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Prince William Senators succeed while Delegates largely strikeout

RICHMOND – As the General Assembly enters the second half of its 2018 session, state legislators representing Prince William County can see light at the end of the tunnel: 29 percent of the bills they filed are still alive.

But that average masks a disparity: The county’s senators have fared far better this session than the state delegates.

That became clear after Tuesday’s “crossover day” – the deadline for bills to clear their chamber of origin. Beginning Wednesday, the House could consider only bills that have “crossed over” from the Senate, and vice versa.

The five senators who represent parts of Prince William County introduced 145 bills this session, and 58 (or 40 percent) survived crossover.

In contrast, the eight delegates who represent parts of Prince William County filed 130 bills at the start of the legislative session, and just 22 (17 percent) are moving forward.

The House member with the most successful track record so far is Del. Timothy Hugo, a Fairfax Republican who represents the 40th House District. Hugo proposed 27 bills, eight of which (30 percent) passed the House.

On his website, Hugo said he is especially proud of HB 1469, which would allow localities to charge drug dealers with felony homicide if the drugs they sold caused someone’s death. The bill passed the House 84-16 on Tuesday, just beating the crossover deadline, and has been referred to the Senate Committee for Courts of Justice.

“HB 1469 will provide law enforcement officials the tools they need to prosecute the drug dealers that are destroying lives, families and our communities,” Hugo said.

This session was particularly hard for two of the county’s first-term legislators – Democratic Dels. Danica Roem (D-13 Gainesville, Manassas Park) and Lee Carter (D-50, Manassas).

  • Roem presented 11 bills on issues including campaign finance, school lunches and creation of a database for unsolved homicides. None of them made it out of committee.
  • Carter, who unseated Republican House Whip Jackson Miller in November, proposed 10 bills this session to address workers’ compensation, state-mandated meal breaks for employees and broadband service. All of them were killed, tabled or continued to 2019.

Another freshman, Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy (D-Stafford, Woodbridge), enjoyed more success: Four of her 18 bills made it past crossover, including a measure that would allow students to take computer coding as a foreign language requirement, and a measure that would make it possible to file for adoption of foster children after six months instead of 18.

Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36, Fairfax, Stafford, Woodbridge). Surovell proposed more bills (58) and had more of them clear the first hurdle (16) than any other local legislator. In addition, several bills offered by Surovell were incorporated into other legislation that is moving forward.

For example, under Surovell’s SB 786, school districts in Planning District 8, which includes Prince William County, Manassas and other localities in Northern Virginia, would have to allow their low-income students to take online classes for free and provide such pupils with a computer.

Despite such successes, Surovell saw a key bill regulating coal ash legislation die on TuesdaySB 765, co-sponsored by Carroll Foy, sought to require the owners of a coal ash pond to test water in drinking water wells within a mile of the pond.

Last week, the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee postponed consideration of the bill until 2019. Surovell said a lot is at stake because Dominion Energy has coal ash ponds at its Possum Point Power Station in Prince William County. Dominion and state environmental officials say the ash is being safely stored. But environmentalists say contaminated water from the ponds has leaked into nearby creeks and groundwater.

“I am hopeful that the information generated last year and over the coming months coupled with other legislators focused on the resolution will help generate a consensus,” Surovell said.

Two House bills seeking to address the issue of coal ash died in the House Commerce and Labor Committee: HB 182, sponsored by Carroll Foy, and HB 467, by Carter.

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