Opinion: Commentary: Q&A: State Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36) on Expectations From New Virginia General Assembly

Q: What changes do the 2019 election results bring to the General Assembly?

A: Nov. 5, 2019 results will bring unified Democratic control to the House of Delegates, Senate of Virginia and Governor's Mansion for the first time since 1991. This will end partisan roadblocks that have prevented progress on common sense firearm violence prevention, women's rights, worker's rights, and other measures that will bring Virginia up to speed with the rest of the United States.

Q: What are your personal legislative priorities in the next session, and what are their prospects to pass in General Assembly?

A: My top legislative priority is funding transit improvements in the U.S. 1 and I-95 Corridor. We need to finalize funding for the U.S. 1 bus rapid transit, Yellow Line extension to Hybla Valley, start planning to extend the Blue Line to Potomac Mills Mall, and fund the construction of a new Long Bridge over the Potomac River to expand both VRE and higher speed rail service from D.C. to Richmond, Norfolk and Charlotte. I hope to finally pass hands free legislation, driver's permits for all Virginians, create a Prince William County Public Defender's Office, lead on criminal justice reform, and lay the groundwork for clean energy in Virginia.

Q: What do you see as the top five legislative priorities in the next session: What do you think can be achieved, and what is the timeline?

A: Increasing funding for free preschool, K-12, and higher education are top priorities. Virginia’s teachers’ salaries have dropped exponentially from the top third in the country to the bottom third in the last three decades. This is detrimental to teacher recruitment and retention, which ultimately impacts the quality of education for our youth. We will work for progress in implementing universal preschool along with lowering tuition rates at Virginia’s state-supported colleges.

I hope to expand access to voting including no excuse early voting for 45 days before any election.

We will become the 38th and final state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in the first two weeks.

I also hope we can codify Roe v Wade to protect against a backwards looking U.S. Supreme Court along with repealing the need for ultrasounds before women can exercise their constitutional reproductive rights.

This will be a big session for predatory lending reform. Online lenders who charge 400 percent interest rates and hide behind out-of-state Native American tribes will face regulation. Car title lenders who currently charge 267 percent interest rates authorized by Virginia law will likely face lower rates.

State legislators are currently preparing for the 2020 General Assembly session which will begin Jan. 8 and end in March. Public support is critical and feedback from constituents is important to make sure the Virginians’ voices are heard throughout the legislative process. I look forward to receiving comments and encourage constituents to reach out to my office.

Q: Any additional thoughts you would like to share?

A: As always, my staff is available for your constituent service, to help you navigate state agencies, and access services. Please make an appointment to visit us in Richmond. If you are coming, we can schedule a tour of your historic State Capitol. Please reach out to us at 571-249-4484 or district36@senate.virginia.gov. Please also keep an eye out for information about the Puller Institute. As I have in the past, I will bring high school students to Richmond to learn about state government. In the coming weeks, I will also announce our town hall schedule for the 2019 legislative session. Please plan to come share your opinions on legislative issues and make your voice heard!

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