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Opinion: Reflecting on Recent Legislation

Surovell cites roads money and Medicaid expansion.

Reflecting back on this past General Assembly’s actions Del. Scott Surovell (D-44) believes the most important legislative accomplishments in the last session of the General Assembly were:

  • Passing a transportation money bill.

  • Advancing Medicaid expansion by creating a special committee to approve Medicaid expansion if several conditions are met, including establishing cost controls and flexibility in managing Medicaid overall. The state Senate Finance Committee projects 33,381 jobs will be created by Fiscal Year 2021 due to the additional money brought into the health care delivery system.

  • Legislation making texting while driving a primary offense and clarifying that it also can be charged as reckless driving.

Surovell said the most significant accomplishment in the last session was working to pass a House of Delegates Budget Amendment that helped to secure $2 million of funding for the U.S. Route 1 Multimodal Alternative Analysis. The plan which emerges from this analysis, according to Surovell, “will lay the necessary legal groundwork for all road and transit improvements for the next 20-30 years.”

Ironically, his biggest legislative disappointment was in what the transportation legislation did not accomplish, despite its unquestionable importance after years of delay. Surovell said, “The bill only funds 20 percent of our long-term needs, and makes us the only state in the USA cutting gas taxes; finances roads with highly regressive levies that have no relationship to transportation; codifies regional funding mechanisms into our laws and regulations that will prove to be bad precedents in future years, and once again fails to address Northern Virginia’s inadequate representation on the Commonwealth Transportation Board.”

Surovell’s current attention during the recess period includes the following two measures that were introduced by him in the last session and referred for additional study. They are:

  • Legislation which would prohibit public school systems from implementing online learning programs without first ensuring that all public school students have their own computers and broadband access. Surovell said, “Many of my constituents living on or near Richmond Highway do not have computers or broadband; this is also a problem across Virginia. It is wrong for any public school system to make any learning tool available that cannot be equally accessed by lower income families.” The bill was referred to the Joint Commission on Science and Technology.

  • Legislation to amend the Virginia Freedom of Information Act to clarify and establish that the State Corporation Commission is subject to the FOIA. If enacted this would have the effect of reversing a Virginia Supreme Court opinion that the SCC is not subjected to the provisions of FOIA. Surovell said, “The SCC determines how much you pay for electricity, phone, gas, and water service … regulates banks, securities, and corporations … they should be subject to sunshine and transparency laws just like the rest of the government of Virginia.” The bill was referred to the Commission on the Freedom of Information Act.