The Dixie Pig was my grandmother's favorite restaurant on U.S. 1 formerly located across from Beacon Mall where a Rite Aid now stands.

Welcome to my official blog!  

The Dixie Pig Blog

  • Weekly Column: 21 Bills Cross, Predatory Lending Restricted, and Coal Ash Progress

    Weekly Column: 21 Bills Cross, Predatory Lending Restricted, and Coal Ash Progress

    The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Connection, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of February 6, 2018.
                   Week Six of the General Assembly brought us to the midpoint of session, completion of work on all bills in our own chambers, and announcement of the proposed House and Senate budgets.
                  Twenty-one of my bills “crossed over” to the House of Delegates including several this week.  First, my legislation continuing the moratorium on permitting the closure of coal ash ponds was continued for fourteen months so the legislature could have more time to gather information. 
    Most other states have moved towards recycling coal ash into products such as bricks and concrete instead of burying it the ground for eternity.  Dominion has estimated that recycling will cost $4-8 billion but the recycling community contends that is greatly overstated.  My bill requires Dominion to seek specific recycling proposals from coal ash recyclers and to pass proposals along to the legislature so we can consider the actual cost of recycling next year.  It is important that we have correct information before we decide to make a decision that will pass along over a billion dollars of cost to electricity rate payers.
    Second, my legislation to place a 36% interest rate cap on consumer finance lenders passed the full Senate on a 37-2 vote after going back and forth to committee on a long journey.  The bill faces a committee that has already approved a hostile bill in the House of Delegates, but I am hopeful that we can work out a compromise.  Online lenders charging effective interest rates as high at 900% are currently attempting to use consumer finance licenses and we need to shut this down.
    Third, my legislation to require Northern Virginia school districts to waive all fees and provide computers to children taking online classes passed the full Senate unanimously.  No child who cannot pay $5 for a lunch should be required to purchase a computer or pay over $300 to take an online class and utilize the same public school opportunities that wealthy children use to get ahead for college.  
    Fourth, my legislation to create a settlement structure including state compensation facilitate compensation to four men known as the “Norfolk Four” passed the Senate.  All four men were coerced into confessing to a rape they did not commit by a detective who is now incarcerated and knew the identity of the actual rapist.  Each spend over a decade in jail and another eight years of “freedom” while still having to live on the Sex Offender Registry.
    The last bill we passed Senator Saslaw’s bill to create a framework to supplement capital funding to Metro and match monies provided by the District of Columbia and Maryland.  The bill corrects a technical error from 2013 and imposes a “floor” on gas tax collections which have declined due to lower gas prices.  It takes $20 million per year from allocations to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (instead of over $100 million proposed by the Governor).  It also imposes a new $0.10 per $100 grantors tax on the sale of real property, and a two percent tax on hotel stays.  
    On Sunday, the Senate and House announced their respective budgets.  Surprisingly, the House of Delegates’ budget included an expansion of Medicaid, albeit with a work requirement, while the Senate budget contained no expansion.  Because of this, the Senate bill was forced to cut over $500 million from the budget to make up for the lost revenue.  Both budgets also cut $190,000 of funding for a derelict barge in Belmont Bay that I have been working for three years to get removed.  
    On the good side, the Senate budget included funding for new staff for Widewater State Park in the 36thDistrict which currently has none.  Both budgets also increase secondary education money to Fairfax, Prince William and Stafford Counties by nearly $170 million over the biennium.  
    Each chamber will vote their budget amendments on Thursday and then the budget will be negotiated over the next two weeks.
    You can reach me at scott@scottsurovell.org. It is an honor to serve as your state senator. 

  • Weekly Column - Week Five: A Deal on Misdemeanor-Felony Threshold, Coal Ash Continues

    Weekly Column - Week Five: A Deal on Misdemeanor-Felony Threshold, Coal Ash Continues

    The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Connection, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of February 6, 2018.
    Week Five: A Deal on Misdemeanor-Felony Threshold, Coal Ash Continues
    The fifth week of session brought a furious pace to legislating including some of the most contentious bills of the session as we approached “crossover” – the day the Senate and House are required to complete action on legislation originating in each chamber.  It was mostly a successful week for me.  Twenty-one of my bills are now set to pass the Senate to be considered by the House of Delegates.
    First, Governor Northam announced an agreement to raise Virginia’s threshold between misdemeanors and felonies from $200 to $500.  Once enacted, Virginia’s threshold will still be the second lowest in the United States.  I have introduced this legislation every year for nine sessions I was pleased it is finally going to be enacted into law.  
    My legislation to place a 36% interest rate cap on all consumer finance loans was sent back to committee for “additional vetting” after the online lending industry retained a top Richmond lobbying firm.  Luckily, my bill re-escaped the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee with only three “no” votes and I hope it will finally pass this week.
    All six of my coal ash bills were heard this week.  Ultimately, I mediated a compromise between Governor Northam, Dominion and environmental groups to continue the moratorium on closing coal ash ponds for twelve months, required Dominion to issue requests for proposal from coal ash recycling companies to recycle ash, and convene a joint committee of Senate and House members to investigate the coal ash problem over the next twelve months.  My bill also allowed the closure ponds where ash has already been removed so we do not continue to have open holes in the ground.
    While I was disappointed that we did not completely resolve the issue this session, the ultimate disposition of these ponds will cost ratepayers billions of dollars and it is important to proceed carefully to both build support and make sure the correct outcome in justified.  I am hopeful that the information generated last year and over the coming months coupled with other legislators focused on resolution will help generate a consensus.  
    Unfortunately, my bill to impose a four-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” for natural gas east of Interstate 95 was rereferred to the Senate Finance Committee where it died on a tie (8-8) vote.  Some members were concerned it constituted a government “taking” although similar legislation has passed in numerous states and survived numerous litigation challenges.  I will try again next year.
    The Health and Education Committee passed my legislation to allow low income high school students to take online classes without paying any fees and requiring schools to provide them with computers.  I introduced the bill after I discovered Fairfax and Prince William Counties charge free and reduced lunch families fees up to $345 to take online classes and do not provide computers.  The bill will be on the floor of the Senate this week.
    The Equifax data hack highlighted the vulnerability of personal information environment.  My legislation to require credit bureaus to freeze credit at no charge was amended to a $5 fee and my legislation to clarify the process for freezing children’s credit was passed.  The bill passed committee and should pass the full Senate this week. 
    Finally, the Senate passed major legislation repealing the cap on electricity rates that the General Assembly enacted in 2015 due to uncertainty created by President Obama’s Clean Power Plan that the current Administration has taken steps to repeal.  While there were some parts of the bill I did not like, the legislation takes all of Dominion’s over-earnings and reinvests it into necessary grid modernization, will increase Virginia’s renewable energy production by ten-fold (500 MW to 5,000 MW), increases Dominion’s shareholders’ payments towards low-income energy assistance, directs Dominion’s profits towards $450 million of coal ash cleanup expenses, and expands Dominion’s Strategic Undergrounding Program in ways that could lead to underground power lines on U.S. 1. 
    You can always reach me at scott@scottsurovell.org if you have any feedback.  It is an honor to serve as your state senator.