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Special General Assembly session called


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

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Special General Assembly session called
The General Assembly adjourned Saturday, March 8 (Sine Die), without passing a biennial budget mainly because neither chamber could agree on Medicaid expansion. With the House and Senate divided on this issue, Governor Terry McAuliffe has called for an open-ended special session starting on March 24.

Helpful stormwater bills pass General Assembly
HB 1173 (Hodges) and SB 423 (Hanger) have passed the General Assembly. These bills allow localities not subject to Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4*) permitting requirements to turn over responsibilities for managing their stormwater management programs to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

The legislation also allows Augusta, Fauquier and Montgomery counties to adopt their local Virginia Stormwater Management Programs (VSMPs) by January 1, 2015, instead of previous deadline of July 1, 2014.

As amended, HB 1173 and SB 423 have these other provisions beneficial to all localities:

• Authorization for the State Water Control Board to adopt regulations creating a procedure for approving permits for individual parcels in a common plan of development.

• Establishment of a procedure by the State Water Control Board that will relieve single family lot owners from requirements of obtaining a registration statement when engaging in a land disturbance (this is designed to reduce development costs for owners of smaller lots that are not part of a common plan of development).

• For a permit applicant or permit holder aggrieved by a local government decision, allows for appeals to be conducted in accordance with local appeal procedures (Current VSMP regulations require more formal processes).

Because these companion measures passed with super majorities with an emergency clause, the legislation will go into effect upon signature by the governor. This expedited enactment will provide DEQ and localities with immediate authorization to go forward with implementation of a significantly revised stormwater program.

The legislation has not yet been signed by the governor.

Because questions have been raised about how this legislation will be implemented, VACo plans to work closely with DEQ to make sure counties receive the proper information in a timely manner.

*(According to DEQ these are the larger “Phase 1” MS4 counties subject to individual permits: Arlington, Chesterfield, Fairfax, Henrico, Prince William. Smaller “Phase 2” MS4 counties subject to “general permit” requirements: Albemarle, Augusta, Botetourt, Fauquier, Hanover, Isle of Wight, James City, Loudoun, Montgomery, Roanoke, Stafford, York.)

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE


Local Mandate Review Task Force to be reauthorized for four years
Multiple bills reauthorizing the Governor’s Task Force for Local Mandate Review worked through the House and Senate, but after a conference report between HB 594 (BaCote) and SB 163 (Locke) failed to pass on March 8, the only bill sent to the governor was HB 1011 (Byron), which simply extends the task force in its current form until July 1, 2018. The House and Senate disagreed on whether to expand the task force to include additional members, including members of the General Assembly and the business community.

VACo worked to support all legislators working to continue the task force’s important work of identifying and seeking to alleviate costly unfunded mandates.

VACo Contact: Erik Johnston


Number of Standards of Learning assessments to be reduced
Companion measures HB 930 (Greason) and SB 306 (Deeds) have passed the General Assembly. As amended, the legislation reduces from 22 to 17 the number of Standard of Learning (SOL) tests students in grades 3-8 are required to take. The bill also creates a high-level “Standards of Learning Innovation Committee.” The committee’s purpose is to make recommendations to the Secretary of Education, the Board of Education and the General Assembly about how to improve effectiveness of the SOL program.

Another SOL related bill that passed the General Assembly is SB 270 (Miller), which  directs the Board of Education to require only math and English reading Standards of Learning assessments for third graders.

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE


Legislation delaying school grading system passes
HB 1229 (Landes) and SB 324 (Miller) have passed. These companion bills delay from October 1, 2014, to October 1, 2016, the implementation of the A-to-F school performance grading system. The legislation also requires the Board of Education to issue a report to the General Assembly by January 1, 2015, a preliminary plan for implementing the A-to-F grading system.

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE


Legislation relating to treatment of diabetic students passes
HB 134 (Cole) and  SB 532 (Stuart), have also passed the General Assembly. As amended, these companion bills allow diabetic students with parental consent to be supplied with “a reasonable and appropriate short-term supply of carbohydrates, an insulin pump and equipment for immediate treatment of high and low glucose levels” and to “self-check” for the students’ own blood glucose levels on school premises and on a school bus. The bill also requires the Department of Education to review and update its Manual for Training Public School Employees in the Administration of Insulin and Glucagon. The update must be completed by July 1, 2015.

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE


Life Insurance Bills with local fiscal impacts fail
A conference between the Senate and House over SB 102 (Ruff) and HB 1105 (Ingram) failed to produce an agreement acceptable to both sides before sine die on March 8.  The bills proposed providing a minimum group life insurance death benefit of $8,000 for retirees with at least 30 years of service. This minimum benefit level was indexed at a rate of 2.25 percent and thus would have increased over time. Both bills were projected to cost localities a combined total of around $300,000 in additional payroll contributions per year, beginning in FY2015. The disagreement between the House and Senate centered on a clause in the Senate bill that it not become effective unless the budget included an appropriation of $8.6 million to reduce the unfunded liability in the group life insurance program. The Senate budget did not include this funding and the House Budget only includes funding to cover the annual increase of $170,000 to cover state employees, but does not include funding for the unfunded liability or the cost increase for localities.

VACo Contact: Erik Johnston


Bill allowing localities to expand the list of people eligible for health insurance defeated
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Compensation and Retirement tabled SB 252 (McEachin) on February 28. The bill required the state health plan to provide means for coverage of one additional adult. The bill also expanded the list of people who may be provided certain types of insurance by a locality, adding the dependents of officers and employees of a locality, as well as the dependents of those employed by commissions and other entities controlled by or working closely with a locality, to the list of people to whom a locality may provide accident and health insurance. The bill expanded the potential eligibility for health insurance programs to include the dependents of eligible members of volunteer fire or rescue companies and the dependents of retired officers and employees. SB 252 required any locality providing insurance to dependents of employees to provide the same programs to dependents of constitutional officers in some cases. A similar bill, HB 721 (McClellan), was defeated earlier in the session.

VACo Contact: Erik Johnston


Companion Agritourism bills pass, signed by governor
HB 268 (Orrock) and SB 51 (Stuart) has now been approved by the governor after passage in both chambers. These are the companion bills that limit local government authority to regulate certain on-farm business activities. More specifically, these bills prohibit local governments from approving certain on-farm business activities through special exceptions, special use permits or administrative permits unless such activities have “substantial impact” upon public health, safety and welfare.

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE


Bill passes to include aquaculture within definition of agriculture
HB 1089 (Morris) expands the definition of agricultural production activities in the Right to Farm Act to include the practice of aquaculture. In areas zoned as agricultural or silvicultural, no special use permit or special exceptions would be required for aquaculture activities. The bill was amended to delay the effective date until January 1, 2015.

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE


VACo on the Go Legislative Edition: Senator Barbara Favola

Virginia Senator Barbara Favola talks with VACo Deputy Executive Director Dean Lynch about the budget, education and healthcare.

Click here to watch the video.

VACo Contact: Dean Lynch, CAE


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