Legislative Newsletter - March 4, 2010
Calendar for 2010 General Assembly Session
March 8 Last
day for committee action on bills
House, Senate Budget Talks Underway
The House and Senate budget conferees have until midnight next Tuesday to reach an agreement on a compromise budget for the remainder of FY10 and the next biennium, though that deadline frequently is extended if necessary. Both chambers approved their version of the budget last Thursday. Yesterday, those plans were rejected by the other chamber, setting the stage for senior budget writers to reconcile the spending plans prior to the end of the session.
While there are numerous amendments that negatively impact local governments’ bottom line, several represent big shifts in policy and deserve special attention; you are encouraged to contact your legislators about these issues:
At the top of the list is a House proposal that removes the “trust fund” status from the Communications Sales and Use Tax, with those dollars to be appropriated by the General Assembly, and then the House proposes seizing more than $20 million each year (FY11 and FY12) to fund local treasurers, commissioners and directors of finance. When the deal was struck on this tax in 2006, localities gave up several local taxes in lieu of this communications sales tax, with dollars generated from the tax to be put into a trust fund. These are local revenues, not state revenues that should be subject to state appropriation.
Both chambers have proposed changes in Virginia Retirement System (VRS) provisions designed to reduce program costs. Both decrease employer contribution rates from 10.49% to differing rates in the 4 and 5% range. The Senate includes language stating their intent that local savings be used to help maintain local school funding levels. The teacher VRS provisions in the House plan warrant close consideration, as it is a complex proposal that would change the calculation of the state and local share of costs for teacher retirement. A reduction in the amount of the required local effort (RLE) would be considered a credit against the RLE in FY11, with that amount then having to be paid back by the locality to the state on a quarterly basis in 2011.
The Senate plan reduces per diem payments to jails by $12.6 million over the biennium, and includes a language amendment that redefines a state-responsible prisoner from one serving at least one year, to one serving at least two years, a move which could strain already bulging local and regional jail facilities.
The group of legislators who compose the budget conference committee are as follows: Senators Colgan (Prince William), Houck (Spotsylvania), Howell (Fairfax), Saslaw (Fairfax), Wampler (Bristol) and Stosch (Henrico) and Delegates Putney (Bedford), Cox (Colonial Heights), Sherwood (Winchester), Landes (Augusta), Jones (Suffolk) and Joannou (Portsmouth).
Committees Clear Dockets of Bills
Here is an update on the status of bills of interest that have been/are being considered in House and Senate Committees during the past week:
HB 57 eliminates the BPOL tax (defeated in Senate Finance Committee).
HB 236 eliminates the ability of localities to prohibit shooting within one half mile of a subdivision (in Senate Courts of Justice subcommittee).
HB 570 changes the burden of proof from the taxpayer to the assessor when a taxpayer appeals the assessment of real property to a board of equalization or to a circuit court; however, the bill actually allows assessment of any tax to be appealed to the circuit court (defeated in Senate Finance Committee).
HB 728 provides that no person may be released to a pretrial services agency in lieu of
posting a secure bond unless he is determined by a court to be indigent (in Senate Courts of Justice Committee).
HB 737 requires localities and state agencies to enroll in the E-Verify Program by December 1, and to use it for each newly hired employee (in Senate Commerce and Labor Committee).
HB 1189 is the legislative vehicle for changes to the Virginia Retirement System (VRS), which modifies the VRS defined benefit retirement programs for new employees hired on or after July 1 (in conference committee).
HB 1220 and SB 395, which provides that the technical criteria and local program provisions of the stormwater management regulations shall become effective within 280 days after the establishment by the (EPA) of the Chesapeake Bay-wide (TMDL ), but in any event no later than Dec. 1, 2011 (passed House and Senate).
SB 121 provides that notice of the public hearing a locality must hold prior to increasing the real property tax when the local property assessment results in a tax increase shall be given at least 14 days before the date of the hearing (currently 30 days) (on House floor)
SB 235 directs the Waste Management Board to develop a schedule of annual fees paid by solid waste facilities to cover various program activities (defeated in House Agriculture Committee; similar language is included in the Senate budget plan).
SB 280 removes the cap of 4% for the county meals tax and allow counties to impose the tax or increase the rate by a majority vote of governing body (defeated in House Finance subcommittee)
SB 722 expands the retired teacher health care credit to all school division employees at the option of the local school division, with costs to be borne by the locality (in House Appropriations subcommittee).
General Assembly Contact Numbers for David Blount, TJPD Legislative Liaison