eNews April 4, 2019Thursday, April 04, 2019 - 02:58pm
General Assembly addresses Governor’s amendments and proposed vetoes
The General Assembly returned to Richmond April 3 to address amendments and vetoes proposed by Governor Ralph Northam to bills and budget items approved during the 2019 Session.
Amendments of interest: FOIA and I-81
The General Assembly concurred with the Governor’s recommendations to a FOIA bill, SB1554 (Surovell). As originally approved, the bill would have allowed a court to add a penalty when an improper closed session was held, and the local government attorney was present at the time of certification. The Governor’s amendments removed the reference to the local government attorney being present at the time of certification and included mitigating factors that the court may consider in determining if a penalty should be imposed.
VML supported the Governor’s amendments, which addressed some of the concerns raised by the City of Fredericksburg (and other local governments), VML, and the Local Government Attorneys Association of Virginia.
The General Assembly also concurred with the Governor’s amendments to HB 2718(Landes) and SB 1716(Obenshain), which are companion bills that establish the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Program and Fund. As originally passed by the legislature, the bills would have only created an Interstate 81 Committee that would have been directed to recommend a funding source for I-81 projects. The amendments set out increased statewide registration fees for medium- and heavy-duty trucks along with statewide diesel and road tax rates. This brings these fees and taxes more in line with those of other states along the 855-mile I-81 corridor.
In addition, as is the case in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, the adopted amendments add a 2.1 percent regional motor fuels tax to be imposed along the 325 miles of the I-81 corridor that traverses western and Southwest Virginia. This regional tax hike would apply to all vehicles.
The taxes and fees approved under the bill are expected to generate:
- $151 million in dedicated funding for the I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan
- $40 million for the I-95 corridor
- $28 million for the I-64 corridor
- $20 million for the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority
- $43 million for the CTB to invest in other Virginia interstates
Vetoed bills of interest
On vetoed bills of interest to local governments, the General Assembly did the following:
- Sustained the Governor’s veto of HB 2270 (Poindexter) that would require that the sheriff, jail superintendent, or other official in charge of a local correctional facility or a regional jail in which an alien is incarcerated must notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the release or discharge of the alien forthwith as soon as the release date is known.
- Sustained the Governor’s veto of SB 1156(Black) thatwould have forbidden localities from adopting “sanctuary” policies.
- Sustained the Governor’s veto of HB 2749(Poindexter) that would have required the Virginia Department of Social Services to report annually to the Chairmen of the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services and the House Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions information regarding the number of reported violations of restrictions on the use of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance, including the number of reported cases involving multiple violations of such restrictions.
- Sustained the Governor’s veto of HB 2269(Poindexter) that would prohibit the state from adopting any regulation establishing or bringing about the participation by the Commonwealth in the Transportation and Climate Initiative or any other regional transportation sector emissions program.
- Sustained the Governor’s veto of HB 2611(Poindexter) that would prohibit the Governor or any state agency from adopting any regulation establishing a carbon dioxide cap-and-trade program or bringing about the participation by the Commonwealth in a regional market for the trading of carbon dioxide allowances.
Budget amendments and changes of interest
On the budget HB 1700(Jones), the Governor proposed 40 amendments. The General Assembly did the following to the amendments of greatest interest to local governments:
- Rejected Amendment #4, which would have added back $1.5 million in FY2019 to support education, outreach, and preparation for the 2020 Census.
- Concurred with Amendment #6, which increases by $4 million the funding in FY2019 for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund.
- Concurred with Amendment #12, that clarifies that school divisions that cannot meet the requirements of the 3% salary increase approved in last year’s budget can claim all or a portion of the two percent state salary funding increase appropriated in the 2019 Budget Bill (provided that the local school division provides the salary increase between July 1, 2019, and Sept. 1, 2019). School divisions that qualified for the 3% funding must provide up to an additional 2% in salary increases to be eligible for some or all the new funding approved in this year’s budget bill.
- Concurred with Amendment #19, which adds language directing the Secretary of Transportation to evaluate potential opportunities to lessen the financial burden on commuters using the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels in South Hampton Roads. The findings are to be submitted to the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees no later than June 30, 2020.
- Rejected Amendment #36, which would have overridden the General Assembly’s prohibition on any state agency or authority from purchasing or implementing body-worn cameras or body-worn camera systems. This only affects state agencies and authorities; it does not affect localities. The General Assembly approved language this year that requires cities and counties using cameras to work with their Commonwealth’s Attorneys to come up with an agreement regarding additional funding to those offices for the additional work burden created by the use of the camera footage or else abide by a 1:75 ratio of funding one attorney for that office for every 75 cameras used by the local police department. A continued study of the body-worn camera workload issue will also continue this coming year.