For the first time in what has seemed forever in the eyes of some of our local officials, the state government in Richmond is moving to provide some significant benefits to localities like the City of Falls Church. This is the week for the “crossover” in Richmond, where bills passed in one body — the House of Delegates or the Senate — go to the other for consideration. With solid Democratic majorities in both houses, a lot of bills have already been passed with an eye to winning support in the other body, and to be signed by the Democratic governor Ralph Northam as well, to become law by July 1.
Legislation has been preliminarily OK’d to expand access to abortion services, make voting easier for busy families, increase the minimum wage, prevent gun violence, ensure immigrants have access to drivers licenses, prohibit discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community, and give localities the power to regulate traffic and remove confederate monuments if they choose.
Most recently, bills have passed that will ensure a comprehensive redistricting reform is written into the state constitution aimed at ending gerrymandering as a form of vote tampering at long last.
Still to be determined is what will become of the surge on state tax revenues that the governor reported yesterday. Northam reported that January General Fund revenues rose by a whopping 8.7 percent above the previous January. Northam said, “Our strong economy is generating growth revenues to fund services that Virginians expect, from public schools to salaries for public workers and much more. The growth is encouraging and we need to continue the economic momentum that enables investments in Virginia’s future.”
It can be fairly argued that no jurisdiction in Virginia is better poised to receive an added influx of funds than the City of Falls Church. The meticulous attention given to identifying and prioritizing the most critical infrastructure improvement in stormwater protection and neighborhood traffic calming are here, overseen by a Council uncommonly dedicated to “getting it right” with how some of these big issues are implemented in practice.
It is only to be seen how much revenue the City is going to get from Richmond to help with these efforts. Traditionally, many in Falls Church have felt the City gets the “short end of the stick” when it comes to state revenues, putting far more tax revenues into Richmond than it gets back in financial benefits.
It is hoped with the progressive trends in Richmond now that the City will fare better. Already, moves by the legislature to allow local jurisdictions to set their own speed limits in residential neighborhoods is a big plus because the City is suffering the impact of tolls on I-66 forcing drivers to look for neighborhood cut-through options that have become a safety hazard for families.