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VACo supported Community Development Authority (CDA) bill passes through House subcommittee


VACo supported Community Development Authority (CDA) bill passes through House subcommittee
SB 1448 (Vogel) passed unanimously out of a House Counties, Cities and Towns Subcommittee on February 18 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. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and is now on its way to passage in the House.

VACo Contact: Erik Johnston, CAE

Bill defining private shelters advances
VACo opposes SB 1381 (Stanley)
, which redefines private animal shelter as a facility “operated for the purpose of finding permanent adoptive home and facilitating other lifesaving outcomes for animals.” A Department of Planning and Budget fiscal impact statement (FIS) states SB 1381 could fiscally affect localities because it “limits the role of private animal shelters to finding permanent adoptive homes.” Under SB 1381’s revised definition, private shelters would be prevented from practicing euthanasia as a last resort for animals that are not suitable for adoption either because of behavioral and other health problems. As a result, the FIS states that SB 1381, if passed, “may result in an increase in municipal shelter populations.”

On February 18, SB 1381 was reported by the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee on a 12-10 vote. It will now be voted upon by the full House. Please contact your delegate immediately to oppose SB 1381.

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE


Additional changes made to variance standards bill before passage in Senate committee
A substitute version of HB 1849 (Marshall, D.) passed unanimously through the Senate Local Government Committee on February 17. After raising major concerns about the bill during the House Committee process, VACo took the input of numerous local governments and continued to negotiate with bill proponents. VACo, VML and other local government land use experts brought additional local government concerns to the bill’s proponents and negotiated changes that were accepted in the form of a substitute that passed the Senate committee.

The main changes give greater clarity and flexibility to the ways that local government staff may continue to interact with members of the Board of Zoning Appeals. Specifically the bill now states that regardless of whether all parties participate, ex parte communications shall not include (i) discussions as part of a public meeting or (ii) discussions prior to a public meeting to which staff of the governing body, the applicant, landowner or his agent or attorney are all invited.

While improved, VACo remains concerned about the bill. HB 1849 is complex and makes major changes to the standards for granting zoning variances, which is a process that has been clarified by years of case law. The bottom line is that the bill will make it easier to obtain a variance. The bill also changes the rules and procedures for local staff interacting with the Board of Zoning Appeals.

VACo Contact: Erik Johnston, CAE


Update on Election Mandate bills
HB 2062 (Sickles) was amended in a Senate Privileges and Elections Subcommittee on February 17 to give local flexibility in regards to the number of election ballot scanners required at precincts. VACo opposed the bill as originally drafted because it would have required localities to provide two scanners for all precincts with more than 4,000 registered voters. VACo members reported that this unfunded mandate would have had no impact on some counties but as great as a $100,000 impact on others. VACo worked with the patron and committee members to amend the language so that localities can decide in consultation with their General Registrars and local electoral board whether an additional scanner is necessary based on previous voter turnout at the precinct and previous experience with the length of time voters waited to vote.

SB 1061 (Obenshain) was amended from a mandate to a local option for local registrars to receive electronic photo identification information from DMV for use with electronic pollbooks. On February 18, a House Appropriations Subcommittee decided to table the bill due to the fiscal impact to the state.

VACo Contact: Erik Johnston, CAE


Bill would allow stormwater fee revenues for dredging
As amended, SB 1201 (Wagner) allows localities to pay for dredging operations with revenues from stormwater utility fees. On February 18, the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee unanimously reported the measure, 22-0. An earlier version of SB 1201 made it mandatory for localities to dedicate some portion of stormwater utility fee revenues for dredging activities, a provision that VACo opposed. As the bill is considered by the full House, there are concerns that attempts will be made to remove the local option and restore the mandatory language. County officials are urged to contact their delegates to support the local option. VACo will closely monitor this situation.

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE


Delay in Line of Duty Act changes agreed to by Senate Finance
The major overhaul of the Line of Duty Act, HB 2204 (Jones), passed the House unanimously on February 10 and passed the Senate Finance Committee unanimously on February 17. The bill now has a reenactment clause, which requires the legislation to pass the General Assembly again in 2016 before becoming law. The legislation does immediately require the Virginia Retirement System and the Department of Human Resource Management to study the proposal changes and the JLARC recommendations for LODA along with a workgroup of all stakeholders and report back to the money committees by October 1, 2015. The bill proposes to revise the LODA by codifying provisions that are currently in the Appropriation Act, transferring overall administration of the Act and eligibility determinations to the Virginia Retirement System, transferring administration of health insurance benefits under the Act to the Department of Human Resource Management, and providing for an administrative appeal process for employers. The bill includes provisions from the December 2014 JLARC study of LODA. VACo supports the changes to the administration of the program and the appeal process for employers.

VACo Contact: Erik Johnston, CAE


Farm distillery bill moves forward
SB 1272 (Deeds) passed the House of Delegates on February 18 and will now only require Governor Terry McAuliffe’s signature before becoming law. The bill creates a limited distillery license that tracks similarly to the farm brewery bill that became law in 2014 – SB 430 (Watkins). 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.

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

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