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Commonwealth's Counties

Bills of Note Dealing with Transparency, Freedom of Information, and Public Notice Advance through Process

Transparency and Public Notice

  • HB 69 (Bulova) requires the local governing body or elected school board making an interim appointment to fill a vacancy in the membership of such body or board to hold a public meeting at least seven days prior to making such appointment. The bill specifies that at such meeting, the body or board shall announce the names of all persons being proposed for the interim appointment and shall make available for inspection each person’s resume and any other materials required by the body or board. HB 69 has passed both chambers.
  • HB 710 (Webert) and SB 549 (Russet Perry) are gone for this session. VACo opposed these bills, which provided that any travel expense of a local official, as defined in the bill, to be paid from public funds, that is anticipated to exceed $2,500 shall be subject to approval in advance by a vote of the local governing body in an open meeting. The bill was amended to raise the rate to $5,000. The House and Senate versions were killed in the Counties, Cities and Towns Committee’s Subcommittee 3.
  • HB 1488 (Henson) and SB 413 (Head) VACo supports these bills that standardize the frequency with which and length of time in which notices of certain meetings, hearings, and other intended actions of localities must be published. The bills also standardize descriptive information in such notices related to (a) proposing, amending, or repealing ordinances; (b) local budget adoption; and (c) zoning ordinances and planning-related actions. The bills have sailed through both chambers and are headed to the Governor’s desk.

Freedom of Information Act

  • HB 894 (Bennett-Parker) and SB 734 (Marsden) – VACo supports these bills, which provide that (except for local governing bodies, local school boards, planning commissions, architectural review boards, and zoning appeals boards) any public body may hold all-virtual public meetings 2 times per year or no more than 50% of the meeting, whichever is greater, provided that they have an electronic meeting policy in place. Previously the limit was 25%. The bills have passed both chambers.
  • SB 324 (Roem) VACo opposed this unfunded mandate bill as introduced, as it provided every citizen of the Commonwealth, and representative of newspapers and magazines, to make four free two-hour FOIA requests per 31 consecutive days. The bill as originally filed also provided that after the 8 free hours per person, per month, the highest rate that a locality could charge is $33/hour unless they successfully petition the court for a higher fee. After meeting with stakeholders, the patron offered a substitute at the January 24 Senate Local Government Committee meeting, which passed unanimously. The substitute included provisions for one free hour per calendar year for each person, a cap of $40 per hour and some language providing an exception for legal review by public bodies and requires the collection of data by public bodies for any request that takes over 30 minutes.The current version of the bill, which passed both chambers, has a reenactment clause for the fee portion of the bill, meaning that it must be reenacted in the 2025 session. However, the bill passed by both chambers does provide for a study of FOIA fees to be completed by November 30, 2024.
  • SB 244 (McPike) and HB 816 (Cherry)VACo supports these bills that seek to validate otherwise lawful actions taken by a public body using electronic communication means occurring from March 20, 2020, until July 1, 2021. The bills sailed through both chambers and are headed to the Governor’s desk.
  • SB 36 (Locke) and HB 818 (Cherry), which are worded slightly differently, amend the definition of “meeting” under the Freedom of Information act. VACo supports these bills, which amend the definition of “meeting” as it relates to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to clarify that a gathering of two or more members of a public body is not a meeting if there is no discussion or transaction of any public business as defined in the bill. The bills are in response to the decision of the Supreme Court of Virginia in Gloss v. Wheeler(2023) . VACo is working with a group of stakeholders as these bills head to conference.

Procurement Bills

  • SB 18 (Locke) and HB 1108 (Carr) limit the use of construction management or design-build contracts by state and local public bodies and covered institutions for complex projects. They require state public bodies, covered institutions, and local public bodies to provide documentation of the processes used for the final selection of a contract to all the unsuccessful applicants upon request. The bills require a local public body to adopt a resolution or motion to use construction management or design-build, if required by its local governing body, prior to issuing a Request for Qualifications and to publish notice of such resolution or motion on its website or eVA. Finally, the bills require the Department, with the assistance of staff of the House Committee on Appropriations and the Senate Committee on Finance and Appropriations, assess implementation of construction management and design-build projects and report its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly by November 1, 2029. The two bills are slightly different and are working through the process in both chambers.
  • HB 151 (Helmer) amends a statute passed 2 years ago that required state and local public bodies to design energy efficient buildings. The bill requires the Department of Energy, upon request, to provide technical assistance to localities, subject to available budgetary resources, as localities implement mandates related to onsite renewable energy generation, energy storage, and resilience standards for construction or renovation of certain public buildings. The bill also makes several technical and clarifying changes to the existing statute, in part by defining or redefining existing terms found in the statute. HB 151 is working through the process on a close vote.
  • HB 311 (Hope) mandates that all local public bodies provide an option to submit bids or proposals for procurement contracts through the Commonwealth’s statewide electronic procurement system, known as eVA or other electronic means. Current law only encourages local public bodies to use eVA for such submissions. HB 311 passed both chambers.
  • HB 1113 (Carr) raises the limits on Job Order Contracting annual threshold from $6 million to $10 million and the individual job order limit from $500,000 to $1 million. It also raises the number of annual renewals from 2 to 3. HB 1113 has passed both chambers.
  • HB 1116 (Carr) raises the small purchase limit in the Virginia Public Procurement act for non-transportation related construction from $200,000 to $300,000. This bill is working through the process.
  • HB 1273 (Krizek) would have required that for any capital outlay project, a public body shall require the contractor and subcontractors to complete specified safety training programs and participate in apprenticeship programs. At least 8% of the labor hours on the project shall be completed by apprentices.  A local governing body or the Governor or his designee may waive this section for a specific project if there are not enough apprenticeship programs in the area or a disproportionately high ratio of material costs to labor hours makes the requirement not feasible.  This bill was continued to 2025.

VACo Contact: Phyllis Errico, Esq., CAE

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