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Commonwealth's Counties

General Assembly Completes 2015 Session


General Assembly Completes 2015 Session
The General Assembly completed its work a day ahead of schedule, adjourning sine die on February 27. County governments fared well in the final outcome, including the elimination of the Local Aid to State reversion ($30 million) in the introduced budget.

However, a couple stumbling blocks dealing with administrative implementation will have to be addressed at the reconvened session on April 15. Most notably, the formula for a real property tax exemption for the surviving spouse of a member of the armed forces killed in action (HB 1721) needs to be modified to account for counties that do not have zoning. Also, adjustments to the local fines and fees budget language should be addressed because additional counties will now be impacted with a combined cost of over $700,000 statewide. VACo will work with Governor Terry McAuliffe and legislators to address these issues.

The Conference Report altered the governor’s introduced budget to reflect many of VACo’s high priority budget requests. The 2015 Assembly finished their work by adopting a bipartisan modification of the State and Local Government Conflict of Interests Act (HB 2070).

VACo will publish its 2015 Legislative Summary in the coming weeks, which will include a state budget analysis, legislation analysis and a detailed review of modifications to the State and Local Conflict of Interests Act.

VACo Contact: Dean Lynch, CAE


Community Development Authority (CDA) bill passes both chambers – VACo and VML urge governor to sign
SB 1448 (Vogel) passed the House with an emergency clause on February 23 and was communicated to Governor Terry McAuliffe on February 26. The bill passed with the support of many interests including VACo, VML and the Homebuilders Association of Virginia. The emergency legislation was necessary after the Virginia Supreme Court issued an opinion that threw into question the ability of localities to use CDA’s as a financing tool for infrastructure.

VACo and VML sent a letter to Governor McAuliffe on February 25 expressing appreciation for his administration’s support for the bill throughout the session and asking him to sign SB 1448 as soon as possible so that this critical piece of legislation will allow for projects to go forward. Click here to read the VACo and VML letter.

VACo Contact: Erik Johnston, CAE


Compromise version of Stormwater dredging bill passes
The General Assembly has passed a compromise version of SB 1201 (Wagner), a measure that has undergone many changes since its introduction. VACo opposed the Senate version of SB 1201 because it would have required local governments with stormwater utility fees to use a portion of fee revenues for dredging. After passing in the Senate, the House amended SB 1201 by changing the word “shall” to “may,” which made it optional for stormwater fee revenues to go toward dredging. On February 26, the House and Senate agreed to a compromise version of SB 1201 produced via conference committee agreement. The final compromise version makes it mandatory for localities in the Lynnhaven River watershed (Virginia Beach) to use a portion of stormwater utility fee revenues for dredging. For all other localities, use of stormwater utility fee revenues for dredging would be optional.

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE


Bill on virtual schools passes with re-enactment clause
HB 324 (Richard Bell) passed with a re-enactment clause, which would require the 2016 General Assembly to undergo the complete process of reconsidering and passing the bill again before its provisions can take effect. HB 324 establishes a Virginia Virtual School program to be overseen by a newly created Board of the Virginia Virtual School. A Virtual School program is defined as a series of online courses with instructional content where the teaching is conducted from a remote location.

VACo opposed this legislation because it would cause localities to receive less in school basic aid payments for each pupil participating in the virtual schools program.

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE


Regional Jail capital funding update
The Senate agreed to the House Substitute to SB 1049 (McDougle) on February 24, which sends the bill to the governor for consideration. VACo, VML and the Virginia Association of Regional Jails worked with Senator Ryan McDougal before crossover to amend his bill to preserve the 50 percent reimbursement for expansions and renovations of existing regional jails. However, the House adopted a substitute by a vote of 62-34 on February 23 that proponents claimed would only allow up to 25 percent reimbursement after July 1, 2015, for all regional jails, even though the language mirrors previous language that grandfathered existing regional jails at the 50 percent rate.

The budget conference committee report included an amendment (382 #1c), which effectively goes along with the House substitute proponents and the governor’s introduced amendment by only allowing 25 percent funding in FY 2016 for projects that are not included in the current state budget.

VACo will continue to work to maintain the 50 percent reimbursement level for future regional jail projects.

VACo Contact: Erik Johnston, CAE


Bill that allows parental choice savings accounts fails in Senate
HB 2238 (LaRock) would have allowed parents of students with disabilities to apply to their respective school divisions for the opening of a Parental Choice Education Savings Account. A large share of deposits into these accounts would have been derived from 90 percent of the pupil’s share of state funds paid to the locality through the funding formula used for calculating basic aid for each school division. The bill specified that “no resident school division shall transfer the local share of per pupil funds” into the savings account. Under HB 2238, students participating in this program would have also been eligible to attend a “qualified school” not part of the school division. And students attending a “qualified school” would have counted toward the school division’s Average Daily Attendance (ADM). After passing in the House 57-42, the bill was defeated in the Senate on a 18-19 vote. A tiebreaking vote was cast by the Lieutenant Governor.

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE


Bill redefining private animal shelter passes
The General Assembly passed SB 1381 (Stanley), a bill that redefines private animal shelter as facilities “operated for the purpose of finding permanent adoptive homes for animals.” The House removed language requiring private shelters to facilitate “other lifesaving outcomes,” which was largely interpreted as a prohibition on euthanizing animals as a final resort. VACo opposed SB 1391 because of concerns that the bill’s provisions would result in an increase in the animal populations in publicly owned animal shelters (as suggested in the bill’s fiscal impact statement prepared by the Department of Planning and Budget).

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE


Bill allows more flexible approach for Bay Act localities
HB 2067 (Watts) passed the General Assembly by overwhelming margins. This measure amends the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act (CPBA) by allowing Tidewater localities to permit a process called daylight streaming as a means for reducing pollutant loading into rivers and streams that are part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Under CPBA, Tidewater localities are those that are generally located east of I-95. HB 2067 defines delight streaming as the diversion a stream from “a culvert, pipe, or other underground drainage system” into “an aboveground channel using natural channel design concepts.” The bill requires the State Water Control Board to develop criteria governing the practice of daylight streaming.

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE





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