February 12th, 2016
Proffers, Public Charters and Pipelines. Yes, my best attempt at alliteration but also just some of the legislation making waves in Richmond this week. Crossover - when each house may consider only legislation and amendments of the other house - is Tuesday so there were long nights in the General Assembly Building this week. Crossover week gives you a real appreciation for the work our Delegates and Senators put in - so if you have an opportunity, send them a thank you! While the Chamber continues to closely monitor GO Virginia, COPN and workforce development, this week we're covering legislation in Governance, Education and Energy. As always, if you have a question on a specific bill not listed, contact us at the information provided at the end of this newsletter.  

GOVERNANCE


Builder associations from across the commonwealth had their "builder blitz" lobby day two weeks ago. Covered in "make proffers fair" stickers, advocates stormed the Capitol in hopes of achieving meaningful proffer reform - as of now their efforts seem to be working. Proffers allow localities to extract cash payments from developers to offset costs of services a new development will require. Proffer reform legislation is getting major pushback from localities and some legislators but has made it out of both houses.

Senator Mark Obenshain's (R-Harrisonburg) legislation SB549 passed in the Senate on Tuesday (29-Y 8-N 2-A). The House version HB770 passed on February 4th and currently sits in the Senate Committee on Local Government. Advocates for proffer reform argue that the system has evolved from using proffer cash to pay for sidewalks, streets and sewers to paying for unrelated amenities like athletic fields, computers and affordable housing. Senator Chap Peterson (D-Fairfax) was among opponents arguing that the decision of proffer cash utilization is best left to local governments and zoning officials, not the state.

Freshman Senator David Suetterlein (R-Roanoke) survived the traditional and humorous "hazing" that occurs when a freshman legislator reads their first bill for passage on the floor. Specifically, he received a series of inquiries about his disdain for the history of Bedford because of his bill SB769 which removes City of Bedford from the Code of Virginia - Bedford reverted to a town in 2013. On a more serious note related to governance, Senator Suetterlein had legislation pass that could change the way ballots look going forward.

SB767 passed the Senate on Monday (24-Y 16-N) requiring that candidate names in all general elections be listed on the ballot along with the party that nominated them. Endorsements by political parties and non-partisan offices would not apply to this measure.

We Advocate  for efforts to make government and the election process transparent and competitive.

WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT AND EDUCATION


We have covered workforce development a lot in recent weeks and will continue to track with persistence. However, we wanted to provide an update on the status of charter schools. Under current law, charter schools are allowed in Virginia but only if they're approved by local school boards. Current legislation could change that but it will also take changing the Constitution.

Delegate Rob Bell is pushing for a constitutional amendment HB3
to allow the Virginia Board of Education to create charter schools and bypass local school boards. A constitutional amendment is a long process that requires the General Assembly to vote twice with an election separating the House of Delegates terms. The first measure was victorious in last year's Session and now needs approval from the House and Senate. If passed, the final seal of approval will come from voters in November with a charter school referendum on the ballot.

We Advocate for maintaining and developing new and innovative education programs to enhance and attract human capital for our region.

ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT 

It's been a busy week for energy and environment at the federal and state level. A couple of weeks ago we wrote about the 29 states that asked the Supreme Court to ban the EPA from moving forward with the Clean Power Plan. On Tuesday, their wish was granted as the US Supreme Court dealt a major blow President Obama's effort to regulate coal emissions.  Environmental advocates sparred with energy companies over the last 10 days in Richmond on legislation important to both parties.

SB614 and HB1118 were bills introduced by Senator John Edwards and Delegate Joseph Yost that would have repealed the 2014 provision allowing interstate natural gas companies to enter property to make examinations, appraisals and surveys without written consent. Advocates for the bill strongly argued that the 2004 enactment violates personal property rights but the bills died in their respective committees. The Chamber advocates for fairness, equity and respect for property owners, the utility companies and the environment in the permitting process for energy sources to facilitate project development. This issue is polarizing and we hope the energy companies and property rights activists can find a balance that suits both parties wishes.  

The Chamber also evaluates energy legislation and regulation with due consideration given to economic feasibility and natural assets. Based on this position we opposed SB726 introduced by Senator John Edwards. This bill would have required additional erosion and sediment control project-specific DEQ filing for projects greater than 50 acres. DEQ already has the ability to ask for any additional information needed and we feel this is redundant regulation that is burdensome for utility companies providing reliable energy to consumers and businesses.

We Advocate for the development of cost-effective, alternative and renewable energy sources while keeping Virginia competitive in the energy market. 

The Campaign Corner


Roanoke Regional Chamber | 540-983-0700 | jbaumgartner@roanokechamber.org
| http://www.roanokechamber.org
210 S. Jefferson St.
Roanoke, VA 24011