Take Action: Protect Local Government Accountability

The following text was sent out via email on Feb. 8, 2024. Sign up for PEC email alerts →

UPDATE as of 02/09/2024: Good news! Thanks in part to the huge number of folks who took action on HB 1459 (see yesterday’s alert below), the bill failed to report out of committee this morning. Please accept my deepest thanks to everyone who wrote emails or made phone calls for all that you did to help—more than 1,000 people took action through our online campaign!

As a direct result of the grassroots response, just before the meeting, the committee chair asked the bill patron to accept a series of critical amendments that would neutralize the worst aspects of the bill. The patron accepted the amendments, and the bill, as amended, passed.

Then, in a surprising development, the committee opted to bring the bill up again, at which point it received a 10-10 vote, meaning the bill failed to pass. It’s obvious that despite the amendments, the outpouring of citizen voices caused the legislators to balk at the bill going forward in any form.

Unless proponents try to re-introduce the bill on the floor or by some other limited means, the legislation appears dead for this year.

Next week, bills that pass floor votes in the House and Senate will be “crossing over” to the other chamber for consideration. Stay tuned for updates and more ways to take action. And as always, thank you for your support!

Dear Supporter,

I’m writing to ask that you take immediate action on a critical issue in the General Assembly regarding the ability to seek recourse for improper land use decisions made by local governments.

House Bill 1459 (Owen – R, 57th District) was passed in a House subcommittee this morning and will be voted on by the full Counties, Cities and Towns Committee this Friday morning at 9 a.m. We urgently need your help opposing it.

HB 1459 would let decisions made by local governments without properly following the law stand– both those made in the past as well as those made in the future.The bill language in particular deems that any local land use decision made in violation of existing statutory requirements cannot be made void or legally challenged after 30 days have passed. This would include decisions on rezonings, special permits and similar land use proposals, and the adoption of guiding documents like comprehensive plans or zoning ordinances.

This bill is effectively stripping the power to hold local governments accountable to the laws of the Commonwealth away from the people they serve. If passed, this bill will likely interfere with active litigation on several land use cases in our region, including recently challenged data center approvals in the Town of Warrenton, Orange County and Prince William County.

Creating a statute of limitations to challenge a local government decision stands to benefit only private interests of developers. By undermining the importance of public notice and procedural standards, HB 1459 gives local governments more leeway to make improper decisions without public accountability.

Governments must be held accountable for their actions for our democracy to function. Please write and call legislators in the Counties, Cities and Towns Committee today and ask them to oppose HB 1459 when it comes to a vote tomorrow.


John McCarthy
Senior Advisor & Director of Strategic Partnerships
(540) 347-2334 x7043