Friday at 4 p.m. Not Happy Hour, but the weekly meeting of the Board of Supervisors’ Legislative Committee during the Virginia General Assembly session. Nearly every Friday in January, February, and sometimes March, the Board meets as a committee of the whole to review bills that are making their way through the Commonwealth’s legislative process. County priorities for state funding include K-12 education, transportation, and preserving local authority, particularly in taxation and land use. It’s not always pretty, which is why the legislative process often is compared to making sausage.
At the Legislative Committee meeting last Friday, the Board reiterated its support for the above priorities, and in addition, making it easier to vote absentee without having to specify a reason, support for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, and adding discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation as unlawful housing practices. The Board opposes modifying individual components of the Local Composite Index (LCI), the standard used by the state to calculate a locality’s ability to pay for public education. Rather, a comprehensive approach should be taken, including addressing factors related to cost of living.
Much of the committee discussion centered on bills related to land use, and local land use authority. The much-discussed Proffer Bill, which was enacted by the 2016 General Assembly, is the subject of a number of amendments requested by the Home Builders Association of Virginia. The 2016 law imposed new restrictions on proffers generally, terming even any verbal discussions about proffers between developers and the community as “unreasonable.” That approach effectively shut down development in many localities, and the proponents of the new law quickly realized it was too proscriptive. Another bill, introduced by Senator Adam Ebbin (D-30) and opposed by the Board, would overturn most provisions of the county’s Short-Term Lodging Ordinance, adopted last year. In fact, Ebbin’s bill would affect only Fairfax County, the single jurisdiction in Virginia that operates under the “urban county executive form of government.”
Discussion about Governor Ralph Northam’s budget proposals centered on salary increases for teachers and support personnel. The state’s share of an additional two percent increase, effective July 1, 2019, would bring $7.9 million in additional state funding to the county. That’s good news. What’s often overlooked is that, in a school system as large as Fairfax County’s, the net cost to county taxpayers to fund the additional two percent salary increase mandated by the state is approximately $38.1 million. Much of our local budget discussion probably will center around how to fund teacher salary increases.
Such in-depth analysis of General Assembly bills would be impossible without excellent and adept county legislative staff, who spend most of their week in Richmond interacting with General Assembly members about the effects of proposed bills on the county and other Northern Virginia jurisdictions, then dash back to Fairfax for our Friday afternoon meetings. Legislative Committee meetings are open to the public, and also can be viewed, live, on Channel 16 or via the county’s website. Log on to www.fairfaxcounty.gov/cableconsumer/channel-16/board-supervisors-committee-meetings.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]