Wednesday, January 22, 2014
VACo opposes farm brewery bill to be considered Friday
VACo opposes SB 430 (Watkins), which allows a new classification of breweries to be located on farms with limited local flexibility to ensure these breweries do not negatively impact other farms, businesses and the larger community.
The bill is scheduled for consideration by the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee on Friday, January 24.
Please call Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee members and ask them to oppose SB 430.
There is a likely substitute to the original bill that amends section 4.1-208 of the code to create a new classification of brewery licenses for those breweries located on a farm that grows barley, malt, hops or fruit to be used in the manufacture of beer. The language does not provide a definition for what constitutes as a bona fide farm nor set a minimum threshold of ingredients grown on the “farm” to constitute a farm brewery. The bill also allows this broadly defined class of new breweries to be exempt from local regulation in multiple areas including production, sale, tasting, direct sale, storage and sale of beer-related items. The bill prevents minimum parking, road access or road upgrade requirements for these new breweries if they are on land zoned agricultural, unless there is a substantial impact on the health, safety or welfare of the public. The law would also open up a wide interpretation of what is allowable through the use of usual and customary language and weakens local ability to regulate noise and events.
• SB430 provides no clear thresholds and safeguards to ensure “farm breweries” are on actual farms in agricultural zones that are truly growing a sizable quantity of local agriculture products that can be used in the manufacture of beer.
• The bill severely limits local flexibility to ensure these operations’ events and normal activities do not come into conflict with surrounding businesses, residences and agricultural operations.
• These new business ventures can flourish without having to limit local flexibility for local communities to consider the impacts on the broader community in areas such as traffic safety, operating hours, retail sales, storage, warehousing, sale and shipment.
VACo Contact: Jim Campbell, CAE
Attorney’s fees bills that affect local government
HB 1153 (Pogge) allows the court discretion to award attorney fees to taxpayers who successfully challenge the property tax assessment on an owner-occupied residential property. Court challenges to assessments on single residences are fairly rare, but if the bill is adopted it could set a precedent for attorney fee awards on rental residential and commercial properties, which get challenged in court more frequently. This bill is currently in House Courts of Justice.
SB 578 (Obenshain), HB 519 (Morris), and HB 1084 (Morris) would impose new requirements for the award of attorney fees to parties that are successful in challenging local land use decisions. Local officials should pay special attention to HB 1084, as the patrons are going to conform the other two bills to this bill. HB 1084 is a request from the Homebuilders Association of Virginia (HBAV). HB1084 allows attorney fees only in cases in which a condition on a rezoning or permit has been found to be unconstitutional. That is already true in federal courts, but this bill would extend it to cases brought in state court under the Virginia Constitution as well. HBAV contends that the bill is simply an effort to codify the U.S. Supreme Court decision last summer in Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District; however, the bill goes considerably beyond what the Koontz requires. These bills are being heard in House Court of Justice.
HB 978 (Rust) defines local governments and authorities as public utilities for purposes of the Public-Private Transportation Act (PPTA) and Public-Private Education Facilities Act (PPEA). VDOT has requested this bill to bring local-government operated utility systems under the jurisdiction of the State Corporation Commission in order to insure that they cooperate with VDOT and private contractors in relocating utility lines as needed for PPTA and PPEA projects. Local governments have historically opposed efforts to subject their utility operations, rates and other practices to SCC jurisdiction, and there are also constitutional limitations on the SCC’s powers in that regard. VACO staff is working with VDOT and the patron to address VDOT’s objective by some means other than putting local utility departments and authorities under SCC control. This bill will be heard in House Commerce and Labor.
HB 1203 (Hugo), involving the local employee grievance procedure, requires that the final step in an employee grievance procedure adopted by a local governing body be either a hearing before an administrative hearing officer agreed upon by both parties or a hearing before an impartial panel agreed to by both parties. The bill would overturn the ability of localities to use panels that have been in place under current law. This bill will be heard in House Counties, Cities and Towns.
VACo Contact: Phyllis Errico, CAE
Governor McAuliffe announces proposed budget amendments
An amendment to increase funding for Virginia schools was among proposed budget amendments announced by Governor Terry McAuliffe on January 20.
Governor McAuliffe shared his amendments to the current and the upcoming biennial budget at a news conference in Richmond.
Other amendments include public safety and other core priorities as well as increasing the unappropriated balance in the introduced budget from $50.9 million to $51.1 million.
“These amendments reflect my commitment to growing and diversifying our economy, creating jobs, and improving the services that this Commonwealth offers its residents, such as education, public safety and health care,” Governor McAuliffe said. “If included in the final budget, these amendments will increase investments in a number of key areas, all while increasing the amount of money we set aside for future emergencies or declines in revenue.”
Also included in the governor’s proposed amendments to the FY2014 caboose budget bill is authorizing the governor to act in the event that the Medicaid Reform Innovation and Reform Commission (MIRC) fails to decide whether or not to accept federal funding to cover up to 400,000 uninsured Virginians through Medicaid by the end of the current legislative session.
Below are Governor McAuliffe’s proposed amendments to House and Senate Bill 29 (FY 2014 Caboose Budget Bill) and House Bill 30 (FY 2015-16 Budget Bill).
House and Senate Bill 29
- Amendment 1: Reflect State Corporation Commission general fund recovery
Impact: $1,200,000 in additional revenue in FY 2014
Adjusts additions to balance on the front page of the budget bill to reflect the $1.2 million recovery of general fund amounts from federal fund sources originally provided for federal health exchange related activities.
- Amendment 2: Adjust funding to account for miscalculation of school age population
Impact: Savings of $1,356,813 in FY 2014
Reduces the appropriation to Direct Aid to meet the amount required by the rebenchmarking of the Standards of Quality.
- Amendment 3: Allow Governor to decide on Medicaid Expansion if MIRC fails to act
Provides authority to the Governor to make a decision on the Medicaid Expansion, pursuant to the federal Affordable Care Act, if the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission (MIRC) fails to make a decision prior to the end of the 2014 regular session.
- Amendment 4: Restore portion of Culpeper savings
Impact: $1,000,000 from General Fund in FY 2014
Introduced bill included some savings in current fiscal year related to the plan to cease using Culpeper correctional facility to house juveniles.
- Amendment 5: Provide funding for purchase of vehicles and maintenance of aircraft
Impact: $3,044,710 from Nongeneral Fund in FY 2014
Provides additional funding to State Police from uncommitted year-end balances in the Safety Fund for the purchase of patrol vehicles, and maintenance of the Department’s aircraft.
- Amendment 6: Reimburse General Fund for Federal Health Benefit Exchange Activities
Authorizes the Director of the Department of Planning and Budget to revert $1,200,000 to the general fund, representing the fiscal year 2014 reimbursement from federal funds received by the State Corporation Commission (Commission) for the plan management activities performed by the Commission as part of the Federal Health Benefit Exchange.
House Bill 30
- Amendment 1: Increase revenue collections through the use of mobile applications
Impact: Increase in revenue $500,000 in FY2015 and $1,500,000 in FY2016
Reflects the enhancement in revenue collections that is expected to result from the planned use of mobile devices and applications by Department of Taxation field collectors and auditors.
- Amendment 2: Accelerate due date for employer withholding
Impact: Increase in revenue of $234,000 in FY 2015 and $468,000 2016
Recognizes the additional revenue associated with the acceleration of the employer withholding date from February 28 to January 31. This acceleration is expected to result in an increase in general fund revenue collections of $234,000 in FY 2015 and $468,000 in FY 2016.
- Amendment 3: Provide appropriation to fund unemployment benefits for military spouses
Impact: $1,900,000 from Nongeneral Fund in FY2015; $1,800,000 from Nongeneral Fund in FY 2016.
This is a companion amendment to Senate Bill 18, whereby appropriation is established in support of passage of the legislation.
- Amendment 4: Double funding for Jobs for Virginia Graduates initiative
Impact: $373,776 from General Fund in both FY 2015 and FY 2016
Doubles the state’s funding for the Jobs for Virginia Graduates. The Jobs for Virginia Graduates (JVG) initiative works with at-risk high school students, assisting them with graduation, career planning and transitioning from school to work. JVG currently serves over 1,250 high school students per year.
- Amendment 5: Adjust funding for miscalculation associated with new retirement rates
Impact: $2,315,431 from General Fund in FY 2015; $2,233,331 from General Fund in FY 2016
Provides funding to correct a miscalculation and fully fund the cost of the Standards of Quality. The calculations included in the introduced budget contained an error and did not fund all positions at the new retirement rate, primarily involving additional positions supporting K-3 education.
- Amendment 6: Provide partial hold harmless funding for school divisions in FY2015
Impact: $4,630,874 from General Fund in FY 2015
Increases state funding to the Standards of Quality to provide additional funding to those school divisions which experienced a reduction in state Direct Aid in FY2015 as compared to FY 2014.
- Amendment 7: Fund FY 2015 partial Cost of Competing Adjustment for support positions
Impact: $5,389,054 from General Fund in FY 2015
The Standards of Quality include a Cost of Competing Adjustment (COCA) for support positions in localities in Northern Virginia. The funding for this adjustment was not included in the introduced 2014-2016 biennial budget. The amount proposed would support half of the COCA amount for Northern Virginia, and would not negatively impact any local school divisions.
- Amendment 8: Increase Literary Fund contribution and revenue
Impact: $10,000,000 savings to General Fund; $15,000,000 outlay from Nongeneral Fund
The introduced budget includes $10 million annually for loans for school construction. The amendment will increase the FY 2015 amount to $25 million. The amendment will also increase the teacher retirement contribution from the Literary Fund by $10 million.
- Amendment 9: Provide funding to reflect rent plan changes at the seat of government
Impact: $214,115 from General Fund and $127,376 from Nongeneral Fund in FY 2015; $443,240 from General Fund, $263,789 from Nongeneral Fund in FY 2016
Restores funding for rent allocation to the Virginia Community College Systems (VCCS) that was eliminated in the introduced budget and also provides additional funding based on the rent rate increases.
- Amendment 10: Allow governor to decide on Medicaid expansion if MIRC fails to act
The amendment provides authority to the governor to make a decision on the Medicaid Expansion, pursuant to the federal Affordable Care Act, if the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission (MIRC) fails to make a decision prior to the end of the 2014 regular session.
- Amendment 11, Fund full year of assessments for Medicaid ID/DD waiver recipients
Impact: $663,750 from General Fund and $663,750 from Nongeneral Fund in FY2015
Adds an additional six months of funding for the implementation of assessments using the Supports Intensity Scale for individuals receiving Medicaid Intellectual or Developmental Disability Waiver services, or residing in state training centers.
- Amendment 12: Plan to replace the adult and child welfare information systems
Impact: $850,000 from General Fund and $150,000 from Nongeneral fund in FY2015
Requests funds in FY 2015 to plan the modernization of the adult and child welfare information systems. Funding would be used to hire contractors to look at local processes and find opportunities for business process re-engineering.
- Amendment 13: Provide dues to the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin
Impact: $156,000 per year in FY 2015 and 2016
Restores general fund support for the annual membership dues for the Commonwealth’s participation in the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin.
- Amendment 14: Increase funding for court appointed special advocates
Impact: $100,000 per year in FY 2015 and 2016
Restores a portion of a previous budget reduction. Adoption of this amendment along with funding included in the introduced budget would restore approximately half of the previous cut.
- Amendment 15: Clarify HB599 distribution language
This language only amendment clarifies the distribution method to be used in disbursing HB599 funding to localities with qualified police departments.
- Amendment 16: Provides funding for STARS radio equipment
Provides funding in FY15 to allow the Department of Military Affairs to purchase Statewide Agencies Radio System equipment.
- Amendment 17: Increase funding for gasoline for Virginia State Police
Impact: $1 million per year in FY 2015 and 2016
In the introduced budget, the department received $900,391 in FY2015 and FY2016, for gasoline purchase costs. The additional general and nongeneral funding is intended to address increasing gasoline cost.
- Amendment 18: Adjusts Estimated VITA Charges
Impact: Savings of $1,738,07 in FY 2015 and 3,562,457 in FY 2016
Reflects VITA’s fiscal year 2014 forecast including the required contractural increases to Northrop Grumman but without any additional projected growth in agency consumption.
- Amendment 19: Remove proposed savings strategies for Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation
Impact: $61,000 in both FY 2015 and FY 2016
Removes two savings strategies proposed for the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation in the introduced biennial budget, totaling $61,000 in annual savings. These savings strategies, which reduce advertising and enhance operational efficiencies, are inconsistent with the funding needs of the foundation and are contrary to the new funding proposed for the foundation in the FY 2014-16 biennial Budget.
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.
VACo Contact: Dean Lynch, CAE
Register for the 2014 Local Government Day
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.
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.
VACo Contact: Carol Cameron