General Assembly Adjourns, Will Return for Special Session to Finalize Budget

March 15, 2022

The General Assembly adjourned on Saturday, March 12, as planned, but without completing work on revisions to the current budget and a budget for the upcoming biennium.  Legislators agreed to allow the budget bills, as well as any other legislation pending in conference committees at the time of adjournment, to be carried over to a special session for further work.  It is expected that the Governor will call the legislature back for a special session soon, although the planned date is unknown at this time.

At the time of adjournment on Saturday, 45 bills awaited final resolution; several of these bills have agreed-upon conference reports, but these agreements had not been approved by both chambers at the time of adjournment.  Many bills are in conference because they have budgetary implications – notably the different approaches to elimination of the grocery tax represented by HB 90 (McNamara) and SB 451 (Boysko) – and must be negotiated in tandem with budget discussions.

In addition to the grocery tax legislation, several bills of interest to local governments are in conference and await resolution in the special session:

  • HB 563 (O’Quinn) and SB 473 (McClellan) take differing approaches to meeting school capital needs. As passed by the House, HB 563 requires the Department of Education, in consultation with the Department of General Services, to develop a data collection tool to assist school boards in determining the relative age of each school building and the amount of maintenance reserve funds necessary to restore each building.  The bill also establishes the School Construction Fund to be used for awarding grants to local school boards for construction or renovation of expansion of school buildings, and dedicates otherwise-uncommitted casino gaming proceeds to the School Construction Fund.  SB 473 also sets up a School Construction Fund and dedicates casino gaming proceeds to the Fund; the bill specifies maximum grant amounts for school boards based on school divisions’ local composite indices.
  • SB 471 (McClellan) modifies provisions governing use of the Literary Fund, including establishing a competitive program for subsidizing school divisions’ loan closing costs, establishing an annual open application process for Literary Fund loans, creating a loan-add on to incentivize projects resulting in school consolidation, and setting interest rates that are benchmarked to a market index, with rates set on a sliding scale based on school divisions’ local composite indices and capped for localities with the least ability to pay. The House added a reenactment clause to the bill, which was incorporated into the conference committee’s report and agreed to by the House, but must still be approved by the Senate.
  • SB 490 (McClellan) requires each school board to provide at least four specialized student support positions per 1,000 students (current standards require three of these positions per 1,000 students). The House version of the bill eliminates this language and instead incorporates staffing requirements for principals and assistant principals funded in the House budget.
  • HB 349 (Tata) directs local departments of social services to provide six months of housing support for young adults aging out of foster care who decline to participate in the Fostering Futures program. As passed by the Senate, the bill contains language making its provisions contingent on funding in the state budget.
  • HB 653 (Wampler) requires local boards of social services within each Department of Social Services region to collaborate to expand the pool of available foster homes and to facilitate approval of kinship foster parents. The Senate also added financial contingency language to this bill.

Bills that passed during the last week of the 2022 regular session are now before the Governor, who must take action by midnight on Monday, April 11, in advance of the April 27 reconvened session.  VACo appreciates its members’ advocacy on key issues of importance to counties in the two budget proposals and will provide updates on the special session as more information becomes available.

VACo Contact: VACo Legislative Team

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