Regional, State and National

Dear Supporter,

Week 1 of the General Assembly has come and gone and, in this short 45-day session, things are moving quickly. Here’s an update on what we’ve seen happen in Richmond so far - the good and the bad - and some information on how you can assist in the process.

I also wanted to make sure you know that citizens from around the Commonwealth are heading to Richmond on Monday, Jan. 26 for the Virginia Conservation Network’s annual ‘Lobby Day’. Consider making a day of it if you’re able to join!

Land Use, Transportation and Energy

We’ve written a couple times about the threat to land conservation that is expected this session, and you’ll find more information on that below. But I also wanted to let you know about some other bills that could have a major impact, including a budget amendment seeking to block improvements to Route 29 in Charlottesville:
 

  • Transportation -- Senator Rob Bell has submitted budget amendment 444 #1H that would delay funding of two of the much-needed improvements to Route 29 in Charlottesville (the interchange at Rio Road and widening of Rt. 29 north of the Rivanna River) and subject the projects to a new round of evaluation. These projects have already been through years of public process and have received an overwhelming amount of public support.

    Please send a letter to your Delegate and Senator letting them know it’s time to stop delaying planned Rt. 29 improvements:


    **For those of you following the I-66 improvement proposals, VDOT is hosting a public meeting in Haymarket on January 28 from 6-8:30pm.
     
  • Energy -- We are supportive of net metering bill HB 1636, but also want to highlight SB 1338. This bill repeals a troublesome code section for those dealing with natural gas pipeline proposals. Current state code allows natural gas companies to enter and survey private property before they’ve even submitted an application for the project.
     
  • Land Use -- We are opposed to HB 2262, which appears to grant innappropriate authority to Planning Commissions (appointed bodies). It is our feeling that this legislation would conflict with powers and duties of the Board of Supervisors established in the Code of Virginia.


Conservation Legislation

All signs from Richmond indicate cuts to conservation programs, specifically the Land Preservation Tax Credit will occur this session. That said, what kind of cuts, and how damaging, is still left to be seen. Two bills - HB 1828 and SB 1019 - have already been introduced and both would make different cuts to the tax credit program. However, there are still some in the General Assembly who don’t think either of these bills goes nearly far enough in cutting back the tax credit.
 

It’s important that as supporters of land conservation, we keep articulating why it matters:
 

  • Conservation provides a stable land base for rural industries like agriculture, forestry and tourism;
     
  • Conservation helps localities keep infrastructure costs low and direct growth to the most appropriate places;
     
  • Conservation is key to meeting goals for restoration of water quality in streams all over the Commonwealth and the Chesapeake Bay;
     
  • Conservation helps protect historic and cultural resources and landscapes.
     
  • Conservation helps create parks and trails, where residents can get outside and connect with nature.
     

If you haven't already, I would encouarge you to send a letter in support of conservation to your representatives.


As a bit of good news, one of the more flawed bills, HB 1572, which would have made it nearly impossible for counties to buy parkland and eliminated local Purchase of Development Rights Programs by limiting the duration of easements held by localities to just 5 years, has already been stricken.


As always, please shoot me an email if you have any questions on any of these bills, or other things you hear coming out of Richmond. I’ve updated the General Assembly section of our website with a more complete list of legislation we will be focused on this session, and will be adding to it regularly.

You can also use that state’s Who's My Legislator? link to get your Delegate or Senator’s email address and shoot him/her a note on any legislation you’re interested in!

Sincerely,

Dan Holmes
Director of State Policy
The Piedmont Environmental Council
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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