Crossover week of the 2017 Session came to a close as we finished initial action on over 3,000 bills. Twenty-two of my bills were passed by the Senate and moved on to the House of Delegates.
My two Saturday Town Hall meetings had the largest crowds I have seen in eight years. There was significant concern regarding federal immigration raids on U.S. 1. On Friday, I received alarming reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had arrested numerous Latinos in a raid on U.S. 1. While the deportation of convicted felons has been consistent policy, random street sweeps and arrest or deportations of law-abiding residents is unprecedented in our community. I will work to get better information and seek to stop these actions.
Other questions focused on affordable housing, education funding, water quality, addressing the opioid crisis, respecting LGBTQ rights, proliferation of out-of-state license plates, and concerns about fracking. You can watch videos of both town halls on my YouTube channel.
On Monday, we heard a spirited debate on the regulation of short-term rentals by services such as AirBNB. Since we considered legislation last year, I heard concerns from numerous residents about residences being effectively used as hotel or movie studios. The bill we passed reaffirms local government’s authority to regulate temporary rentals and fine owners who fail to pay occupancy taxes for renting property to multiple tenants over 30-days per year.
On Thursday, we passed the Senate Amendments to the State Budget. I am pleased that the Senate Budget Amendments provided unconditional matching funds for a two-percent raise for our teachers. These funds, coupled with other amendments would result in an additional $18.5 million for Fairfax County Public Schools, $26.6 million for Prince William County Public Schools and $7.1 million for Stafford County Public Schools.
Unfortunately, the Senate has proposed to cut about $6 million from the Governor’s proposed budget to improve operation of our election system. Last year, Virginia’s voter registration system failed on the last day of voter registration due to Virginians attempting to register to vote. The Governor’s proposed funding would have solved this problem. I will work to ensure it is restored.
On Thursday, my two pedestrian and cycling safety bills acquired a bit of a “fever” on the House side of the Chamber. Biking and pedestrian safety is a major problem in the United States, Virginia and the 36th District. Nationwide bike and pedestrian fatalities are rising faster than average. In Virginia, pedestrian fatalities were up 51 percent in 2016. That kind of increase is not an aberration.
My legislation to clarify the use of bike lanes and specifically prohibit the use of bike lanes to pass cars was killed in a House Transportation Subcommittee by one vote. Members were concerned that it would be “confusing” to drivers. I argued that driver education and signage would solve the problem, but was not persuasive.
My legislation to create a new standard and new penalties for seriously injuring a “vulnerable user” was sent to the House Courts Committee which previously killed a similar bill. Hopefully, I will have better luck.
This week, my legislation to generate better information regarding coal ash regulation will be up for vote along with most of my other bills in the House of Delegates.
As always, if you have any feedback, drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, please complete my constituent survey at www.scottsurovell.org/survey if you have not done so yet. It is an honor to serve as your state senator.