2018 Legislative Program
Table of Contents
- Fully fund the State’s portion of K-12 education costs including Cost of Competing.
- Water Quality Funding.
- State Assistance to Local Law Enforcement HB599.
- State Funding for Jails and Courts.
- Voter Registrar.
- Oppose removing sum sufficient language for private day placements.
- STEP-VA System Transformation, Excellence and Performance in Virginia.
- Medicaid Waiver Program for Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
- Revenue Sharing.
- Regional Gas Tax Floor.
- WMATA Governance, Operating and Funding Reforms.
- Retain Local Authority over Short Term Rentals (Air BnB).
- Private Wireless Telecom Equipment placed on Public Facilities.
- Strengthen the Ability of Localities to Address Vacant Buildings.
- Commercial-Business Vacancy Tax / Incentive Program.
- Medical Use of Marijuana.
- Allow Smoking Ban at Public Parks.
- Allow Ban on Sale of Pets Acquired from Puppy Mills at retail establishments in the City of Fairfax.
- Health insurance coverage options needed for all Virginians.
- Dignity Act 9
- Weapons Ban in Public Buildings during Meetings.
- Predatory Lending Practices.
- Reduce use of plastic bags.
- Sexual Orientation.
The Commonwealth of Virginia and the City of Fairfax are in partnership to offer core services to our citizens. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth has increasingly failed to provide its share of revenue necessary to maintain critical services such as education, public safety, and health and human services for persons in need. Consequently, the City has been forced to assume a disproportionate share of funding for these programs while it lacks the breadth of revenue streams available to the state. While direct aid to localities was 52 percent of the General Fund in FY 2009, it only accounted for 42 percent of the General Fund in FY 2017. And K-12, the most critical core service shared by the state and localities, dropped from 35 percent of the General Fund in FY 2009 to less than 28 percent in FY 2017. We ask that the Commonwealth restore sufficient funding to ensure that these services are available.
Fully fund the State’s portion of K-12 education costs including Cost of Competing
The City Council joins Fairfax County in support of:
- Realistic and fully-funded Standards of Quality;
- Recognition of cost of living variations in state funding formulas, to more accurately determine a locality’s true ability to pay, particularly for high cost of living areas;
- Restoration of full funding for Cost of Competing Adjustment (COCA) for support positions, a factor in the funding formula recognizing the competitive salaries required in high cost of living regions to attract and retain the highest quality instructional and support personnel;
- Appropriate recognition in state funding formulas of the increased costs required to serve children with higher level needs, including special education students (a category encompassing students with intellectual or physical disabilities as well as those with mental/behavioral health issues for whom costs are approximately 100 percent greater than general education), those learning English as a second language (costs are approximately 30 percent greater than general education), and those living in economically disadvantaged households (costs are approximately 10 percent greater than general education); and,
There is a growing imbalance between local funding effort and the state in this partnership.
Additionally, the City Council opposes:
- State budget cuts that disproportionately target or affect Northern Virginia; and,
- Structural cuts or formula changes which further weaken the partnership between the state and localities.
The City supports increased state resources for early childhood education programs, which help young children enter kindergarten prepared to succeed.
- Investing in early childhood and K-12 education can reduce or eliminate the need for more costly interventions and remediation. (Fairfax County Public Schools)
The City supports increased state aid to public libraries which provide communities with critical services such as student homework support, research assistance, and public internet access. Approximately 5 million visits are made to Fairfax County public libraries (with which the City contracts) annually, with nearly 12 million items borrowed. State aid to libraries has declined by 25% or $5 million since 2001; at a minimum, the state should avoid further reductions in aid. (Updates previous position shared with Fairfax County)
Water Quality Funding
The City of Fairfax requests that the State Budget appropriate $50 million annually to the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF) for matching grants partially funding locality stormwater capital projects in furtherance of the Virginia Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan.
The funding availability for FY16 year was only $8M. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) scored/ranked and funded only 17 jurisdictions from a pool of 77 projects and 25 jurisdictions. The total request from the original 25 jurisdictions was approximately $36M.
The City of Fairfax supports continued investment in the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF) to assist localities with implementation of stormwater projects to meet federal and state clean-water requirements. Any proposed legislation to streamline implementation should recognize the limitations of local governments with little, or no construction activity to adequately fund and staff a local program. To that end, technical assistance should be made available from DEQ to those localities reviewing the requirements for post construction stormwater runoff as well as provide training to local government. (City staff and VML position)
State Assistance to Local Law Enforcement HB599
Seventy per cent of local public safety services are provided by local police departments in Virginia. HB599 strives to equalize state funding between cities, counties and towns with police departments and localities in which the sheriff provides law enforcement. While state funding increased in the 2016-2018 biennium budget, there are still significant shortfalls between state funding for police departments and sheriffs. (Position shared with other localities, VML)
State Funding for Jails and Courts
Localities should not continue to bear a disproportionate share of jail costs given the State’s mandate to share responsibility for local jail operations.
The court system continues to be underfunded by the Commonwealth placing additional fiscal burdens on localities to provide critical judicial functions. Last year, the City joined other Northern Virginia localities in subsidizing the salaries of court clerks; the State should allocate sufficient resources to pay competitive salaries to its employees in this region.
The criminal justice system is also increasingly dealing with individuals with mental health and substance use disorder issues, which places tremendous stress on the system. In accordance with best practices, Fairfax County has increased focus on diversion programs; however, such efforts require significant time and resources from court employees. Specialty courts and dockets would enhance diversion efforts by ensuring appropriate treatment for individuals with substance abuse issues, mental illness, or developmental disabilities who come into contact with the criminal justice system for low-level offenses.
A vacancy remains on the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court; while the position for an eighth judge was approved effective July 1, 2018, funds for the position have not been appropriated. The 2016 General Assembly directed the Supreme Court to update the weighted caseload study to recognize the increased costs of serving a non-English speaking immigrant population and the added cost of living expenses of Northern Virginia; the updated weighted caseload study will be released November 15, 2017. (Positions shared with Fairfax County)
The City of Fairfax also supports raising the pay differential for the general registrar consistent with the other constitutional officers. While the Code of Virginia stipulates that 100% of the salary for the registrar should be paid by the state, currently the city is assuming 52% of the salary of our registrar.
Oppose removing sum sufficient language for private day placements.
In 2017, the General Assembly authorized a study committee to explore ways to control the rapidly increasing cost of services provided under the CSA, especially children placed in Special Education Private Day Schools. The City shares concern among local governments that the study committee will recommend that the General Assembly shift funding from CSA to the Department of Education in order to engage public schools in management of these costs unless there is a “sum sufficient” provision consistent with CSA programs. Otherwise, the costs of private day schools would shift completely to local governments which is not consistent with the original design of the CSA.
STEP-VA System Transformation, Excellence and Performance in Virginia
The General Assembly has mandated that each Community Services Board provide services and supports such as same day access to mental health and outpatient primary health care screening, monitoring and follow up. Mandated to begin July 1, 2019, Same Day Access is a critical step toward a more efficient CSB model where waiting lists can be eliminated and individuals can more quickly enter the system of treatment and services which will foster wellness, prevent crises, and decrease the need for more intensive and costly services later. Effective July 1, 2021, CSBs will also be required to provide outpatient mental health and substance abuse services, psychiatric rehabilitation, care coordination, targeted case management and peer supports. The City of Fairfax in concert with the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board seeks sufficient state funding in the 2018-2020 biennial budget to fully implement these required services by the mandated deadlines. (Fairfax- Falls Church and Virginia Association of CSB’s)
Medicaid Waiver Program for Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
To enhance shifting from an institution-based system to a community-based service system, the City requests additional state funding to increase Medicaid waiver rates and available slots to reduce the extensive waiting list. The Medicaid Waiver Program provides substantive community services to allow individuals to remain in their own homes or transition from institutions. Unfortunately waiver reimbursement rates to home care providers are not sufficient in northern Virginia to expand provider capacity and there is an increasing waiting list of two thousand people waiting to receive waiver services.
The City of Fairfax, along with localities throughout the state, continues to provide substantial local funds for transportation each year, and we must continue to work together to ensure that our infrastructure needs are met. A modern, efficient, multimodal transportation system is essential to the Commonwealth, and is intrinsically tied to continued economic development. City staff will carefully monitor any transportation funding legislation that is considered during the 2018 Session, and the City will ask that you oppose any proposals that will lessen funds coming to Fairfax, or result in the City not receiving its fair share of any transportation revenues.
The City of Fairfax is particularly concerned about efforts to decrease funding over the next several years for the Revenue Sharing program. This program significantly leverages state transportation funds by encouraging local governments to spend their own money on transportation projects. By design, the Revenue Sharing program has allowed more projects throughout the Commonwealth to move forward through the leveraging of funds with local sources. Reducing the funding in this program will slow efforts to improve our transportation system. (Northern Virginia Transportation Authority)
Regional Gas Tax Floor
The City supports enacting the same floor on the regional gas tax that is currently imposed on the statewide gas tax since the reduction in gas prices has directly affected the revenues available for local governments to fund their transportation commitments-- including funding for WMATA. Since 2013, these revenues have decreased as much as 40 percent due to lower gas prices, an estimated potential loss of nearly $25 million to Northern Virginia jurisdictions. HB 2313 had established a gas tax floor through which revenues from the 2.1 per cent motor vehicles fuel tax is levied on fuel sold and delivered in bulk in Northern Virginia but revenues from these taxes, which must be spent on transportation, purposes have fallen significantly due to the reduction in the price of gas. (Northern Virginia Transportation Authority)
WMATA Governance, Operating and Funding Reforms
The City supports the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) platform to provide adequate representation, including elected and non-elected officials, on the WMATA Board. The City further supports full voting authority for all members and a streamlining of the WMATA Board committee structure to reduce bureaucracy. Further, the City supports the continued review by WMATA of its Board policies regarding conflicts of interest and fiduciary interests to maintain a principled approach to decision making.
Capital and operation funding needs to be sustainable and flexible to ensure competitive contracting and improve the system’s cost effectiveness without jeopardizing safety. (NVTC)
The City of Fairfax supports NVTC’s Principles for WMATA Reform, pertaining to WMATA’s governance and operations, adopted in September .
The City opposes any legislation that would reduce the authority of local government on land use issues including planning, zoning, resource protection and neighborhood preservation.
Retain Local Authority over Short Term Rentals (Air BnB)
After significant discussion, last year, the General Assembly enacted legislation maintaining local authority over short term rentals (Airbnb) in existing zoning regulations, by requiring registration and preserving local taxing authority. Any infringement on local authority to regulate the expansion of commercial uses in residential districts, including carving out special privileges for a particular commercial enterprise, should be opposed. The City of Fairfax currently has an approval process for traditional bed and breakfast operations in residential districts, which provides a structured approach for evaluating these types of uses.
The 2016 General Assembly enacted legislation SB 549 sharply limiting local proffer authority and undermining the collaborative environment that the City has forged with developers and the community. This legislation placed localities at a significant disadvantage in being able to accommodate growth while remaining responsive to the impacts of growth and its effect on communities. The Code of Virginia 15.2-2303.4 framed the acceptance of cash proffers as unreasonable and an application’s denial is presumed to be due to an official “suggesting” or “requesting” proffers for which the locality can also be sued. While there is an exemption for a “small area plan”, the qualifying conditions may be difficult to achieve. While judicial relief is sought and exemptions clarified, the City of Fairfax recommends temporary repeal and further study of 15.2-2303.4 in Planning District 8 or full repeal for full restoration of its proffer authority. No further restrictions on local land use authority should be considered. (Position shared with Prince William and Fairfax County)
Private Wireless Telecom Equipment placed on Public Facilities
The City of Fairfax supports retention of local land use authority in implementation of wireless technology. HB1347 was introduced in 2016 and continued to 2017. This bill would prohibit localities from charging any fee (application, review, processing, and approval) to construct or modify a new wireless support structure though a fee capped at $500 is permitted commensurate with the fee for a building permit. Localities are also barred from imposing environmental testing, sampling or monitoring requirements or instituting any moratorium on permitting, construction of approvals of new wireless support structures. The bill grants a telecommunications provider permission to construct and operate conduit, poles, etc., along, across, upon and under any public highway or rights-of-way in the Commonwealth.
The 2016 General Assembly removed the statewide requirement for a public hearing eliminating public participation in a process that authorizes potentially large, intrusive structures that can adversely affect the character of residential neighborhoods. During the 2017 General Assembly, wireless communication facilities were discussed extensively resulting in a compromise bill that imposes state restrictions on local approval of the siting of small cell wireless facilities that attach to existing structures and set mandatory standards for access to public rights-of-way. Part of the compromise was an agreement that local government groups would work with industry stakeholders to streamline the processes for approval of free-standing new towers and facilities in underserved rural areas, however, a new workgroup is considering legislation related to free standing new facilities in all areas of the Commonwealth. The City of Fairfax opposes this action and wants to retain local authority over citing of these structures. (VML, Fairfax County)
Strengthen the Ability of Localities to Address Vacant Buildings
The City seeks amendment of the provisions of § 15.2-1127 or provision of a separate section for the City of Fairfax or the entire Planning District 8 to: 1) eliminate the requirement that vacant buildings included in a registry meet the definition of “derelict building” and 2) increase the registration fee from $100 to $1000. The alternative to the derelict building definition would still require that the building be vacant and not connected to electric service or not connected to water/sewer service, but the building would not be required to have been boarded up in accordance with the building code. (City initiative)
Commercial-Business Vacancy Tax / Incentive Program
The City is seeking authorization from the Commonwealth to institute a commercial vacancy tax or land value tax that would incentivize commercial property owners to aggressively market their properties and to rent to the available tenants, rather than the “perfect” tenant within a specific amount of time. This would ensure some level of revenue generation for the municipality (regardless of whether it be through business transaction/licensing or taxable income) and stimulate the local economy by generating proximate economic activity. For example, properties / storefronts that have been vacated for a substantial period of time (e.g. 6-12 months) would face an additional tax (e.g. 1% of assessed value) in addition to any regular assessed property tax. This tax would provide owners of vacant businesses with a strong incentive to lower prices in order to fill the space with available tenants.
The City of Fairfax supports legislation to promote wider participation in elections. One mechanism is to allow “no excuse” absentee voting for any registered voter. Currently a voter can select one of twenty different reasons to vote absentee and must sign an affidavit to that effect, which is an impediment to voters and a time consuming process for the registrar. (Position shared by most Northern Virginia registrars)
Medical Use of Marijuana
At the request of the Northern Virginia Aging Network and with concurrence of the Virginia Municipal League, the City of Fairfax supports the expansion of use of medical marijuana (cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil) with a valid prescription for treatment of certain conditions or alleviation of symptoms of specified diseases such as glaucoma, cancer, MS, ALS, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, HIV, AIDS and other chronic or terminal conditions.
Allow Smoking Ban at Public Parks
The City of Fairfax seeks enabling legislation to ban smoking in outdoor public spaces such as parks with imposition of a fine for those who violate such action. State Senator John Edwards (Roanoke) introduced SB938 legislation in 2017 that passed the Senate but failed in the House. If such a bill were successful in the 2018 General Assembly, the locality would need to conduct public hearings in order to pass a local ordinance (City position)
Allow Ban on Sale of Pets Acquired from Puppy Mills at retail establishments in the City of Fairfax.
The City of Fairfax is concerned about the deplorable conditions under which many pedigree dogs are bred. These conditions are not humane to the breeding mother and produce puppies that are prone to illness yet sold at exorbitant prices at retail pet stores. The City seeks authority to limit the sale of puppies acquired from so-called Puppy Mills at retail pet stores.
Health insurance coverage options needed for all Virginians
The cost of medical care can devastate a family’s life, especially low-income and fixed-income Virginia residents struggling to pay bills. Virginia’s current Medicaid program eligibility excludes approximately 400,000 low-income Virginians from receiving comprehensive, affordable health insurance. Some of these people - an estimated 230,000 individuals - are not poor enough to participate in Medicaid, but too poor to buy health insurance in the Virginia marketplace. This means that people without other resources go to Federally Qualified Health Centers, the locally funded Community Health Care Network, free clinics and state teaching hospitals for care when they become sick. All Virginians pay for these “free services” through taxes and higher health insurance costs - because providers have to cover the uncompensated costs for the indigent they serve.
The City of Fairfax requests that Virginia lawmakers consider a system of expanding affordable health care access across the state to those not currently covered under Medicaid.
Alternatives to the existing situation are needed and would have significant benefits, bringing new jobs to the Commonwealth by expanding the health care industry, jobs, and Virginia’s overall economy, in addition to freeing up much needed state funds to address significant gaps in other health, housing and human services for our residents. (Virginia Association of Local Human Services Officials)
The City of Fairfax Commission for Women has requested that our delegation again consider the “Dignity Act” which was introduced by Delegate Jennifer Boysko during the 2017 General Assembly; HB1593 did not make it out of committee. This bill would have eliminated the sales tax on women’s hygiene products either completely or at least during the Back to School tax exempt weekend (at an anticipated statewide cost of $40,000). Several other states do not tax these essential products and legislation is under consideration at the federal level to provide feminine hygiene products to women who are incarcerated. The City of Fairfax joins Alexandria in seeking an exemption from sales tax for these basic necessities. (City initiative)
Weapons Ban in Public Buildings during Meetings
The City of Fairfax seeks enabling legislation that would allow local governments to restrict possessing or carrying weapons in public buildings during official meetings of the local governing body consistent with the prohibition on schools and courtrooms. (City initiative, other)
Predatory Lending Practices
The City of Fairfax continues to be concerned with the proliferation of Payday Lending and Car Title Loan programs whose practices may constitute usury. Payday and car title loans offer quick cash backed by the borrower’s paycheck or car titles. While most would assert that these lending programs exploit poor people, defenders say that they provide a necessary service to persons who could not qualify for loans from more established banking institutions. In 2009, the General Assembly set caps on annual interest rates at 36 percent but permitted fees that substantially increase the actual interest rate above this level. According to the State Corporation Commission, in 2012 the average annual interest rate for car title loans was 224 percent; for payday loans it was 305 percent.
Fifteen states (including neighbors Maryland, North Carolina, and West Virginia) and the District of Columbia currently ban high-cost, short-term loans by setting a maximum annual interest rate of 36 percent including fees. Under the federal Military Lending Act, military service members and their families are also protected from these expensive and predatory loans
The City supports legislation to cap the interest rate on short-term loans at 36 percent annual interest inclusive of all fees. (Position shared with Fairfax County, Alexandria)
Reduce use of plastic bags
For a number of years, General Assembly members have introduced legislation that attempts to reduce the use of plastic bags in retail sales. These bags cause many problems in landfills, waterways, and in mechanically harvested crops.
As it has in the past, the City will ask its delegation to support legislation to reduce the use of plastic bags in retail sales. Such legislation should include authorization for localities to determine appropriate methods to limit the use of plastic bags in their jurisdictions. (City, VML)
The City supports legislation that would permit the City to prohibit discrimination in the areas of housing, real estate transactions, employment, public accommodations, credit, and education on the basis of sexual orientation. Governor McAuliffe eliminated sexual orientation as an impediment to employment in state agencies, however, the potential for this discrimination exists in the private sector due to Right to Work laws. Equality Virginia, which promotes rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons will again seek to have this introduced in the 2018 session. (Fairfax County, Alexandria)