eNews March 1, 2022Tuesday, March 01, 2022 - 05:09pm
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In this issue:
Support electronic meetings bill before tomorrow afternoon
Please contact Senate General Laws Committee members to support HB44
HB444 (Bennett-Parker) sets out the parameters for public bodies to hold electronic meetings outside of the state of emergency when following the rules as set out in the bill. The bill allows local public bodies to meet remotely two times or 25 percent of the meetings per year – whichever is GREATER!
The main stipulations are that a locality must adopt an electronic meetings policy and follow the guidelines in the bill to ensure public participation.
VML, VACo, the Press Association and the Coalition for Open Government support this legislation and worked to make it a consensus bill.
Current GA Committee: Senate General Laws and Technology
|Barker (Chair)||firstname.lastname@example.org||(804) 698-7539|
VML Contact: Michelle Gowdy, email@example.com
Public safety demands a strong budget
2021 was a good budget year for Virginia’s law enforcements agencies. Will 2022 be as good? The answer will depend on available revenue.
Last fall, the General Assembly and Governor Northam provided significant federal funds to sheriffs, state police, regional jails, and the Department of Corrections, utilizing federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) passed by Congress.
In the chart below, you can see these ARPA appropriations, Governor Northam’s proposal for law enforcement salary increases in the FY23-FY24 biennium, and the corresponding actions proposed by the Senate and House of Delegates this session.
Recent Proposed Compensation Increases for Virginia Law Enforcement
(2021 Special Session II)
Northam’s Introduced Budget
|Sheriff’s Departments and Regional Jails||33,179,883*||89,500,000||n/a||n/a|
|Department of Corrections||23,550,248*||85,200,000||15,718,950||(21,366,048)|
|Financial Assistance to Localities Operating Police Departments (“HB599 funds”)||n/a||No increase||49,304,000||n/a|
|* NGF, State Fiscal and Recovery Funds (SFRF) from the ARPA|
As you can see above, the Senate largely adopted Northam’s law enforcement pay proposal and added more HB599 funding, as well as additional salary increases at the Department of Corrections.
The House of Delegates adopted Northam’s pay proposals for state police, sheriffs, and regional jails, but the House reduced the pay proposal for the Department of Corrections and did not propose any new 599 funding to local police departments.
Why are the House and Senate more than $86 million apart when it comes to law enforcement compensation?
It comes down to revenue. The House of Delegates has endorsed about $3 billion more in tax relief than the Senate has, meaning the House has about $3 billion less to appropriate, including to Virginia’s local and state law enforcement agencies.
Local law enforcement rests on the strength of local budgets
The same issue of revenue is true at the local level: an unexpected reduction in funding can force a local government into hard choices that could mean cutting investments in their local police or sheriff’s department.
The case of 599 funding is a prime example. The General Assembly committed long ago to provide consistent support for local police departments as consolation for enacting a moratorium on cities’ ability to annex surrounding land.
Unfortunately for local police departments, which serve and protect most Virginians, the General Assembly has overridden its statutory commitment to 599 funding and has underfunded this program through the state budget.
As such, a locality’s ability to raise local revenue plays an even more critical role in supporting its local police or sheriff’s department. The General Assembly’s debate over whether to eliminate groceries from the local sales tax base will have ramifications, particularly for smaller governments, if the legislature does not fulfill its pledge to replace the lost local revenue in the years ahead.
If the General Assembly makes this policy change, VML encourages our members to reach out to legislators and ask them to commit the Commonwealth to transparent monitoring of the fiscal impact that exempting groceries would have on local governments going forward.
VML Contact: Carter Hutchinson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Marijuana bill goes up in smoke
On Monday the House of Delegates Subcommittee #5 by a vote of 5-3 killed SB391, Sen. Ebbin’s bill to re-enact the 2021 marijuana legalization bill, by a motion to “continue to 2023” consideration of the bill. Absent the revival of this legislation in the Budget the prospect of early marijuana sales, a marijuana retail market, and the statutory authority for towns, cities, and counties to hold a referendum on whether to allow retail sales will not become law.
Localities should be aware that the failure of the General Assembly to re-enact the 2021 legislation eliminates local authority to hold a local referendum during 2022. The elimination of local authority to hold a referendum is not the only impact of the failure of SB391. Local taxation, local regulation of businesses, the development of state regulations by the Cannabis Control Authority and the establishment of a legal avenue for Virginians to purchase regulated marijuana products are also now dead in the water.
This leaves Virginia with the status quo where, much like in the District of Columbia, it is legal for adults to possess, consume, cultivate (up to 4 plants) and give marijuana as a gift. Non-medical sales of marijuana and marijuana products will continue to be prohibited. This means marijuana and marijuana products are still unregulated while localities lack the authority to decide whether to allow medical sales to occur within their community. These sales will continue untaxed.
After the House voted down SB391, House Speaker Todd Gilbert said in a statement “Virginia Democrats made a great big mess when they legalized marijuana without putting any regulatory or retail structure in place. We are left having to clean up their mess and we will not make it worse by rushing to fix it.”
Clearly, this “great big mess” isn’t going away anytime soon.
VML Contact: Mitchell Smiley, email@example.com
Local Government Legislation
Bills that have passed out of committees in both the House and Senate
HB167 (Ransone) Publication of notice by localities. This is a VML, VACo and Press Association bill that provides relief for a locality if the newspaper errs in publishing a public notice.
SB501 (Lewis) / HB272 (Marshall) Local land use approvals; extension of approvals to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Extends from July 1, 2022 to July 1, 2023, the sunset date for various land use approvals that were valid and outstanding as of July 1, 2020.
HB377 (Subramanyam) Charitable institutions and associations; local appropriations to faith-based organizations. Allows localities to make appropriations to nonprofit faith-based organizations if they provide community services within the locality without regard to the religious affiliation of the recipients.
HB437 (Bulova) Localities; public meeting; state project planning phase. Currently state agencies responsible for the construction, operation, or maintenance of public facilities after giving notice of a capital project involving new construction over $500,000 shall upon request of the locality to transmit the plans for comment. This bill adds that the locality may also request to solicit public meetings in the locality for public input during the planning phase of the project.
HB616 (Roem) Board of zoning appeals; funding. States that upon request of a board of zoning appeals, the governing body shall consider providing them with an adequate budget.
HB710 (Keam) Local government hiring; people with disabilities. This bill requires local government to take into consideration persons with a disability when hiring if they meet all the knowledge, skills and eligibility requirements for the position.
SB57 (Locke) Conflicts of Interest Act, State and Local Government; definition of gift, certain tickets, etc. Exempts from the definition of “gifts” tickets, registration, or admission fees to an event that are provided by an agency that are provided to a locality’s own officers or employees. This bill overturns an advisory opinion of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Committee from November of 2020.
HB150 (March) Virginia Freedom of Information Act; posting of minutes; local public bodies. Requires localities to post minutes on its website if they have a website within 7 working days of final approval of the minutes. If there is no website, copies must be available at a prominent location.
HB802 (Price) Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act; enforcement by localities. This bill allows a locality to bring an action to enforce a landlord’s duty to maintain a rental dwelling in a fit and habitual condition. There must be notice to the landlord and a chance to cure prior to taking action.
SB286 (Ebbin) Historic districts; property survey. This bill has been amended to say that in the required disclosures for residential property in an historic district there will be a statement that the owner makes no representations regarding a survey of the property.
SB52 (Cosgrove) Utilities; certain; pro rata reimbursements for installation. If a locality has an ordinance to allow for payment by the developer or subdivider of the pro rata share of the cost of providing sewer, water, stormwater, etc. for property located outside the property limits of the land owned/controlled by the developer necessitated by such development, this bill will require that a subsequent subdivider or developer shall pay for their share of the facilities.
SB12 (Suetterlein) / HB267 (McNamara) Taxes, local; surplus revenues. Current law allows a locality to return surplus real property taxes to taxpayers; this legislation adds surplus personal property taxes to the mix.
SB446 (Boysko) / HB445 (Murphy) High-speed broadband service; expanding to new residential and commercial development. This bill creates a study of stakeholders to evaluate local and state policies, procedures, and ordinances about the expansion of high-speed broadband in new residential and commercial development. The Department of Housing and Community Development with assistance from the Commission on Local Government and the Broadband Advisory Council will host this study and report the findings before September 30, 2022.
SB720 (Hackworth) /HB1271 (Morefield) Virginia Regional Industrial Facilities Act; localities revenue sharing agreements. Localities may agree to a revenue and economic growth-sharing arrangement with respect to tax revenues and other incomes/revenues generated by a facility owned by an authority or a facility owned by a non-authority utilized as part of a cooperative arrangement entered into by an authority promoting economic and workforce development.
HB223 (Coyner) Insurance for employees of certain public-school foundations. Allows localities to provide group life, accident, and health insurance programs for employees of certain public-school foundations.
HB443 (Bulova) Park authorities; electric vehicle charging stations. Gives park authorities the ability to locate, operate and regulate the use of electric vehicle charging stations on property under its jurisdiction.
HB648 (Kory) Comprehensive plan; substantial accord; parks. Clarifies provisions related to whether parks are substantially in accord with the adopted comprehensive plan in certain types of land use applications.
HB1088 (Leftwich) Planning; subdivision of land and zoning As currently written, HB1088 (Leftwich) would alter the definition of subdivision in Virginia Code § 15.2-2201 to allow bona fide property line disputes by agreement without local review. However, the agreement will require notice to the zoning administrator and must not result in nonconformity with local ordinances and health department regulations. In addition, if the division of land is subject to a suit of partition it also will not require local review if the parcels are not varied from minimum lot area, width, and frontage requirements by more than 20 percent.
HB1194 (Kory) Industrial Development and Revenue Bond Act; legislative intent; affordable housing grants. Authorizes an industrial development authority to make grants associated with the construction of affordable housing.
HB1325 (Reid) General Powers of local governments; additional powers; Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) financing programs. Allows localities to delegate billing, collection, and remittance of C-PACE loan payments to a third party.
SB622 (Favola) / HB277 (Coyner) Recovery residences; disclosure to potential residents that residence is certified. This bill states that a certified recovery residence shall be considered the same as a residential occupancy by a single family for purposes of conditions that can be imposed if there are 50 square feet per bed per sleeping room. There are also provisions about the credentialing of these facilities. THERE ARE MINOR DIFFERENCES IN THE BILLS AND THEY ARE EXPECTED TO GO TO CONFERENCE.
HB307 (Freitas) Virginia Freedom of Information Act; estimated charges for records. Now states that before searching for records a public body must notify the requestor in writing that there could be a cost and offer at their request to create an estimate. THIS BILL HAS AN AMENDMENT THAT WILL GO BACK TO THE HOUSE (the amendment is an exception for scholastic records and property records requested by the owner).
SB400 (Hanger) Agritourism event buildings; authorizes the BHCD to promulgate regulations related to buildings. This proposed legislation would allow the Board of Housing and Community Development (Board) to promulgate regulations about the construction and rehabilitation of agritourism event buildings that hold events for 300 or less. The regulations are limited to doors, exit signs, emergency vehicle access, one restroom with handwashing facilities, fire extinguishers, fire alarms and an evacuation plan. It also creates an Agritourism Event Structure Technical Advisory Committee to assist the Board. THIS BILL WILL BE A STUDY.
HB1362 (Wiley) Short-term rentals; localities’ ability to restrict. Clarifies that short-term rentals may be operated in any locality in the absence of an ordinance pursuant to the locality’s general land use and zoning authority restricting short-term rentals. THIS BILL WILL BE A STUDY.
VML Contact: Michelle Gowdy, firstname.lastname@example.org
School construction updates – some good news!
On Monday, Feb. 28, the House Education Committee voted to approve two helpful school construction-related bills.
The committee amended and reported SB471 (McClellan), which would establish an annual open application process for Literary Fund loans that expands the maximum loan amount available to be used from $7.5 million to $25 million.
This action came about despite the committee’s rejection of an identical House bill earlier this session.
The Committee also reported SB238 (McPike), which would create a data reserve tool to identify and collect information on the ages of school buildings in the Commonwealth. This tool would potentially help to direct funds to school buildings that need it the most. This concept is also included in HB563 (O’Quinn) that passed the House.
Both Senate bills are headed to the House floor.
Meanwhile the full House passed SB473 (McClellan), which would establish a School Construction Grant Fund. This fund would receive revenues through the Gaming Proceeds Fund, which will receive future tax revenues from casinos.
Casinos in Virginia were established on the basis that 98 percent of the state tax revenues would be appropriated for school construction. SB473 would move this process closer to implementation by creating the fund to receive the casino revenues. This concept is also included in HB563 (O’Quinn), which is currently before Senate Finance and Appropriations.
VML Contact: Josette Bulova, email@example.com
HHR/public safety bills headed to conference
Most bills have now been heard by the opposite chamber of introduction and as a result, many are now headed to conference to work out the differences. The human services and public safety bills headed to conference – or soon to be headed that way – include:
HB427 (Herring) / SB435 (Barker) CSA parent representatives. Both give some additional flexibility regarding parents eligible to serve on a FAPT or CPMT; the House language could cause some coordinators to have to provide more documentation as to why a particular parent was chosen to serve, which is not ideal.
HB1053 (Shin) / SB581 (Morrissey) Local/regional jail allowable fees. Both require a workgroup to examine the fees and charges levied by local and regional jails and report back. The differences in the bills include who would be involved in the workgroup; the Senate version is less prescriptive about the workgroup participants, which could be helpful.
HB1191 (Ransome) / SB361 (Stuart) Marcus Alert participation. The Senate bill would allow localities with populations of 40,000 or fewer to opt out of most of the program’s requirements; the House bill would delay implementation for all localities not already in the program with a longer delay for localities of 40,000 or fewer. It would also create a workgroup of localities with the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to examine the hurdles in implementation and develop recommendations on how to address those hurdles, which would be helpful to all localities.
VML Contact: Janet Areson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Virginia Tourism offers new information, resources, and best practices
Join the staff of the Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) on Tuesday-Thursday, May 10-12 for:
- A brief overview and update from each VTC Division
- Timely “Action Items” to help strategize and plan leveraging VTC resources
- Industry partners’ Success Stories for the best practices and ROIs
Who will Benefit from Participating: Virginia DMOs, tourism-related business owners, tourism marketers and representatives from Virginia attractions, restaurants, events, retail, and lodging establishments.
Times: 9 a.m. – noon each day
Location: Virtual event via Zoom
Registration: Registration OPENS HERE on April 1, 2022.
VTC Contact: Judy Watkins, email@example.com or 804-754-5921