As you will see in this week’s update, aside from HB 824 which deals with an issue outside of our region, our legislative agenda has successfully passed both the House and Senate. We are currently waiting for Governor Northam to sign these bills into law. Once that occurs, they will go into effect on July 1, 2018. Just as we mentioned last week, the main focus between now and adjournment on Saturday, March 10 is closing the significant gap between the House and Senate budgets. The most recent update to our legislative agenda can be found here.
In order to reach an agreement on the budget, the House and Senate go conduct an extensive negotiating process through appointed individuals known as ‘conferees’. This year the Senate appointed seven individuals – Norment, Hanger, Ruff, Newman, Wagner, Saslaw, Howell – while the House appointed six – Jones, Peace, Knight, Garrett, Torian, Sickles. Over the next week these representatives will be working to close a nearly $600 million difference in the budgets.
While there will be a conversation occurring in the context of the budget regarding METRO, there will also be a negotiation going on with regards to the METRO legislation that each budget references. The Senate budget refers back to legislation introduced by Senator Saslaw that we have discussed over the past few weeks. This legislation would increase several regional taxes in Northern Virginia (outside of Prince William County) while relying less heavily on NVTA funds which localities currently use to build roads. The House budget does not contain specific language like the Senate but redirects existing revenue streams currently going to the NVTA, to the NVTC which oversees transit operations. The House budget significantly impacts NVTA funds and would cause roughly 41% of Prince William County’s existing funds to go to METRO.
Similar to budget conferees, conferees are also named to negotiate differences between legislation. Both the House and Senate have amended the METRO bill from the other body and have conformed it to their own. Earlier this week six conferees were named to negotiate the differences between the bills. In the Senate – Saslaw, Norment, Wagner, and in the House – Hugo, Peace, Sullivan. They will meet over the next several days to resolves the differences between the bills and ideally arrive at a solution that isn’t disproportionately reliant on one industry or that utilizes too much revenue currently used to fund local roads. PWAR remains engaged in these conversations on a weekly basis and will report back next week, hopefully with a final resolution.
Listed below are several resources to help you navigate the legislative session. You will find resources to help determine who your elected representative is and how to contact them, how to determine who serves on which committees, as well as when our legislative priorities will be considered. If you care to do so, you can even watch online as these meetings take place!
Brendon Shaw serves as our full-time representative in Richmond and advocates on our behalf. Should you have any questions about legislation, the legislative process, or Virginia REALTORS legislative priorities, he can be reached by email at BShaw@cardinalstrategiesva.com.