The Governor’s amendments largely met with legislative approval at the April 7 reconvened session, as legislators accepted all of the Governor’s 18 amendments to the state budget and agreed to the amendments proposed to 32 of the 36 bills with gubernatorial recommendations. VACo provided an overview of the Governor’s amendments in the April 6 edition of County Connections.
Below is an update on the General Assembly’s actions on bills of interest to local governments:
HB 2207 (Jones)/SB 1375 (Saslaw) establish a presumption that COVID-19 causing the death or disability of firefighters, emergency medical services personnel, law-enforcement officers, correctional officers, and regional jail officers is an occupational disease compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act. As passed by the General Assembly, the bills provide that this presumption applies to any death or disability caused by infection from the COVID-19 virus occurring on or after September 1, 2020. The Governor’s amendments apply the presumption beginning July 1, 2020. General Assembly Action: Agreed to the Governor’s amendments. VACo has requested that any retroactive application of this presumption be accompanied by state funding assistance.
HB 1890 (Price)/SB 1395 (McClellan) impose certain oversight requirements on local voting practices, in addition to other provisions creating causes of action at the state level. The Governor’s amendments clarify some ambiguous language about the applicability of the requirements to submit certain election-related practices for a public comment period or to the Attorney General for approval. The Governor’s proposal makes clear that all localities are subject to these requirements. VACo had encouraged the Governor to consider a delay in the bills’ provisions regarding review of local redistricting plans, given the unprecedented delay in receipt of 2020 Census data, as there will be limited time for localities to develop local redistricting plans and submit them for either a 75-day process of public notice and comment or a 60-day Attorney General review between Census data being made available to localities in late summer and the end of the calendar year. No changes to these provisions were made. General Assembly Action: Agreed to the Governor’s amendments.
HB 2168 (Scott) establishes civil penalties for gambling devices being placed in an unregulated location, as defined in the bill, and authorizes the Attorney General, an attorney for the Commonwealth, or the attorney for any locality to initiate legal action to enjoin the operation of such devices. The Governor’s amendment deletes some language that had been interpreted by some observers as allowing “games of skill” to continue operating for an additional year beyond their scheduled expiration at the end of FY 2021. Games of skill, or “gray machines,” had been authorized to operate for one year via gubernatorial amendments to legislation passed in the 2020 session, subject to a per-machine tax that was dedicated to COVID-19 relief efforts. General Assembly Action: Agreed to the Governor’s amendments.
SB 1221 (Favola), as passed by the General Assembly, allows Loudoun County to provide local health services under contract with the State Board of Health. The Governor’s substitute would extend this authority to Prince William County and the Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park. General Assembly Action: Agreed to the Governor’s recommendation. This action required the tie-breaking vote of the Lieutenant Governor in the Senate.
The gubernatorial amendments drawing the most interest were revisions to the legislation legalizing possession of marijuana; VACo’s Chris McDonald provides an update on these changes in the inaugural episode of the VACo County Pulse Legislative Series.
The House and Senate, respectively, rejected the Governor’s amendments to HB 1899 (Hudson) and SB 1252 (McPike). These bills repeal certain tax credits intended to encourage coal production and require a stakeholder group to make recommendations on how the Commonwealth can assist coal-producing areas with workforce development, economic diversification, infrastructure improvements, and other aspects of economic transition. The Governor’s amendments would have directed revenues resulting from the elimination of the tax credits to the University of Virginia’s College at Wise to expand certain course offerings. The Senate rejected amendments to HB 1992 (Murphy), which prohibits an individual who has been convicted of assault and battery of a family or household member from purchasing, possessing, or transporting a firearm for three years after the date of conviction; the Governor’s amendments would have expanded the definition of family or household member and extended the prohibition from three to five years. The Senate also rejected amendments to HB 2174 (Torian), which creates a state-facilitated retirement savings program into which certain employers must enroll employees who work at least 30 hours per week; the Governor’s amendment would have expanded the category of eligible employees by eliminating the requirement that employees must work 30 hours per week.
The Governor has signed the four bills for which the legislature rejected his amendments, and has also signed the budget, bringing 2020 Special Session I to a conclusion. The Governor did not propose amendments to language included by the legislature in the budget to require that federal COVID-19 relief funding provided to the state after January 1, 2021, be appropriated through a general appropriation act. The inclusion of this language in the final budget indicates that a special session will be required in order to expend the Commonwealth’s allocation of funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.
VACo Contact: Katie Boyle