Scott Surovell

Quote Of The Day: 2-7-14

Who says we're one-sided and partisan? Of the four legislators who've made our Quote of the Day this session, today makes three by a Democrat (see Delegates Scott Surovell and Jennifer McClellan). It all started on the House floor when Delegate Mark Keam (D-35, Vienna) went through the pro forma motion of asking that his his bill, HB 837, legislation to make the FOIA process more understandable for citizens and interest groups, and one which we have supported for two years now, be engrossed and passed on to its third reading. But he added his thanks to General Laws Committee counsel for her help in drafting the bill and then thanked The Family Foundation for our support in helping get the bill through.

The bill's soon-to-be passage is a classic case of a "easy approval deception" — despite the unanimous approval from the General Laws Committee, there was tough opposition to beat back well before the final vote. Nothing is ever as easy as it seems at the Virginia General Assembly, and this bill went to sub-committee, full committee, back to sub-committee and finally back to full committee. Not easy at all, but without one dissenting vote in its labyrinth legislative journey, you wouldn't know otherwise. In short, lots of hard behind-the-scenes work by Delegate Keam, to whom we are very grateful. We think we did our part as well.

The most open possible government is a goal we have always fought for and one which we always will. It's an issue that should have no partisan divide, and the bureaucratic opposition to this bill — whom we pay and then turn around and use our tax dollars to lobby against our rights — should be ashamed of keeping Virginians from knowing what its government does. Even the mainstream media, which has its own turf to protect, opposed this bill.

The light moment of Delegate Keam's short floor speech came when he said he thinks his patronage of this bill has put him in the running for our Legislator of the Year Award. Then, as everything else these days, the conversation went virtual, on Twitter.  So, here's the rest of our Quote of the Day . . .

Keam Tweet

We stand ready to work with any legislator whose ideas fit into our five core principles.

Proposed Constitutional Amendments Killed Quickly In House Sub-Committee

In a kind odd of legislative twin-killing, the House Privileges and Elections Sub-Committee on Constitutional Amendments offed two proposed state constitutional amendments this morning. Governor Bob McDonnell's proposal to restore voting rights to certain felons, HJ 539, carried by Delegate Greg Habeeb (R-8, Salem), took the first hit, even with Ken Cuccinelli, making a rare Attorney General witness appearance before a sub-committee, in favor. The first hint that the resolution was going down, before a packed General Assembly Building Fourth Floor West Conference Room, with interested persons spilling well out into the hallway, was when the sub-committee rolled all proposed resolutions on the subject, including Delegate Habeeb's, into HJ 535, patroned by Democrat Delegate Charniele Herring of Alexandria — saving the large Republican majority from killing a Republican governor's legislation. ("Rolling" is a consolidation of similar bills into another existing bill to streamline a committee's meeting agenda.)

In this case, Delegate Herring's version became the resolution of record and, therefore, as the third ranking House Democrat, much more favorable to the sword. It died on a 6-1 vote to "pass by indefinitely" with one of the two sub-committee Democrats (Delegate Johnny Joannou of Portsmouth) voting with the GOP members. Sources indicate that many Republicans not only had serious policy questions about the content of the proposal, but took exception to a lack of notification by the governor — they heard about it for the first time Wednesday night during his State of the Commonwealth Address.

HJ 665, meant to repeal Virginia's Marriage Amendment, and patroned by Delegate Scott Surovell (D-44, Fairfax), met a similar fate, but for different reasons. On policy, the conservative sub-committee completely disagreed with Delegate Surovell's rationale, no amount of time for discussion would've mattered, and there was no need for parliamentary disguises. The people have spoken on this one and at least three-quarters of the states are in agreement — trying to portray maintaining the definition of traditional marriage as "extreme" is disingenuous at best. The sword fell swiftly via voice vote with only Democrat Algie Howell of Norfolk opposing the motion to pass by indefinitely.

House Sensitivity Caucus Announces Annual Awards

Although the end of session may provoke emotions ranging from physical relief (the meat grinder is over) to mental relief (the legislative sausage making is over) to melancholy (friends and colleagues going home for a year), there is one thing we greatly look forward to: The House Sensitivity Caucus Awards, presented the last Friday of session each year. In a year truly turned upside down, epitomized remarkably by the staid Senate being more entertaining than the rowdy House, the Sensitivity Caucus Awards capture real atmosphere of the General Assembly: good-natured and sincere willingness to work together, despite the negative reporting that overwhelms mainstream media's sparse coverage. The Sensitivity Caucus, one of many intra-legislative coaltions, is a semi-secret cadre of House members who, throughout session, observe and make note of all 100 members' (and some staff, as we found out) rhetorical and habitual idiosyncrasies. It awards those members who fit certain parameters and who make themselves (in)famous for certain statements, proclivity to speak no matter what the occasion and willingness to serve as instant experts on topics far and wide. Both quality and quantity are recognized.  It's non-partisan and all offending (in a very good and fun sense). While there are many caucuses, the Sensitivity Caucus

Some of the members are Steve Landes (R-25, Verona), Terry Kilgore (R-1, Gate City) and Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock). The caucus even creates teams and "drafts" members in a secret competition of "pop-ups" — members who get up and speak the most. Not only that, but this year they added awards this year to reflect behavior in committee. Whether on the floor or in committee, there was plenty of material this year, and each award pronouncement and explanation was greeted with loud bipartisan laughs (see Richmond Times-Dispatch's Virginia Politics Blog).

The award winners were:

Vivian Watts (D-39, Annandale);

Kay Kory (D-38, Falls Church) as Best Team Player for her adoring gaze at Minority Leader David Toscano (D-57, Charlottesville) during his perfunctory challenges to conservative bills;

Barbara Comstock (R-34, McLean) for the Homeland Security Award, for her more than casual references to her federal experience in speaking up on bills not her own;

Gilbert for the Wish I Hadn't Said It Award for his mention of a particular "lifestyle choice;"

Jimmie Massie (R-72, Henrico) for the On Board Award, which exemplifies action in committee, for the time he said in the Appropriations Committee that several organizations were "on board with this bill, the governor is on board with this bill, and I'm on board with this bill" (it was his own bill);

Johnny Joannou (D-79, Portsmouth) for the I Don't Practice Law In This Area Award, for the phrase he repeatedly prefaces his remarks with when fighting passionately for eminent domain reform (which he ultimately won);

Anne B. Crockett-Stark (R-6, Wytheville) for the Breakfast With The Devil Award, for using that phrase in a rousing speech she made on a gun bill;

House Clerk Paul Nardo, the first-ever staff winner, for the Speaker's Award, for keeping Speaker Bill Howell (R-28, Fredericksburg) more or less in line, on time and moving along;

Scott Garrett (R-23, Lynchburg) for the Cheerleader Award, for his much continued, solo clapping after a standing ovation had long since finished in honor of a speech given by Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-66, Colonial Heights);

Greg Habeeb (R-8, Salem) for the Freshman Of The Year Award, which, caucus leaders assured us, was a tough competition that lasted three or four ballots due to the many talented rookie legislators, for asking a lot of questions (he shouldn't be asking). Further hint: He's not a freshman!

The final award was the granddaddy of them all, the coveted Pop-Up Award. It's the Heisman Trophy of the General Assembly. It's given to the member who has tallied the most floor speeches, who pops out of his or her seat to speak the most on any and all issues. According to Kilgore, there was a lot of competition this year. He said, "There are a lot of people in this chamber who want to tell us what they know." So much so, that a first-ever Honorable Mention Award was given to freshman Alphonso Lopez (D-49, Arlington).

But in the end, there was no suspense. No one jumps out of his seat more frequently, nor with more brazenness, the one who's speeches have been dubbed "Morrissey Moments," than "Fightin'" Joe Morrissey (D-74, Henrico) himself, who popped up 51 times this session, more than one of the entire teams. True to form, as Speaker Howell called the chamber back to order, the first person in his queue to speak was, none other than, Morrissey, who had his own ad hoc Sensitivity Award: The Too Much Information Award. Delegate Scott Surovell (D-44, Mount Vernon) was the front runner early on for a floor speech he made bemoaning Virginia's traffic congestion, a condition that, apparently, affects the sanctity of his marriage (see video here).

But he had nothing on Delegate David Albo (R-42, Fairfax), who went into great detail on the floor on February 24 about how the ultrasound bill affected an evening with him and his wife. See (or not) the painful and inartful details here. Why, Morrissey, rightly wondered, after 12 years of marriage, did Albo find it necessary to slyly slip his arm around his wife's shoulder? More curious is that viewing the "Redskins Channel" is an apparent prerequisite for mood acquisition. So, appropriately, Morrissey presented Albo an oversize poster of his head superimposed on the Redskins' number 21. Quipped Speaker Howell, "What's nice about that is that it has his IQ on the jersey, too."

Orwellian: Saving Babies Is An "Attack On Women's Health"

The pro-abortion forces in Virginia are nothing if not masters at hyperbole. That, or downright Orwellian. Today, they held a news conference at the General Assembly Building to reinforce their message of choice since their stunning defeat on the abortion center regulation bill: That limiting abortions, and thus saving the most innocent among us, is "an attack on women's health." Among attendees were a who's who of the General Assembly pro-abortion crowd: Senators Donald McEachin and Mary Margaret Whipple; and Delegates Patrick Hope, David Englin, Jennier McClellan, Scott Surovell, Adam Ebbin, Onzlee Ware, Vivian Watts and Charniele Herring — the so-called "Reproductive Health Caucus." They were joined not only by Planned Parenthood and NARAL, but by the ACLU and the League of Women's Voters, whose representative enthusiastically gave herself a shout-out when Delegate Herring failed to recognize her. What abortion "rights" has to do with registering women to vote is anyone's guess, but that moment was the most exciting thing at what had to be the most uneventful news conference in General Assembly history — nothing more than introductions, a statement by Delegate Herring, and a story by a woman whose situation was not relevant to the exchanges. Not even a question by one of the two or three members of the press who attended. Even the distributed prepared press statements were boring. Sorry, but no video, excerpted quotes, nor links worth citing. Even Planned Parenthood's e-mail alert left a lot to be desired. An indication that the tide is turning? We'll find out tomorrow when our electeds vote to sustain or reject two pro-life amendments passed down by Governor Bob McDonnell: One, to HB 2434, to prohibit taxpayer funding of abortion in the new state health insurance exchanges mandated by the federal healthcare law; and another, a budget amendment, restoring abstinence education funding that former Governor Tim Kaine eliminated.

These votes promise to be very close in the Senate tomorrow during the "Veto Session." Please contact your senator Wednesday morning and ask him or her to vote for each.

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Meanwhile, here's more coverage on the health insurance exchange amendment, from the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot (here) and below, from WTVR-TV/CBS6 in Richmond. Both feature comments from Family Foundation President Victoria Cobb.