The General Assembly completed its first full week of work this week. First, two of my bills have been passed by the House Courts of Justice Committee and are heading to the floor of the House of Delegates. One clarifies when an appellate court must calculate interest on remand of an appeal. A second bill makes it clear that a Power of Attorney automatically terminates when unmarried parents file for child custody or visitation or separated spouses file for support.
This week, I also presented a bill to adjust Virginia’s threshold between misdemeanor and felony offenses from $200 to $500. Virginia’s limit is the lowest in the United States and has not been adjusted since 1981. The value of $200 from 1981 is $549 today according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Governor McDonnell carried the bill when he was a delegate. Attorney General Cucinnelli and the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys supported my bill for a number of reasons. The only opponents were Virginia retailers like Target and Walmart. The bill received one vote on committee. Richmond may be the only place where a Republican Governor, Republican Attorney General, the state prosecutors’ association, and a Democratic state delegate can stand before a committee on a criminal justice bill and only get one vote. I will be filing it again next year.
I also presented legislation to block Governor McDonnell’s proposal to limit childcare subsidies in Fairfax County. Studies have shown that the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area has the highest childcare expenses in the United States — $18,000 per year for an infant. Fairfax County does not limit the length of time a parent can receive subsidies because our costs are so much higher than the rest of the state. We also provide local funds on top of state subsidies unlike any other locality in Virginia. My legislation was tabled on a party-line vote.
Childcare subsidies were created as part of 1990’s welfare reforms to encourage parents to work. I met parents while knocking doors who told me that they were barely able to make ends meet with the subsidies. The state’s action will push many parents in my district back onto welfare because they cannot both work and afford childcare. I am trying to revive the bill.
In the last budget cycle, Virginia cut its payments in half to house state prisoners in Fairfax County jails. Those cuts are being made up with local property tax revenue. I introduced legislation at the request of Fairfax County Sheriff Stan Barry to give Fairfax County the option of increasing the assessment on criminal convictions for courthouse security from $10 to $15 to replace the lost revenues. My legislation was also supported by the Virginia Association of Sheriffs. In some localities without police departments, they were forced to divert law enforcement resources to provide courthouse security. My legislation was killed on a party-line vote.
Finally, I spoke out about Route 1 this week. The Department of Motor Vehicles gave me statistics showing that since January 1, 2009, seven people have been killed and 55 people injured on the seven mile stretch of Route 1 in my district — that’s one death and eight injuries per mile. I think that’s outrageous. Route 1 in Fairfax County is probably the most dangerous stretch of road for pedestrians in Virginia.
On the floor, I spoke about how our lack of transportation funding has prevented any real action on Route 1. The condition of Route 1 affects our commutes, families, traffic, economic development, and jobs. People should be able to walk to the grocery store without having to worry about being injured or killed. You can watch my speech on my blog, The Dixie Pig, at scottsurovell.blogspot.com.
Please go to my website and respond to my survey. Over 200 households have responded so far. You can also comment on legislation, set up a meeting or request a Capitol tour at www.scottsurovell.org.
Good government requires your involvement so please be in touch or come visit in Richmond so I can best represent you in the General Assembly. It is an honor to serve as your state delegate.
By Scott A. Surovell