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Bill legalizing cultivation of industrial hemp advances


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bill legalizing cultivation of industrial hemp advances

HB 1277 (Yost), which allows for the licensed cultivation of industrial hemp, was reported by the House Agriculture Committee on vote of 17-5. HB 1277 also directs the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to adopt relevant regulations and establishes an industrial hemp research program. The Senate companion bill, SB 955 (Dance), is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Agriculture Committee late on January 29. VACo supports legislation permitting the cultivation of industrial hemp.

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE

Procurement bills a mixed bag for localities

There are a large number of procurement bills in this year’s session. Two of them, HB 1835 (Gilbert) and SB 1371 (Ruff), are omnibus bills that are the result of a two-year joint procurement study. The study included two workgroups composed of various stakeholder representatives including local government. The workgroups were tasked with examining and recommending changes on many provisions in the Virginia Public Procurement Act. HB1835 and SB 1371 include provisions that are helpful to local governments including allowing use of small purchase procedures for construction of up to $100,000 and elimination of the written justification for use of competitive negotiation. HB 1703 (Morefield) and SB 863 (Chafin) also provide that the small purchase procedure can be used for construction.

SB 1378 (Barker) is a helpful bill that provides that a public body may purchase from the contract of a council of governments composed of public bodies and that a public body may participate in, sponsor, conduct or administer a cooperative procurement agreement on behalf of or in conjunction with a council of governments.

VACo opposes HB 1540 (Albo), which provides that terms and conditions in A&E procurements are subject to negotiation and that public bodies cannot ask for non-binding estimates of price until ranking is finished and they are negotiating with the firm ranked first. To be forced to rank individuals or firms with absolutely no price information is very troublesome for localities.

VACo Contact: Phyllis Errico, CAE


Governor’s transportation bill passes House subcommittee and full committee

The Governor’s omnibus transportation bill, HB 1887 (Jones), passed out of House Transportation subcommittee #4 on January 29. HB 1887 subsequently passed the House Transportation Committee.

The bill replaces the former 40-30-30 highway funding formula. The old system provided funds directly to localities that were broken up into several small distributions. Under the new formula, 40 percent of the money will go to the rehabilitation of structurally deficient bridges and deteriorating pavement, 30 percent will be allocated to projects of statewide importance and 30 percent will go to a construction district grant program.

The bill now moves to the House floor for its first reading. VACo is working to better understand the impacts of the bill and will keep counties updated on its progress.

VACo Contact: Beau Blevins


Bill gives localities option to join state health insurance plan

SB 866 (Chafin) gives local school boards and local governing bodies the option to jointly elect to include their employees and eligible dependents in the state employee health plan. SB 1075 (Vogel) and SB 866 originally allowed only school divisions to make this election, which could have decreased the total pool of employees in some county healthcare plans and thus increase costs. VACo appreciated the patrons changing the bill to include political subdivisions and VACo supported passage of the bill. The bill may offer some localities greater economies of scale and savings on healthcare benefits for employees. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate Finance Committee on January 28.

VACo Contact: Dean Lynch, CAE or Erik Johnston, CAE


Bill requiring preliminary approval of rezoning requests tabled

HB 2262 (Morris) was tabled in a House Counties, Cities and Towns Subcommittee on January 28. Thank you to VACo members who responded to VACo’s action alert by contacting members on the subcommittee. VACo opposed the bill because it would have drastically changed the planning process by requiring local government staff to grant preliminary approval of applicant rezoning requests before consideration of the rezoning request by the planning commission. The bill was referred to the Housing Commission for further study.

VACo Contact: Erik Johnston, CAE


Committees take opposite approaches on Meals Tax Authority

SB 796 (Lucas), a bill that removes the requirement that a county meals tax be approved by a referendum before the county may pass an ordinance, passed the Senate Local Government Committee by a vote of 9-3-3 on January 27. A subcommittee of the House Counties, Cities and Towns Committee took the opposite approach on this issue by passing HB 1949 (Poindexter), which provides that a county shall not hold a referendum proposing the imposition of a food and beverage tax more often than every three years. VACo has a strong policy supporting equal revenue raising authority for counties and is working to support SB 796 and oppose HB 1949.

VACo Contact: Erik Johnston, CAE


Bill ends sunset date on current cash proffer payment timing rules

SB 1257 (Smith) removes the July 1, 2017, expiration of a code section that delays the payment of certain per-dwelling-unit cash proffers until after the final inspection of the subject property and prior to the issuance of any certificate of occupancy. Several other identical bills were rolled in SB 1257 before passing through the Senate Local Government Committee unanimously on January 27.

VACo Contact: Erik Johnston, CAE


Farm distillery bill moves forward

SB 1272 (Deeds) creates a limited distillery license that tracks similarly to the farm brewery bill, SB 430 (Watkins), which became law in 2014. SB 1272 requires the limited distilleries to (i) manufacture no more than 36,000 gallons of spirits per calendar year, (ii) be located on a farm in the Commonwealth on land zoned agricultural and owned or leased by such distillery or its owner, and (iii) grow agricultural products on the farm that are used in the manufacture of its alcoholic beverages. The bill also establishes local and state taxes for limited distillers’ licenses and prevents local regulation of certain activities by such licensees. The bill passed the full Senate on January 28.

VACo Contact: Phyllis Errico, CAE or Erik Johnston, CAE


Bill adds rules on commercial development process for counties under 90,000 in population

Current code applies certain provisions, including a 60-day time limit, to the process of approval by any local planning commission of a plat or site plat that solely involves commercial real estate for localities with a population of 90,000 or more. SB 1355 (Reeves) removes the 90,000 population threshold so that the law applies to all localities. Counties with less than 90,000 in population are encouraged to review this bill and contact VACo with any concerns. The bill passed through the Senate Local Government Committee on January 27.

VACo Contact: Erik Johnston, CAE


Land conservation bill reported

HB 1488 (Pogge), as amended, creates a process for resolving disputes relating to activities on conservation easements. On January 28, the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee bill reported the bill on a 20-2 vote. The amended version of the bill is far different from the introduced version that would have allowed for “small-scale family farming practices” (an undefined term) on lands under that are under conservation easement.

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE


Appealing local composite index

HB 2394 (Webert) requires the Virginia Department of Education to develop a process for a local government to appeal the computation of its local composite index (LCI). This bill, strongly supported by VACo, has been referred to the Elementary and Secondary Subcommittee of the House Education Committee. HB 2394 is likely to be considered by that committee during its next scheduled meeting on February 4.

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE


Land use taxation/Local Composite Index

SB 1091 (Vogel) was defeated on January 29 in the Senate Education and Health Committee. The bill would have required land use taxation to be utilized as a factor in the calculation of the local composite index (LCI). Earlier in the session the Department of Planning Budget (DPB) issued a Fiscal Impact Statement on HB 1091 that estimated $1.9 million in additional costs to the state if the bill passed. Earlier this week, the House Education Committee rejected a similar measure – HB 1514 (Minchew).

In a related matter, the Senate Rules Committee reported SJR 288 (Vogel) by a voice vote. This resolution requests that the Virginia Department of Education study utilization of the land use assessment when calculating the local composite index. There is an identical resolution in the House, HJR 514 (Weberr), which is scheduled to be heard by the House Rules Committee’s Studies Subcommittee on the evening of January 29.

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE


Public Safety Mandate

HB 1520 (Lindsey) was recommended to be stricken from the docket on January 26. The bill would have required sheriffs, local police and the State Police to transport and provide security for government officials, members of civic organizations and other dignitaries.

VACo Contact: Jim Campbell, CAE

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