Opinion: Commentary: Some Bills Die, Others Progress

Opinion: Commentary: Some Bills Die, Others Progress

The third week of the General Assembly brought action on many of my bills.

First, the Equal Rights Amendment was killed in House Committee at the beginning of the week. It was the first time the House of Delegates has ever held a hearing on the amendment. The official statements from members who opposed indicated that they felt women had equal rights and the amendment was no longer necessary. However, the conservative activist community has attempted to make the amendment all about abortion which is inaccurate — the right to contraception and reproductive freedom is already recognized in the U.S. Constitution.

Women do not have equal rights. There are numerous pieces of legislation that are regularly passed across the country that have a disparate impact on women. Unfortunately, these are very difficult to challenge in court because government actions that differentiate on sex are not given the same scrutiny as government actions that differentiate based on race. I have carried this bill for seven years and we will continue to fight to enshrine equality in the U.S. Constitution.

My legislation has started to move. The new “gig economy” has created challenges with some of our old systems. For example, Virginia Law does not allow child support to be withheld from anyone who is paid by 1099. Some child support payees have used jobs at entities like Uber and Lyft to avoid making payments. My legislation to close this loophole cleared the Senate Courts Committee.

Next, my bills to regulate predatory lending strangely failed. I introduced legislation to put a 36 percent rate cap on consumer finance loans. My legislation was supported by the consumer finance industry, but was opposed by internet lenders who want to use Virginia’s consumer finance laws to allow them to make loans over the internet at over 400 percent. Five senators changed their votes from last year and my bill that passed the full Senate 38-2 failed in committee by two votes. I will be back next year.

My legislation providing more transparency with homeowners associations cleared committee. First, my legislation would require all homeowner and condominium associations to actually publish their budget to members on an annual basis (this is not currently required). Next, association will be required to tell their members exactly how much reserves for capital investments are recommended by their reserve study and exactly how short they are. Associations frequently do not raise dues to save enough money which leaves sidewalks, pools, and parking lots in a decrepit state.

Next, homeowner association of childcare has been a regular problem. Home-based childcare is entry level employment for many immigrant families and provides a useful service given that childcare in the D.C. Metropolitan Area is the most expensive in the United States. Many associations try to use “home-based business” prohibitions to prohibit unsophisticated homeowners who have already received country approval for their childcare service. My legislation says associations can only prohibit home-based childcare if they pass a specific rule about home-based childcare. This will help avoid disputes.

My legislation to amend the Town of Dumfries Charter to require elections to be held in November instead of May also passed committee. This will save taxpayer dollars and increase turnout. More people voting makes for better elections.

Finally, we have seen zero movement on reaching tax conformity with the federal government. Because of this, Virginians still cannot file a tax return. This is becoming a crisis, but the Republican majority has refused to reach out for input to us even though conformity legislation cannot pass without 12 Democratic votes as emergency legislation. We need to get this done immediately.

Please complete my constituent survey online and email me at scott@scottsurovell.org if you have any feedback. It is an honor to serve as your state senator.