2005 Legislative Priorities Report

 

This report summarizes action taken regarding Albemarle’s 2005 Legislative Priorities. This report will often cite information from the final legislative reports of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC), Virginia Municipal League (VML), and Virginia Association of Counties (VACo). For these organizations’ complete reports that provide a thorough overview of local government impacts beyond Albemarle’s priorities, please use the links below.

 

TJPDC: http://www.tjpdc.org/liaison/finalReport.asp

VML:    http://www.vml.org/legact.html

VACo:   http://www.vaco.org/sitefiles/pdfs/legislative/legsummary05.pdf

 

Land Use and Growth Management Priorities

Priority:         Growth Management

 

   Description: Request legislation to provide high-growth jurisdictions with growth management tools such as adequate public facilities ordinances and impact fees, and provide statewide funding for open space and natural resources, such as the Purchase of Development Rights program for localities that establish and locally fund such a program.

 

   Summary:     None of the above mentioned growth management tools or authorities were granted and few introduced bills proposed doing so. However, additional funding for Virginia Land Conservation Foundation grants was made available this year for organizations with conservation easement purchase programs, such as Albemarle and its ACE program. Albemarle was able to capitalize on these grants and was recently awarded an $85,433 grant towards the purchase of the Henry Page property through the County’s ACE program. Two bills (HB 2456 and HB 2888) sought to restrict localities current authority to use proffers, and though passed, were not as harmful as their original version due to VACo/VML efforts.

 

Proposal:      Staff recommends this remain a County priority and in 2006 will add specific language seeking transfer of development rights authority, a tool identified in the County’s Rural Area Plan.

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Priority:         Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Permit Application Fees

 

Description:  Request budget amendment to require DEQ to reduce the permit application fees associated with stormwater management and stream mitigation projects, which have been drastically increased in the last year. Due to recent changes in Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VPDES), municipal separate storm system permit requirements, localities now have much of the responsibility for protection of streams and rivers. DEQ’s recent fee increases adversely impact localities abilities to adopt regional stormwater management programs or to undertake projects needed for stream protection.

 

Summary:     No bills were introduced regarding this specific issue in the 2005 session.

 

Proposal:      This issue has become less urgent relative to the County’s other priorities and although staff recommends the Board maintain their support for this position, staff has not included it in the proposed 2006 priorities.

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Priority:         Transient Occupancy Tax

 

   Description: Retain the flexibility currently available in transient occupancy tax legislation so that these funds can continue to be used to support the protection of valuable open-space and resources of historical, cultural, ecological and scenic value that attract tourism. 

 

Summary:     Albemarle’s ability to utilize the transient occupancy tax to support the Acquisition of Conservation Easements (ACE) program was not significantly affected by the 2005 General Assembly. SB793 codified a 2004 Attorney General’s opinion stating that the transient occupancy tax may not be charged on rooms or space rented for meetings, conferences, special events and other purposes not entailing overnight accommodation (Source: TJPDC).

 

   Proposal:      Staff recommends this remain a County priority and has included it in the proposed 2006 priorities.

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Priority:         Scenic Protection and Tourist Enhancement

 

Description: Request enabling legislation to provide for a scenic protection and tourist enhancement overlay district. As the County pursues options to protect the visual quality of land as an aesthetic and economic resource, this legislation would provide localities with a method to ensure full consideration of visual resources and scenic areas when the County or State makes land use decisions in designated areas.

 

Summary:     No bill was introduced to grant the County such enabling authority.

 

Proposal:      Staff recommends this remain a County priority and has included it in the proposed 2006 priorities.

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Health and Human Services Priorities

Priority:         Comprehensive Services Act (CSA)

 

Description: Request the state fully fund CSA mandates including obligations for administrative overhead and children, both of which have been shifted to localities in recent years.

 

   Summary:     No additional funding for CSA was included in the legislature’s approved budget, but $500,000 was added in FY06 to serve children and adolescents with serious emotional disturbances and related disorders who are not mandated for services under CSA. The budget included language updating the base year used to calculate local administrative costs from 1994 to 1997; a $60,000 adjustment is made to the funding allocated for administrative costs to reflect the change to the 1997 base year (Source: TJPDC).

 

    Proposal:     Mandated CSA funding has been an ongoing problem for localities. Staff recommends this remain a County priority and has included it in the proposed 2006 priorities.

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Priority:         Reauthorization of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program

 

Description: Request the state take advantage of the federal reauthorization of TANF by streamlining eligibility requirements and providing maximum flexibility to localities so that counties can implement the TANF program that best meets local needs.

 

    Summary:    The legislature’s budget authorizes the state to provide additional federal funding for the TANF child support supplement if such funding becomes available (Source: VML).

 

    Proposal:     Staff recommends this remain a County priority and has included it in the proposed 2006 priorities.

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Priority:         Domestic Violence

 

   Description: Request legislation that will prevent convicted domestic abusers from being allowed to possess a gun. Virginia law should be consistent with Federal law.

 

   Summary:     No bill was introduced to codify this Federal law into the Virginia Code.

 

   Proposal:      Staff recommends this remain a County priority and has included it in the proposed 2006 priorities.

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Priority:         Children’s Health

 

   Description:  Request that state Medicaid reimbursement rates be increased for dental care for low-income children.

 

Summary:     The legislature’s budget provided nearly $11 million in general and non-general funds to increase Medicaid and FAMIS dental service rates by an additional 20% (the introduced budget contained a 10% increase). The budget also added $25,000 in FY06 for the Charlottesville Area Dental Access to establish a dental clinic serving about 10,000 low-income children each year (Source: TJPDC).

 

   Proposal:      This priority was requested by the Commission on Children and Families. Staff recommends the Board maintain their support for this position, although staff has not included it in the proposed 2006 priorities.

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Transportation Priorities

Priority:         Transportation Funding

 

   Description:  Request the state increase funding for transportation so that the present and future transportation needs of the state can be achieved.

Summary:     The legislature’s revised budget provided about $848 million in additional general and non-general funds for the Transportation Initiative of 2005 (nearly $350 million from general funds). The plan includes elements to promote public-private projects, encourage localities to manage their own highway construction and improve rail service (Source: TJPDC). No changes were made to the state’s gas tax and the state did not create any other long-term dedicated revenue sources for transportation.

Proposal:      Staff recommends this remain a County priority and has included it in the proposed 2006 priorities. The Board may wish to adopt an additional transportation priority once the MPO’s Transportation Funding Options group completes its work.

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Priority:         Passenger Rail Service

 

   Description: The County continues its support for and endorses the provision of passenger rail service from Bristol, VA to the Richmond, VA and Washington, DC areas with links to communities along the way.

 

   Summary:     The legislature directed the Department of Rail and Public Transportation to work towards developing a Trans Dominion passenger rail pilot service from Bristol to Richmond (Source: VML).

 

   Proposal:      Staff recommends this remain a County priority and has included it in the proposed 2006 priorities.

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Public Safety Priorities

Priority:         Photo-monitoring systems for traffic signal enforcement

 

   Description: Continue to support legislation authorizing all localities to use photo-monitoring systems for traffic signal enforcement.

 

   Summary:     All photo-monitoring related bills were not approved by the House of Delegates’ Committee on Militia, Police and Public Safety. The Senate passed three photo-monitoring bills that were ultimately defeated and has supported the authority for localities in recent years. Localities for which this authority currently applies will lose their photo-red enforcement capability after June 30, 2005. This has long been a priority issue for localities across Virginia and continually supported by VML/VACo.

 

Proposal:      Staff recommends the Board maintain their support for this position; however, staff has not included it in the proposed 2006 priorities.

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Priority:         Juvenile Detention Centers

 

   Description: Request that the state budget sufficient funding to Juvenile Detention Centers to provide necessary mental health and substance assessments and treatment.

 

   Summary:     No legislative action was taken to ensure sufficient funding to Juvenile Detention Centers beyond last year’s budget. This issue represents the larger, ongoing issue of the state needing to fulfill its share of mandated funding.

 

   Proposal:      Staff recommends this remain a County priority and will expand this priority’s language in the 2006 Legislative Priorities to include all state mandated funding.

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Priority:         Regulation of Panhandlers

 

Description: Request the state grant all counties the same authorization that Henrico and Arlington counties were granted by special legislation in 1980 and that cities have generally in the regulation of panhandlers in public rights of way.

 

Summary:     Working with the Albemarle County Police Department, Del. Rob Bell introduced HB2249, which was passed by the House of Delegates and Senate and approved into law by the Governor. This bill grants Albemarle and Greene County the enabling authority to enact an ordinance regulating panhandlers within the limits of 46.2-931 in the Va Code.

 

   Proposal:      Now that the County has this requested authority, staff has not included it among its 2006 priorities. The Board will revisit this issue at its July 6, 2005 meeting.

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Local Government Administration/Laws Priorities

Priority:         Virginia Retirement System (VRS)

 

   Description: Request the state undertake long term planning in establishing VRS rates so that localities are not burdened with significant year-to-year rate changes.

 

Summary:     While the state continually studies aspects of the VRS, no joint-resolution was introduced or passed to ensure long term planning regarding VRS rates.

 

   Proposal:      Staff recommends this remain a County priority and has included it in the proposed 2006 priorities.

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Priority:         Amend Va. Code section 15.2-1507 pertaining to the composition of panel hearings

 

   Description:  Request an amendment to authorize localities to utilize an administrative hearing officer in lieu of the 3-member panel in all cases, similar to the method established for state employee grievances in Va. Code Section 2.2-3005. This should help ensure consistency in applying policies. 

 

   Summary:     No bills were introduced or passed to amend section 15.2-1507 pertaining to the composition of panel hearings.

 

   Proposal:      VACo has expressed interest in introducing a bill on this issue. Staff recommends this remain a County priority and has included it in the proposed 2006 priorities.

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   Priority:         Change provisions of SB5005, so that car tax reimbursements occur in a timely manner

 

   Description: Under the provisions of SB 5005, the state’s reimbursement for the car tax relief program changes from a percentage reimbursement to a set dollar amount.  Localities with billing dates in the spring will not receive their reimbursements until July 1, 2006. This would have a negative impact on FY 2006 cash flows, as localities with earlier payments dates close their fiscal year before reimbursements are made. 

 

   Summary:     Though budget amendments were proposed in both the House and Senate to restore $223 million for reimbursements to localities in FY06 under the PPTRA, the approved budget does not contain funding for this purpose. The legislature sought to provide some relief to spring billing localities, including Albemarle. Spring billing localities 1) will receive reimbursements within the financial reporting "availability period" (typically 45 or 60 days following June 30) 2) the "old" car tax reimbursement system will end on September 1, 2006 and   delinquent taxpayers can then be billed at the full amount of the original levy; and 3) the base year upon which allocation of the capped $950 million reimbursement amount is based will be changed from tax year 2005 to tax year 2004, so that all localities can have the base computed on a full collection cycle. Localities may distribute this block grant-style relief as they see fit, but will need to adopt ordinances or budget provisions detailing how it will be apportioned (Source: TJPDC). The Board should be aware that since the state has capped the total amount of personal property tax, localities and taxpayers will see decreasing relief on future personal property tax bills.

 

Proposal:      Staff is satisfied with the resolution of this issue so long as revenues can continue to be attributed to the previous fiscal year, as described above. Staff recommends the Board maintain their support for this position; however, staff has not included it in the proposed 2006 priorities.

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Priority:         Constitutional Officers

 

   Description: Request the current division between state and local governments regarding duties and funding for Constitutional Offices remain intact.

 

   Summary:     No legislative action was taken to alter the current division between state and local governments regarding funding and duties for Constitutional Officers. This issue represents the larger, ongoing issue of the state not fulfilling its share of mandated funding.

 

   Proposal:      Staff recommends this remain a County priority and will expand this priority’s language in the 2006 Legislative Priorities to include all state mandated funding.

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