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Senate agricultural operations bill scheduled for committee vote Thursday afternoon


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

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Senate agricultural operations bill scheduled for committee vote Thursday afternoon

County officials are urged to contact members of the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee to oppose SB 51 (Stuart). This is the companion measure to HB 268 (Orrock), a bill limiting local government authority to regulate on-farm business activities.

For local governments, this legislation’s most troubling provision prohibits local governments from approving certain activities through special exception, special use permit, or administrative permit unless the activity has a “substantial impact” upon public health, safety and welfare.

After clearing the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee last week by a 17-5 vote, HB 268 is poised for passage in the full House. The legislation will have to be defeated in the Senate.

The Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to consider SB 51 during its next meeting on Thursday, January 30. Please contact your Senator and encourage them to oppose the bill.


• Local economic developers and land use staff have successfully worked with agricultural operations in all corners of the state to expand value added agriculture opportunities in Virginia while maintaining local authority to ensure this expansion takes into account the rights of existing agricultural operations, businesses and residences.

• The bills would continue the trend toward more land use decisions being made in Richmond, rather than localities, where land use issues are more appropriately worked out.

• The bills severely limit the use of all local regulatory tools available to protect the health, safety and general welfare of the public such as special exceptions, administrative permits and special use permits. They also open the door to many by-right uses with very little local flexibility for local communities to consider the impacts on the broader community.

Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee: Hanger (Chairman), Watkins, Puckett, Ruff, Obenshain, McEachin, Petersen, Stuart, Marsden, Stanley, Black, Miller, Ebbin, Cosgrove

VACo Contacts: Larry Land, CAE and Erik Johnston


Land use issues up at Counties, Cities and Towns Committee this week

Below are some highlights of issues pending before the House Counties, Cities and Towns Committee (CCT) and its subcommittees.

HB 209 (Marshall, D.W.) changes the code so that localities may only require the submission of preliminary subdivision plats for tentative approval if the plats involve 50 or more lots. This bill is a priority for the Homebuilders Association of Virginia, whose membership in some portions of the state want the option of avoiding the preliminary plat approval and going straight to final plat submission for plats of less than 50 lots.  The option for localities to implement a preliminary subdivision plat approval process was originally put into state code at the request of homebuilders. Removing the requirement for preliminary subdivision plat review for subdivisions with less than 50 lots may encourage developers to orient their subdivision planning to developments of less than 50 lots so they can skip the preliminary plat process. The preliminary plat process is intended to help developers and localities work out the basic design issues of roads, utilities, storm drainage and lot layout to prevent rework during the more expensive process of construction plan review. The bill is likely to be considered this Thursday, January 30 at 7a.m. in CCT Subcommittee #2.

HB 208 (Marshal, D.W) amends the existing vested rights statute by clarifying that structures that meet certain conditions shall be considered nonconforming. Additional changes make clear that a requirement under existing law to bring certain structures into compliance with the Uniform Statewide Building Code shall not affect the nonconforming status of those structures. The bill is likely to be considered this Thursday, January 30 at 7a.m. in CCT Subcommittee #2.

HB 1089 (Morris) is an attempt to undo two recent Virginia Supreme Court cases that upheld the authority of localities to require a special use permit for aquaculture operations. To read more about the cases and the issue, click here. The bill is likely to be considered this Thursday, January 30 at 7a.m. in CCT Subcommittee #2. Counties impacted by the bill should consider coming to speak to the issue.

HB 652 (LaRock) provides that all affected landowners shall be given notice of a proposed voluntary boundary adjustment.  This expands notice requirements for localities. The bill authorizes landowners to file a petition to intervene in the action under certain circumstances. The bill is likely to be considered this Thursday, January 30 at 7 a.m. in CCT Subcommittee #2.

HB 296 (Villanueva) and SB 58 (Marsden) are identical bills that have passed the House and Senate. The bills require localities in the development of their comprehensive plans to take into consideration how to align transportation infrastructure and facilities with affordable, accessible housing and community services that are located within the territory in order to facilitate community integration of the elderly and persons with disabilities. The bills come as a recommendation of the Disability Commission and were amended during the CCT and Senate Local Government committee process at the request of the Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association to only require localities to take into consideration and not require taking action on these issues.

HB 792 (LeMunyon) failed in subcommittee. The bill required localities in Planning District 8 (Northern Virginia) to limit number of residential units with 500 square feet or less of living space.

HB 95 (Head) failed in subcommittee. It allowed localities with a population of 50,000 or greater to meet certain notice requirements by utilizing their websites instead of a newspaper of general circulation.

VACo Contact: Erik Johnston


Compensation and retirement related bills to be considered

Virginia Retirement System (VRS) impact statements are now complete, which clears the way for retirement and benefit related bills to be heard by the General Assembly.  Most of these bills will be heard by the Senate Finance Committee and House Appropriations Committee this week. VRS provided a chart that summarizes all of the retirement related bills, which is available by clicking here. Below are a few highlights.

SB 89 (Newman) is a VACo supported bill that would allow localities that opted-out of the state’s Virginia Local Disability Program (VLDP) to keep their current short-term disability coverage in place for new hybrid employees as long as they provide income protection of at least 60 percent through the use of paid leave or a disability program for a period of at least 125 work days. A substitute amendment will be offered by the patron that ensures all other comparability requirements to the state VLDP program will be kept in place. All new hires as of January 1, 2014, fall under the new hybrid retirement plan (most public safety officials receive enhanced benefits and thus new hires are not hybrid employees). Localities are required to match the states short- and long-term disability program for these new hybrid employees. One of the greatest challenges for localities with this mandate is that current short-term disability policies at the local level are a mix of paid leave and disability programs. New employees must now be offered short-term disability coverage that is richer at 60 percent, 80 percent and 100 percent income replacement than veteran employees. This richer benefit creates an administrative and financial burden for localities and fairness issues with new employees receiving richer benefits. The new richer benefit also decreases the incentive for employees to get back to work as soon as they are able. The bill will be heard in the Senate Finance Steering Committee on February 4 at 9 a.m. County staff and elected officials are encouraged to ask their Senator to support the bill and to testify in support of the bill on February 4.

SB 566 (Colgan) provides for an increase of the monthly retirement allowance payable to any person who retired with at least 15 years of creditable service before January 1, 1990. The VRS impact statement shows that local costs would increase by $2.1 million per year and the unfunded liability of plans, including teacher and local plans, will increase by $83 million.

SB 102 (Ruff) and HB 1105 (Ingram) are similar bills that provide that the basic life insurance coverage for retired state employees with 15 or more years of creditable service shall not be reduced to less than $8,000. The bills would cost localities $823,000 per year.

SB 109 (Stanley) increases the monthly health insurance credit for retired local government employees, local officers, general registrars, employees of a general registrar and employees of local social service boards from $1.50 per year of creditable service with a cap of $45, to $4 per year of creditable service, with no cap. The bill would cost $9.5 million in increased contributions per year.

HB 110 (McQuinn) expands the recipients of the health insurance credits currently being provided to retired teachers to all retired employees of local school divisions.   This will add $7.6 million in costs to localities per year.

HB 178 (Farrell) requires VRS to recalculate every employer’s contribution rate to reflect the rate adopted by the legislature. Should this have been the law in past years, every local plan would have had its rate recalculated based on a higher rate of assumption, and the unfunded liability of local plans would be higher than they are now.

SB 188 (McDougle) allows the state and localities to offer a Roth IRA.

HB 182 (Farrell) allows localities to offer a defined contribution retirement plan in lieu of a defined benefit plan.

HB 877 (Jones) and SB 422 (Watkins) allow political subdivisions the option of establishing and administering their own deferred compensation and cash match plans if they elect not to participate in those plans administered by the Board of Trustees of VRS for the hybrid retirement program.

VACo Contact: Erik Johnston


Public Education: Many Standards of Learning bills under consideration

On January 28, the House Education Committee’s Education Reform Subcommittee heard presentations and testimony on approximately 10 bills that reform the administration of the Standards of Learning (SOL) for Virginia’s public schools. No vote by subcommittee members was taken. Many components of these bills are likely to be incorporated within HB 930 (Greason). As introduced, this bill sets the number and types of Standards of Learning tests to meet the minimum requirements established by the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The amended version of HB 930 is likely to be presented and voted on next week.

Other Education bills of interest

HB 63 (Bell, R.), also known as the “Tebow bill,” prohibits public schools from joining an organization governing interscholastic programs that does not deem eligible for participation a student who is receiving home instruction. Home schooled students’ eligibility to participate in athletics would also depend upon satisfaction of other requirements enumerated in the bill. HB 63 also allows home-schooled students to be charged reasonable fees for participation. On January 27, the bill was reported by the House Education Committee on a 12-7 vote.

HB 66 (Ramadan) requires each local school board to place a school resource officer in each public elementary and secondary school. All costs resulting from the requirement shall be paid from the Lottery Proceeds Fund. The bill was reported by the House Education Committee and then rereferred to the House Appropriations Committee.

HB 134 (Cole), as amended, directs the Virginia Department of Education to review and update its Manual for Training Public School Employees in the administration of insulin and glucagon for the proper treatment of public school students with diabetes. The bill also requires the local school boards to allow students with diabetes to carry to school supplies for the treatment of diabetes. As introduced, HB 134 required each school to designate a person who would serve as a “care aide” for a student when a school nurse is not present. After concerns were raised about local fiscal impacts and other matters, the bill was heavily amended. A companion measure, SB 532 (Stuart), is being considered in the Senate Education and Health Committee.

HB 157 (Minchew) provides that in the case of the conversion of an existing public school, students who attend the school and the siblings of such students shall be given the opportunity to enroll in advance of the lottery process.The bill removes the requirement that at least one-half of public charter schools per division be for at-risk students. By a 13-0 vote, the bill was reported by the House Education Committee.

HB 228 (Cole)/SB 291 (Carrico), as amended, the bill requires each visually impaired student to be evaluated by a certified Teacher of the Visually Impaired. It also requires the student to receive instruction in Braille or the use of Braille unless the team responsible for developing the student’s IEP or the team responsible for developing the student’s plan pursuant to § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 determines that instruction in Braille or the use of Braille is not appropriate to the student’s educational needs. By a 16-3 vote, the bill was reported by the House Education Committee and rereferred to House Appropriations where it will be evaluated for fiscal impact.

HB 862 (Comstock) requires each local school board that does not offer a full-day kindergarten program to develop a plan to phase in a full-day kindergarten program for each kindergarten student in the school division over the course of three school years and submit the plan to the General Assembly in advance of the next regular session. The bill was tabled by the House Education Committee with the Chair requesting to write a letter to the Virginia Board of Education asking that the issue of full-day kindergarten be studied by the Board.

HB 1156 (Watts) reduces the maximum class size and the ratio of students in average daily membership to full-time equivalent teaching positions in kindergarten and grades one, two, and three. By an 18-4 vote, the bill was reported and sent to the House Appropriations Committee for the review of fiscal impact. According the Commission on Local Government, the bill estimated to have a $90.1 million fiscal impact for the 2015-2016 biennium.

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE


VACo stops effort to dictate new county responsibilities for building code in towns

VACo and its members worked successfully over the past several weeks to ensure that HB 826 (Minchew) and SB 313 (Vogel) will not make it out of the House or Senate General Laws Committees.

The identical bills had numerous technical changes, but included significant policy changes as well. Currently all towns over 3,500 in population are required to enforce Part I (new construction) and Part II (major renovations) of the building code unless they enter into an agreement with the county on enforcement. The bills eliminated the 3,500 population threshold, requiring counties to enforce Part I and Part II in all towns, unless a town preferred to enforce themselves. The bills also proposed a series of conditions for enforcement of the optional Part III (maintenance) portions of the building code. These provisions allowed all towns to decide if Part III should be enforced in the town and stipulated any county enforcement in towns must be based on a nonmonetary agreement. This could have imposed new costs on counties, even in localities where towns wanted to contribute to costs.

The underlying issue is that the current code language has created a collaborative system where counties and towns are usually able to work out enforcement issues in a way that is fair to the town and county. This legislative proposal was largely driven by a few localities where there were disputes and VACo did not want these policy changes to upset the current agreements and working relationships that exist. A House General Laws subcommittee heard VACo’s testimony against HB 826 on January 21 and decided to lay HB 826 on the table. VACo also testified against SB 313 at a Senate General Laws Steering Committee meeting and the patron agreed to pass the bill by for the year.

VACo Contact: Erik Johnston


VACo keeps extension of annexation moratorium clean of exceptions

SB 312 (Vogel) and HB 158 (Minchew) originally proposed a two-year extension of the annexation moratorium with an exception for towns with a population of 40,000 or more from the moratorium on the granting of city charters.

VACo worked to support Senator Jill Holtzman Vogel’s line amendment during the Senate Local Government Committee debate on this issue, which struck the exception for large towns. SB 312 passed through the Senate unanimously on January 20 and is now a clean extension through 2014-2016. VACo spoke against the exception for large towns during subcommittee debate of HB 158 and the bill was stricken from the docket of the House Counties, Cities and Towns Committee on Friday, January 24. The clean extension, SB 312, will now move over to the House for consideration after crossover.

VACo Contact: Erik Johnston


Landfill bill that takes away local flexibility

HB 1234 (Albo) requires the Director of the Department of Environmental Quality, during his consideration of whether to issue a permit for a new solid waste management facility or the expansion of an existing facility, to determine that the proposed expansion of a facility will not be located within 150 feet of a Resource Protection Area. The bill has been referred to the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee’s Chesapeake Subcommittee, which is likely to consider HB 1234 on Thursday, January 30 at 4 p.m.

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE


Bills seek to improve fiscal impact process for localities

Over the past year, county and city officials worked through a task force convened by the Commission on Local Government to recommend improvements to the review of bills with a local fiscal impact, through the fiscal impact statement (FIS) process. The task force recommendations are available here and below is a listing of bills that will improve the process for localities. The bills will be considered by the House and Senate Rules Committees.

VACo worked to secure patrons for First Day Introduction bills, which were recommended the by FIS task force and the Governor’s Task Force for Local Government Mandate Review. HB 633 (Kilgore), SB 523 (Ruff) and SB 574 (Garrett) require local fiscal impact bills to be introduced no later than the first day of the session. This practice ended in 2010 and reinstating it will allow more time to fully review the significant impacts on localities from proposed legislation.

HB 199 (Landes) allows the Department of Planning and Budget and the Department of Taxation to refer bills to the Commission on Local Government to prepare local fiscal estimates. It also adds study resolutions impacting local revenues as eligible for Commission on Local Government’s FIS process.

VACo members should contact members of the House Rules Committee and the Senate Rules Committee to ask for their support of these bills.

VACo Contacts: Dean Lynch, CAE and Erik Johnston


Multiple bills reauthorizing Local Mandate Review Task Force move forward

The authorization for the Governor’s Task Force for Local Mandate Review is set to expire in June. The current task force has five members appointed by the governor.  VACo is working to support continuation of the task force and several members of the General Assembly have put forward bills that will continue the important work of identifying unfunded mandates and finding ways to ease and eliminate them. The bills are all working their way through the General Assembly and range from simple reauthorizations of the task force in its existing form to proposals that add membership.

HB 1080 (Garrett) reauthorizes the task force through July 1, 2018, and adds five members. The governor shall now appoint seven members with two members being non-governmental appointees with a background in business. The Speaker shall appoint two delegates and the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections shall appoint one Senator.

HB 594 (BaCote) reauthorizes the task force in its current form through July, 1 2016.

HB 1011 (Byron) after an amendment in committee to conform the task force’s term to coincide with the term of the governor, the task force is reauthorized in its current form through July 1, 2018.

SB 407 (Newman) is now incorporated into SB 163 (Locke), which was amended to reauthorize the commission through July 1, 2018. The governor will appoint a total of seven members with two members being non-governmental employees with a business background.

VACo Contacts: Dean Lynch, CAE and Erik Johnston


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.

Click here to watch the video.

VACo Contact: Dean Lynch, CAE


Governor McAuliffe to speak at the 2014 Local Government Day


Register for Local Government Day
February 6
Registration Form
Richmond Marriott

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.

Governor Terry McAuliffe has confirmed he’ll be the keynote speaker.  

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.

Click here for registration form.

Click here to register online.

VACo Contact: Carol Cameron


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