The last of my bills was heard in Committee this week, beginning with SB 444, which passed unanimously out of the Senate Finance Committee. The bill protects taxpayers who invest in historic rehabilitation projects and was necessary because of an odd technicality resulting from a 2011 Federal Court decision. The ruling resulted in Virginia taxpayers being inadvertently taxed on the proceeds of their own tax credit, which was never the intent. Historic rehab tax credits have been extremely valuable in our district, generating substantial private investment and revitalizing urban centers. The clarification of Virginia’s intent under the statute will now keep those investments secure.
SB 451, my bill to make Medicaid fraud investigation and enforcement more efficient, passed unanimously out of the Courts of Justice Committee. The bill conforms Virginia’s fraud prosecution procedures to federal rules that allow Virginia to continue to receive a 10% collection enhancement on Medicaid fraud recoveries. Without this bill, Virginia would stand to lose substantial federal dollars that support our work to combat fraud.
My bill, SB 684, also passed unanimously out of the Senate Finance Committee giving Winchester the option to direct certain sales tax proceeds generated from a baseball facility to pay for the cost of construction. It is a permissive provision that has already been extended to eleven other localities and my bill adds Winchester to the list in an effort to support Winchester’s consideration of a baseball stadium. It is good policy because it costs taxpayers nothing to simply direct the new revenue from sales tax generated at a stadium once it is built. That revenue then goes to help pay the cost of the stadium. If the city chooses not to pursue a facility, then it is at least available for future economic development.
I am very sad to report that SB 449, my bill requiring the Board of Housing and Community Development to set safety guidelines for anchoring movable soccer goals in public recreational areas, failed to pass in committee. The genesis of the bill was the tragic story of Hayden Ellias, who was killed in Frederick County when an unanchored goal fell on him. Since then, there have been at least six more deaths and at least five serious injuries as a result of unanchored goals. It takes as little as 22 pounds of pressure to tip over a 400 pound goal and it is a preventable accident. I was extremely disappointed that the committee could not agree to support the bill, but I intend to work again next year to propose a solution.
Two sweeping reform measures passed in the Senate this week. The first, SB 678, is a major government reorganization plan proposed by Governor McDonnell. It represents one of many measures passed during his term that targets duplicative, antiquated and ineffective state government functions.
When I cite just some of the groups abolished by the bill, you begin to see the absurdity of what government has become. Among other things, the bill eliminates the Commonwealth Competition Council; Interagency Dispute Resolution Advisory Council; Virginia Public Building Board; Virginia Council on Human Resources; Department of Employment Dispute Resolutions; Reforestation Board; Seed Potato Board (incorporates those duties into the regular Potato Board); Pesticide Control Board (transfers duties to Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services); Board of Surface Mining Review; Board of Mineral Mining Examiners; the Virginia National Defense Industrial Authority; Boating Advisory Committee; and the Board of Towing and Recovery Operators. It also deregulates mold remediators and inspectors, hair braiders and braiding schools and consolidates the Bright Flue-Cured and Dark-Fired Tobacco Boards.
Have no fear. No important state function is overlooked. In each case, meaningful responsibilities of an eliminated body are subsumed by another board. Again, I share this list for perspective and to demonstrate the scope of what can be done to capture economies of scale and remedy some of the obsolete and embarrassingly outdated framework of state government. I hope that this is a trend we continue and eventually we have the opportunity to do the same with local government functions as well.
The second sweeping reform, SB 679, eliminates a long list of statewide mandates on local and regional government entities related to procurement, education and land use. It is the result of the Governor’s Task Force on Local Mandate Review, a comprehensive undertaking to solicit feedback from school divisions and local governments on the worthless and expensive mandates that should be abolished. The findings support my strong bias against mandates in general. Time has proven that burdensome and intrusive federal government mandates take away our liberties as Virginians. The same is true for mandates imposed on localities by the state, which only serve to drain resources and undermine local authority.
As always, I take your thoughts and opinions seriously and hope that you will contact our office any time that you have questions or concerns. I can be reached during the General Assembly session at 804-698-7527, P.O. Box 397, Richmond, VA 23218 or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, please visit our website at www.senatorjillvogel.com.