eNews April 9, 2021Friday, April 09, 2021 - 05:15pm
In this issue:
- Ho-hum veto session is not the last word in 2021 state budget development
- Economy and job growth shift to the next higher gear
- Central Virginia Veteran’s Affairs vaccine eligibility update
- VDH COVID-19 testing update
- Body camera grant funds approved for localities and others
- DCJS solicits applications for new grant program to combat hate crimes
- Virginia Transit Association FY22 Transit Zero Fare grant applications now being accepted
- DEQ seeks local input on future funding for Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF)
- Community Business Launch expanded for FY 2022
- Join celebration of Excellence in Virginia Government Awards (EVGA) winners
Local authority and marijuana legalization in Virginia
During the reconvened session on Wednesday the General Assembly approved the Governor’s amendments on the legalization of Marijuana (SB 1406 (Ebbin) / HB 2312 (Herring)). This means starting July 1, 2021 it will be legal to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and to grow up to 4 marijuana plants per household. Retail sales will not be allowed to start until January 1, 2024. Localities have the authority under this new law to impose local taxes on retail sales, regulate the hours retail sales can occur, and regulate or prohibit the public use and possession of marijuana on school grounds or in parks, playgrounds, public streets or sidewalks.
It is important to note that large portions of this act are subject to a reenactment clause that requires approval of many sections of this legislation by the 2022 General Assembly including the local authority sections.
Key sections affecting local authority
Note – line numbers listed below are referenced to this document.
- 4.1-629 sets out the process for a locality to opt out of retail sales. (Line 6816)
- 4.1-630 Local Authority to regulate retail marijuana and retail marijuana products by ordinance and local zoning authority. (Line 6850)
- 4.1-631 Local regulation of the hours of operation of retail sales. (Line 6866)
- 4.1-1004 Local taxation. (Line 7538)
§4.1-629 and Enactment 23: Local option to prohibit retail marijuana sales
Localities should be aware that there is a new deadline for holding a referendum to opt out of retail sales of marijuana. Any referendum must be held prior to December 31, 2022 as set out in enactment 23. This is a more abbreviated schedule for holding a referendum than in previous versions of this legislation.
Results of any local referendum to opt out of retail sales, locally imposed taxes on retail sales, and/or regulations on the hours of operation for retail sales must be transmitted to the Virginia Cannabis Authority Board.
- 4.1-629 establishes requirements for local referendums to opt out of retail marijuana sales by ordinance.
- Localities must decide prior to December 31, 2022 whether to initiate a ballot referendum to ask voters to opt out of or approve the retail sale of marijuana within the locality.
- If a majority of voters vote No on the referendum, then no further referendums can be held.
- If a majority of voters vote Yes on the referendum, a subsequent referendum may be held on the same question four years after the date of the initial referendum.
- Any referendum held in a county impacts any towns within that county however any referendum held by a town shall not impact the surrounding county.
Therefore, localities must decide whether to hold a referendum and when such a referendum should be held. Any locality banning retail sales must inform the Virginia Cannabis Authority and retailers within the locality that the locality has opted out of retail sales, retail sales must end within 60 days of the referendum vote to opt out of retail sales.
§4.1-630: Local authority to regulate retail marijuana and retail marijuana products by ordinance
Localities are prohibited from regulating or prohibiting the cultivation, manufacture, possession, sale, wholesale distribution, transportation, consumption, use, advertising, or dispensing of retail marijuana products.
However, any city, town, or county may adopt ordinances to:
- Prohibit public consumption or offering of marijuana and marijuana products.
- Prohibit possession or consumption of marijuana and marijuana products on the grounds of any elementary or secondary school property during school hours or school or student activities.
- Prohibit or regulate possession of opened retail marijuana or retail marijuana products or retail products containers in public parks, playgrounds, public streets, and any sidewalks adjoining public streets.
§4.1-630: Local zoning authority
Local authority on zoning, business licensing, or land use requirements remains exempted from the Cannabis Control Act. Section 4.1-630 states that these areas of local authority are intended to be untouched by the Cannabis Control Act and that localities are to retain full zoning, licensing, and land use authority regarding marijuana retail businesses.
However, the act does set out that any local acts, including charter provisions and ordinances that conflict with the Cannabis Control act are repealed.
§4.1-631: Local regulation of the hours of operation of retail sales
Localities may pass ordinances regulating the hours of operation for retail marijuana stores. Any ordinance regulating the hours of operation must be certified by the clerk of the governing body and be transmitted to the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority Board.
§4.1-1004: Local taxation
Localities have the option to levy a 3 percent tax on retail marijuana sales by ordinance. This tax is in addition to any other local sales tax or food and beverage tax or excise tax on meals that a locality imposes.
Localities that impose a sales tax on the retail sale of marijuana and marijuana products must notify the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority and any retail marijuana store in the locality of the ordinance. The tax will be collected and distributed to the locality by the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority.
Towns should be aware that not imposing a retail sales tax does not prevent a county from imposing and collecting sales tax distributions from retail sales made in the town.
The sections discussed above are those that most affect local authority. However, this legislation has other impacts – particularly on law enforcement – that merit due consideration by local governments. Localities are advised to carefully review the legislation in the coming weeks. VML staff are happy to answer questions as they arise. Of course, we will continue to provide analysis and updates in the weeks to come.
VML Contact: Mitchell Smiley, firstname.lastname@example.org
Budget & Economy
Ho-hum veto session is not the last word in 2021 state budget development
Wednesday’s Reconvened Session of the General Assembly gave legislators an opportunity to act on Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposed amendments to the Budget Bill (HB 1800) as well as to other measures enacted during the 2021 Special Session.
The eighteen budget amendments Gov. Northam proposed were mostly technical or language and did not affect local governments. VML’s requests to the Administration to provide additional funding for the “599” law enforcement program, to clarify legislative intent regarding salary raises for teachers and support staff, and to further reduce the unfunded liability in the Teachers Retirement Fund were not included in the governor’s amendment package.
Partisan sparks did fly over a $250,000 spending amendment for the Office of the Attorney General to fund a third-party investigation of the Office of the State Inspector General’s polices, processes, and procedures employed during the Inspector General’s review of the Virginia Parole Board’s handling of a widely reported inmate release. This budget amendment, along with all the other budget amendments, was approved by both chambers of the General Assembly.
ARP clarity coming in May?
The General Assembly will return in another special session (2021 Special Session II) later this year to appropriate the billions of federal dollars provided under President Biden’s American Rescue Plan (ARP). It is likely that the General Assembly will meet to consider major revisions to HB 1800 sometime after May 11 but before the start of the next fiscal year beginning on July 1.
The American Rescue Plan will provide significant sums directly to most of Virginia’s cities and counties. However, money designated for Virginia’s towns and Virginia’s smaller-sized cities not eligible to receive direct payments from the federal government for Community Development Block Grants will receive their federal allocations from the state. This will require the General Assembly action.
VML has written to leaders in the General Assembly requesting that the Commonwealth work in partnership with local governments to coordinate the goals, objectives, and spending of American Rescue Plan money. This is arguably the most ambitious initiative undertaken by the federal government since President Johnson’s “Great Society” Program almost sixty-years ago.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury has set up an email address if interested parties wish to ask questions or express concerns about the ARP.
The American Rescue Plan requires the U.S. Department of the Treasury to develop the necessary spending guidance, policies, and reporting requirements for the money to be allocated to the states and localities. The policy framework should be in place and the first tranche of distributions to states and localities should occur by mid-May.
VML Contact: Neal Menkes, email@example.com
Economy and job growth shift to the next higher gear
Last week the U.S. Department of Labor reported that America’s employers unleashed a burst of hiring in March, adding 916,000 jobs in a sign that a sustained recovery from the pandemic recession is taking hold as vaccinations accelerate, stimulus checks flow through the economy and businesses increasingly reopen.
The March increase — the most since August — was nearly double February’s gain of 468,000. The unemployment rate declined from 6.2 percent to 6 percent.
Even with last month’s robust increase the economy remains more than 8 million jobs short of the number it had before the pandemic erupted some 13-months ago. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell reminded members of Congress this week that even as economic prospects look brighter in the country, getting the world vaccinated and controlling the pandemic remain critical to the global outlook.
However, the sense of an improving economy is also shared by businesses. Consumer confidence has also returned reaching the highest recording since pre-pandemic times. A recent study done by the Federal Reserve Banks of Richmond and Atlanta along with Duke University found a growing optimism among Chief Financial Officers in the two regions, at least as expressed for their own firms. Survey results showed an average optimism at 73.2 on a scale of 0 to 100 — above the fourth-quarter 2020 reading of 71. When asked to rate their optimism about the overall U.S. economy, the average rating was 67.7, which was a marked increase from the 61.6 reading in the fourth quarter. Notwithstanding the optimism, the CFOs responses did not forecast a surge in new capital investments and expansion but were instead more in tune with replacing or repairing existing equipment.
Meanwhile in Virginia
The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) announced this week that the number of initial claims filed during the most recent filing week were 81 percent lower than in the comparable week in 2020 when pandemic employment impacts neared their peak.
For the filing week ending April 3, the figure for seasonally unadjusted initial claims in Virginia was 28,526. The latest claims figure was an increase of 282 claimants from the previous week. This brought the total number of claims filed since the March 27, 2020 filing week to 1,582,695, compared to the 477,600-average filed during the previous three economic recessions since 1990.
For the most recent filing week, continued weeks claimed totaled 57,344, which was a 0.5 percent increase from the previous week, but 75,840 lower than the 133,184 continued claims from the comparable week last year.
VML Contact: Neal Menkes, firstname.lastname@example.org
Health & Human Services
Central Virginia Veteran’s Affairs vaccine eligibility update
The Central Virginia Veteran’s Affairs (VA) Health Care System has expanded eligibility for central Virginia Veterans, spouses, and caregivers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. With changes brought on by the recently signed SAVE LIVES Act, all Veterans, regardless of their character of discharge, all spouses of Veterans, Veteran caregivers and recipients of Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) benefits are now eligible.
VA vaccine clinics are operating in Richmond, Fredericksburg, Charlottesville, and Emporia.
More information is available in this Facility Update.
VDH COVID-19 testing update
The Virginia Department of Health has posted a presentation on the status of COVID-19 testing in Virginia, and steps being taken by the state and partners to promote more testing and follow up in communities, schools, and at home.
The presentation is available here >.
VML Contact: Janet Areson, email@example.com
Body camera grant funds approved for localities and others
A total of 13 cities, 24 towns, and 18 counties received approval for body-worn camera grant funds from the State Criminal Justice Services Board on March 25. The $6.4 million in grant funding was made available through a budget amendment approved during the 2020 General Assembly Special Session. The grants require a local match; a few localities applied but were unable to furnish the matching funds.
These are one-time grants, to be used for the purchase, operation, or maintenance of body-worn cameras. Grant applications were open to local and state agencies with primary law enforcement responsibilities. Beside the local law enforcement agencies receiving the grants, three colleges/universities and two airports received grant funding as well.
VML Contact: Janet Areson, firstname.lastname@example.org
DCJS solicits applications for new grant program to combat hate crimes
The Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) recently released information about a new grant program approved by the 2020 General Assembly for local governments that have established a partnership with institutions or non-profit organizations that have been targets or are at risk of being targets of hate crimes. A total of $1.5 million in grant funds will be made available through this program.
The goal of the program is to minimize bias-motivated incidents by providing funding that supports institutions or nonprofit organizations that may be at risk based on race, religious conviction, color, gender, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, or national origin.
Information as well as a link to the grant solicitation can be found here >.
VML Contact: Janet Areson, email@example.com
Virginia Transit Association FY22 Transit Zero Fare grant applications now being accepted
Applications due April 30, 2021
The Virginia Transit Association (VTA) has announced the second year of its Zero (Free) Transit Fare for Working Families program, a “competitive grant program designed to help needy families by promoting access to employment and job training through public transit.”
In total, up to $1 million will be made available to local governments, nonprofit organizations, and transit agencies.
The program is funded though Virginia’s federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant. This program will support projects that benefit persons that have a dependent child and are below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Eligible projects include providing fixed route bus service, on demand bus service, public van pools, and other public transit services for TANF eligible persons traveling to and from work or job training.
The application window opened on Thursday, April 8 with applications and cost estimate projections due by April 30 at 4:00 p.m. To apply, download program guidelines, the application form, and the cost estimate form at https://vatransit.com/TANFGrant .
Current grant recipients are invited to reapply.
Contact: Program related questions can be emailed to TANFgrant@vatransit.com.
DEQ seeks local input on future funding for Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF)
Like last year, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is seeking input from local governments to identify future funding needs for SLAF-eligible nutrient reduction projects in the Commonwealth. DEQ has prepared a survey to solicit input.
How to provide input:
- Review this PDF of the survey document to facilitate gathering details of projects.
- After you’ve gathered details, complete the online survey.
This survey intends to capture an estimate of the SLAF funding needed for local governments conducting stormwater projects in the near future. A letter from DEQ director, David Paylor with additional details regarding the importance of this survey is available here >.
DEQ respectfully requests your participation in filling out this survey by May 21, 2021.
More information on the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund can be found in the procedural guidelines available here >.
DEQ Contact: Mike Crocker, 804-698-4012 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community Business Launch expanded for FY 2022
From the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD):
“In the most recent budget, the General Assembly expanded the Community Business Launch (CBL) program, administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. CBL is a place-based entrepreneurial development strategy that fills a critical mass of vacant storefronts with expansion or start-up ventures. Local CBL programs train entrepreneurs, creatives, and small business owners about business planning practices. This training culminates in a group of finalists pitching their ideas to a panel of judges, with winners receiving grant funding and support services from the community to kick-start their new venture.
While only a limited number of entrepreneurs may win the business competitions, the CBL gives rise to many budding entrepreneurs that have been prepared through the CBL grant to create or expand successful businesses.
A CBL program generates excitement while educating the community business opportunities for local people. A CBL grant from DHCD leverages other financial and in-kind resources to prepare multiple entrepreneurs to operate successful businesses, whether they win or lose the pitch competition. Additionally, many CBL grantees replicate the CBL strategy repeatedly without DHCD resources to amplify job and business creation. When preceded by thorough market analysis and relentless outreach, then followed by ongoing business retention efforts, a CBL program is a key building block in a coordinated, comprehensive, and sustainable entrepreneurial eco-system of community-based entrepreneurs and small businesses at all stages of life.
For FY 2022, grants of up $90,000 will be available depending on matching pulled together by the applicant. Local governments, Main Street organizations, and 501(c)(3) organizations can apply.”
To learn more visit www.dhcd.virginia.gov/cbl.
DHCD Contact: Courtney Mailey, Community Revitalization Specialist, email@example.com
Join celebration of Excellence in Virginia Government Awards (EVGA) winners
A hallmark of the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University is to recognize public service individuals and organizations, as well as their nonprofit and private-sector partners, through its annual Excellence in Virginia Government Awards (EVGA).
Good government and community partnerships are essential. The Wilder School invites interested individuals to join us their virtual celebration of these outstanding individuals and organizations.
For more information about the awards and to register for this free event on April 15, visit: https://www.support.vcu.edu/event/evga2021 or call (804) 827-0867.
As announced by the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs…
- Lifetime Achievement Award: The Hon. Robert C. Scott
- Hill-Robinson Expansion of Freedom:E. Dick Howard
- Grace E. Harris Leadership: John C. Purnell Jr.
- Unsung Heroes: Cristina Dominguez Ramirez, Library manager, Henrico County Libraries
- Community Enhancement: Health Brigade, Karen Legato, Executive Director
- Public-Private Partnership: Virginia Housing, Susan Dewey, CEO
- Innovation in Government: Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice, Valerie Boykin, Director
VCU Contact: Katie Huynh, Events and Messaging Strategist, firstname.lastname@example.org
American Rescue Plan resources from the National League of Cities
While we all wait for further details regarding the distribution of American Rescue Plan Act funds, local governments may benefit from some resources recently made available by the National League of Cities (NLC).
The Estimated Local Allocation Tracker for the ARP is a new resource from NLC. Congress continues to refine the estimates for allocations from the State and Local Fiscal Relief Funds, but estimations for each municipality have been released. Use NLC’s new allocation tracker to find out how much your community is eligible for. You can find it here.
ARP Summary of Provisions
NLC has created an extensive, searchable summary of provisions relevant to municipalities and local leaders in this historic legislation. You can find the link here.
Local Recovery: Five Principles for ARP Implementation
NLC staff has written a CitiesSpeak blog on five principles for ARP implementation. You can find that blog here.
Additional Resources ICYMI
- NLC compiled the most frequently asked questions related to the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund to offer additional guidance as we receive it from Treasury.
- Municipalities can continue to share questions and feedback around the American Rescue Plan Act through this form.
- The White House shared a summary of the President’s American Jobs Plan and the impact it could have on municipalities. Read NLC’s summary here.
- For all NLC updates on COVID-19 Response and Relief visit nlc.org/initiative/covid-19-pandemic-response.
NLC Contact: Bryan Griffith, Manager of State League Services & Partner Engagement, email@example.com