I want to start by reporting some good news, and then follow it with a request for you to take action on two budget amendments—one to increase farmland protection and the other to address a critical lack of representation within Virginia’s cultural resource database.
Farmland lost is farmland lost forever. Budget amendment 97 #2h (Gooditis) would provide an additional $2 million to the Farmland Preservation Fund grant program (current funding is only $250,000), providing much-needed matching funds and encouraging other localities to adopt Purchase of Development Rights programs of their own.
Good news! On Tuesday, January 26, Senator Stuart’s attempt at a floor substitute for SB 1199 was defeated. This allowed the bill that came out of full committee to proceed to a floor vote. On Wednesday, January 27, SB 1199 was read a third time and passed the Senate on a 25-14 vote. You can see the full vote count here: https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?211+vot+SV0144SB1199+SB1199
The 2020 Special Session, focused on resolving budget issues stemming from Covid and addressing police and criminal justice reform, has ended just in time for the holidays. But as in the movie Groundhog Day, now we prepare to do it all over again. Virginia’s 2021 legislative session opens on Jan 13 and will prove no less challenging than the special session. At this moment, details are still fluid, but here is what we know.
Beginning on Aug 18, the Virginia General Assembly entered a special session to focus on budget impacts related to the pandemic and calls for criminal justice and policing reforms as local and national unrest continued following the death of George Floyd. At the time of this writing, session is ongoing and many questions remain on the shape of the final budget and some of the legislative initiatives. Legislators intend to wrap up their work before the end of September.
Obviously, a lot has changed since March, when you last received a copy of the Piedmont View. Soon after, shut-down orders went into place and, like me, you might have felt like you were trapped in a bad episode of The Twilight Zone. Suddenly, any trip outside of the house came with a risk analysis. Adjustments like teleworking, or worse, changes in employment status, disrupted normal routines. Things we may have taken for granted, like access to schools and daycare, visits with elderly relatives and yes, even toilet paper, were off the table. Clearly, these have not been normal times. But that wasn’t always evident looking at local government agendas.