General Assembly updates: Newscast for January 18, 2019
Good morning, and welcome to the end of the week. You made it! Two and a half weeks into the year. Come on by Court Square Tavern this Saturday where I’ll be working behind the bar, and in the kitchen, and as your host. As this newscast moves along, I’ll likely advertise that last, but for now, come on in tomorrow night to learn more about what this is all about. And now, on with the news, which today is mostly about the General Assembly.
Today is the final day for legislators in the House of Delegates and the State Senate to introduce legislation for this year’s session. There’s less than a month to go before the two chambers adjourn.
Bills introduced on Thursday include one from Senator Adam Ebbin that would limit the number of rounds in a publicly brandished firearm, one from Senator Amanda Chase what would prohibit further construction of coal ash ponds to contain waste from coal-fired power plants, and one from Senator John Cosgrove that would direct the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to study ‘peer-to-peer’ vehicle rental services. The state of Maryland passed legislation last year requires car sharing services such as Turo to comply with tax laws and insurance requirements.
Another bill from Delegate Todd Pillion would clarify that motorized scooters can use designated bike lanes. Legislation from Delegate David Toscano would allow elections for local office to use “ranked choice voting.’ Neither Toscano nor any other legislator has so far introduced a charter amendment that would allow Charlottesville City Council to raise the salary level for elected office.
Also on Thursday, the Virginia Mercury reports that several bills that would place limits on firearms were voted down in both House and Senate committees. One bill from Delegate Rip Sullivan would have allowed firearms to be temporarily confiscated from people judged by a court to pose a risk to public safety. That bill was passed on indefinitely in a House subcommittee on a 4 to 2 vote. The Roanoke Times reports that another bill to allow that city to ban guns at public meetings has also been defeated.
Meanwhile, environmental organizations are hoping the General Assembly will pass legislation that would create a state body to promote and study wildlife corridors. The bill from Delegate Mark Keam defines a wildlife corridor as “a habitat linkage that joins two or more areas of wildlife habitat.” Such corridors can help species migrate and part of the idea is to have the group make suggestions on how to make road projects safer for the safe passage of wildlife.
Speaking of roads, the American Trucking Association has sent a letter to Governor Ralph Northam expressing their opposition to tolls on Interstate 81. The Bristol Herald Courier reports that the association has hinted at a legal challenge if an annual pass were only available to automobiles and not commercial vehicles. Last year, the ATA sued the state of Rhode Island for tolling only trucks, a practice the organization said violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Legislation for tolls on Virginia’s portion of I-81 await action in the House Rules and Senate transportation committees.
Klöckner Pentaplast in Louisa County is set to invest $25 million to increase the size of its factory. That includes a $300,000 grant from the Virginia Investment Performance program, a state incentive program that encourages new capital investment by existing companies. The Gordonsville factory is part of a large German company that has had a presence in Virginia since 1979. Klöckner Pentaplast is the fourth largest employer in Louisa County, according to the Virginia Employment Commission.
The man behind a new office building at the western end of the Charlottesville Downtown Mall has donated $120 million to the University of Virginia for the creation of a new school of data science. The Daily Progress reports that investor Jaffray Woodriff will make the gift from his Quantitative Foundation. Woodriff is also behind the new triangular CODE building which will replace the Main Street Arena and its ice park. Demolition of that building is just about to get underway. The donation to UVA is the largest in its history. According to the Progress, the previous gift was $100 million and went to establish the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.