Thursday, January 16, 2020

Virginia's General Assembly is in Session

Just over a week ago the Virginia General Assembly began its 401st session. The first days are an opportunity for community groups, organizations, lobbyists and individuals to meet with their representatives. In the first days members of the General Assembly received committee assignments.

Don Wells long time Chairman of the Soil and Water legislative committee and Secretary/Treasurer of the Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts reports: "To give you an idea of the Session after three days the House has introduced 1487 Bills and the Senate has introduced 901 Bills.” The Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts tracks bills that pertain to farming, natural resources, water, stormwater, Chesapeake Bay and any suggested for tracking by the membership.

Most of the bills are still awaiting House or Senate Committee referrals this early in the session. If you recall Governor Northam’s proposed budget for fiscal years 2021 and 2022 includes:
  • $182 million over the two-year period to the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund too reduce polluted runoff from cities, suburbs, and other developed areas;
  • $120 million over the two-year period to help fund wastewater treatment plant upgrades to reduce sediment and nutrient pollution from sewage;
  • $90 million over the next two years to support farm conservation practices through Virginia’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts agricultural cost share program;
  • $14 million over the two-year period for oyster restoration and replenishment;
  • $65 million over the two-year period to AlexRenew and Alexandria to help fund the mandate to prevent raw sewage from polluting the Potomac River in “Combined Sewer Overflows.” The total project is estimated to cost between $370-$555 million. Previously the state funded $25 million.
  • $32 million for the two-year period to increase the budget for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
  • Additional funding to support implementation of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act and the Agricultural Stewardship Act, as well as the expansion of riparian buffers and urban tree canopy, and;
  • Virginia would be authorized to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

The bills that relate to these initiatives will be among the ones I follow and update you on.

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