Local Commentary

Mary Margaret Whipple’s Richmond Report

Somehow the month of May seems to be rushing by. Although the Regular Session and the first Special Session of the General Assembly were completed in April, there is still another Special Session on transportation coming up on June 23.

In the meantime, there are Committee responsibilities for every member.

This month I chaired a Rules Committee meeting in Richmond to fill Senate appointments on various new and existing commissions. Senator Janet Howell is the Appointments chair for the Rules Committee and she and I worked many days to fill the Senate seats on 105 boards and commissions. We tried to ensure that each Senator had at least three commissions on which to serve and no one had more than eight or nine.

The Governor signed one of my bills, Senate Bill 301, in a ceremonial bill-signing in Richmond. It is legislation that establishes a Common Interest Communities Board that will govern condominium, cooperative, time-share, and property owners associations. It will require managers to be licensed, bonded and insured and will provide for grievances to be heard.

I attended my first meeting of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, a tri-state commission of legislators and citizens of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania that works to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay. In the afternoon we called on Senator John Warner to thank him for his ongoing support of the Bay and its tributaries.

As chair of the Economic Development and Natural Resources subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee, I have been learning more about these important areas. The director of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership briefed me in some detail about his agency and its work.

This week is the retreat of the subcommittee at Lake Anna State Park to consider the natural resources part of our work, particularly to consider legislation that was referred to us during the general session.

One day is devoted to land preservation issues. Virginia’s land preservation tax credit is considered to be one of the best in the nation, and some bills were submitted to perhaps improve it further. For example, we are considering the issue of whether the tax credit should be more generous if public access is included in the scenic easement.

The subcommittee is also considering water quality issues and the funding of agricultural best management practices. Although my bill to establish a Natural Resources Commitment Fund passed, it does not yet have a dedicated source of revenue. Yet we know that nonpoint source pollution must be addressed in a thorough and comprehensive way if we are to make the progress needed to improve water quality in our streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.

In between the official meetings, I’ve attended breakfasts and dinners, spoken to civic groups, participated in conference calls, marched in the Arlington Neighborhood Day parade, met with constituents, attended political activities, and even enjoyed a few quiet evenings at home. No wonder May has gone by so quickly!