Legislative Bulletin February 10, 2023Friday, February 10, 2023 - 04:06pm
In this issue:
- Oppose bill that would allow citizen suits against local government officials
- Bill that threatened local sovereign immunity fails in Senate
- Bills from House Counties, Cities, and Towns and Senate / House General Laws that have passed out of committee
The budget games begin with some noteworthy amendments!
With the budget conference on HB1400 and SB800 set to begin in full force next week, we thought this would be a good time to let you know what’s caught our eye and what we’re watching as we continue to review the budgets that passed each chamber yesterday.
At present, VML staff are poring over more than 400 pages of amendments that incorporate changes the House and Senate are proposing to the Governor’s introduced budget. When it’s unclear what an amendment does, we’re reaching out to money committee staff (who are understandably exhausted at this point) to make sure we fully understand what an amendment is trying to accomplish.
For these reasons, you won’t see a complete list of every amendment offered by each chamber in this issue of the Legislative Bulletin. Instead, we thought it would be helpful to give you a sense of what’s being proposed in each budget by highlighting a few noteworthy amendments.
View/Download the chart of noteworthy amendments here >.
If you run across amendments that you find acceptable, or not, please let us know before the conferees roll up their sleeves and begin to bridge their differences next week.
About those differences…
Perhaps it goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: Bridging the differences between the House and Senate budgets will be no easy task.
As expected, the House and Senate budgets look very different – to the tune of $1.0 billion! In a nutshell, the House endorsed the Governor’s tax proposals that were baked into the introduced budget while the Senate rejected the tax changes. As a result, the Senate had considerably more money to work with when they put together their budget than the House.
Those differences manifest themselves across the board, but especially in the areas of K-12 education, higher education and health and human resources.
That said, there are also areas ripe for agreement. Both budgets increase teacher pay an additional 2 percent effective July 1, 2023. And both make additional investments in our behavioral health system and provide funds to address affordability at colleges and universities.
What lies ahead?
There’s no question the next two weeks will be filled with the normal sights and sounds of the budget games: endless meetings, numerous conversations, and lengthening floor sessions, resulting in raised voices and short tempers. Let’s hope that cooler heads will prevail among the Budget Conferees, so the General Assembly can adjourn Sine Die by Saturday, February 25, 2023.
In the meantime, “may the odds be ever in our favor” as those games begin.
VML Contact: Joe Flores, firstname.lastname@example.org
Oppose bill that would allow citizen suits against local government officials
SB1495 (Surovell) allows a citizen to go to court for damages, attorneys’ fees, and an order to the locality to stop enforcement if a zoning enforcement or any other enforcement under Title 15.2 is done with “willful disregard” of the law. That standard means the official knows the rules and acts in a manner contrary to them, regardless.
The bill is put into the land use chapter of Title 15.2. However, it applies to nuisance clearing, junk car removal, blight eradication as well as actions of regional water and wastewater authorities, library authorities and others.
There are already remedies in the law for all matters covered by the bill. An individual can pursue a land use actions appeal to the Board of Zoning Appeals, or, in an extreme case, file a malicious prosecution suit against the locality. Other enforcement actions can be taken to circuit court today.
VML opposes the bill, since remedies already exist and the bill would encourage the most obstreperous citizens to try their luck in court, since damages and attorneys’ fees are available.
The bill will be heard by House Courts Committee next week. VML members are encourage to contact the committee members to voice opposition to SB1495.
Contact: Mark Flynn, email@example.com
Bill that threatened local sovereign immunity fails in Senate
SB1379 (Deeds), as amended, would have ended sovereign immunity for doctors who provide medical services to inmates and who are local government or jail employees. Tuesday, the Senate defeated the bill.
Thanks to everyone who contacted their legislators to oppose this bill.
Contact: Mark Flynn, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bills from House Counties, Cities, and Towns and Senate / House General Laws that have passed out of committee
SB1091 (Ebbin) Local Stormwater Management; condominiums. Localities can currently create a local Stormwater Management Fund by ordinance that assists owners of private property and common interest communities in stormwater management and erosion prevention. This bill just added joint flooding mitigation projects of condominium owners to the list of groups who can apply.
HB1993 (Krizek) Fire Marshals; police powers, training requirements. Requires fire marshals and their assistants who have police powers to participate in the appropriate training and programs.
HB1490 (Davis) Virginia Public Procurement Act; certain construction contracts, performance and payment bonds. Allows a locality to pass an ordinance that will allow a contractor to furnish a performance bond and payment bond equal to the dollar amount in the current contract not a contract of indefinite delivery or quantity contract.
HB1610 (Tata) Virginia Public Procurement Act; cooperative procurement, installation of playground equipment. Excludes the installation of playground equipment, including all associated and necessary construction and maintenance, from the prohibition on using cooperative procurement to purchase construction.
SB956 (Ruff) Localities; authorized to create business improvement and recruitment districts. Provides a tool to localities to create a local business improvement and recruitment district plan in which businesses pay a fee which is used to fund business improvements, promotions, and recruitment.
HB1569 (Walker) Virginia Freedom of Information Act; disclosure of personnel records. Access to personnel records of persons employed by a public body engaged in emergency medical services or fire protection services or an emergency 911 or any equivalent reporting system shall be discretionary.
HB2006 (Roem) Virginia Freedom of Information Act; public records charges, electronic payment method. This bill began its journey as a mandate to local governments who took electronic payments and would’ve required that the local government take electronic payments for FOIA requests. During the subcommittee meeting, the patron agreed to make it permissive so now local governments MAY take electronic payments for FOIA requests.
HB2007 (Roem) Virginia Freedom of Information Act; posting of fee policy by a public body. Requires that all state public bodies, any city or county and town with a population of over 250 and any school board shall post on their official government website:
“A written policy (i) explaining how the public body assesses charges for accessing or searching for requested records, and (ii) noting the current fee charged, if any, for accessing and searching for such requested records.”
SB1151 (Edwards) Local government; standardization of public notice requirements for certain intended actions. VML strongly supports this bill which came out of a Code Commission study over the summer. This bill standardizes the frequency of advertisements in the newspaper and pares down several zoning notice requirements for the newspapers.
SB1455 (Norment) Civil disturbance; local curfew, penalty. Enables the chief law-enforcement officer of a locality to enact a curfew for not more than 24 hours during a civil disturbance. The local governing body or judiciary must take action beyond the 24-hour period.
HB1634 (Bulova) / SB1187 (Lewis) Comprehensive Plan; strategies to address resilience. This bill encourages localities to consider resilience during their comprehensive plan review. “Resilience” means the capability to anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from significant multi-hazard threats with minimum damage to social well-being, health, the economy, and the environment.
VML Contact: Michelle Gowdy, email@example.com