Legislative Bulletin February 14, 2023Tuesday, February 14, 2023 - 04:45pm
In this issue
Budget conferees named
The House and Senate have named their conferees for HB1400/SB800, the House and Senate budgets.
House conferees (with links to contact info):
Senate conferees (with links to contact info):
- Janet Howell
- George Barker
- Dick Saslaw
- Thomas Norment, Jr.
- Louise Lucas
- Emmett Hanger, Jr.
- Mamie Locke
- Stephen Newman
- Creigh Deeds
These conferees and the House Appropriations and Senate Finance & Appropriations staff are working to address the many differences between the budgets adopted late last week by the House and Senate.
VML Contact: Janet Areson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Budget issues to support now
In the February 10 edition of the Legislative Bulletin we included this table of priority amendments of the competing budget proposals that were identified by VML staff. Our picks included budget amendments related to items in VML’s 2023 Legislative Program as well as a few other issues affecting localities.
More specifically, these items reflect commitments the state should be funding as per the Code of Virginia; catching up on funding that has lagged for more than a decade in some cases; and items that could help localities address funding needs.
We hope you will reach out to budget conferees (see article above) to support the priority amendments, and to your legislators who are not conferees but who can express support for items that will help their communities.
- Contact information for Senators here >
- Contact information for Delegates here >
What can you say about priority items?
Use the links below to learn more about each topic:
- Support for public education (one percent sales tax)*
- Support for state assistance to local police departments (HB 599)*
- Per diem payments*
- Stormwater Local Assistance Fund*
- Other items to support
- How best to support the priority amendments
* VML legislative priorities
Support for public education (one percent sales tax)
The Senate budget includes language that would allow for statewide authority for localities that want to pursue imposing a one percent sales tax to help raise critically needed funds for school construction and renovation. (Item 4-14#2s)
- This amendment gives all localities access to a tool being used by a handful of localities.
- The amendment does not cost the state – these are locally-approved (referendum requirement) funding tools.
Support for state assistance to local police departments (HB 599)
The House supports the introduced budget that included some funds in the line item that includes HB 599 funds but are directed to a different program – Operation Blue Line – which is one time funding for state and local law enforcement. The Senate includes funding that reflects the projected general fund growth rate in the introduced budget, which conforms with requirements in the Code of Virginia. (Item 410#3s)
- This amendment abides by the requirements of the Code of Virginia for this program.
- The amendment addresses continued needs of local police departments in serving their communities.
Per diem payments
The Senate budget includes a local responsible per diem increase from $4 to $6 per day for individuals held in local and regional jails on state charges. (Item 73#1s)
- This amendment helps to move back to the level of payments in FY10, when per diems were cut for local responsible inmates and never restored.
- The amendment would help local and regional jails in meeting the true cost of housing inmates.
Stormwater Local Assistance Fund
Both the House and Senate include funding above the introduced budget level for the stormwater local assistance fund. (Item 380#6h) and (Item C-80#1s)
- Both amendments recognize and pledge additional funding this vital program.
Other items to support
Localities may wish to weigh in with conferees and delegation members regarding other items we noted in the budget amendment table, such as steps to reduce/eliminate the school support cap (the Senate approach); taking a reasonable approach to increasing jury per diems (the House approach); increasing aid to local libraries (both bodies to differing degrees); and ensuring that local police departments, not just sheriffs’ departments, have access to funds for transporting/custody for those under a temporary detention order or emergency custody order (the Senate approach).
How best to support the priority amendments
- Prioritize your requests – if everything is a priority then nothing is a priority.
- What are the things you care most about?
- Be timely in your delivery – the sooner the better.
- The budget conferees will begin to meet this week.
- Before that happens, staff will brief their conferees on the other chamber’s budget as well as their own.
- While the issues are fresh in their minds, it’s a good time to communicate with them.
- Use clear and concise language – oftentimes less is more.
- What is the specific amendment you are concerned about?
- How does it impact your community, either positively or negatively?
- Keep your message to one-page.
This time of year, the most difficult problem getting your message to legislators is knowing exactly who to send it to. It isn’t easy. Members are on the floor or in committee much of the day, and staff are working throughout the day to prepare for evening negotiations. The best way is to call the member’s office. Alternatively, you can send an email with a one-page attachment that includes your contact information, your position, and why it matters to your locality. And never forget that the staff who help the conferees make decisions are important conduits in this process.
VML Contacts: Janet Areson, email@example.com; Josette Bulova, firstname.lastname@example.org; Joe Flores, email@example.com; Mitchell Smiley, firstname.lastname@example.org
Citizen suits against local government officials – new version of bill is much better
As previously reported, SB1495 (Surovell) allows a citizen to go to court for damages, attorneys’ fees and other relief if a local official acts with “willful disregard” of the law. That standard means the official knows the rules and acts in a manner contrary to them, regardless.
This week, a subcommittee of House Courts recommended a new version that makes the legislation much more acceptable for local government. The basic premise remains: if a local official acts with willful disregard of the law against a citizen, that should be corrected. VML supports that premise.
The new version, however, limits the right to use the law to the person against whom the government action is taken. The earlier version allowed anyone “aggrieved” to sue.
The new version limits cases to actions taken under the land use chapter of Title 15.2. It also sends the case back to the locality with an order to act according to the law. The prior version had the court deciding the case. The new version applies only to actions taken after 1 July 2023.
The changes make the bill palatable for VML. It will result in very few cases ever being successfully pursued against localities. An official acting with willful disregard is extremely rare.
Contact: Mark Flynn, email@example.com