Opinion: Commentary: Report from Richmond

Opinion: Commentary: Report from Richmond

First, Monday brought a large firearms rights protest to Capitol Square. Over 20,000 Virginians protested on and off Capitol Grounds. Several arrests were made before the protest due to anarchists discussing shooting during the protests. Most counter protestors stayed away to avoid creating conflict.

I met with about 30 firearms rights supporters including a handful of my constituents in my office. We discussed several bills including our “red flag” bill which was the largest focus. While we agreed to disagree about many matters, we had a very civil discussion and I appreciated their input.

On Tuesday, the Senate passed Senator George Barker’s “red flag” bill that I helped to negotiate. This bill was probably the most controversial of the four firearm violence prevention bills that was passed, but it is the bill that is mostly likely to prevent mass shootings.

Some of my environmental bills have also started to move. The Senate Agriculture Committee passed my legislation to prohibiting hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” in the Potomac Aquifer which is effective all of Virginia east of Interstate 95. The Potomac Aquifer is the drinking water source for four million Virginians and four years ago, a company purchased 85,000 acres of leases to extract natural gas on the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula. The bill died on a tie vote two years ago. I am hopeful that it will pass this year.

Also, my bill to prohibit homeowner and condo associations from prohibiting owners from installing electric vehicle chargers passed. I also passed legislation that would require realtors to advise home buyers of the availability of home energy audits when purchasing a home. This means that buyers will be given a possible home energy audit addendum similar to a home inspection addendum. This will encourage parties to make repairs to a home to save energy before it is sold. Wasted energy is America’s cheapest new energy source.

My legislation to prohibit driving a moving vehicle with a phone in your hand passed the Senate Transportation Committee on a 12-3 vote. It will be in the floor this week for a final vote in the Senate. I am optimistic that it will finally pass this year. The full Senate also passed my legislation to clarify that vehicles cannot use bike lanes to pass other vehicles and to enhance penalties for drivers who seriously injure pedestrians and cyclists while distracted or careless. Car collisions and deaths continue to rise after a 50-year decline. This is further reinforced by the three pedestrian deaths we saw on U.S.1 in just the first three weeks of the year.

My legislation to prohibit the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries from leasing duck blinds on Little Hunting Creek, Dogue Creek and Great Hunting Creek passed the full Senate. There is no reason people should be hunting birds with shotguns so close to homes.

We passed legislation to expand early voting with no excuse to a full 45-days before the election. I am hopeful that this will significantly expand voter turnout. We will be hearing further voting reforms next week.

On Monday this week, I am looking forward to a visit from the eight area high school students who are part of the Puller Institute. My legislation to restrict predatory lending will be heard. We will also be debating minimum wage, new labor protections, marijuana decriminalization and major energy reform legislation.

It is an honor to serve as your state senator. Please email me at scott@scottsurovell.org if you have any feedback.

Scott Surovell

State Senator

36th District of Virginia

General Assembly of Virginia