eNews March 15, 2018Thursday, March 15, 2018 - 01:20pm
In this issue
- Don’t forget those veto letters!
- General Assembly finishes some unfinished transportation business from the 2013 session
- General Assembly reorganizes transportation decision-making
- General Assembly advances Metro rescue plan
- Update on zoning, land use bills
- Updates on other bills of interest that passed
- Bills that didn’t survive or were carried over
Don’t forget those veto letters!
VML is urging its members to write Governor Ralph Northam to veto several bills. The Governor has until April 9 to act on the bills, but please go ahead and communicate with the Governor’s office, and don’t forget to send a copy to VML (email@example.com)!
Please ask for vetoes on these bills:
- The four wireless bills: HB1258 and SB405, and HB1427 and SB823.
- The open space assessment bill: HB 1204 (Hugo)
- The mulch bills: HB1595 (Wilt) and SB972 (Obenshain)
Additional information is posted in the March 9 eNews.
General Assembly finishes some unfinished transportation business from the 2013 session
Five years ago, the General Assembly approved sweeping changes to fund transportation. The legislature inserted a protective price floor to provide a reliable and consistent amount of state revenue by transforming the tax on motor fuels from a 17.5 cents-per-gallon excise tax based on the number of gallons sold to a 5.1 percent tax based on the sales price of motor fuels. The price floor provision was not extended to the regional gas taxes in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.
Since that session, VML has supported in its Legislative Program a statutory amendment to establish a protective floor price for the 2.1 percent regional gas taxes in the two regions. As motor fuel prices dropped, it became apparent that a price floor was essential to provide a more stable, dedicated revenue source needed for long-term financing of regional projects.
HB 768 (Jones) and SB 896 (Wagner) establish a floor for the regional fuel taxes by requiring that the average distributor price upon which the tax is calculated be no less than the statewide average wholesale price on February 20, 2013, plus distributor charges.
The Virginia Department of Planning and Budget used a figure for gasoline sales of $3.72, comprised of a statewide average wholesale charge of $3.22 and a distributor charge of 50 cents. For diesel fuel, the statewide average wholesale price is $3.36 per gallon plus the 50 cents distributor charge. The table below shows the estimated revenue impact, if the protective price floor is used.
|Fiscal Year||Region||New Money||Region||New Money|
General Assembly reorganizes transportation decision-making
Legislation sets new funding policies for road projects.
HB 765 (Jones, S.C.) passed the General Assembly and is awaiting Gov. Ralph Northam’s approval.
The measure gives new oversight and coordination responsibilities to the Transportation Secretary’s Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment. That office will work with VDOT and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation in the development of the annual budget for the two agencies along with the six-year financial plan for the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB). The Office will also be responsible for overseeing the Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank and the Toll Facilities Revolving Account.
Further, the bill directs the CTB to commit funds from the State of Good Repair Program, the High Priority Projects Program, and the Highway Construction District Grant Program only if the commitment is sufficient to complete a project.
Concerning CTB governance, HB 765 prohibits a member currently on a local governing body from serving on the CTB during his or her term of office.
The bill makes several changes to VDOT’s road revenue-sharing program. Under the bill’s provisions, the Board may make an equivalent matching allocation to any locality up to $5.0 million for use by a locality to improve, construct, maintain or reconstruct the highway systems. The maximum allocation under current law is $10.0 million. The bill also reduces the maximum amount that can be used for maintenance from $5.0 million to $2.5 million. Lastly, HB765 reduces the maximum amount of revenue-sharing funds available in any given fiscal year from $200.0 million to $100.0 million or seven percent of funds available for distribution under § 33.2-358 D, whichever is greater.
General Assembly advances Metro rescue plan
Funding assistance for other transit systems are derailed
The General Assembly’s deliberations to rescue the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and to fund other transit systems in the Commonwealth were marked by a topsy-turvy ride with more twists and turns than most theme-park roller coasters.
On the final day of the Regular Session, the General Assembly passed legislation (SB 856-Saslaw and HB 1539-Hugo) to: 1) develop a prioritization process for the use of Commonwealth Mass Transit Funds; 2) establish a process to allocate Commonwealth Mass Transit Funds for WMATA and other transit systems for operating and capital purposes; 3) require transit agencies in urban areas to develop and submit strategic plans; 4) transfer $20.0 million annually from the Northern Virginia Transportation District Fund to the newly created WMATA Capital Fund; 5) reform WMATA’s budget process and provide oversight by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission; and 6) set up a Commuter Rail Operating and Capital Fund to assist the Virginia Railway Express.
The bills also include several policy declarations tying the money for WMATA to Metro’s performance and to the actions of Maryland and the District of Columbia to provide funds for the rescue.
The legislation also calls for the establishment of a Transit Service Delivery Advisory Committee to advise the state on the prioritization process for deciding allocations from the Commonwealth Mass Transit Fund. The bills authorize VML and three other associations to appoint members to the Committee. (VML would have one appointment.)
To get to this point, the General Assembly ignored the legislative pathway set by Gov. Terry McAuliffe in his budget bill. The former governor included budget language authorizing higher transient occupancy and other taxes for the rescue effort. He also proposed $110.0 million in state bonds to fund the capital needs of other transit systems operating in Virginia.
Given limited debt capacity, both the House and Senate scuttled the idea of using bonds to pay for the capital needs of the other transit systems. The Senate Finance Committee flirted with a proposal to impose a tax on Uber rides to help pay for public transit but ended up rejecting the idea.
After the House and Senate passed their respective bills, it was clear that the legislature had no interest to provide in this session any additional resources for the other state transit systems. That will be an issue next year.
It was also clear that the conferees would not endorse any suite of new taxes for WMATA, meaning the emphasis was on re-purposing existing transportation dollars elsewhere.
As a result, the legislation has not been universally praised. Local complaints have popped up over the taking of road project money for WMATA. Gov. Northam has stated that he’ll “tweak” the two bills through amendments he intends to submit for the April 18 Reconvened Session.
Update on zoning, land use bills
Zoning penalties. An amended version of HB709 (John Bell) increases the maximum fine from $1,500 to $2,000 for failure to remove or abate a zoning violation after 1) conviction, 2) failure to remedy the violation within the timeline specified by the court; 3) failure to meet the first succeeding 10-day period. A similar measure (SB187-Favola) died in the House in the closing days of the session.
Disability accommodations under zoning ordinances. A conference committee’s report on HB796 (Hope) was agreed to by both houses on March 9, the next-to-last day of the session. The bill requires that consideration be given for the need for reasonable modifications to requirements necessary to accommodate persons with disabilities when preparing a zoning ordinance. Variances shall be granted to alleviate a hardship requested by a person with a disability.
Local regulation of waterways. HB220 (Morefield) and SB371 (Chafin) allow localities to establish and regulate various water-related activities on property adjacent to public waterways. The bill also expands to park authorities the exemption for liability for conduct of these activities.
Regulation of smoking in outdoor venues; reenactment clause. SB149 (Edwards) had a reenactment clause added to it, meaning the bill does not become law unless reenacted in the 2019 session. The bill would allow localities to adopt ordinances to designate no smoking areas in outdoor venues and requires that any penalties collected as the result of violations of the ordinance would be spent on public health.
Updates on other bills of interest that passed
School revitalization zones. HB1179 (Pillion) and SB448 (Chafin) allow localities to establish school revitalization zones in which incentives can be used to encourage private sector redevelopment of abandoned schools.
Sanctuary cities. An amended version of HB1257 (Cline) passed both houses. The final version prohibits localities from adopting any ordinance, procedure, or policy that restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws to less than the full extent permitted by federal law. Language that would have reduced state funding to localities in violation of the law was deleted from the final version. The final vote in the House is here and the Senate here.
Larceny threshold. SB105 (Suetterlein) would raise the threshold for commission of a petit larceny from the current $200 to $500. The House passed the bill on March 7 by a vote of 98 yes-2 no.
COIA study. SJ75 (Norment) sets up a two-year, eight-member subcommittee (six legislators and two non-legislators) to study the Conflict of Interests Act, especially the disclosure requirements for General Assembly members and reporting requirements for lobbyists. The subcommittee will examine the “effectiveness and efficiency of the disclosure laws in promoting public trust and confidence in the service of public officials.”
Bills that didn’t survive or were carried over
Tethering of dogs. HB889 (Orrock) as introduced would have allowed localities to adopt ordinances regarding the tethering of dogs. The Senate, however, adopted a substitute that just banned the tethering of dogs under certain conditions. The two bodies were not able to reach agreement and the bill died on the last day of the session.
Mental health services in jails. As introduced, HB934 (Hope) would have set up a process for petitioning a court to order medical or mental health treatment for jail inmates who could not give informed consent for the treatment. The bill was amended in the Senate to develop standards for mental health and substance abuse services in jails. This language jumps ahead of a study currently underway that is scheduled to be finished by the end of this year. VML opposed the Senate version of the bill. The two houses were unable to reach agreement, and HB934 died on March 10.
Composition of state Board of Elections. HB1405 (Ransome) would have increased the number of members on the Virginia Board of Elections, and provided that the Board, not the Governor, appoint the Commissioner of Elections. The House and Senate each wanted its own amendments to the bill, and in the end could not reach agreement. The bill died on the last day of the session.
Assessment bills pushed aside for the year. Del. Mark Keam introduced two bills (HB 786 and HB 787) that in effect would have absolved the taxpayer from having to show that the assessment of real property is a result of manifest error or disregard of controlling evidence.
Under current law, the burden of proof is on the taxpayer to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the property in question is valued at more than its fair market value or that the assessment is not uniform in its application, and that it was not arrived at in accordance with generally accepted appraisal practices, procedures, rules, and standards. There is no statutory provision regarding manifest error or disregard of controlling evidence.
Local government attorneys expressed concern that the two measures would result in more appeals to circuit courts and that the elimination of the requirement to prove manifest error or disregard of controlling evidence would cause judicial confusion.
The bills were carried over for the year by the Senate Finance Committee.
VML legislative staff and assignments
Michelle Gowdy – Local government authority, planning and zoning, legal matters, housing, Freedom of Information, telecommunications and technology. firstname.lastname@example.org; 804-523-8525
Janet Areson – Health and human services, and the state budget. email@example.com; 804-523-8522
Mike Polychrones – Environment, land use, natural resources, elections and transportation policy. firstname.lastname@example.org; 804-523-8530
Neal Menkes (under contract) – Taxation and finance, the state budget, transportation funding, retirement, education funding and community and economic development. email@example.com; 804-523-8523
Roger Wiley (under contract) – Courts, criminal law, civil law, and procurement. firstname.lastname@example.org; 804-780-3143
Chris LaGow (under contract) –Insurance and workers’ compensation. email@example.com; 804-225-8570