VACo held its last regional meetings for 2023 on September 19, at the recently opened Beulah Recreation Center in Chesterfield County. VACo staff had the honor of traveling to Chesterfield County, who graciously hosted the event, to meet with local elected officials and staff from Region 3 and Region 5. Region 3 encompasses the counties of Chesterfield, Hanover and Henrico while Region 5 contains Albemarle, Buckingham, Cumberland, Fluvanna, Nelson and Powhatan. These regional meetings allow us to hear directly from county staff and elected officials on the important issues facing localities across Virginia. They also help VACo staff craft the legislative program for the upcoming 2024 legislative session.
The meeting began with representatives from each county outlining top issues or legislative priorities in their localities. Several issues emerged as common areas of concern including local land use authority, unfunded mandates, law enforcement and public safety as well as education and mental health funding. As it pertains to local land use and unfunded mandates, VACo has been a long-time supporter of local land use authority for localities as well as holding long time opposition to unfunded mandates. Counties in these regions expressed support for law enforcement as well as the proposal to extend Line of Duty Act (LODA) benefits to state certified law enforcement officers employed by the handful of private police departments operating in Virginia if there is no additional funding mandate to local governments. Members also discussed challenges with landlords who fail to maintain rental properties; several counties are investigating options for addressing this situation. Support for mental health services as well as support for education related funding rounded out the discussion among counties at the meeting.
VACo was delighted to have various legislators from the General Assembly participate alongside their county counterparts at this meeting. Senator Ghazala Hashmi began the discussion with the legislators’ portion of the meeting by discussing issues of importance to her. Senator Hashmi discussed at length the mental health issues facing Virginia and touched on the interstate counseling compact, an effort she hopes to expand upon by carrying the social work licensure compact during the 2024 Session of the General Assembly. Delegate Lee Ware spoke about his experience as an educator and the importance of education and related policy to him and his efforts. He affirmed his position that local land use decisions be kept at the local level. Delegate Rodney Willett would touch on a multitude of topics, including support for more education funding, supporting mental health funding and access, working towards housing affordability, and climate resilience efforts throughout the Commonwealth. We were all delighted to have federal representation at this meeting through the attendance of Taylor Thornhill, Regional Director with Senator Tim Kaine’s office. Ms. Thornhill made sure to highlight several initiatives and programs the Senator’s Office is working on. First, Senator Kaine is pushing a workforce bill titled the JOBS Act and a bill to stop government shutdowns. Second, the Senator’s Office is taking requests for congressionally directed spending and is asking for county level input. Lastly, county leaders and grant applicants are welcome and encouraged to always reach out for letters of support from Senator Kaine’s office regarding federal grants.
All of those in attendance then got to listen to a bevy of great speakers. Kevin Carroll, Chair of the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors and the recent Chair of the Central Virginia Transportation Authority, gave an update of major transportation projects occurring or being discussed that are of importance to Region 3 and 5 counties. Jim Regimbal, VACo Fiscal Policy Advisor, gave an overview of the 2023 JLARC SOQ study conclusions and what this means for education funding in Virginia. Adam Rosatelli, Director of Finance for the Opioid Abatement Authority, discussed the great work the Authority is doing and urged county leaders to apply for the current round of funding that began October 1st. Please click this link for more details and resources regarding the applications and any accompanying resources.
The meeting served as a great chance to connect with VACo member counties and get a grasp of the issues at heart in Regions 3 and 5. VACo staff wants to first thank Chesterfield County and the Beulah Recreation Center staff for hosting us for a great meeting. We would like to give a special thanks to the county leaders and staff, Senator Hashmi, Delegate Ware, Delegate Willett, Taylor Thornhill, sponsors and others who attended and participated in the discussion. This meeting concludes the VACo Regional Meeting calendar for the year and all of us at VACo want to say thank you to all those who hosted, spoke at and participated in these meetings over the last six months. We are looking forward to visiting counties and discussing the issues important to county leaders 2024.
VACo Contact: James Hutzler