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Prince William County’s Legislative Update from the General Assembly – Week 4

Contributed by Prince William County

Legislative UpdateDuring its fourth week in a nine-week session, the Virginia General Assembly considered bills of interest to Prince William County.

House Bill (HB) 1209, introduced by Del. Luke Torian (D-52nd), would improve the process for local zoning approval of in-home daycare.  Daycare facilities for six to 12 children must receive local zoning approval to be licensed by the state.  The Code of Virginia does not allow the local governing body to negotiate with an applicant to mitigate neighbors’ concerns.  HB 1209 would allow applicants to agree to conditions that would address those concerns.  The Board of County Supervisors requested legislation to give local governing bodies the ability to negotiate, similar to other land use cases.  The bill was unanimously approved by the House Counties, Cities and Towns Committee last week and goes to the full House of Delegates this week.

House Bill 63, which was introduced by Del. Robert B. Bell (R-20th), would allow home-school students to participate in interscholastic programs. The bill passed the House of Delegates on a 60-to-39 vote and is on its way to the Senate. This issue was among the items supported in the Board’s 2014 Legislative Agenda.

Several bills the General Assembly is considering would allow hunting on Sundays.  The Prince William Board of County Supervisors supports Sunday hunting as a means to decrease the deer population.  The over-population of deer in Northern Virginia poses a threat to public safety, both in causing vehicle accidents and as deer carry ticks with tick-borne diseases. Senate Bill 154, introduced by Phillip P. Puckett (D-38th) to legalize hunting on Sunday, is on its way to the full Senate after reporting out of the Senate Agricultural, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee on a 9-to-4 vote. The House of Delegates passed HB 1237, a similar bill introduced by Del. Todd C. Gilbert (R-15th) on a 71-to-27 vote.

The Board of County Supervisors also requested that the General Assembly expand the religious uses that qualify a religious institution for real estate tax exemption.  Several bills seek to clarify which “religious uses” religious institutions can claim as exempt from real estate taxes.  Senate Bill 175, introduced by Sen.  Richard H. Black (R-13th), makes the Code more clear in exempting property used primarily for outdoor worship activities and passed the Senate unanimously, now heading to the House of Delegates.  On the House side, Del. Randy Minchew (R-10th) has a similar bill that has passed out of the House Finance committee.

The Prince William Board’s Legislative Agenda also included a request for the ability to establish service districts, which would allow for benefitting property owners to help share some of the costs of undergrounding utilities.  This issue arose recently as the Board considered requests from residents along the Route 1 corridor in North Woodbridge to underground utilities as part of a road widening. The Board found that it did not have the legal authority to create a service district for undergrounding utilities, unlike other purposes that are included in the Virginia Code. While the Route 1 issue has been resolved, the Board still desired the service district “tool” in its toolbox for the future. Sen. Linda T. “Toddy” Puller (D-36th) and Torian each brought bills to the General Assembly, but struck the bills as it became clear to stakeholders involved that more time is needed to work through Prince William County’s specific needs and to address stakeholders’ concerns.   The bills may be taken up again in 2015.

To learn more about the General Assembly and to see the status of all proposed legislation before the General Assembly this session, please visit http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/ and http://leg1.state.va.us/lis.htm.

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