On-farm business legislation passes House committee

January 23, 2014

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

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On-farm business legislation passes House committee

On January 22, the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee approved by a 17-5 vote HB 268 (Orrock), which limits local government authority to regulate certain on-farm business activities. VACo opposed the bill.

The measure will now be considered by the full House of Delegates.

While Delegate Robert Orrock has agreed to make several amendments requested by local governments, VACo continues to oppose HB 268 for several reasons. Foremost among VACo’s objections is the bill’s provision prohibiting local governments from requiring a special exception, an administrative permit (unless required by state law), or a special use permit for an on-farm business activity unless the activity has a “substantial impact” upon “health, safety, or general welfare of the public.” Because of the ambiguity associated with the term “substantial impact,” VACo is concerned about the difficulties counties are likely to face as they undergo the process of rewriting their ordinances in a manner consistent with state law.

There are also concerns about provisions in the bill representing a potential for future lawsuits. In many cases, a locally approved administrative permit serves as an important tool for ensuring that an event held on a farm complies with local and state requirements. For example, to ensure compliance with certain county and state regulations that may relate to parking, sanitation, operating hours and other factors, many counties require a “special events” permit for such popular activities as a corn maze or “pick your own” promotion.

VACo urges county officials to contact their delegates to oppose HB 268. County officials are also asked to contact members of Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee to oppose the Senate companion bill, SB 51 (Stuart).  The Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee is likely to consider SB 51 during its January 30 meeting.

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE

 

Tax exemption bills set to be heard next week in Senate Finance

SB 418 (Hanger) and SB 512 (Wagner) would provide an exemption from state and local taxation for all certified solar energy equipment, facilities and devices. Accordingly, such equipment would be exempt from the state and local Retail Sales and Use Tax administered by the Department of Taxation. Additionally, it would make the optional local property tax exemption mandatory in all localities.

Under current law, the governing body of any locality is authorized to exempt or partially exempt certified solar energy equipment facilities and devices from local taxation. Local building departments are responsible for certifying that such solar energy equipment was designed and used primarily for the purpose of providing for the collection and use of incident solar energy for water heating, space heating or cooling or other application which would otherwise require a conventional source of energy such as petroleum products, natural gas, or electricity.

To the extent that localities have not exercised their authority to exempt solar energy equipment facilities or devices and such facilities or devices are currently subject to local taxation, these bills would result in a decrease in local revenues, the magnitude of which is unknown. The Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy does not anticipate the lost revenue associated with this bill to be significant. Currently, according to the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service’s Tax Rates 2013 the Cities of Alexandria, Charlottesville, Hampton, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Lynchburg, Roanoke, and Winchester; the Counties of Albemarle, Bedford, Chesterfield, Fairfax, Hanover, Isle of Wight, King and Queen, Loudoun, Prince William, Pulaski, Spotsylvania, and Wise, and the Town of Pulaski provide an exemption for solar energy equipment. The remaining 31 cities, 83 counties, and 132 towns that responded to the Weldon Cooper Center’s survey do not provide such an exemption.

VACo opposes the bills because of the fiscal impact that would result in lost revenue and because it makes the exemption mandatory on the remaining 83 counties.

Please call members of Senate Finance and ask them to oppose these bills.

VACo Contact: Dean Lynch, CAE

 

Line of Duty bills carried over to 2015

Senate Finance carried over two bills to 2015, SB 289 (Carrico) and SB 493 (Pucket). These bills proposed using the communication sales and use tax to fund the line of duty program.

The bills created a Line of Duty Death and Health Benefits Fund by transferring the local employee Line of Duty health benefits costs from the Communication Sales and Use Tax Trust Fund into this new fund annually and limits the retroactive period health benefits are paid for disabled claimants to five years from the date eligibility is determined. The bills also establish an advisory review board to assist the comptroller in the review of claims involving a claimant who has not received a disability determination from the Virginia Retirement System, Social Security Administration, Workers’ Compensation Commission, or any recognized retirement system or who is, as of the time of the claim for benefits had been filed, working in an alternative position.

VACo opposed the bills in committee and the bills were carried over to 2015. In the meantime, JLARC will review a request from the committee to study the issue before the 2015 session.

VACo Contact: Dean Lynch, CAE

 

Bill creates administrative burden that would tie up local business processes

VACo opposes HB 94 (Head) which provides that in any instance in which a person is seeking a business permit, a license, or an application for any similar local government approval from a locality, the locality shall provide documentation and instructions that outline all steps necessary to obtain the permit, license, or approval. The locality shall also specify any further permit, license, or other approval that may be required to complete the original project or business activity and shall disclose the expected time required by the locality for the completion of each step of the process to obtain the permit, license, or other approval.

Localities already provide citizens and businesses with written and oral assistance with permit, license and application processes. Localities also work to evaluate customer satisfaction and share best practices that help streamline and improve local processes for citizens and businesses alike.  The proposed legislation requires localities to produce documentation and timelines for every conceivable situation presented by one citizen rather than allowing localities the flexibility to deploy limited staffing resources to the most pressing customer service needs. The bill may be up for consideration as early as next Wednesday in the House Counties, Cities and Towns Subcommittee # 1.

VACo Contact: Erik Johnston

 

Bill requires localities have personnel policies that address the use of public property

HB 494 (Lingamfelter) passed the full House on January 21 after being improved during the committee process. VACo spoke against the bill on January 9 at the House Counties, Cities and Towns Subcommittee meeting and still opposes the unfunded mandate because every locality, with the exception of towns having a population of less than 3,500 that do not have a personnel policy, would be forced to establish personnel policies covering the use of public property by officers and employees of the locality. Such policies would have to address the use of telephones, computers, and related devices and peripheral equipment that are the property of the locality for (i) personal use, to the extent that such use interferes with the employees’ productivity or work performance, or (ii) political activities.    

VACo Contact: Erik Johnston

 

Bill changing the distribution formula of Communication Sales and Use Tax passed by indefinitely

SB 586 (Colgan) changed the percentage share of the Communications Sales and Use Tax Trust Fund for each town as the percentage share that the locality received from the Fund in Fiscal Year 2014. The bill would also distribute the remaining revenue pro rata to the counties and cities receiving a share of the Fund in Fiscal Year 2014 based on the county’s or city’s population as shown by the most recent U.S. census.

The provisions of the bill would apply to distributions of communications sales and use tax revenues beginning with August and for each month thereafter. The bill would also repeal the authorization for counties and cities to request a ruling from the Department of Taxation to adjust its distribution from the Fund. Towns would continue to be authorized to request such a ruling. The Department of Taxation would be required to develop and publish guidelines implementing the provisions of the bill.

VACo will continue to work with the patron and stakeholders to develop a suitable distribution method.

VACo Contact: Dean Lynch, CAE

 

Bill supporting geographical balance for State Water Control Board Advances

The House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee unanimously endorsed HB 1193 (Webert), a bill supported by VACo that requires the governor, when making appointments to the State Water Control Board, to ensure that membership is geographically balanced.

Because the State Water Control Board now has responsibility for reviewing and approving local stormwater management plans, VACo adopted a position in its 2014 Legislative Program supporting regional representation among Board members. The bill has received no opposition.

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE

 

Senate Election Districts Technical Correction bills narrowly pass Senate

SB 344 (Newman) and SB 436 (Garret) were rolled into SB 310 (Vogel), which passed the Senate 21-17 on Monday. The amended bill eliminates split precincts in Bedford, Loudoun and Louisa counties. There are multiple House bills that address these issues for House districts, but those bills have not yet been put on a committee docket.

HB 45 (Cole) is an omnibus bill that includes all the House technical fixes. These bills are at the request of local general registrars in order to remedy situations of split precincts, which can unnecessarily increase local election costs as well as lead to voter confusion. If your locality has submitted one of the House bills, please urge your delegation to support them.

VACo Contact: Phyllis Errico, CAE

 

Two bills reducing cost of elections to localities fail to report out of House P&E Subcommittee

HB 5 (Ware) provides that the Commonwealth reimburse localities for the full cost of compensation and expenses of electoral board members and general registrars. HB 6 (Ware) provides that the proper political party committee reimburse each county conducting a primary election at the direction of the Commonwealth for full for the costs of the primary election. Both bills were tabled in subcommittee.

VACo Contact: Phyllis Errico, CAE

 

House and Senate P&E will not act on first year constitutional amendments

There are a multitude of constitutional amendments being proposed this session. However, no constitutional amendment bills or resolutions introduced for the first time this year will be passed in the House or Senate for procedural reasons. Any amendment to Virginia’s constitution must pass the General Assembly twice, with an election in between and then be approved by voters in a referendum. Since there will be no General Assembly elections this year, any amendments will have to wait until next year for their first reading.

VACo Contact: Phyllis Errico, CAE

 

Local mandates bills reported

SB 163 (Locke) and SB 407 (Newman) extend the task force appointed by former Governor Bob McDonnell to review state mandates for an additional four years and authorized Governor Terry McAuliffe to appoint seven members to the task force, with two having a business interest. The bills were identical and SB 407 was incorporated into SB 163.

VACo supports these bills and SB 163 is on third reading in the Senate.

VACo Contact: Dean Lynch, CAE

 

VACo on the Go Legislative Edition: Speaker Bill Howell

William Howell, Speaker of the House of Delegates, talks with VACo about Medicaid expansion, local business taxes and the historic transportation bill that was passed last year.

Click here to watch the video.

VACo Contact: Dean Lynch, CAE

 

Governor McAuliffe to speak at the 2014 Local Government Day

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Register for Local Government Day
February 6
Registration Form
Richmond Marriott

The Virginia Association of Counties, Virginia Municipal League and the Virginia Association of Planning District Commissions will host Local Government Day at the General Assembly on Thursday, February 6.

Governor Terry McAuliffe has confirmed he’ll be the keynote speaker.  

The event will be held at the Richmond Marriott, located at 500 East Broad Street in downtown Richmond.

Staff will report on legislation affecting local governments. Local officials are encouraged to participate in committee meetings and lobby state legislators at the Capitol. In the evening, local officials are urged to invite their state legislators to dinner.

The cost of the event, which includes a box lunch, is $45 per person.

Click here for registration form.

Click here to register online.

VACo Contact: Carol Cameron

 

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