Opinion: Commentary: Important Bills Are Moving

Opinion: Commentary: Important Bills Are Moving

In the fourth week of our historic General Assembly session, both the Senate and the House of Delegates voted to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment after a 50 year battle. Our Clerks transmitted the ratifications to the Archivist of the United States of America and now the battle moves to Congress and the courts.

We had a lengthy debate in the Senate on repealing unnecessary restrictions on women’s access to reproductive health, including requiring an intrusive, medically-unnecessary ultrasound before seeking an abortion and rules designed to make abortion clinics extremely expensive to construct. The Senate voted 20-20 and the Lieutenant Governor broke the tie to approve the measure.

On Tuesday, the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee passed my legislation to eviscerate predatory lending in Virginia. The bill provides a 36 percent interest rate cap with monthly fees that result in annual percentage Interest rates (APR’s) of 50-110 percent, depending on the length of the loan. The longer the loan, the smaller the rate. The bill would prohibit the 267percent loans currently allowed at title lenders, businesses that have exploded along U.S. 1 and online loans currently made at rates exceeding 400 percent. I expect a tough Senate floor fight. The House has already passed similar legislation.

The Senate Transportation Committee approved my bill to repeal the 2004 law requiring drivers to prove legal status to obtain a Virginia driver’s license. I have worked for five years with Senator Jennifer Boysko and Republican Delegate Rob Bloxsom to pass this bill. The implementation of federal Real ID rules eliminates the need for drivers to prove legal status which is required for a Real ID compliant driver’s license and this proposal is the top priority for my Hispanic constituents. It will make our streets safer and enhance everyone’s quality of life. Imagine trying to live in our society without a driver’s license.

On a 33 to seven vote, the Senate passed my legislation prohibiting drivers from using handheld phones in moving vehicles. Similar legislation is moving through the House and enactment looks promising. This will reduce accidents and make our roads safer.

My legislation to empower Northern Virginia localities to hold retailers accountable for failing to control their shopping carts passed the Senate 20 to 19. To me, this is like someone, in effect, allowing their property to be stolen thousands of times and continually expecting others to clean up the mess. I am thankful for support from Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay and Supervisors Rodney Lusk and Dan Storck who have promised to implement this authority when enacted.

The Senate approved my bill to prohibit hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” east of Interstate-95 and now the House of Delegates will consider it.

On Jan. 27 and 28, my eight Puller Institute students from West Potomac, Mount Vernon, Hayfield, Osborne Park and Brooke Point High Schools visited Richmond. They met with the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, other elected officials, government relations professionals and were interviewed for public access cable television. I look forward to their project submissions.

Mike Rizzo, the General Manager of the Washington Nationals baseball team also visited us and I learned that many Nationals’ employees, including the team’s Communications Director, live in the 36th District (It's an easy Metro ride or commute to and from Nats’ Park!).

A few of my bills found their lives cut short. The Senate Finance Committee continued my proposal to reinstate the estate tax to the next session. The bill exempted family farms, closely-held businesses and any couple worth less than $23.5 million and would generate about $600 million per decade. I will try again next year. My bill to rename and refocus the Crime Commission on broader justice issues also failed, along with my bill to create an exception to contributory negligence for bike and pedestrian collisions.

This coming week we will address major issues, including the death penalty, decarbonizing our economy, criminal justice reform and protecting personal data. Hard work on the budget also begins.

Please visit me in Richmond, complete my constituent survey at http://scottsurovell.org/2020-constituent-survey/ and email me at scott@scottsurovell.org if you have any feedback! It is an honor to serve as your State Senator.