After the General Assembly’s adjournment sine die, the Governor has the opportunity to make amendments to legislation or to veto bills. Governor McAuliffe must submit recommended amendments and vetoes by midnight on Monday, March 27 for the General Assembly’s consideration at its reconvened session on Wednesday, April 5. VACo has requested amendments to several bills.
HB 1766 (Habeeb) would change the approval process for 138 kilovolt transmission lines and “associated facilities,” such as substations. VACo’s requested amendments would preserve local land use authority for the review and approval of associated facilities when a utility seeks approval for a 138 kilovolt line from the State Corporation Commission.
HB 2024 (Freitas) deals with procedures for notifying landowners in quick-take eminent domain cases. VACo’s requested amendment would eliminate a redundant notice requirement, which would provide little benefit to the property owner while potentially delaying and increasing the cost of the project.
Among other provisions, SB 1239 (Hanger) would require parks and recreation programs operated for school-age children by local governments to register with the Virginia Department of Social Services and notify parents of participants that the programs are unlicensed. Since these programs are subject to safety standards set forth by local governing bodies, additional oversight by the state is unnecessary. VACo has requested that local parks and recreation programs be categorized with similar programs, such as competitive sports leagues, that do not require registration with VDSS.
VACo requested one budget amendment, which seeks to ensure that local governments will be full participants in the work group that would be established to review options for managing the costs of private day educational placements funded through the Children’s Services Act (CSA). Language in the budget conference report provides for representatives of state agencies to be convened by money committee staff, with local governments providing information as needed. Since localities administer CSA on behalf of the state and share in its costs, localities should have representation on the workgroup.
In addition to proposing the amendments discussed above, VACo requested vetoes of several problematic education bills. HB 2342 (Landes)/SB 1283 (Obenshain) seek to enable the establishment of regional charter schools. Although the bills are narrowly tailored, the regional school boards that the bill would authorize the Board of Education to create would be heavily weighted toward state appointees, with eight members appointed by the state Board and up to three appointed by the governing bodies of the localities encompassed by the regional school division. These regional school boards would be empowered to approve applications to establish regional charter schools; the composition of the boards essentially places this decision at the state level, a situation that runs counter to VACo’s longstanding position in support of local decision-making authority in this arena.
Similarly, VACo has opposed bills that would divert public funds away from public schools and has requested that the Governor veto HB 1605 (LaRock), which would allow the transfer of 90 percent of state Standards of Quality funds to the parents of eligible students, to be used for a variety of educational purposes. The eligibility criteria for this bill have been narrowed from its introduced form, but the list of allowable uses for these funds, including transportation and tuition at sectarian schools, is broad.
VACo also sent a letter to the Governor requesting that he not make amendments to SB 1578 (Norment), which authorizes localities to adopt an ordinance requiring the registration of property owners who offer short-term rentals. This bill clarifies local authority to regulate the rental of properties on such platforms as Airbnb and VACo has requested that the Governor sign the bill as it passed the General Assembly.
Lastly, in response to several questions regarding the budget conference report language on salary increases for Constitutional officers and state-supported local employees, VACo sent a letter to Secretary of Finance Richard Brown asking for clarification of the intent of the language. The budget conference report provides funding for the state’s share of a two percent base salary increase for these employees, provided the funding is used to support salary increases. While the prescriptive language that had been included in the budget in past years requiring localities to certify that these employees received a certain percentage increase by a certain date in order to qualify for the funding is not included this year, some questions remain. In particular, localities have asked whether salary increases given earlier in the biennium would qualify for the state funding. VACo has asked the Secretary for clarification and encouraged that maximum flexibility be provided to localities, especially since many localities provided salary increases to state-supported local staff last year in the anticipation of state funding that did not materialize.
VACo Contact: Katie Boyle