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Votes

Column: Guns, Abortion and Voter Suppression Dominates

The last week of January brought a quickened pace to the legislative process as committees worked to push bills through committee. We are required to complete all work on bills from our own Chamber by “Crossover” on Feb.14 which means they must be reported out of committee by Feb. 10.

First, several of my bills have continued to move through the system. Two of my bills have passed to the Senate. My legislation to streamline filings in child custody and visitation cases was unanimously approved by the Courts of Justice Committee but stalled in Appropriations due to the current budget and the cost of reprogramming state computers.

Tax cheating costs our country billions of dollars. In 2006, the Bush Administration and Congress created a program that required the Internal Revenue Service to pay rewards to individuals who provided information that led towards the collection of delinquent taxes. Other states adopted similar programs.

I introduced legislation to authorize the Virginia Department of Taxation to adopt a similar program. Cheating on state taxes can be unique ranging from selling untaxed heating oil as diesel fuel to lying about a Virginia domicile. My legislation was reported out of subcommittee unanimously, passed the full Finance Committee, and is pending in Appropriations.

I have two bills that were continued to the 2013 Session for study. One asks VDOT to study using highway right of ways for solar energy production. The other creates a new cause of action against private entities that sell information relating to criminal charges where individuals were found innocent and the records expunged. I hope to pass them in 2013. I have several other bills that are still pending.

I was very concerned about the amount of legislation we are passing that has nothing to do with turning our economy around, transportation, education, healthcare or the issues that most of my constituents identify as priorities. First, we voted to require criminal defendants to pay for their own translators. The Department of Justice sued several states who passed similar law already.

We passed legislation repealing Virginia’s “One-Gun-A-Month” law that was adopted to cut off illegal gun running to New York. We also passed legislation prohibiting Fairfax County from banning firearms in Fairfax County parking lots and also prohibited Fairfax County from destroying guns purchased in local gun buy-back programs. I voted against all of these measures.

We voted to prohibit public funding of abortion to women if a doctor certifies that “the fetus will be born with a gross and totally incapacitating physical deformity or with a gross and totally incapacitating mental deficiency.” While I recognize that some people have moral objections to government funded abortion, I viewed this legislation as extremely unfair to low-income women.

We passed legislation requiring all voters without valid identification to cast “provisional ballots.” “Provisional ballots” are counted on the day after the election in the Fairfax County Government Center after the Electoral Board conducts a hearing regarding the validity of each ballot. Voters must show up to plead their individual case. We also passed new legislation allowing only the voter and party and campaign observers to be present instead of allowing the current practice of an open meeting. I gave a floor speech detailing my opposition to these bills. You can watch it online on my blog The Dixie Pig at scottsurovell.blogspot.com.

Eleven-percent of adults in the United States do not have identification. Virginia issues 500,000 license suspensions every year and 20,000 Virginia licenses are reported lost every year. I watch deputies take licenses in Court every day. I do not believe your constitutional right to vote should depend upon whether you brought a picture ID to a polling place and can spend four hours at the Fairfax County Government Center on a workday after an election defending your identity. Voter impersonation is non-existent and felony charges are a sufficient deterrent. The Department of Justice will be required to approve this measure due to Virginia’s history of racial discrimination. We will see what happens.

This week brings more: the “Tim Tebow” bill, death penalty, immigration, Castle Doctrine, anti-Sharia Law bills, and private school tax credits. Good government requires your involvement so please send me your feedback. It is an honor to serve as your state delegate.

By Scott A. Surovell

State Delegate (D-44)