In the 2017 General Assembly session, which ended on February 25, we were able to make some progress in spite of a $1.1 billion budget shortfall.
First, we approved amendments to the state’s biennial budget. After drawing on a $560 million Rainy Day Fund, the budget funds the state share of a long-overdue two percent salary increase for teachers, a three percent raise for state employees, and a $7,000-per-year increase in starting salaries ($36,000) for state troopers. As always, we met our constitutional obligation to balance the budget.
Fifteen of my bills now await Governor McAuliffe’s action. The legislature referred two of my bills for further study. In the session’s last week, I served on seven conference committees to negotiate final language for several bills.
My legislation requiring the city of Alexandria to address raw sewage discharges passed both houses. Although the bill will allow Alexandria to discharge an additional 550 million gallons of raw sewage into the Potomac River, it requires all discharges to stop by 2025.
While this will cost the city about $150-$200 million to fix, I am committed to helping locate state funds to support construction over the next eight years. I especially appreciate Agriculture and Natural Resource Chairman Senator Richard Stuart’s dedication to finding a solution and the support of Senator Adam Ebbin and Delegate Paul Krizek who consistently supported solving this problem.
My legislation requiring owners of coal ash ponds to provide the public better information passed. I hope the Governor will restore some of the key provisions removed in the House of Delegates.
My legislation to make it easier to hold drunk drivers accountable for injuring victims passed both houses unanimously. This bill was necessary in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Birchfield v. North Dakota decision last year which now requires a search warrant for nearly all withdrawals of blood.
I introduced two college transparency bills. One requires 30-days’ notice of a proposed tuition increase, an explanation of the need and the date and time of any vote on a tuition increase at state-supported colleges. My second bill requires colleges and universities and community colleges to publish a list of all courses guaranteed to transfer so that students do not mistakenly take non-transferable classes and delay graduation.
During the last year, I have been involved in cases in which child support payors passed away while in arrears for child support. I was surprised to learn that this was not a priority debt during the administration of an estate and basically gets treated like credit card debt. My legislation to require child support arrearages to be paid before general debts passed both houses without a single dissenting vote.
All bills passed by the legislature now go to the Governor who must either amend, sign or veto them by March 27. Next week, I will cover some other bills that the legislature passed and the following week I will report on some bills that the legislature did not pass.
In the meantime, please complete my constituent survey at www.scottsurovell.org/survey and email me at email@example.com if you have any questions.
It is an honor to serve as your State Senator.
The Prince William Chamber of Commerce celebrated passion and excellence in the business community with their annual Business Awards banquet on February 28 at Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas. Northern Virginia Community College was the Presenting Sponsor. James MacGregor, Publisher of the Washington Business Journal served as Master of Ceremonies. In addition to the Chamber’s awards, the event also featured awards presented by the Mayors of the Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.
And the winners are…
Agnes L. Colgan Community Service Awards
These awards are named after the first wife of the late Senator Colgan: Agnes Colgan (deceased). As a mother and grandmother she was known to live by example, compelling family, friends and strangers to reach out to others in need and view the world with an empathetic heart. Mrs. Colgan was an avid volunteer and fundraiser for a wide array of charitable organizations including the American Red Cross, SERVE and Transitional Housing BARN. Each of the winners receive an award to display in addition to a check for $1,000. No organization may win more than once in a three-year period.
Health & Human Services: Project Mend-A-House
Project Mend-A-House is a community-based, not-for-profit organization committed to improving the living conditions of seniors, veterans, persons with disabilities and low-income residents in Prince William County and the Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park. By offering no-cost or low-cost home repairs, safety and accessibility modifications, durable medical equipment, fall prevention and chronic disease self-management programs, they empower residents of all ages and abilities to remain safely and independently in their own homes.
Project Mend-A-House primarily uses the skills of volunteer carpenters, plumbers, electricians, painters, etc. and matches them with projects to serve people in need. In 2016, more than 5,000 volunteer hours led to the completion of nearly 700 home repair, safety and accessibility tasks. Just one example of the kind of work being done by Project-Mend-A-House: Mr. Ernest F is a decorated Vietnam Veteran. He suffers from several physical and mental health issues, including hoarding. His neighbors filed a complaint with the County because of the state of his home exterior and yard. Mr. F needed a roof replacement, and extensive exterior repairs to ensure his home remained in livable condition and that he would avoid further penalties or prosecution. The county asked Project Mend-A-House to help. After 9 months spent gaining his trust, Project Mend-A-House was able to hold the first yard clean-up. The secret ingredient was putting a Veteran volunteer in place as the lead on the project; a shared history helped the two to develop a rapport and some needed trust. At the first clean-up day, a 30 yard dumpster was filled with debris and other items from his backyard alone. Thanks to the recommendation of Delegate Richard Anderson, general contractor Larkin Remodeling took on the exterior repairs. Sub-contractors were found to donate time and materials. They were able to completely replace Mr. F’s roof, soffit, gutters, fascia and siding. The project wrappede project in December of 2016 when Home Depot donated the installation and equipment for Mr. F’s new garage door. Thanks to the involvement of so many members of the community and the incredible amount of work accomplished, Mr. F’s court case was dropped and he is able to remain in his home avoiding further penalties from the county. In recognition of the exhausting yet necessary work being done by Project Mend-A-House, the Chamber presents the Agnes L. Colgan Community Service Award in the category of Health & Human Services.
Arts & Education: Center for the Arts of Greater Manassas/Prince William County
The mission of the Center for the Arts is to enrich the creative community by engaging people of all ages; celebrating diversity, fostering innovation and cultivating collaboration and communication. Where similar organizations may be focused solely on visual arts, or dance, or theatre with programs for either adults or children; the Center for the Arts is proud to offer programs for all ages, in a multitude of mediums.
Their Arts on the Go program is one-of-a-kind, designed to elevate creative learning in the local schools. In 2015 and 2016, the Center partnered with the Governor’s School at Innovation Park to provide mentorships for the high school students at the school. The mentorships allow students to work with Center staff to design and build Arts on the Go modules which are then used by local elementary and middle school students. The most notable outcome has been that the interns from the Governor’s School have learned to think creatively to solve educational challenges in their community. In a time when local businesses have commented on their desire to see more “Out of the Box” thinking from future employees, this program encourages cultivation of such processes. The award is presented in hopes that the Center for the Arts will be able to continue their Arts on the Go and Governor’s School internship programs in pursuit of educating local students in the arts.
Charles J. Colgan Visionary Award: Carlos Castro, Todos Supermarket
Named after the recently-deceased Virginia Statesman, Senator Charles Colgan, the Visionary Award is meant to be awarded to an individual who has demonstrated extraordinary leadership, including but not limited to their own organization. Just like Senator Colgan, a long-time member of the Chamber with Colgan Air and a Past Chairman of the Board, this individual should be known as an innovator, a great partner, a visionary and an advocate for his or her community and beyond. This is the second year in which the award has been presented.
Carlos first came to the United States as an illegal immigrant fleeing war in El Salvador. He was caught and deported. Then he came back. Today he is a U.S. citizen and the owner of Todos Supermarkets, a multi-million dollar business. An outspoken advocate for open communication between the Hispanic community and local governments, Mr. Castro is known as a leader among fellow business owners and in the Hispanic community. His stores, named with the Spanish word for “everyone,” specialize in foods and services for people from Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa. A true businessman, he recently expanded his supermarket to offer ancillary services like postal services, money transfers, insurance and travel services in response to the needs he saw among his customers. Business leaders and government officials alike turn to him for advice and leadership, particularly on issues pertaining to the Hispanic community. At his urging the entire Castro family has become engaged in the community and is picking up the mantle of leadership. He is a strong supporter of the Chamber and gives generously of his time and money to support countless worthy causes. Carlos is a man who came to this country to escape war and poverty – and through his own perseverance, ingenuity – with the highest integrity – has become a visionary leader for the Prince William region. Never could it be said that Carlos Castro has allowed his success to go to his head. Whether providing a helping hand to the less fortunate or helping Latinos assimilate and become contributing members of their communities, “Carlos Castro is an ambassador for empowering people to learn more, do better and prosper.”
Innovative Practice/Partnership of the Year: City of Manassas Park, Parks & Recreation
The innovative practice for which the City of Manassas Park Department of Parks & Recreation (DPR) was recognized is that they incorporate partnerships into nearly every one of their programs. In the City’s nomination, there were descriptions of a dozen different programs made possible through partnerships. But to save time, we just picked out a few to highlight. To quote Jason Shriner, the Marketing Manager for DPR: “We in the department understand the value of forming solid partnerships. As City employees we are tasked with expending City funds responsibly. When feasible we leverage partnerships, in-kind donations sponsorships and volunteers to provide resources for a greater diversity of people in our community while avoiding duplication of efforts.” During the summer, DPR invites the City’s Police and Fire Departments to conduct free camps for teens recognized as “at risk.” The public safety officials run the camps with the help of the parks–the goal being to help students recognize alternative futures for themselves. The “Leaders in Training” program is done with the help of Manassas Park Middle School. Once again at-risk students are chosen and taken through a rigorous 9-week training program involving guest speakers, community service and team-building exercises. At the conclusion of the program, graduates are eligible to be hired by the Department of Parks & Recreation. “Leaders in Training” includes arts and culture programming provided by the Center for the Arts of Greater Manassas/Prince William County. In exchange for their participation, the Center for the Arts has access to additional rehearsal space for their Pied Piper Theater at the Manassas Park Community Center. The partnerships feed one another and increase available programming options for the residents of Manassas Park. Finally there is the MAP clinic run by George Mason University. MAP is a free acute care services clinic for those without health insurance. Nursing students who work the clinic receive credit towards their degrees. Manassas Park residents enjoy greater health. In light of their commitment to innovative partnerships in order to serve the residents of their City in amazing ways, the Chamber is pleased to present the City of Manassas Park, Department of Parks and Recreation with the award for Innovative Practice/Partnership of the Year.
Innovative Practice/Partnership of the Year: Prince William County Solid Waste Division
It’s not every community that can say their landfill has been internationally recognized for model operations and innovative practices. But the Prince William County Landfill, operated by the Solid Waste Division, has been honored with numerous awards. Their brilliance shines in their transformation of trash to electricity with the landfill gas to energy project; environmental protection measures and good neighbor policies such as the 100-acre buffer area and newly constructed wetlands. In 2016, the Prince William County Solid Waste Division envisioned and then partnered with Prince William County Schools, Prince William County Parks and Recreation, area Boy Scouts, George Mason University Environmental Science staff, Dominion Virginia Power and PWC Public Works Youth Ambassadors to add sparkle to the outdoor environmental education of three neighboring schools. With the help of their partners, the Outdoor Discovery Trail was carved in to the 100-acre landfill buffer area, complete with curriculum, outdoor class rooms and signage. The Outdoor Discovery Trail is in the “backyards” of the new Charles Colgan High School and Benton Middle School and adjacent to Coles Elementary School. Representatives of each school, science administration staff for the school system and GMU’s environmental science staff provided valuable input into the curriculum and trail amenities needed for each grade level. The Boy Scouts helped build classrooms, the Youth Ambassadors helped preserve and secure an historic site along the trail, and Dominion constructed interpretive signage kiosks, trail signs and storage sheds to house environmental equipment at the three trailheads. The 1.7 mile trail is open to other schools and organized groups with prior permission. Future plans include an additional mile of trail that will overlook the constructed wetlands and lead to a STEM education center, as well as more opportunities for innovative partnerships. According to their nomination, “In addition to being one of the greenest, and most environmentally responsible landfills in the nation, the Solid Waste Division’s commitment to community education is unparalleled. Uniting partners for environmental education is their strong suit.” For spearheading the Discovery Trail partnership, which has the potential to teach our students and positively impact the local environment for years to come, the Chamber presents the award for Innovative Practice/Partnership of the Year to the Prince William County Solid Waste Division.
Community Outreach Award: What’s Up Prince William
What’s Up Prince William is a relatively young news site, but they’ve developed quite a following since their founding in late 2015, including 17,000 Facebook followers. Perhaps the most impressive thing has been their commitment to the not-for-profit community. They post events and fundraisers held by the not-for-profit community (at no charge) and frequently make efforts to cover those events through photos and videos; a big job for a small staff. ST Billingsley and Stephanie Carter believe in the value of community organizations and want them not only to be successful, but to find passionate partners for their work in the community. It’s no surprise then that What’s Up Prince William became one of the Chamber’s Premier Partners this year. You will frequently see the What’s Up Prince William team covering Chamber events and promoting the work the Chamber is doing in the community. For their work to focus on good news and their commitment to igniting a community-wide passion for giving back, the Chamber presents the Community Outreach Award to What’s Up Prince William.
Government Contractor of the Year: Athena Construction Group
Athena Construction Group, Ic. (Athena) is a General Contractor specializing in interior renovations with an emphasis on hospital and military facility construction. Athena has the distinction of the being the nation’s only Service Disabled Veteran, Woman-Owned, HUB Zone, 8(a) construction company. Since their inception in 2003, trust, integrity & accountability have been their guiding principles. Founded by VP Melissa Schneider and run by President Amber Peebles, both former officers in the United States Marine Corps, Athena has gained a reputation for savvy project management that sets them apart in the competitive world of government contracting. They pride themselves on having worked with clients such as the US Dept. of Veterans Affairs, Army Corps of Engineers, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, National Cemetery Administration, US Geological Survey and the Marine Corps. 2016 was a year of milestones for Athena. They were granted an interim secret level security clearance. With the help of financing from fellow Chamber member First Virginia Community Bank, they also purchased an 11,000 sq ft. building in Prince William County. For Athena, the purchase of their new building serves as a testament to their growth from humble beginnings as well as a reminder of their strength in overcoming adversity. Last year a trusted employee in a significant position of authority and responsibility sabotaged one of their jobs, resulting in a loss in excess of $465,000. In spite of challenges, they continue to grow and pursue the building of a team that embraces personal and professional accountability. Athena considers themselves leaders in an industry that supports the warfighter and national security. In recognition of their pursuit of greater accountability and efficient execution of government contracts, Athena Construction Group receives the award for Government Contractor of the Year.
Outstanding Professional Service Award: Baden Contracting
Baden Contracting is a family-owned, licensed and insured Class A Contractor specializing in home remodeling projects. If you’ve ever watched a show like “Property Brothers” on HGTV, you know that their other specialty — finishing on schedule, and at a reasonable price — is a marketable asset in the home remodeling community. Owner Corey Baden began his career in construction in his teens working for his family’s business: Baden Seamless Gutters. When he started his own company in his mid-20’s, he set out to be the kind of contractor who would really listen and understand potential clients before offering a quote. In the early years of his business, Corey set out to prove himself to be a reliable and knowledgeable professional: someone that potential clients could trust in and around their homes. Today he still works just as hard to earn and keep the trust of every client. When it comes to the service industry, the customer says it best: “Baden Contracting has just finished several projects for me. Initially there was a timeline in which I agreed to wait for the work to be started. They were able to start weeks earlier than proposed. The work completed was professional in every way. Keeping a rapport with the customer is something that really caught my attention. There was never a moment when I was left in the dark. I would hire them again in a heartbeat!” In recognition of the fact that they go above and beyond for their customers, continuously offering more and better services to the homeowners they serve, Baden Contracting is presented with the award for Outstanding Professional Service.
Tech Company of the Year: Aurora Flight Sciences
Headquartered at the Manassas Regional Airport, Aurora Flight Sciences is a world-wide leader in the research and development of unmanned aircraft systems, robotics and autonomous flight technologies. Just one example of the exciting advancements in aerospace being accomplished right here in Manassas is their recent contract with DARPA, for which Aurora is working on a design called Lightning Strike; poised to revolutionize unmanned vertical flight. Contracts with NASA and the FAA are contributing to design and testing for their D8 commercial aircraft, projected to improve aircraft fuel efficiency by up to 70 percent. They continue to make advancements in their solar aircraft program which will deliver unlimited capability in utilizing the sun’s energy for continuous efficient flight. These items exclusively highlight the “future” of aerospace coming out of Aurora, but they have plenty of past victories in their 28 history on which they could have rested. In the spirit of a true community of scientists and engineers, however, they continue to innovate and impress with their work. The Chamber is proud to name Aurora Flight Sciences as Tech Company of the Year.
Emerging Business of the Year: KO Distilling
Craft distillery KO Distilling opened their doors in the City of Manassas on September 12, 2015 with a 12,000 square foot facility featuring a state-of-the-art distilling plant, barrel storage, and tasting room. They produce three gins, Virginia Moon White Whiskey and Bare Knuckle bourbon, rye and wheat whiskeys. Co-founded by college classmates and long-time friends Bill Karlson and John O’Mara, KO Distilling is part of the emerging craft spirits industry in Virginia, providing exports as well as tourism revenue. To date, KO Distilling has won nine awards in spirits competitions, including a gold medal for their Battle Standard 142 Barrel Finished Gin at the 2016 MicroLiquor Spirit Awards. The Chamber is proud to have KO as a 2016/2017 Cornerstone Partner. In August 2016, KO Distilling announced that it will expand its operations, thanks in part to financial support from the Commonwealth of Virginia and the City of Manassas. The company will invest $675,000 in the site improvements and equipment needed to expand its distillery and tasting room, nearly tripling production capacity. With a new column still and upgraded handling systems, they will be capable of a 300% increase in production as well the creation of six new jobs. When their expansion is complete, KO Distilling is projected to emerge as one of the top 5 distillery producers in the state. In November 2016, they released their first brown spirit — aged in new charred American oak barrels for one year. With the introduction of their first aged spirit, they were able to establish a relationship with a distributor who opened them up to markets outside of Virginia. On the heels of that success, John and Bill continue to work to find new ways to get their products in the hands, homes and glasses of consumers. The Chamber recognizes the success of KO Distilling, to date, with the 2017 Emerging Business of the Year Award.
Excellence in Small Business (1-10 Employees): Metro Sign & Design, Inc.
They may be a small business, but it would seem that Metro Sign & Design, Inc. can do it all; providing complete in-house production and installation for all kinds of signs — including vinyl and printed banners, sandblasting and carving, welded metal structures and automotive quality painting. They have in-house capabilities to build signs using neon, LED and fluorescent lighting. Bob Anderson and his team of skilled artisans and installers offer turn-key service to every business client by handling the process from start to finish; beginning with design and extending to permitting and installation. Their goal is to deliver every project on-time and within budget. Metro’s services save the customer time and money. Because of their outstanding reputation with local governments across the Commonwealth, Metro Sign & Design are often able to protect customers from exposure to building, electrical and zoning violations, as well as provide savings on zoning attorney fees. Not only do they have an outstanding reputation for service with a small crew, Metro Sign & Design is known as a prolific community supporter. Whether through time or treasure, Bob and his staff are known to support numerous organizations such as Transitional Housing BARN, Historic Manassas, City of Manassas Park Community Events, The Hylton Performing Arts Center and the American Red Cross just to name a very few. Metro Sign & Design has been an active member of the Chamber since 1991.
Business Excellence Award (11+ Employees): Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, PC
From their start in 1986, one of Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian’s goals was to become a sophisticated law firm providing top-notch work for the community’s legal needs. The Chamber is pleased to recognize them for the realization of that goal. Over the years, Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian has grown to include twelve practice areas and 29 employees who all work in concert to provide every client with the best possible outcome for their legal needs. Many of their attorneys have been hand-picked because they have a knowledge base that extends beyond the law to include areas such as architecture, civil engineering and business management—adding an extra element of knowledge and understanding to the client experience. VF&N is an “AV” rated Pre-eminent Law Firm, meaning they hold the highest possible rating for ability and ethical behavior. Three of their partners have served as the Chairman of the Prince William Chamber of Commerce Chamber of Commerce and seven of their attorneys were recognized by Virginia Business Magazine in 2016 as “Legal Elite” in their practice areas. Recognizing that a successful business is one that helps those around them thrive, VF&N’s attorneys are deeply rooted in community membership organizations and not-for-profits. The attorneys of Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian provide leadership through volunteerism and monetary contributions. Notably, Novant Health UVA Health System and Habitat for Humanity Prince William County have each recognized the firm for over $100,000 in contributions over the years. Since its inception, the Prince William Chamber of Commerce has been proud to call Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian a Premier Partner and supporter through in-kind services. The Chamber is pleased to recognize them with the award for Business Excellence.
The Bull Run Civil War Round Table in Centreville, Va. offers a $1,500 scholarship to a high school senior who resides in Fairfax or Prince William County and will attend college in the fall of 2017.
The applicant can be from a public or private school and plans to attend a college or community college. The deadline is April 1.
Information and application instructions can be found at bullruncwrt.org. The Bull Run Civil War Round Table works to preserve Civil War sites in the local area as well as to provide speakers and tours of many local Civil War sites.
Everyone is welcome to attend its meetings at the Centreville Library every second Thursday of the month at 7 p.m.
We have one week to go in session and negotiations are rapidly reaching conclusion as we push to finish out work so we can get back to our families and our jobs.
This past week, my legislation to raise Virginia’s threshold between misdemeanors and felonies from $200 to $500 failed. Virginia’s threshold has not changed since 1981. Our existing system unnecessarily focuses police and prosecutors on minor crimes instead of violent crime while tainting thousands of Virginia’s suffering from depression or drug addiction with felony charges for life.
The House of Delegates passed my legislation requiring Dominion to provide better information on coal ash pollution, disaster preparedness, and recycling. I am not happy that a permitting moratorium was removed, it is better than no bill at all and the Governor will also have a chance to amend the legislation.
The House is also poised to pass my legislation that would require the police to provide police records to next of kin in deaths involving suicide or unattended deaths. Some police departments refuse to provide this information. I think it will help families achieve closure and assure high quality policing.
Two of my more significant bills have been referred for further study. As a part-time legislature, we frequently refer meritorious, but complex proposals to groups who meet outside of session that have better staff support, can take a deeper dive into policy choices, and provide a longer period for stakeholder vetting.
My legislation that would require school systems to purchase personal computing devices for all students expected to use electronic textbooks was sent to the Future of Public Elementary and Secondary Education Joint Committee. I am hopeful we will finally come up with some guidelines to make a personal digital device an essential learning tool in the Commonwealth.
Also, my legislation requiring regulation of predatory internet lenders was sent to the Virginia’s Bureau of Financial Institutions who was directed to create a working group to propose a regulatory framework in 2018. Today, internet lenders are making loans in Virginia at rates north of 500%. For example, this week I went to www.cashnetusa.com and they are offering loans for $100, $300, or $1800 at a daily rate of 0.8192% or in other words – an APR of 299% before you include the 15% “transaction fee” on your initial loan. This means if you borrow $100 and make no payments you would owe $458.86 after one year before late fees. Others have seen rates as high as 5,000%. We need to get this under control.
This week, I also hope to be part of negotiating the final terms of my legislation placing controls on the City of Alexandria’s raw sewage discharges. The House passed similar legislation that takes a different approach. Also, about 10 more of my bills are set to pass the House of Delegates this week.
We will begin the process of packing up our office in preparation of moving to temporary office space for the next four years. The current General Assembly Building is an agglomeration of four asbestos-laden, leaky, and unreliable buildings with uncoordinated elevators and lousy accessibility. We will move down the hill for four years as “the GAB” is demolished and reconstructed through 2022.
Finally, I have received nearly 400 responses to my Constituent Survey. Please make sure you provide your opinions soon at www.scottsurovell.org/survey.
It is an honor to serve as your state senator.
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 of 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 You Tube 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 the fine owners who fail to pay occupancy taxes for renting property to multiple tenants over 30-days per years.
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 fifty-one percent (51%) 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.
From Delegate Mark Dudenhefer:
Hello from your state capitol in Richmond. As of February 3rd, the House has completed 24 of the 45 days of the 2017 session. On Sunday, February 5th, the committees responsible for the budget bills unveiled their complete proposals. Two important deadlines are happening this week. One of the deadlines is called “Crossover” the deadline with which each chamber must complete work on bills that originated in their chamber. Thursday the House will vote on their version of the budget.
Things to Mention:
1. HB 1691 Widewater Bill
This bill authorizes the Department of Conservation and Recreation to convey some property to the Widewater Beach Subdivision Citizens Association. This bill passed the House today and will now go to the Senate for consideration.
2. HB 1829 CPR Bill
This bill requires that teachers seeking or renewing a teacher’s license are required to demonstrate hands-on training of the skills necessary to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). It is imperative that hands-on training is included in the curriculum for emergency first aid training. The bill was approved by the House and is awaiting Senate action.
3. HB 1769 Malicious Bodily Injury or Laser Pointing at U.S. Armed Forces
The bill adds uniformed members of the United States Armed Forces, including members of the Virginia National Guard, to the list of persons the malicious or unlawful wounding of whom, or the pointing of a laser at whom, is subject to an enhanced penalty. Unfortunately, the Court and Justice Committee chose not to hear this legislation citing funding shortfalls.
4. HB 1757 School Nurses
This bill requires that each local school board employ at least one full-time equivalent school nurse in each school or one nurse for every 550 students. After passing the committee on Education, the bill was tabled in the Appropriation Committee for lack of funds. Even though the bill failed, it was important to raise awareness of the importance of a school nurse in every school.
The last week of January was especially busy as the General Assembly approached February 7th – Crossover – the day we are required to complete all work on bills originating in our chamber. The bills saved for last usually involve the hardest issues to resolve.
Out of the 40 bills I introduced twenty-two have passed the Senate or are poised for passage before Crossover.
Last week saw another victory for water quality. This session, I introduced three bills to help control water pollution caused by coal ash. One of my bills was reported by the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee over the objection of Dominion Power. The bill prohibits the issuance of any final permits until Dominion to identifies and describes all water pollution occurring at coal ash ponds and demonstrate corrective measures, evaluate coal ash removal or “clean closure,” and demonstrate that leaving coal ash in place or “cap in place” will not put the community at risk during hurricanes, floods or other major weather events.
Also, the legislation also requires Dominion to evaluate options to recycle coal ash using new technologies and identify locations where recycling might work. Coal ash recycling is being used in George, North and South Carolina to clean the environment and create jobs. Coal ash is used in concrete and we currently import significant amounts of coal ash into the United States from China. I am hopeful the bill will pass the full Senate next week.
On Sunday, the Senate Finance Committee announced its proposed amendments to the State Budget. The good news is that the Committee found a way to fund 2% raises for teachers along with other state employees, and extra raises for court clerks and especially our State Police. The House Budget does not include a pay raise for teachers so that is not guaranteed. The bad news is that my request for funding the next stage of construction at Widewater State Park was not funded, nor my request to fill two vacant but authorized Fairfax County Judgeships.
Several of my other bills passed the Senate this week. First, my legislation requiring 30-days’ notice before any tuition increase is voted on passed the Senate unanimously. The Senate also passed my bill making it easier to hold drunk driver’s liable for punitive damages in civil cases and legislation which requires community colleges and universities to publish lists of courses that are guaranteed to be given credit to transfer students. Many students take the wrong classes – this costs students more tuition and causes them to take up space at our four-year colleges that other students could fill when classes must be retaken.
The Senate also passed my legislation that creates and electronic government document authentication system. The Federal Government and other states have already taken steps to electronically authenticate government records. If implemented, this allows citizens to access official copies of official records – such as vital records, deeds, or government licenses – must faster and saves taxpayer dollars.
We will experience Crossover this week, debate on the State Budget and we will begin debate on bills from the House of Delegates.
Please come to my town halls on Saturday, February 11 at 9:00 a.m. at Walt Whitman Intermediate School and 1:00 p.m. at Hayfield Elementary School. Also, please complete my constituent survey at www.scottsurovell.org/survey.
I look forward to your feedback and appreciate your input. It is an honor to serve as your State Senator.
Week three saw our General Assembly in full swing and movement on many bills – on Wednesday, eleven of my bills were heard in one day!
First, over 100 residents came out for my two Town Halls in Prince William County. There were many questions about my “hand’s free” legislation, coal ash legislation, increasing teacher salaries, tuition affordability, predatory lending, and other issues. (more…)
Three of my bills have been passed by the Senate and moved on to the House. Mostly importantly, we reached a compromise solution that will require the City of Alexandria to have measures in place to prevent 95% of all raw sewage discharges into the Potomac River by 2025.
Reaching this conclusion was not easy and the City is not happy about it, but water quality is a concern to all Virginia’s regardless of political party. The resolution would not have occurred without the help of City of Alexandria Senator Adam Ebbin and Committee Chairman Richard Stuart who represents the Northern Neck.
Second, I also introduced legislation this session to require Virginia to take the initial steps to start regulating internet lenders. Today, Native American Indian Tribes and foreign companies are making loans to Virginians over the internet. Interest rates between 300% and 5,000% have been documented in the state. My legislation passed the Senate with bipartisan support and headed to the House of Delegates.
Also, we received mixed news on the funding of widening U.S. 1 and the construction of bus rapid transit. Two years ago, the General Assembly enacted legislation to require all transportation projects to be objectively scored for congestion relief, economic development, safety, environmental benefits, and relative cost before being acted upon by the Commonwealth Transportation Board. The intent was to remove politics from the road funding process.
First, the 36th District has more users of the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) than any other district in Virginia. The funding analysis recommended $92 million of funding to help capacity improvements for VRE. VRE already takes one lane’s worth of cars off I-95 and improving VRE is critical to reducing congestion on I-95.
However, Fairfax County submitted two applications for the widening of U.S.1 and the construction of bus rapid transit. Fairfax County’s applications were ranked 40 and 41st out of 60 in Northern Virginia and were not recommended for funding although two other projects in western Fairfax County were recommended for $100 million of funding. Myself, Senator Ebbin, and Delegates Krizek and Sickles have already met with the Department of Transportation to examine how to improve our application when funding is re-examined in two years.
Also, all of Prince William County’s applications for U.S. 1 funding were ranked poorly and not recommended for funding. I will be setting up meetings with my Prince William colleagues to improve those applications.
This week, I have several bills up in committee to improve cycling safety. Also, my bill to require thirty-days notice before any university can increase tuition will be considered. Tuition costs have skyrocketed and the public deserves more notice and input before tuition is increased.
If you would like more information regarding my legislation, please go to my online newsletter (scottsurovell.blogspot.com), my website (www.scottsurovell.org), “like” me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/surovell) or send me an email at email@example.com. It is an honor to serve as your state senator.
From the Senator Scott Surovell:
More information: Nadine Slocum, Chief of Staff
Bryan Estey, Communication Director
Richmond, Virginia. On Saturday, January 28th and Saturday, February 11th, Eastern Fairfax & Prince William County Members of the General Assembly will be hosting town halls to hear the concerns of residents during 2017 Legislative Session.
Senator Scott Surovell (D-36), Senator Adam Ebbin (D-30), Senator George Barker (D-39), Delegate Mark Sickles (D-43), Delegate Luke Torian (D-52) and Delegate Paul Krizek (D-44) will review their legislative agendas for the 2017 session, the status of current legislation, and answer questions from attendees.
Details are as follows:
Northern Prince William County Town Hall with Senator Surovell
Occoquan Town Hall
314 Mill Street
Occoquan, Virginia 22125
9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Southern Prince William County Town Hall with Senator Surovell and Delegate Torian
Forest Park High School Library
15721 Forest Park Drive
Woodbridge, VA 22193
1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m
Mount Vernon District Town Hall with Senator Surovell, Senator Ebbin, and Delegate Krizek
Walt Whitman Middle School
2500 Parkers Lane
Alexandria, VA 22306
9:00 a.m. – 11 a.m.
Lee District Town Hall with Senator Surovell, Senator Barker, and Delegate Sickles
Hayfield Elementary School
7633 Telegraph Rd.
Alexandria, VA 22315
1:00 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Please note that the time and dates have changed since they were originally announced. Please mark your calendars accordingly.
The topics of discussions will include:
-The State Budget
-Firearm Violence Prevention
-Consumer Protection/Predatory Lending
-Reproductive Choice Issues
-Education Funding & Reform
-Marriage Equality & LGBTQ Rights
-Civil/Criminal Justice Reforms
-Investing in Green Energy
-Protecting Environmental Interests
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 804-698-7536. I am honored to serve as your state senator.
Occoquan VFW Post Inducts Woodbridge Community Veterans
On January 3 at the Post’s General Membership Meeting in the Posts second floor Community Room, Tony Ahnn USMC (Ret), Janette Blea USN (Ret), Joel Blea USN (Ret) , Jim Caputo USAF (Ret), Tom Cox USAF (Ret), JD Gibson USA (Ret), and Kerry Kachejian USA (Ret) took their their membership oath in front of an enthusiastic crowd of members and their spouses.
The inspiring ceremony reflects over 117 years of VFW history, tradition and accomplishment. Post 7916 Commander Chuck Wilson administered the oath of the Veteran of Foreign Wars and then said:
“My comrades: You have been admitted to this great order because you have served our country in the face of hazard and danger. But our country deserves your highest devotion at all times, in peace as well as in war. In this organization you are now privileged to mingle with comrades who have gone to the far lands of the earth when duty called. They, better than anyone else, can understand your language as a veteran.
Henceforth you are privileged to wear this beautiful Cross of Malta which will distinguish you as a member of America’s true knighthood, bound together by ties of comradeship formed through a century of campaigning in foreign lands and waters—the golden age of American chivalry.
Into this great fraternity we now welcome you. Here you will find true comradeship. And so, as you go about your daily duties, I admonish you to cherish the beautiful emblem you are now privileged to wear. Look upon it as an inspiration to noble citizenship. Treasure it as a symbol of all that is best in our national life, resting assured that if you will practice the principles for which it stands comrades will come to you in the hour of need even as you will go to them when duty calls.
We trust that what you have experienced here will not soon pass from your mind, but that its impression will remain with you through a long and prosperous life.
Comrades, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.
May you find pleasure in the comradeship of this great order and help perpetuate the hallowed memories of service so dear to all of us. And now, with my best wishes for your future success, I commend you to your new comrades. Comrades, extend to our new comrade a hearty welcome.”
In 1913 the VFW modeled its organization, terminology and ritual on the Grand Army of the Republic—an organization for veterans of all ranks who had served in the American Civil War. The VFW grew rapidly after the WW I with hundreds of thousands eligible veterans returning from the war. Between the two world wars the VFW focused on advocating for benefits for veterans. After the Second World War, millions more veterans were eligible to join the VFW. Membership steadily grew after the war peaking at about 2.5 million in 1993 with over 10,000 posts nationwide. During the turbulent 1960s era, the VFW supported the American involvement in the Vietnam War and condemned the counterculture trends of the era. For the last decade, the VFW has faced declining membership due to the aging of WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam veterans and the reduced enrollment from veterans of South West Asia conflicts. Also reflecting the precipitous reduction in serving U.S. military (.4% of Americans), today there are 1.7 million VFW members and 6,700 posts world wide.
On Saturday, January 7th, Prince William County elected representatives will host a Prince William County 2017 General Assembly Session Public Hearing. Details are as follows:
Prince William County 2017 General Assembly Public Hearing
Saturday, January 7, 2017
3 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Board of Supervisors Chamber Room
James J. McCoart Administrative Building
1 County Complex Court
Woodbridge, VA 22192
Prince William County State Senators and Delegates will listen the concerns and important topics of Prince William County citizens, such as the appropriation of funds in the $100 billion state budget, transportation policy, education policy, human services, public safety, and the environment.
Senator Scott Surovell (D-36) stated, “Public comment and input is vital to our roles as elected officials. All of us value our accessibility to Prince William County’s residents and want to make sure they have every opportunity to make us aware of their concerns before the General Assembly Session begins.”
Delegate Richard Anderson (R-51) stated, “I look forward to joining with my fellow legislators to discuss the forthcoming legislative session of the General Assembly—and to receiving citizen input on the business that will come before us in Richmond. This is a time-honored tradition in Prince William County and we urge as many of our neighbors as possible to participate.”
Rules of the forum are as follows:
— All speakers will have three minutes to speak
— Organizations are limited to three speakers per organization
— Speakers can sign up to speak online in advance at: http://bit.ly/2017PWCsignup
— Speakers will be called in the order they sign up.
— Attendees who have not signed up may sign up at the hearing and speak after registered speakers have addressed the delegation.
— All speakers should bring 15 copies of printed materials to distribute to the members.
The forum is for the public to address the delegation. General Assembly members will not address participant comments to preserve time. Press is invited to attend.
For nearly 35 years, Keep Prince William Beautiful has served the communities and citizens of Prince William County by inspiring individual responsibility and collective action to keep our beloved neighborhoods clean, green, and vibrant places to live, work, and conduct business. As we begin a new year, our organization renews our commitment to the communities we serve and pledge to inspire greater action in the year ahead.
I like to tell folks in discussing the services Keep Prince William Beautiful provides that we clean up not just for the sake of keeping things beautiful, but rather so our people can do beautiful things. When the park is clean, more kids will go. Home values are higher in clean neighborhoods; new businesses open on vibrant and clean streets; when we take pride and keep it beautiful, our communities are safer and stronger.
Keep Prince William Beautiful is a grassroots service organization that leads programs on litter prevention, protecting the Chesapeake Bay, recycling education, among others. But we are also a catalyst for economically vibrant and healthy communities. We are thought leaders and committed to environmental action and economic vitality taking root together.
In 2016, hundreds of volunteers for Keep Prince William Beautiful logged over 5,000 hours picking up nearly 100,000 pounds of trash from our roadways and streams. Over 70 spots were adopted by friends and neighbors. Hundreds of kids took part in fun, educational activities to promote recycling and environmental stewardship. These things enable our communities to be great places to do beautiful things – to start new businesses, buy a house, visit, live healthy, and have fun.
Join us in the new year and help us continue our vision of Prince William County being a place to ‘do beautiful things’ in 2017– adopt a spot on your street to keep it clean; volunteer for a community clean-up; donate to help us beautify communities by planting, painting, and developing parks and green spaces. Recycle and reuse items. Dispose of your trash. Keep pollutants out of our storm drains and help protect the Chesapeake Bay. Most importantly, take pride in our community and let’s become the nation’s leader in keeping our communities beautiful so we all can do beautiful things in the community we love.
To learn more, volunteer, or donate please visit kpwb.org.
As another cold winter approaches, the Prince William County Republican Committee and Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01) collected and donated cold-weather supplies for the homeless in Woodbridge this week. On Wednesday, the Committee donated a dozen large bags of clothes, coats and blankets, as well as six large propane tanks, to Streetlight Ministries, a charity that serves the unsheltered homeless in Prince William County. This end-of-the-year service project concludes the 2016 Prince William County GOP Community Service Initiative that included ten service projects throughout the year.
The Prince William Republican Committee has served the community through projects like this collection for several years. During the last three years, the Committee has engaged in approximately ten service opportunities per year. Service projects have included projects like: a fashion show to benefit the B.A.R.N Transitional Housing charity in Bristow, led by the Bull Run Republican Women’s Club; a back-to-school supply drive for schools with high populations of economically disadvantaged students; and a meal for residents of the ACTS Homeless Shelter in Dumfries, just to name a few. Any Prince William County resident, regardless of political affiliation, can participate in the Republican’s community service activities by contacting the Committee at 703-680-7388.
Streetlight Ministries works with the poor and homeless in Prince William County to secure emergency housing, employment, and eventually a long-term housing solution. They also work with local civic groups and faith-based organizations to serve a meal to homeless Prince William residents every Wednesday evening. To learn more about Streetlight, go to: www.thestreetlight.org.
Delegate Richard L. Anderson (R-51st) and his legislative staff have put the finishing touches on the 51st House District “Future Delegate Program” at the Virginia state capitol in Richmond.
Now in its fifth year, the program brings public, private, and home-schooled students from grades 7 through 12 to Capitol Square in Richmond for a day-long immersion in the legislative processes of the Virginia General Assembly. The Future Delegate Program focuses on the policy process and exposes students and families to legislative life in Richmond. The goal is for students to return home with a greater appreciation for the business of the Virginia House of Delegates, where Del. Anderson has served for seven years since retiring from the US Air Force as a colonel after a 30-year military career. Anderson’s aim is to convince students why they should enter public service as their life’s calling.
Anderson was motivated to provide this civics opportunity by his service as chair of the Virginia Commission on Civics Education. The delegate stated that “a well-rounded civics education is being crowded out by other disciplines, so we need to be watchful that students are exposed to ways in which they can engage in the civic life of their communities across Virginia. Civics is the discipline that leads to trust, civility, and respect in government and politics.”
Students will be exposed to a wide range of activity while in Richmond, and they will have an opportunity to see first-hand the business of the House Science and Technology Committee that Anderson chairs. Additionally, the delegate co-chairs the General Assembly Military and Veterans Caucus with Sen. Bryce Reeves, meaning that students will learn more about the work of Anderson, Reeves, and their colleagues on behalf of 800,000 Virginia military veterans. Because only one student will participate each day, they experience quality one-on-one time with Anderson, who often has the student sit with him in committee and subcommittee meetings and takes them to meetings with other delegates and senators, the leadership of the House, and other senior officials. They also participate in Senate hearings that might be scheduled and assist Anderson with press conferences if one is scheduled during their visit to the Capitol.
The program has proven to be immensely popular and has graduated some 200 students over the last five years. Anderson’s program is the first-ever at the Capitol and touches a large number of Prince William County students. The delegate considers it “my most important outreach to young people in our community who wish to serve our Commonwealth at the state level and our Constitutional Republic at the federal level.”
Now that students have completed their applications, dates are being assigned to specific students and their families who will accompany them to Richmond. Anderson looks forward to the arrival of the first Future Delegate Program student in January and says that “each will have a ring-side seat on how we make policy and make life better for eight million Virginians.”
Virginia is represented by Democrats in all five statewide offices, has voted for a Democratic president three times, yet the Virginia House of Delegates has 66 Republicans and 34 Democrats.
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on the legality and constitutionality of the last redistricting of Virginia House of Delegates’ districts. The court’s decision could be monumental for all Virginia voters.
If I could fix one thing to make our government work better at every level, I would reform redistricting. Partisan redistricting abuse has been around since the beginning of American democracy. The term “gerrymander” originates from an 1812 attempt to draw districts favoring Massachusetts Governor Eldridge Gerry. To be clear, both parties do it, but in the last two decades, gerrymandering has become especially powerful for a few reasons.
First, America is more partisan. Due to multiple and growing sources of information available in today’s world, voters are able to self-select their news sources and are exposed to fewer alternative perspectives. This has driven up partisan identification and led to fewer voters who are willing to split their votes between political parties.
Second, and more importantly, computer-enabled mapping software has made it possible to draw districts that are finely crafted. When redistricting was done with index cards shifting precincts days because of ancillary effects and the need to recalculate and balance district populations.
Today, computing technology analyzes data by census block and in a few seconds can draw a comprehensive set of districts to elect a predicted number from a specific political party while maximizing majority-minority districts.
Over the last thirty years, these political considerations have caused district lines to constantly shift. Many areas constantly move between congressmen, senators and delegates every redistricting cycle. Changed lines leave people confused about their representatives. Census level analysis leaves precincts split requiring local governments to redraw precinct lines to avoid polling places with multiple ballots. This costs taxpayers money and leaves voters confused about their polling place.
Resulting districts are not communities of interest. The 36th Senate district that I represent stretches 60 miles across three counties and two area codes. The 1st Congressional District crosses the 36th District and stretches from Manassas to near Norfolk. Districts should minimize jurisdictional splits, use natural geographical boundaries like rivers and be truly compact and contiguous.
Together, this creates a series of hyper-partisan districts, both Republican and Democratic, which are so safe in general elections that they incentivize incumbents to focus on galvanizing primary voters’ support and not the broader electorate. This distorts public policy and increases partisanship when it is time to legislate.
There are two solutions to this problem. First, the legislature could give up redistricting power and transfer it to a bipartisan or nonpartisan commission. Incumbent legislators should not pick their voters. I have always supported nonpartisan redistricting and the Virginia State Senate has passed it several times, but it always dies in the hyper-gerrymandered House of Delegates. A legislative solution is highly unlikely.
The real opportunity to remedy this situation lies in the courts. Some courts have thrown out hyper gerrymandered seats using Voting Rights Act provisions. While valuable, this law is not a comprehensive tool because it is limited to preventing racial discrimination and does not address other problems with partisan redistricting. A Wisconsin federal court recently used an analysis based on the 1st and 14th Amendments to invalidate partisan redistricting by focusing on “wasted votes,” but did not recommend a remedy.
Courts can often better resolve issues that legislatures cannot. For example, in 1962, numerous legislatures, including Virginia’s, refused to redraw districts recognizing the booming suburban populations. The U.S. Supreme Court required Virginia and other states to draw districts based on actual population by adopting the “one man, one vote” rule of the Baker v. Carr case.
Today, it is similarly time for the Courts to restore democracy to our country and our Commonwealth. Hopefully, they will use the Virginia House of Delegates case argued this week to restore democracy to America.
It is an honor to serve as your state senator. If you have any feedback, you can always contact me at email@example.com.
In preparation for the 2017 Legislative Session, State Senator Jeremy McPike launches the Greater Prince William Young Leaders Program. The program will provide an opportunity for up to six bright high school juniors and seniors who live in the 29th Senate District to travel to Richmond during the General Assembly Session and learn about the legislative process. Students will observe committee hearings and floor debate, meet with top-level policy makers in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and tour historic buildings. The 2017 Program dates will be Sunday, January 29 to Tuesday, January 31.
Applicants should demonstrate robust academic performance, strong leadership skills, a diligent work ethic and an interest in their state government. There will be no cost to students to participate in this program, as Senator McPike’s office will provide all of the transportation, meals, activities and sleeping arrangements.
ONLINE APPLICATION FORM AVAILABLE HERE: https://goo.gl/forms/iyNrrDRjqO4RTPw93
Application Deadline: December 15, 2016
To determine if you live in the 29th Senate District, please plug your address into the following website: http://whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov. Participants will be selected by Friday, December 23, 2016. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Senator McPike’s Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prince William County congratulates MAG Aerospace, a recognized leader in global aerial surveillance and situational awareness services, and InCadence Strategic Solutions, a technology leader in operational intelligence, biometrics solutions, identity and knowledge management services, on receiving awards at the 14th Annual Greater Washington Government Contractor ‘GovCon’ Awards.
The ‘GovCon Awards’ is a celebratory event honoring the leadership, innovation and commitment to excellence of the individuals and businesses in the Greater Washington region government contracting sector, hosted by the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce and Professional Services Council. A prestigious panel of industry and government professionals select finalists and winners from a large pool of nominees.
In the case of InCadence, its game-changer program – Ares™ Mobile Biometric Application was selected as Program of the Year. The Program of the Year recognizes the most exemplary program among all finalists recognized. Ares is the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI’s) Mobile Biometric Application, deployed to agents worldwide. InCadence provides the Ares software as a commercial product, and supports the FBI Global Initiatives Unit with the integration of Ares into the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division enterprise. In spring, Ares™ Mobile Biometric Application also won the Transformer of the Year award at the 2016 ACT/IAC igniting Innovation Showcase and Awards.
MAG Aerospace received the Contractor of the Year Award in the $25 – $75 million category, which is given to acknowledge “distinguished financial and operational accomplishments and outstanding contributions during the past year to employees, the government contracting industry and the U.S. Government.” This awards follows a string of awards in 2016 for MAG Aerospace, most recently being recognized by the Washington Business Journal as one of the 50 Fastest Growing Companies in the Washington region. In October, MAG received the 2016 Commonwealth of Virginia Governor’s Award of Excellence in International Trade. Prior to that, MAG Aerospace CEO, Joe Fluet took home a 2016 SmartCEO Future 50 Award.
Carmello’s of Historic Manassas, Va. was awarded City Beat New’s Spectrum Award for Excellence in Customer Service.
ABOUT CITY BEAT NEW’s SPECTRUM AWARD:
The Spectrum Award of Excellence in Customer Satisfaction was established to spotlight companies providing exceptional service and experiences to their customers. Our research is done annually and is completely independent and unbiased. The award is only bestowed upon that fraction of companies earning our highest ratings. Through this award we honor our mission to provide voice to the unheralded small businesses that are the foundation of our communities and to find and promote excellence wherever we find it.
ABOUT CARMELLO’S and MONZA:
Carmello’s of Old Town Manassas, Va. was established in 1987 and is owned by Portuguese immigrant, Alice Pires of Manassas, Va. The family-owned restaurant offers fine dining, serving a contemporary American cuisine with Portuguese and Mediterranean influence. In 2011, its sister restaurant, Monza, was created, providing bistro fare. Carmello’s earned the Award of Excellence by Wine Spectator magazine for six consecutive years, and has been voted best fine dining restaurant by Prince William Today for 2013. Their seasonal menus are complemented by their fresh produce from the restaurant’s garden. Carmello’s and Monza are active volunteers in its community, uniting with local charities to help those in need and to build community spirit.