Wednesday, January 8th kicked off the 2014 session of the Virginia General Assembly. And with this being an even year that means legislators can file an unlimited number of bills. We expect an even busier session than last year, where 2,575 pieces of legislation were introduced. There is a lot to accomplish in this 60-day session and here’s what we’re watching:
Constitutional Amendments - several historical amendments are under consideration which could extend the term of the Governor, limit terms for General Assembly members, offer a referendum on property tax exemptions for surviving spouses of soldiers, restore voting rights for persons convicted of non-violent felonies and a repeal of last year’s amendment defining marriage.
Stormwater - with changes in agency responsibility and local governments struggling to juggle environmental compliance and reporting requirements, there is a desire to delay the effective date of the stormwater regulations until more requirements can be streamlined between the myriad of environmental programs impacting localities. There is also legislation pending that would streamline the development process for single family homes under a common plan of development.
Government Transparency & Ethics - a bipartisan group of legislators is working on a comprehensive package to improve government transparency and revise Virginia’s ethics and disclosure laws.
Energy - there are several items dealing with energy conservation, oil and gas drilling, off-shore energy issues, as well as a study regarding manufacturing benefits of using recycled materials.
Emergency Management - a bill has been introduced that would require localities to allow first informer broadcast media access to areas of disaster.
Plastic Bags - while great strides are being made locally to encourage recycling of plastic bags, there are couple of items of legislation again this year that would ban or tax the use of plastic bags. Expect heavy push back from retailers on this item.
Recurrent Flooding - expect legislative action and a study on best practices to address recurrent flooding issues. This issue continues to affect insurance coverage on properties impacted by recurrent flooding.
Education - changes are in the works for standards of learning in K-12 and keep your fingers crossed for increased funding for higher education.
Wildlife - there is legislation to convene a study of overpopulation in the Commonwealth.
Pre-filed items were completed just before the session convened yesterday and the last day for new legislation will be Friday, January 17th. Check back here for an update, should be an exciting session!