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.”
St. Joseph's Villa’s Flagler Housing & Homeless Services was one of three entities to earn the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Champion of Change Award. The awards were presented Nov. 17 during a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
NAEH annually recognizes proven programs and significant achievements in ending child and family homelessness.
Flagler completed its transition from an on-campus shelter to the community-based model of rapid rehousing in 2013, and it was one of the nation's first rapid re-housing service providers to be certified by NAEH. > Read more.
Richmond International Raceway's 13th annual Community Christmas tree lighting has been rescheduled from Dec. 6 to Monday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m., due to inclement weather expected on the original date.
Entertainment Dec. 12 will be provided by the Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors band. Tree decorations crafted by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School will be on display. Hot chocolate and cookies will be supplied by the Henrico High School football boosters. > Read more.
If the snow last weekend had you stuck at home, then you will appreciate free admission all weekend long at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden! Other free options this weekend include a Classic Family Film series at Varina Library, “Crafternoon” at Libbie Mill Library and the tenth annual Richmond Jewish Food Festival taking place Sunday and Monday at the Weinstein JCC. Concert options include the 8th annual Djangoary Music Soiree at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen and Flight Risk, performing at The Tin Pan. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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CalendarThe Richmond Entrepreneur's Assistance Program (REAP) will present the Walk & Roll for Kindness event as part of its #REAPKindnessCampaign inside Regency Square Mall. The event, designed to raise funds for awareness of disabled individuals including job seekers and possible entrepreneurs, will feature a one-mile walk, food demonstrations, music, dance, a kid's play zone, prizes and kindness card creation stations. Amy Lacey from WRIC will serve as event host. The event will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Cost is $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and teenagers and free for children up to age 12. For details, visit http://tinyurl.com/REAPwalkandroll. Full text