City wins some, loses some in Richmond
Year in and year out City Hall sends a wish list to Richmond. The rest is left up to Alexandrias statehouse delegation and the whims of the General Assembly.
Since running the table is a rare occurrence, its no surprise the citys top lobbyist, Bernie Caton, waxed philosophical on this sessions results.
We had several difficult bills we werent able to get through, he said Tuesday, just days after Richmond wrapped up another year. On the other hand we had some budget issues we prevailed on.
Among the successes, Richmond added state dollars to the Virginia Retirement System. Since the city wasnt looking for a magic number, any shift is funding is a win, Caton said.
Its no surprise City Hall is interested in money for transportation projects, given the ominous shadow BRAC casts on Alexandrias ongoing infrastructure and development debates.
Though the state did not designate any new sources of dedicated transportation revenue (translation: a gas tax increase), money will be raised for new highway ramps at the Interstate 395 Seminary Road exit.
Richmond also reauthorized revenue sharing for certain transportation-related projects, Caton said.
The city claimed a win also by pushing back against increased burdens on local municipalities to feed state coffers under the Comprehensive Services Act, according to Caton. On the same front, the General Assembly deigned to pick up some of the slack of funding for local law enforcement.
That translates into roughly $400,000 in savings for the city, Caton said.
On that item, we fought off the bad thing and won some good things and thats going to be a constant battle, he said.
Neither here nor there
The state did not restore financial aid for local libraries after a decade-long drought in funding but lawmakers didnt cut it any further, either. That was the best city officials could hope for, at least according to Alexandrias legislative package.
Officials also abandoned a probe into possible mismanagement of federal money designated for programs like Meals on Wheels. After looking into it, local officials learned the money was being spent appropriately and quietly dropped the issue, Caton said.
And while the General Assembly now requires schools provide students with 150 minutes of physical education, they called on Republican Gov. Bob McDonnells Commission on Government Reform and Restructuring to study unfunded state mandates, Caton said.
Rejected by Richmond
Among the citys defeats, a proposed hike in tobacco taxes never saw the light of day. A House bill pitched by Del. David Englin (D-45) and Del. Patrick Hope (D-47) to do just that failed early in the session.
Any increased taxes in the House right now with the Republican majority is virtually impossible to get through, Caton said. If they got past the idea of no tax is a good tax [it might have passed], but they never got that far.
A push to make it easier for ex-felons to receive their voting rights championed locally by Del. Charniele Herring (D-46) also died in the House. A Senate-approved version fared no better during the legislative crossover period.
And not only did the General Assembly ignore calls for a city-backed effort to curb interest rates on payday loans, they approved letting residents use out-of-state car titles for the aforementioned loans.