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Surovell initiatives moving in the legislature

Several of my bills are moving quickly in the General Assembly’s “short,” 45-day.

First, the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee passed my bill to require the city of Alexandria to expedite its cleanup of its primary raw sewage discharges into the Potomac River after consolidating my bill with Committee Chairman Senator Richard Stuart’s bill. Many legislators agree that we cannot tolerate 70 million gallons of untreated sewage pouring into the Potomac River for the next 30 years while the city addresses the rest of what’s called a “combined sewer overflow” system dating from the 1800s. Water quality is a nonpartisan issue. I will continue to expedite this legislation with Senator Stuart and Delegate Dave Albo who is carrying similar legislation in the House of Delegates.

I have also introduced three bills to address the ongoing pollution of the Potomac River by coal ash. One seeks to stop the importing of 600 cargo containers of Chinese coal ash into Virginia every year by requiring electric utilities to recycle coal ash currently polluting the Potomac River. Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina are taking this approach and Virginia should too.

This week, my legislation to prohibit the operator of a motor vehicle to drive with a digital device in his or her hand goes before the Senate Transportation Committee. Traffic deaths are on the rise in the United States for the first time in 50 years. I am optimistic that my bill will be approved this year.

Also, my legislation requiring the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue driver’s licenses for all Virginia residents regardless of immigration status will be heard in committee on Wednesday along with my bill to prohibit using bike lanes to pass vehicles.

I also introduced a bill requiring further transparency and accountability in Virginia higher education. One bill prohibits universities from considering tuition increase without providing 30 days notice, an explanation and a public comment period to all students. My second bill requires the rector and vice-rector (chair and vice-chair) of university governing boards to be Virginia residents. Governing boards are supposed to look out for Virginians and Virginia taxpayers, not their own allegiances and alma mater.It is important for Virginians to serve in those positions.

I filed a bill requiring a study of reserve funds at all Virginia universities so that we can develop better policies governing university reserve funds. While the University of Virginia’s $2.1 billion reserve fund is exceptional, it is not clear to me that a fund of this size is necessary or prudent given that it was generated during a time when the university raised a 50 percent tuition increase. I also introduced legislation requiring universities and community colleges to publish a list of classes granted reciprocity so community college transfer students do not end up having to retake courses.

Lastly, I introduced legislation requiring a court to impose civil sanctions against any person who improperly votes to certify a closed public meeting. Currently, the Virginia Freedom of Information Act has no consequences if extraneous matters are discussed during closed sessions of public hearings. That needs to change.

By the end of the week, I hope to have introduced 40 bills. Please see my website and online newsletter (http://scottsurovell.blogspot.com/) for my complete agenda. If you have any questions, contact me at scott@scottsurovell.org or 804-698-7536. I am honored to serve as your state senator.

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