Legislative Bulletin February 17, 2023Friday, February 17, 2023 - 04:29pm
In this issue:
- Oppose: Bill to eliminate local authority to retain trees on land that is not intended to be reforested artificially or naturally
- So, is it “All Over but the Shoutin’”?
- Major surgery performed on bill that would have chipped away at BPOL revenues
- Bills reported from committees that appear headed to passage
- “Freedoms of conscience and expression” bill dies in committee
- Reported from House Counties, Cities, and Towns Committee this week
Oppose: Bill to eliminate local authority to retain trees on land that is not intended to be reforested artificially or naturally
HB2282 (Edmunds) will receive a final vote on the floor of the Senate when they meet at noon on Monday, Feb. 20
HB2282 (Edmunds) – Virginia Stormwater Management Program; Virginia Erosion and Sediment Control Program; exemptions for the harvesting of forest crops. Creates a new exemption from stormwater rules and regulations for the clearing of trees, grading or removal of stumps, clearing of land or the creation of temporary roads for the removal of forest products.
This is an update to a previous alert. The bill was to be voted on the floor on Feb. 17 but was taken by for the day and will now be on the floor Monday, Feb. 20.
VML opposes this bill to limit local authority to maintain local water quality and preserve existing trees; there is concern that this could apply to speculative land clearing. Localities should have the opportunity to work with landowners to protect local water quality and retain trees prior to any clearing and cutting. Allowing removal of trees from property that could be redeveloped without controlling for erosion could degrade local water quality and increase sediment and nutrient runoff. In addition to protecting local water quality, localities may have reasons to retain existing trees, such as screening or reducing the visibility of projects or retaining tree canopy.
When a developer seeks to clear trees, they must currently notify the locality, providing a critical opportunity to determine how trees can be removed without degrading local water quality and identifying if any existing trees should be maintained.
Aside from water quality, localities across Virginia have worked with developers to retain existing trees for a variety of reasons including as a best management practice to reduce stormwater and nutrient runoff, to create a natural screen to reduce the visibility of industrial or solar developments, to maintain tree canopy, to prevent the erosion of stream and riverbanks, or to preserve trees to reduce the impacts of storm surges in coastal areas.
- create a new exemption from stormwater regulations for development.
- not affect any agricultural lands which currently have an exemption for clearing trees as part of forest management or converting a forested area to agricultural pasture.
- result in more trees being removed before a property owner initiates the process while exempting the clearing of trees from complying with erosion and sediment control requirements.
- undermine local authority to protect local water quality and remove any opportunity to work with developers to maintain existing trees.
- Please contact your Senator and ask them to vote “NO” on HB2282.
- Full contact list for Senators available here >.
VML Contact: Mitchell Smiley, email@example.com
Budget & Finance
So, is it “All Over but the Shoutin’”?
The short answer to the question posed in the title of this article: “Nope.”
The long answer: That might have been the case if the House and Senate budget conferees had made substantive progress in the past few days, but it’s not clear they have. In fact, it appears that decisions won’t begin to be made until this Sunday when lawmakers will likely huddle up to begin ironing out (or at least discussing) their fiscal differences.
But that doesn’t mean that the conferees are tardy in their work. In fact, they are right on schedule. In the past few days, “money committee” staff have been working behind the scenes to highlight for their members the key differences on the budget. Examples of key differences include tax policy and funding for items such as education, health and human resources, and public safety.
The work of preparing materials to brief Senators and Delegates on the budget is the easy, albeit time-consuming, aspect of these negotiations. The work will become increasingly difficult in the days ahead as each chamber must recede from key policy provisions in their respective budgets to achieve a compromise agreement.
In other words, the House will likely need to give up on some of their tax policy changes while the Senate will need to walk away from some of their additional spending proposals. How much each side moves will depend on agreements reached by the budget conferees. To state the obvious, the sooner those compromises begin to happen, the sooner a final budget can be sent to the Governor.
The budget conferees – six from the House and nine from the Senate – will begin their work in earnest next week. VML will communicate our priorities in a separate letter to the conferees with copies to the staff directors of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance & Appropriations Committees. We will also continue to monitor negotiations until a budget is finalized and report on key elements after that.
Let’s hope for more agreein’ and less shoutin’ to ensure a speedy resolution on the budget in the week ahead!
VML Contact: Joe Flores, firstname.lastname@example.org
Major surgery performed on bill that would have chipped away at BPOL revenues
After much work – and with the support of local governments – HB2200 (Robinson) was substantively modified in Committee last night. As introduced, the bill proposed to exempt from BPOL taxes anti-cancer drugs purchased by a medical practice and administered within a physician-patient relationship. It became clear early in the week that several Senators were concerned about this precedent and uncomfortable with the thrust of the bill. Rather than making the bill permissive, the members of the Senate Finance & Appropriations Committee unanimously adopted a substitute that jettisoned the provisions related to BPOL, instead setting up a work group to examine issues related to reimbursement for these anti-cancer medications. Missing from the work group are any references to BPOL, which the Committee members seemed to realize were tangential to the primary concern of these health care providers.
To those of you who weighed in on this important policy issue and helped us preserve this local revenue source, thank you!
VML Contact: Joe Flores, email@example.com
Bills reported from committees that appear headed to passage
HB1765 (Carr) Fire protection; definition of fire company. This bill adds to the definition of “fire company” – firefighter support group members and ensures that these support members are not provided other firefighter benefits unless provided for in a local ordinance.
HB2046 (Carr) Housing and Community Development, Department of; adds to powers and duties of Director. Adds to the duties of the DHCD Director the gathering of affordable housing data along with creating a statewide affordable housing plan.
HB2312 (Head) / SB1263 (Hackworth) Uniform Statewide Building Code; stop work orders, appeals. This bill defines stop work orders for purposes of the Uniform Statewide Building Code along with providing an appeal process and allow for the recovery of actual costs of litigation, including court costs, attorneys’ fees and witness fees from localities.
HB2332 (Campbell)/ SB1308 (Deeds) Virginia Economic Development Partnership Authority; eligible site for site development grant. This bill reduces the acreage from 100 to 50 as the minimum contiguous acreage for a non-brownfield site to satisfy the acreage requirement in a site development grant from Virginia Business Ready Sites Program Fund by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership Authority.
HB2450 (Campbell) / SB1491 (Bell) Virginia Public Procurement Act; construction management, contract requirements. This legislation states that construction management contracts involving infrastructure projects are not subject to the provision in 2.2-4382(5). The 10% limitation is now removed for local infrastructure projects. Infrastructure projects is not defined.
HB2451 (O’Quinn) Firefighters; training program on risk of electric vehicle fires. The Department of Fire Programs shall have the powers to develop a training program on the risk of electric vehicle fires and how to manage such fires for all firefighters including volunteers. This training is to be available by July 1, 2024 and shall be completed by firefighters by December 1, 2025.
HB2494 (Ware) Local housing policy; reports to the Department of Housing and Community Development. This bill applies to localities with a population of greater than 3,500 and requires an annual report (September 1) to the Department of Housing and Community Development. This report shall include: changes to the local proffer policy, changes to local zoning and subdivision ordinances related to single or multi-family housing, comprehensive plan changes related to housing, and incentives created to encourage housing along with changes to relevant fees.
HB2500 (Wiley) / SB1313 (Bell) Construction contracts; payment clauses to be included in certain contracts; right of payment to subcontractors. In contracts for construction, contractors shall be liable to their subcontractors for the entire amount of the work whether the contractor has been paid or not. Contractors may withhold payment from a subcontractor if the subcontractor fails to comply with the terms of the contract; reasonable notice must be provided. This bill applies to contracts awarded by any agency of local government in accordance with Va. Code 2.2-4352.
SB1401 (Lewis) / HB1805 (Bloxom) Virginia Resources Authority; community development and housing projects. Allows the Virginia Resource Authority to finance projects that are community development projects to include production and preservation of housing, including housing for persons and families of low to moderate income. The Department of Housing and Community Development shall also assist the Authority in determining which local governments should receive grants.
SB1305 (Hanger) Farm Buildings and Structures; building code exemptions. This bill provides building code exemptions for any farm building or structure where the public is invited to enter for an agritourism activity as defined in 3.2-6400 and that is used for display, sampling, or sale of agricultural, horticultural, floricultural or silvicultural products produced on the farm or the sale of agricultural-related or silvicultural-related items incidental to the agricultural operation.
SB839 (Locke) VHDA; report or spending, powers of Director of DHCD. This bill requires the Virginia Housing Development Authority to report to the Governor and the Chairs of the Finance Committees reports dealing with the spending of funds and outcomes. It also adds responsibilities to the DHCD Director related to comprehensive statewide housing needs every 5 years
VML Contact: Michelle Gowdy, firstname.lastname@example.org
“Freedoms of conscience and expression” bill dies in committee
HB1810 (Davis) State and local employees; rights of employees, freedoms of conscience and expression. This proposed legislation states that local government employees shall not be penalized by their employer for expressing an opinion during an open meeting on a current or proposed rule, etc.
This bill was passed by indefinitely in the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee on Feb. 15.
VML Contact: Michelle Gowdy, email@example.com
Reported from House Counties, Cities, and Towns Committee this week
SB1141 (McPike) Affordable housing; local zoning ordinance authority, comprehensive plan. If a locality has passed an ordinance to provide for an affordable housing dwelling unit program; this bill offers implementation tools and measures that can be included along with increases in density. This legislation has a delayed enactment of July 1, 2024. *The House version has been sent to the Housing Commission.
SB1205 (Lewis) Local land use approvals; extension of approvals to address the COVID-19 pandemic, sunset provision. This proposal extends to July 1, 2025, the sunset date for local land use approvals that were valid and outstanding as of July 1, 2020.
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 have to take action beyond the 24-hour period.
VML Contact: Michelle Gowdy, firstname.lastname@example.org
The last of the education bills has been tabled
This morning, SB1408 (McClellan) was tabled in a party line vote in the House Finance Subcommittee #3. This legislation would have expanded the authority for local governments to impose a one percent sales tax to help raise funds for school construction and renovation needs if approved by referendum. Currently nine localities in Virginia have this authority; SB1408 would have expanded the option statewide.
Having this authority gives localities another tool to use to raise necessary funds for school improvements without having to raise property taxes again. The need to improve schools is urgent with over half of Virginia’s schools over 50 years old.
VML Contact: Josette Bulova, email@example.com