eNews July 15, 2022Friday, July 15, 2022 - 05:29pm
This edition of eNews is sponsored by:
Lumos provides high-speed fiber internet, wall-to-wall Wi-Fi, voice, and Streaming TV services to residential and business customers across Virginia and North Carolina. Read more >
In this issue
- 2022 Mayors Institute & Annual Conference: Registration now open!
- Save the date: FOIA/COIA Training and Risk Mitigation Awareness
- Rebuilding and maintaining the human services careers pipeline
- Alternative custody group meets in Richmond
- Solar Regulatory Advisory Panel’s Local Government work group crafts recommendations for future solar regulations
- Grant opportunity: $2 million available for open space projects in Virginia; apply by August 10, 2022
- Webinar on July 19 to address local government prioritization of IIJA funds
2022 Mayors Institute & Annual Conference: Registration now open!
Join your fellow VML members in our amazing capital city this fall for our annual gathering for local government officials and staff to learn from each other and subject matter experts from a variety of disciplines and agencies necessary to support effective local governments in Virginia.
Both the Annual Conference and the Mayors Institute that precedes it will be held at the Downtown Marriott in Richmond. The city will hold a Host Night the evening of Sunday, October 2nd at the reimagined Virginia Museum of History and Culture in the heart of Richmond’s Museum District.
- The link to register to VML’s Mayors Institute (Oct. 1-2) is available here >.
- The link to register for VML’s Annual Conference (Oct. 2-4) is available here >.
Also available on the above pages are links to reserve hotel room blocks and to view the preliminary agendas. Keep an eye on these pages as more information will be added in the coming weeks!
Any organizations interested in exhibiting at the conference or becoming a sponsor of either event should contact Rob Bullington at the below email address.
VML Contact: Rob Bullington, email@example.com
Save the date: FOIA/COIA Training and Risk Mitigation Awareness
VML is working with various stakeholders to conduct a morning of FOIA/COIA training and presentations on topics critical to local risk mitigation such as new cybersecurity reporting requirements, marijuana legislation and reasonable suspicion, OSHA updates, and more!
- Date: Wednesday, August 31
- Time: 9:00am – 12:00pm
- Place: Marion Police Department (307 S Park St, Marion, VA 24354)
More information will be posted to VML’s online calendar soon and in subsequent editions of eNews.
VML Contact: Rob Bullington, firstname.lastname@example.org
Newly established work groups with local finance implications
Now that the state budget has been adopted, it is time to turn attention to the stakeholder work groups that were established by legislative directive this year. Every year different “work groups” (some of which are referred to as “studies”) are established by state legislation, or by the directive of state legislators or the Governor, to examine a policy issue that the General Assembly may take up in the future. Typically, the work group is directed to report back to the legislature by a certain date, often before the next regular meeting of the General Assembly.
Another method by which a work group can be created occurs when a bill is “continued” – meaning defeated for the year but may come up again next session – and the bill patron receives what’s called a “chairman’s letter” directing a group of stakeholders to work on revisions to the bill in the “off-season” to improve its chance of succeeding in the next legislative session.
Below are some of the work groups that were created this year looking at issues that could potentially affect local revenues. VML staff and members are participating in the workgroups and tracking their progress. If you have thoughts or questions regarding any of these or other off-season workgroups that were created by the 2022 General Assembly, please reach out to VML staff.
BPOL: How a bill becomes a “chairman’s letter” work group
HB698 (Keam) – Continued to 2023; this legislation would have, effective January 1, 2023, permitted any locality to, by ordinance, “exempt in whole or in part the license taxes or fees imposed by this chapter on any class of taxpayers. Such exemption shall be made only by general law and shall be uniform upon taxpayers operating in the same line of business, employment, or profession. The locality may determine the scope of any class of taxpayers so exempted in its discretion.”
In presenting HB698, Delegate Keam (D-Fairfax), said the following:
“Thank you, Mr. Chair. If I could just present from here [the dais], I’ll keep this somewhat brief. I do know that we have at least one person in the audience that might be willing to speak to this.
“This bill was brought to my attention as an issue that affects some industries. I am sure that there are many that would be falling into this category, but the issue is whether a particular industry may be double-taxed because of the way their business operates and the way our localities tax them through the BPOL [Business, Professional, and Occupancy License] taxes.
“We’re trying to find a way to see if we could narrowly tailor a solution to allow them the relief that they’re seeking. And what we realized quickly is that – as we all know, I don’t know of a single colleague of mine who likes BPOL, but I also don’t know a single person who can come up with a better substitute for BPOL that’s not something that’s going to unravel a pretty delicate set of laws that we have on taxes.
“And so, what I thought would be a good conversation starter that will provide the relief that these folks are seeking but also give us a chance to think about the future of BPOL, is – what if we made it an option for localities? For those localities that want to use BPOL, we would allow them to continue on as status quo. And those that want to exempt it for specific industries, or specific professions, that they would have the option to do so.”
“Now, I don’t know whether any localities would take that, but I thought that would at least be the beginning of a conversation about tax reform that’s so needed in the Commonwealth.”
Responding to Delegate Keam’s presentation, Delegate Chris Runion (R-Albemarle, Augusta, Rockingham counties) said the following:
“Mr. Chair, Delegate Keam, I share your comments about how unpopular BPOL is on both sides. But I also understand how important it is to our localities. So, I find myself very much in a quandary on this.”
“One of the concerns I would like to have addressed, Mr. Chair, would be – how can we assure that this can be administered fairly across the board? It’s somewhat difficult for localities, sometimes, not to pick winners and losers, and I believe personally in the marketplace to do that.”
“And I’m very sensitive and supportive of the challenge this thing creates for the cancer, the chemotherapy things, but I also don’t know that that same issue is for other industries and organizations. And so, I’m somewhat challenged to understand if this maybe is not the right vehicle to move forward, that there perhaps needs to be additional conversations about this, perhaps at a different time…”
“I would make a motion that we carry forward and request a letter from the chair of the committee asking for an additional study or workgroup…”
And thus, the BPOL work group was born. VML will keep our members appraised of its progress (or lack thereof).
Transient Occupancy Tax and Property Tax: Budget and legislative work groups get to work
HB518 (Head) / SB651 (Vogel) – Enacted; these bills directed the Virginia Department of Taxation to “convene and facilitate a work group to examine the processes currently used to collect local transient occupancy taxes and make recommendations for improving the efficiency and uniformity of those processes”. The Department is directed to submit a report to the General Assembly by October 31, 2022.
Item 275. D1, HB30 (Knight) – Enacted; the budget directed the Department of Taxation to “study and develop a proposal to require that all individuals who conduct local property tax assessments receive state certification and ongoing recertification to ensure more effective, consistent, and equitable assessments across all jurisdictions in the Commonwealth.” The Department is directed to submit a report to the General Assembly by November 1, 2022.
VML Contact: Carter Hutchinson, email@example.com
Rebuilding and maintaining the human services careers pipeline
It’s not just a pandemic issue – the human services arena has faced staffing issues for a number of years. The pandemic accentuated those issues evidenced by local governments scrambling to hire and keep staff in vital human services roles.
This spring and summer, a workgroup led by Dr. Bill Hazel, former Health and Human Resources Secretary for Virginia and current Senior Deputy Executive Director with the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation in Northern Virginia, has been examining the challenges in building and strengthening the human services career pipeline. The group has been staffed and assisted by consultants from Deloitte.
After several weeks of Zoom meetings, a group of state, local, and nonprofit representatives met on July 14 at Brightpoint Community College in Chester to discuss roadblocks and potential solutions to addressing human services workforce challenges.
Discussions revolved around financial, educational, regulatory, leadership, and career advancement issues. While no one solution was identified, several strategies were discussed and will be further developed. Local governments will be key to these efforts, and VML will be highlighting more about this collaborative effort later this year.
VML Contact: Janet Areson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternative custody group meets in Richmond
Addressing the impact of transportation and custody of individuals subject to a temporary detention order (TDO) or emergency custody order (ECO) due to a behavioral health crisis was a major issue during the 2022 General Assembly Session. Specifically, legislators tried to find ways to ease the pressure on local police and sheriffs, whose officers have been spending not just hours, but days sitting with individuals in hospital emergency rooms while awaiting evaluation and referral to treatment. In addition to the time spent waiting in emergency rooms, local police and sheriffs lose time transporting individuals for placement, the location of which may be across the state from the community.
A study of alternative custody options was created out of 2022 legislation. This workgroup has now met twice in Richmond and will continue to meet through the summer, with recommendations due in the fall.
The workgroup has been seeking to understand current ECO and TDO processes and Code of Virginia requirements and how magistrates, local law enforcement, and potential alternative transportation or custody providers navigate this process and Code requirements. As usual, there are no easy answers.
The workgroup has heard presentations from police, sheriffs, and state staff from the executive and judicial branches about the issues to be addressed with custody and transportation and Code requirements and how other states are responding to similar issues with emergency room waits and inadequate treatment beds for those in crisis. At the July 12 meeting, members heard about a pilot between the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and Carillion to create a psychiatric emergency program that focuses on rapid evaluation, stabilization, case management discharge planning and placement as needed. The pilot has experienced success in diverting people from in-patient placement. Other states have had similar success with dedicated psychiatric emergency rooms.
The workgroup also heard about the opportunities and challenges that have transpired as a result of contracts between private providers and individual hospitals in North Carolina and Georgia where security staff trained in verbal intervention and de-escalation help safely serve individuals in crisis who are referred to behavioral health emergency rooms.
The workgroup will hold its next meeting on August 9th in Richmond. The meetings are in-person.
VML Contact: Janet Areson, email@example.com
Solar Regulatory Advisory Panel’s Local Government work group crafts recommendations for future solar regulations
The Department of Environmental Quality has convened a Regulatory Advisory Panel (RAP) stakeholders group which is holding an ongoing series of meetings to develop guidance to inform regulations that will be developed as a result of the passage of HB206 (Webert) by the 2022 General Assembly. The purpose of this RAP is to develop “regulations regarding criteria to determine if significant adverse impacts to prime agricultural soils or forest lands are likely to occur as a result of proposed small renewable solar projects” developed under the Permit by Rule program. Only smaller scale solar and wind projects with rated capacities of 150 megawatts or less go through the permit by rule process, to date nearly all such projects have been solar projects.
The full RAP consists of dozens of local government representatives, solar developers, agricultural and silvicultural trade organizations, environmental groups, and state agency experts. Given the size of the full RAP, various work groups have been tasked with specific elements of the proposed regulations. One of these work groups is focused on local government impacts and is tasked with making recommendations to the full RAP.
The RAP’s Local Government work group met this past Monday (July 11) to consider recommendations to forward to the full RAP for possible improvements for local governments as they consider in approving proposed solar projects. There was a clearly recognized need among the group for more information from state agencies regarding various types of impacts and mitigation strategies for specific impacts once they are identified. Types of information include the definitions included in HB206 for what comprises an “adverse” impact (adverse impact to 10 acres of prime agricultural soils or 50 acres of timber) and what tools are currently being used.
As this Local Government work group continues to develop recommendations in the coming weeks, we remain concerned about possible recommendations to pre-empt local government zoning authority. Given that recommendations are still being developed, we remain wary of the potential for proposals that would pre-empt local authority. Recommendations will be given after July 22 at which point the full RAP will consider work group recommendations and interested parties will have a better understanding of the scope of possible recommendations.
The next meeting of the full stakeholder group is August 2nd in Richmond. More information about the next meeting of the stakeholder group can be found here >.
More information about the stakeholder group can be found on DEQ’s website here >.
VML will continue to monitor this workgroup and update members.
VML Contact: Mitchell Smiley, firstname.lastname@example.org
Commission considers Virginia’s housing crunch
The Virginia Housing Commission met on July 13th to hear a series of presentations on the housing crisis in Virginia.
Before beginning the presentations, the commission announced that Elizabeth Palen was be appointed as the Executive Director for the Housing Commission. Palen stated that most of the commission’s work this year will be conducted via work groups consisting of legislators and relevant stakeholders. This model is like previous years in which the full commission served as a final vote on items rather than a venue for extensive deliberation.
The first presentation was given by Hamilton Lombard from the Weldon Cooper Center on “Demographic Trends in Virginia During the 2020s.” Mr. Lombard used data from the most recent census and compared the numbers and trends with data from 2010 to help provide context. One of the main takeaways from this presentation was the slowing of population growth and how it affects housing supply.
Next on the presentation list was Ryan Price from the Virginia Relators to provide the commission with an update on the housing market and trends in Virginia. Mr. Price went over the current economic trends and how the bounce back of the pandemic compared to the great depression. Following the great depression, the economy took over three years to recover while Virginia has only taken slightly over a year and a half, this makes the economic trends look optimistic. Regarding job recovery, unemployment in Virginia has now returned to pre-pandemic levels (3%) but has taken several large hits in the number of people returning to the workforce in general. It was suggested that a wider range of housing types and price points be created to help keep up with the amount of demand.
Next to present was Andrew Clark from the Home Builders Association on residential land development and construction trends. In part this supply problem is based on record high costs for material goods such as lumber. As the supply shortage increases the affordability of housing decreases creating another problem where people cannot afford to live in the new homes being constructed.
Lastly, we heard brief comments from Bismah Ahmed from the Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington (AOBA) and Joe Ciszek from the Poverty Law Center about the current housing situation and goals. Ms. Ahmed once again harped on the theme that supply is a major issue as well as inflation being a problem. She also mentioned that hourly wages are up 4% per hour as a benchmark for inflation rates in Virginia. Furthermore, lease renewal rates are down by 7% strengthening the claim that population has decreased. Mr. Ciszek mentioned that there has been a great shuffling within rental communities once again addressing the lease renewal trend. Furthermore, the issue of supply and affordability perpetuates eviction rates in Virginia. These issues will be discussed by the Commission in their workgroups.
VML Contact: Josette Bulova, email@example.com
Events & Opportunities
Grant opportunity: $2 million available for open space projects in Virginia; apply by August 10, 2022
The Virginia Outdoors Foundation is making $1.8 million available from its Preservation Trust Fund program and $200,000 from its Get Outdoors Fund for grants that protect open space for public use and other public benefits.
Preservation Trust Fund grants for the fall 2022 grant round will prioritize projects that result in significant public access but may also be used for projects that protect exceptional conservation values such as water quality, historic and cultural resources, wildlife habitat, and high-quality farmland and forestland. A real estate interest must either be acquired by a local government or conveyed to VOF to be eligible for funding, and protection must meet the requirements of Virginia’s Open-Space Land Act. There is no minimum or maximum on Preservation Trust Fund grants, but historically they have averaged approximately $150,000.
Get Outdoors Fund grants may be used to fund projects that create, protect, expand, or enhance access to open space in underserved communities. Proposals up to $25,000 may be considered.
The Get Outdoors Fund requires pre-applications to be submitted through VOF’s online grants portal by August 10, 2022. Invitations to submit a full application will be issued within one week of pre-application receipt. No more than 25 applicants will be invited to submit a full application. If an organization has been awarded more than $5,000 in a past grant round, the previous project must be completed before an applicant may reapply. Past applicants must submit new pre-applications. A resubmitted pre-application without significant revision will not be considered. In addition, applicants may not apply more than twice with the same concept.
Eligibility requirements, sample applications, and other materials may be found online at https://vof.org/ptf and https://vof.org/go. VOF encourages potential applicants to contact staff prior to applying to discuss eligibility and seek guidance on producing a successful application.
VOF Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or (434) 282-7054
Webinar on July 19 to address local government prioritization of IIJA funds
Infrastructure is a top concern for many local government leaders. Now that funds are available through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), officials must determine what projects to prioritize.
Polco has partnered with the National League of Cities (NLC) on a new infrastructure survey to give a bird’s eye view of regional IIJA spending needs. The survey gives NLC context on how they can help communities across the US achieve infrastructure success.
On July 19 at 2:00 PM ET, Polco experts will host a free webinar to present the survey results and reveal national trends. Speakers will also discuss how resident feedback can help officials understand what infrastructure needs are most important in their community.
Attendees will learn about:
- National infrastructure needs trends
- How resident input can help leaders prioritize community projects
- Best practices for infrastructure spending and decision-making
- Michelle Kobayashi, Vice President of Innovation, Polco
- Matt Fulton, Vice President of National Engagement, Polco
Polco Contact: Matt Fulton, email@example.com