INTERVIEW: Should localities be allowed to block state law?

By Ryan Nobles - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Today Republican leaders at the Virginia State Capitol unveiled their legislative agenda for the start of the 2011 General Assembly session.

One idea they hope to push is a Federal Repeal Amendment. It would give states like Virginia the right to pick and choose which federal laws they like applied in Virginia.

Well, one democrat is ready to take that idea a step further. Delegate Scott Surovell submitted a bill today that would give counties and states the right to repeal state law at the local level. He joins us now.

RYAN: Exactly how will this work, delegate?

SCOTT SUROVELL: The idea is two-thirds, city councils and boards of supervisors representing two-thirds of the population of the state vote to repeal a specific provision of state law within a two-year period, that would take effect and trump whatever the General Assembly and the governor do or what's on the books.

RYAN: So you're essentially proposing to take away some of your own power with this bill, aren't you?

SCOTT SUROVELL: It's a check on power and what Delegate Jim LeMunyon and the speaker proposed in the amendment I think opens an interesting discussion. I think it's a discussion we ought to have at the state level as to whether or not our power ought to be entirely unchecked when it comes to our ability to order things when it comes to local government.

RYAN: Do you think the Federal Repeal Amendment should be apply both ways?

SCOTT SUROVELL: I don't support that amendment because I think the federal issues are different. That deals with national defense which we don't have a lot of expertise in and additional anyway, congressman and senators get a lot of national security briefings and a top secret briefings and a lot of things we don't find out about and before voting on those kind of issues, we ought to have access at that time that kind of information. At the state level, there are no secrets. I think we're both in equal position to make decisions about some of those things.

RYAN: Could there be a scenario where there could be gaps in service that the states provide that perhaps some county government designed they don't want, could it leave people behind?

SCOTT SUROVELL: No, this amendment, it would be so hard to get together two-thirds of the counties to support a specific repeal provision, it would have to be something where the general assembly really overstepped big time before there's popular will to undo it so it's a high burden and I think it would be rarely invoked.

RYAN: Is this something you really want to see passed or are you just making a point?

SCOTT SUROVELL: No, I think it deserves discussion. The Federal Repeal Amendment opens up discussions about unchecked power and I think it applies at the state level. Virginia has changed a lot in the last 300 years and we have jurisdictions like mine that are bigger than five states in Fairfax County and I think we ought to have a discussion about whether the powers are balanced correctly or not. This is a way to make a very small change when it comes to state, local governments.

RYAN: It could certainly have an interesting group of people that support it and we'll keep a close eye on it. Delegate, thank so much for being here.

SCOTT SUROVELL: Thank you for having me.

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