Opinion: Commentary: Passing Bills, Serving the Public

Opinion: Commentary: Passing Bills, Serving the Public

Last week in the General Assembly was a week of accomplishments, revelations and stress.

The Senate approved and sent to the House of Delegates 20 of my 25 bills and added several of my budget amendments to the Senate budget.

The Senate agreed to $2 million to study extending Metro’s Blue Line to Lorton, Woodbridge and Potomac Mills, along with enhanced transit on U.S. 1 in Prince William County. I have been fighting for this for three years and with Sen. George Barker’s help, we got it included in the Senate budget. Additionally, my proposal to fund additional treatment services and a study for incarcerated, sexually-violent predators was included so that they can receive treatment before they are committed to a post-incarceration civil treatment facility, an approach that costs taxpayers significantly more per day than a standard jail. There is no reason to delay therapy until they have completed their sentence. This will save taxpayers millions of dollars if it works.

The Senate, on a 37-2-1 vote, passed my bill to create a framework to clean up Virginia’s coal ash repositories. The bill requires at least 6.8 million cubic yards of the 27 million cubic yards to be recycled into “encapsulated” products like bricks, cinder blocks or cement. The bill also requires Dominion to work with localities to minimize transportation impacts; to give priority to local workers; and to continually seek proposals to recycle ash as technology evolves so that we can minimize coal ash landfill storage. While the bill is not everything I want, it achieves my primary objectives to prohibit “cap in place” or using old leaky ash ponds to store ash forever and to promote recycling.

On a vote of 29-11, the Senate passed my legislation to give Fairfax County an additional tool to pay for underground utilities on U.S. 1. The bill allows the county to pay for underground utilities and then recover the cost by levying a utility fee that will cost about $0.80-0.90 per month. I have heard loud and clear from my constituents that they want underground utilities on U.S. 1. Prince William County’s government funded it for all 10 miles of U.S. 1. If Prince William can afford it, so can Fairfax County, and I am hoping to provide County officials with a method to do it.

On a vote of 34-6, the Senate passed my bill to create penalties for government officials who intentionally try to avoid our sunshine laws. The bill creates penalties for destroying public records to avoid the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and penalties for officials who incorrectly vote to certify that they only discussed specifically exempted and previously-announced matters in closed public meetings.

I also passed legislation clarifying that cars cannot use bike lanes to pass other vehicles and making it easier to convict drivers for seriously injuring cyclists and pedestrians. U.S. 1 is the deadliest road in Virginia for pedestrians and pedestrian deaths are up by 50 percent in the last five years in Virginia. Most injured cyclists and pedestrians cannot remember what happened or are killed when struck. This will help balance the playing field on the criminal side of justice.

Finally, this was another rough week as the Governor’s situation continued to percolate, the Attorney General admitted to using blackface at age 19 in college and two different women accused our Lieutenant Governor of sexual assault. We were initially willing to wait for time and information after one accusation was made, but when a second woman 4,000 miles away made a very serious allegation, it was clear to some of us that this was becoming an issue that could distract from his duties. The Senate Democratic, House Democratic and Legislative Black Caucuses and called for his resignation. I am continuing to assess my position on the situations and welcome your input.

Please weigh in on my constituent survey at http://bit.ly/sd362019survey and email me at scott@scottsurovell.org with your feedback.