‘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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Glen Allen native serves aboard Navy’s most advanced submarine


A 2007 Deep Run High School graduate and Glen Allen, Virginia native is serving in the U.S. Navy as part of a crew working aboard one of the world’s most advanced ballistic missile submarines, USS Tennessee, Gold Crew.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Uhl, a machinist’s mate, serves aboard the Kings Bay-based boat, one of 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines.

As a machinist's mate, Uhl is responsible for operating and maintaining the auxiliary engineering equipment aboard the submarine. > Read more.

Fresh Air Fund seeks host families


The Fresh Air Fund, a program through which nearly 4,000 children from low-income New York City communities spend a summer with host families in communities along the East Coast and in southern Canada, is seeking hosts for the coming summer.

According to the organization, there is no such thing as a “typical” host family. First-time Fresh Air children are boys and girls, from seven to 12 years old. Children who are reinvited by host families may continue with The Fresh Air Fund through age 18 and can enjoy extended trips. > Read more.

Godwin student wins in statewide STEM essay contest

Governor Terry McAuliffe and the Virginia Council on Women announced recently that Morgan Logsdon of Mills E. Godwin High School was one of five statewide winners of the sixth-annual STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Essay Contest for young women enrolled in their junior or senior year of high school.

The Council on Women established the contest to award scholarships to high school junior and senior young women who plan to pursue STEM careers at institutions of higher education. > Read more.

Varina meeting May 2 to address opioid crisis in Henrico


Varina District Supervisor Tyrone E. Nelson will hold a Community Conversations meeting Tuesday, May 2 to discuss the opioid epidemic in Henrico County.

The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Henrico Theatre, 305 E. Nine Mile Road. Nelson will be joined by County Manager John A. Vithoulkas and members of the Henrico Heroin Task Force for a discussion of heroin and opioid abuse and ways to prevent it. > Read more.

Baker ES to remain closed until fall


Baker Elementary School students will complete the 2016-17 school year at other locations and will return to a restored building in fall 2017, school leaders have decided.

The decision was made in order to provide ample time for repairs to be completed at the fire-damaged school and to avoid additional interruptions to instructional time. > Read more.

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April 2017
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The We Heart Harlie and Friends 5K and Kids Mile will start at 8:30 a.m. at Glen Allen High School. There will also be raffles, face painting, bounce houses, food trucks, a DJ and more. Fees are $25 to $30 for the 5K and $15 to $20 for the Kids Mile. Rain or shine. We Heart Harlie and Friends’ mission is to help raise money to offset the financial strain of medically fragile children. This year's goal is to help with therapies, surgeries, travel expenses, and home modifications to accommodate 10 boys and girls. To register, visit http://www.racerpal.com/races/weheartharlie.html. Full text

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