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The Virginia General Assembly is now 16 days into its 2021 session. This year’s session has involved new wrinkles, including abbreviated timelines and virtual testimony on behalf of The Piedmont Environmental Council (often from my kitchen office).
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.
- Ask your state senator to support bringing African American and Virginia Indian historic resources to light >>
- Ask your state delegate to support farmland preservation funding >>
More detail on these two important budget amendments is included below.
But first, the good news.
I’m pleased to report that our priority land conservation bills, SB 1199 (Petersen) and its house companion HB 1760 (Webert / Gooditis), passed the Senate 25-14 and the House 100-0. This critical legislation preserves the integrity of all existing easements by ensuring that disputes over terms are decided in favor of the conservation purpose of the easement, reflecting the original intent of the easement donor.
As with any legislation, nothing is final until both houses have acted on the legislation and it goes to the governor’s desk… but as of right now, things are looking positive.
In addition, HJ 527 (Bulova), the study resolution we helped draft related to the sale of invasive plants, has cleared the House of Delegates with unanimous support and is now before the Senate Rules Committee. This committee meets at the call of the chair, so we can’t say for sure when the study resolution will be heard. But it had a good reception in the house and we hope to report its passage from the senate soon.
If you have not yet sent a letter, please let your senator know that you support this effort to explore ways to reduce or eliminate the commercial sale of invasive plants.
And now for the two budget amendments we still need your help with…
1) Righting a Wrong: Help Bring Untold Histories to Light
Preserving historic resources is crucial to understanding our nation’s history. However, historic resources related to African American and Virginia Indian communities are woefully underrepresented in Virginia’s state database. This has resulted in important resources being overlooked or worse yet, irretrievably lost, and has meant these communities are rarely included as part of larger historic district conversations.
Budget amendment 385 #5S (McClellan) provides $250,000 to the Department of Historic Resources (DHR) for the surveying of historic resources related to African American and Virginia Indian communities. If approved, it will support a staff position at DHR, a grant program to provide paid internships in partnership with Virginia’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and database enhancements for the Virginia Cultural Resources Information System (VCRIS).
The Piedmont Environmental Council is proud to have worked with Senator McClellan’s office on this amendment. Our look into previously listed National Register historic districts in our region made it clear to us that this is an issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
Please send a letter to your state senator in support of this budget amendment. In addition, if your senator happens to sit on Senate Finance & Appropriations, consider putting in a phone call supporting the amendment.
Visit our campaign webpage to learn more.
2) Help Protect Farmland Now and For the Future
The Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund was established in 2007 to provide grant funding to localities with certified farmland preservation programs. Unfortunately, since its inception the program has been woefully underfunded.
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.
Farmland lost is farmland lost forever. Please send a letter to your state delegate in support of this budget amendment. In addition, if your delegate happens to sit on House Appropriations, consider putting in a phone call supporting the amendment.
Visit our campaign webpage to learn more.
It is my pleasure to represent PEC in Richmond and before the General Assembly. As always, success depends on your voice amplifying the effort. I thank you in advance for taking action on these important matters and invite you to contact me with any questions on these or other legislative issues important to you and our region.
Director of State Policy
The Piedmont Environmental Council