The reconvened session of the General Assembly that took place on Wednesday, April 6 addressed many business issues. The House and Senate approved 66 of the Governor’s 86 proposed amendments during the session.
The $7.5 million that was eliminated from the state’s 2012 budget to contribute to the Oceana land acquisition program was restored. The program, passed in 2006, stated that $15 million a year, or $7.5 million split between Virginia Beach and the state, would be spent to prevent new development around the Oceana jet base and to roll back existing development.
Concerns arose at the initial meeting of the General Assembly when the state did not allocate its portion of the funding for the program. Concerted efforts were made by City officials, the Navy and the Chamber in the last month to help restore the money. Virginia Beach City Manager, James Spore, wrote a letter to Mayor Will Sessoms recognizing Ira Agricola, Senior Vice President at the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, for “the behind the scenes work that he did with several special groups of legislators.” Read the letter. The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce is pleased to have played a role in this tremendous accomplishment for Virginia Beach, as well as for the Hampton Roads region.
The April reconvening session addressed other business-related issues. Governor McDonnell’s veto of legislation that annually expands the cap on medical malpractice awards was overridden by the legislature. The legislation was drafted in concert with trial lawyers, physicians, and hospitals.
Approved amendments of the Autism Mandate now require state licensure of treatment providers and independent reviews of treatment. However, there is concern that the $35,000 cap on the maximum annual benefit may not stand up to a federal court challenge.
The legislator also sustained two vetoes on environmental bills, including one that made it a civil penalty for people who failed to report certain water withdrawal information to the Commonwealth. Lawmakers also sustained the Governor’s veto on a bill that would have raised fines imposed by the Department of Environmental Quality to $15,000 for a second offense and $30,000 for a third offense.
As expected, the Virginia House of Delegates approved a redistricting bill on an 86-8 vote. With Hampton Roads losing House and Senate seats to higher growth regions like Northern Virginia, several Delegates from Hampton Roads voted against the measure. Opponents included Delegate Paula Miller and Delegate Robin Abbot who will be in “combined” districts with incumbents. The Senate is expected to add their bill to the House bill to limit the Governor’s ability to amend the plan.