Photo by Chuck Epes/CBF Staff
2014 Virginia General Assembly Summary
The year started off rather ominously as rumors circulated around the Virginia Capitol that there’d be a record number of bills introduced to derail some aspect of Virginia’s stormwater runoff management program. Fortunately, the final count was 16 bills which fell into three categories—those seeking a delay for localities having to implement their own runoff management program, those asking to exempt certain localities, and those that would weaken the state’s runoff management program. The bills gave rise to the “No Delay, No Dilution, No Exemption” tagline that CBF and many of our Virginia conservation partners used to educate legislators about the importance of protecting local waters from polluted runoff.
CBF and its conservation partners worked closely with legislators and multiple stakeholders to ensure that the runoff bills provide critical protections for clean water while meeting the needs of local governments. House Bill 1173 and Senate Bill 423, thoughtfully patroned by Delegate Hodges and Senator Hanger, respectively, meet those criteria and were approved in the General Assembly by wide margins. We are optimistic that they will be signed into law by Governor McAuliffe, allowing Virginia’s updated polluted runoff management program to go into effect on schedule July 1, 2014, with no delay, no dilution, and no exemptions.
CBF also worked with Senator Stuart to ensure Virginia continues to responsibly manage Atlantic menhaden with passage of a bill extend the state’s current management plan to July 1, 2016. In the interim, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will complete another stock assessment of the menhaden population and update the the coastwide fishery plan as needed. The legislative extension will allow Virginia’s existing management plan to continue in effect until the 2016 General Assembly can consider and adopt any necessary management changes.
On the budget front, CBF is grateful that both the House and Senate budget proposals include funding for agricultural technical assistance and conservation cost-share practices such as fencing livestock out of waterways and planting streamside trees to keep nutrients and sediment from reaching local streams.
CBF continues to work with legislators to ensure adequate funding is available in the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund, which provides matching grants to localities to make runoff infrastructure improvements. The Senate budget provides an additional $20 million for the Fund in fiscal year 2015, while the House approved an additional $38 million. CBF will ask the budget conferees to adopt the House proposal to support the efforts of local jurisdictions to reduce polluted runoff. In addition to CBF, the Virginia Association of Municipal Stormwater Agencies, James River Association, Virginia Association for Commercial Real Estate, Homebuilders Association of Virginia, VirginiaForever, Virginia Municipal League, Virginia Association of Counties, and Virginia First Cities are also lobbying for this funding.
We are so grateful for our advocates and our partners who share their voices and their expertise with our legislators. Thank you from all of us in the Virginia office for helping us continue our work to save the Bay for future generations.