Regional legislative agenda in planning stages

By Susan Gibbs

David Blount, legislative liaison for the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, appeared before the Greene County Board of Supervisors at its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, September 11 to ask for input into the region’s 2013 legislative agenda.

Blount’s function is to develop, based on input from local governments, a regional legislative program that serves as the basis for lobbying activities throughout the year. He then represents those interests and positions before the state legislature and other state policymakers.

This is the time of year, Blount said, for him to be “going to all the region’s local governing bodies (the City of Charlottesville and the counties of  Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson) to get input into the program … so that I will be able to respond and react to proposed legislation.”

He explained that this year his first priority will be to request that the state not shift the cost of programs to localities; that it honor its funding obligations, and his second priority will be transportation.

“The devolution of the secondary road system from the state to the localities is being pushed by some state policy makers,” Blount told supervisors. “The state assembly did not go along (but) that’s still an important issue.”

Blount said he planned to address that, and to “call on the state to provide dedicated resources for our transportation infrastructure.”

He also noted that the region was “left with more requirements (and) reductions” this year, as well as “some program cost shifting.”

Last year’s priority items included: secondary road devolution, unfunded mandates, water quality support, tools with which to manage growth, and containment of costs for Comprehensive Services Act programs.

Blount told legislators last year that the planning district localities were:

  • Strongly opposed to any legislation or regulations that would transfer responsibility to counties for construction, maintenance or operation of current or new secondary roads.
  • Urging the state to establish separate, dedicated and permanent state revenue streams to expand and maintain our transportation infrastructure.
  • Urging the governor and legislature to 1) honor their funding obligations to localities; 2) resist shifting costs for state programs to localities; and 3) not further restrict local revenue authority.
  • Urging the legislature to fully fund the state share of the realistic costs of the Standards of Quality without making allocation formula and policy changes that reduce state funding or shift additional funding responsibility to localities.
  • Supporting the goal of improved water quality, but in need of major and reliable forms of financial and technical assistance from the federal and state governments if comprehensive water quality improvement strategies for local and state waters emptying into the Chesapeake Bay are to be effective.
  • Encouraging the state to provide local governments with additional tools to manage growth, without preempting or circumventing existing authorities.
  • Urging the state to be partners in containing costs of the Comprehensive Services Act (CSA) and to better balance CSA responsibilities between state and local government.

Last year’s areas of continuing concern included:

  • Economic and workforce development
  • Environmental quality
  • Health and human services
  • Housing
  • Public safety
  • Local government structure and laws

In response to Blount’s request for input at the September 11 meeting at the Greene County Administration Building in Stanardsville, Chairman Buggs Peyton said simply, “No more mandates.”

Supervisor Jim Frydl criticized the state for balancing its budget at the expense of the localities, and then called attention to some efforts to introduce new modes of transportation.

“I think dedicating revenues to all transportation modes is a good idea for the future,” Frydl said, “but it should not come at the expense of the limited dollars we have for vehicle transportation. I understand that there are other avenues we have to look at, but I would hate to see the money we have (for vehicles) taken away for bicycles.”

Blount suggested that supervisors list the points that are important to them, as he would be drafting the legislative program in the coming weeks. He will be appearing before the Board again in October, and then again in November to receive supervisors’ final approval on the program.

While much of Blount’s work occurs at the General Assembly during January-March of each year, he stays busy during the off-season as well, attending legislative study committee meetings and other meetings of interest to local governments.

As the region’s legislative liaison, Blount does extensive reading and research of issues, and develops good working relationships with the areas legislators and key local government officials.

To see more information on the above, along with highlights of approved legislation in the areas of the environment, finance, human services, land use, local government, public safety and transportation, visit http://www.tjpdc.org/liaison/index.asp.

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