Conference panel will seek transportation compromise
A conference committee of 10 legislators has less than a week and a half to hammer out a compromise between the House and Senate versions of a bill to increase transportation funding in Virginia.
The committee was named after the Senate on Wednesday passed a version of House Bill 2313 that differs greatly from the document approved by delegates last week.
As approved by the Senate on a 26-14 vote, HB 2313 would raise Virginia’s gasoline tax from 17.5 cents per gallon to 22.5 cents per gallon. In contrast, the House version of HB 2313 would get rid of the gas tax entirely and raise the sales tax from 5 percent to 5.8 percent.
The House version reflects Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposals for pumping more than $3 billion in road and transit projects over the next five years.
The Senate’s version of the bill would not provide transportation as much money from the state’s general fund as McDonnell originally proposed. Both the House and Senate versions would raise vehicle registration fees.
“The takeaway from today’s action by the Senate of Virginia on House Bill 2313 is that the discussion over transportation will continue right up until the end of the 2013 session,” said Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment of Williamsburg.
Norment was one of the 14 Republicans who voted against the Senate substitute for HB 2313.
After the Senate approved its version of HB 2313, the bill went back to the House for consideration. Delegates rejected the Senate version on a 19-78 vote.
As a result, the two chambers appointed a conference committee to try to put together a bill both side can agree on before the General Assembly’s session ends on Feb. 23.
McDonnell said that if the committee can agree upon “a fiscally responsible plan,” he will sign it into law.
Although most Republican senators voted against the Senate version of HB 2313, six voted for it. They were joined by all 20 Democratic senators.
“In casting their votes on the Senate substitute to House Bill 2313 today, Republican senators represented the best interests of the people of their respective districts,” Norment said. “For most, that meant opposing this plan. For others, it meant a favorable vote, in some cases in the expressed interest of getting a bill into conference.”
The conference committee will have eight Republicans and two Democrats.
The House appointed as its conferees Republican Delegates John O’Bannon of Henrico, Chris Jones of Suffolk, Beverly Sherwood of Frederick, and Dave Albo of Fairfax, as well as Democratic Delegate Onzlee Ware of Roanoke.
The Senate appointed at its conferences Republican Sens. Norment, Frank Wagner of Virginia Beach, Walter Stosch of Henrico, and John Watkins of Powhatan, as well as Democratic Sen. Janet Howell of Fairfax.
“The task before these conferees will not be easy,” said House Speaker William Howell. “But I know they are committed to addressing Virginia’s long-term transportation needs.”
With only10 days remaining in the session, McDonnell urged the conferees to work hard to reach common ground, laying out specifically what that would entail.
“That common ground must include a significant commitment of the projected future growth in the general fund revenues, greater reliance on sustainable revenue sources which grow with economic activity, as opposed to gasoline tax increases, and sufficient revenues to address maintenance crossover, construction, passenger rail, and transit needs without over burdening our citizens and businesses with taxes,” McDonnell said.
“We must act now. We must pass a plan this session. To do so will ensure that Virginia remains the top state in which to live, work, and raise a family.”
The Richmond West Breakfast Lions Club (based in western Henrico) recently donated 59 backpacks to the Westover Hills Elementary School on Jahnke Road.
Above, club members display some of the backpacks prior to their distribution. > Read more.
Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.
At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.
Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.
The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.
Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.
CAT Theatre will hold auditions for Book of Days on Sunday, Oct. 26 and Monday, Oct. 27, at 7 p.m. each day. Auditions will be held at CAT Theatre, 319 North Wilkinson Road in Henrico. Book of Days will run Jan. 23-Feb. 7 and is one of CAT’s submissions to the Acts of Faith Festival.
Book of Days, by Pulitzer Prize winner Lanford Wilson is an exploration of faith, justice, and corruption, amidst the backdrop of murder – and community theatre – in small town America. Book of Days was first written for and produced by Jeff Daniels Purple Rose Theatre Company of Michigan.
Director Leslie Cline is seeking five females between the ages of 20-65 and seven males between the ages of 24-65. > Read more.
CAT Theatre’s 51st season will open with Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure, which will run Oct. 24 through Nov. 8. The play is based on the original 1899 play by William Gillette and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and adapted by Steven Dietz, and was the winner of the 2007 Edgar Award for Best Mystery Play.
The story follows Holmes, whose career as the world’s greatest detective seems to have reached its end until he is confronted with a case far too tempting to ignore. When the King of Bohemia faces blackmail by famed opera singer, Irene Adler, Holmes and his companion Dr. Watson find themselves falling into the trap of evil genius Professor Moriarty. > Read more.
Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.
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CalendarThe Modlin Center for the Arts at the University of Richmond will stream National Theatre Live’s “Skylight” at 2 p.m. in Camp Concert Hall, Booker Hall of Music. The production… Full text