, postage, and mailing. Given that the DMV processes 500,000 address changes per year, this should save the DMV at least $250,000 per year. My bill was passed out of subcommittee last week and should be in full committee next week.
Late last week, we debated repealing the requirement that schools advise the parents of sixth-grade girls of the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine and allow parents to opt their child out before administering the vaccine. Virginia passed this requirement in 2007. HPV infects about 80 percent of all American women at some point in their life. It causes cervical cancer which kills 233,000 women per year in the world (about 4,000 in the U.S.). We had a passionate floor debate. Many in my chamber think that the vaccine incentivizes promiscuity and raised concerns about the safety of the vaccine although studies have shown few problems. I voted against repeal and the bill passed 62-34. The repeal will likely become law.
This week, we are debating additional restrictions to voting including bills to prohibit voting without valid identification and limiting public access to the post-election meetings where votes are verified. I opposed both measures but they are expected to pass. There are no documented cases of voter impersonation in Virginia and I believe prosecution of a felony is sufficient disincentive to discourage that kind of behavior and I believe the motives of this bill are purely political.
Voting is a fundamental constitutional right. In knocking 12,000 doors in my district, I have met many elderly voters that do not need a driver’s license. There is a monastery near Bryant School where 30 nuns live who probably do not have ID. Over 20,000 licenses are reported lost every year, plus 500,000 licenses are suspended every year and many of those are physically forfeited. Your right to vote should not be dependent upon whether you can pay a traffic ticket or can keep track of your wallet.
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By Scott A. Surovell