‘Solar freedom’ law won’t see light of day

The General Assembly has upheld Gov. Bob McDonnell’s veto of legislation preventing community associations from prohibiting the installation of solar panels on homes.

The Senate could not muster the votes to override the veto of Senate Bill 627, which had been sponsored by Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax.

Petersen expressed disappointment that his “solar freedom” bill will not become law. He said the bill would have allowed all Virginians who live in homeowners associations to lower their electricity bills and qualify for federal tax credits by installing solar panels on their houses.

Some community associations traditionally have prohibited or restricted solar panels for aesthetic and property-value reasons. In 2008, the General Assembly passed a bill proposed by Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, to address that situation.

Wagner’s measure said that after July 1, 2008, community associations could not impose rules to “prohibit an owner from installing or using a solar energy collection device on that owner’s property. However, a community association may establish reasonable restrictions concerning the size, place, and manner of placement of such solar energy collection devices.”

Because of a grandfather clause, that law did not affect solar-panel prohibitions that had been in place before July 1, 2008. That’s why Petersen introduced SB 627 this legislative session.

“Ninety-nine percent of the homeowner associations’ covenants were unaffected by the law in 2008 because the restrictions already existed,” Petersen said. “My bill struck out the grandfather clause and said this will be the state law across the board and prohibitions on solar panels are not enforceable in Virginia.”

During the General Assembly’s regular session, the Senate passed SB 627 on a 31-8 vote, and the House approved it 74-24.

But on April 9, McDonnell vetoed the bill.

The governor said the 2008 law provided community associations with more than enough opportunities to change previous covenants regarding solar panels. SB 627 was an attempt to retroactively enforce that law, McDonnell said. He said it would have violated both Virginia and United States laws.

“Senate Bill 627 appears to contradict the general legislative rule that statutory enactments are applied prospectively,” McDonnell said. “In addition to the problem of retroactive application, the legislation potentially violates both the United States Constitution (Article I, Section 10) and the Virginia Constitution (Article I, Section 11) by ‘impairing the obligation of contracts.’ ”

Overturning a veto requires a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and the Senate. That means getting 27 senators to vote in favor of overriding the vote.

Last Wednesday, the Senate voted 21-18 in favor of overturning McDonnell’s veto – and so the vote failed.

Solar installation has become increasingly popular around the country, creating new jobs and a new way to power homes and businesses, Petersen noted.

“There are a lot of new technologies out there in residential improvement industry which we need to encourage. Solar installation is certainly one of them,” he said. “The businesses that install solar panels are small businesses, and I want to make sure that they can sell their products and not go up against a lot of red tape and legal prohibitions.”

In an interview, Petersen said he probably will reintroduce the legislation in the future.
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UMFS has urgent need for foster parents


UMFS officials say they have a desperate need for more foster families in the Richmond region and Central Virginia, especially those who would receive teenagers currently in the foster care system.

In recent years throughout the state, the number of children entering the foster care system has grown. > Read more.

VSP issues warning about automated traffic ticket email scam

Virginia State Police officials are warning Virginians about an email scam that tells people they are receiving an “automated traffic ticket” from the agency. State Police do not use or issue digital or automated traffic tickets or summonses, however. Anyone receiving such an email should delete it and not click on any links provided in the email, police said. > Read more.

READ Center offers free classes, training to low-literate people


One in six adults in Metro Richmond has literacy issues, and the READ Center in Henrico County is working to address the issue.

Next week – Sept. 24-30 – is Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, a time during which the READ Center is shining a light on its efforts to help some of the 35,000 adults in the region for whom reading, writing and basic math remain an elusive target. > Read more.

Play Day RVA planned for Sept. 21


The Richmond region will celebrate Play Day RVA Thursday, Sept. 21, with activities throughout the area to celebrate the opportunities that exist to play in the community. Dozens of employers, local governments, schools and community organizations will participate by hosting events that integrate playful activities into daily life and spread awareness of the value of active living. > Read more.

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September 2017
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Lavender Fields Herb Farm, 11300 Winfrey Rd. in Glen Allen, will host its annual Fall Herb Faire from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. There will be free classes, herbal tastings, greenhouse tours, kid’s activities, Bob the bee keeper and more. Shop a great selection of cool weather certified organic herb and vegetable plants. Admission is free. Rain or shine. For details, call 262-7167 or visit http://www.lavenderfieldsfarm.com. Full text

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