‘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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State Police urge motorists to #MoveOver during Memorial Day weekend

Memorial Day signifies the official start of summer, and Virginia State Police officials are urging motorists to "do what’s right when they see lights" and move over.

The “Move Over” law is a lifesaving law intended to protect public safety professionals and highway workers who help to maintain the safety of the Commonwealth’s roads. State Police are using the #MoveOver hashtag on social media to promote the law. > Read more.

Henrico to hold June 8 open house on Route 5 Corridor/Marion Hill study

The Henrico County Planning Department will hold an open house Thursday, June 8 for residents and other members of the public to provide input for a study of the Route 5 Corridor/Marion Hill areas.

The open house will be held from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Varina Area Library, 1875 New Market Road. The meeting’s informal structure will allow the public to attend at their convenience and to ask questions and discuss the study one on one with Planning staff. > Read more.

Henrico real estate staying strong despite low inventory

The Henrico real estate market has been relatively strong for the past month, despite a lower amount of inventory, according to data from Long and Foster Real Estate.

In the past month, 408 homes have been sold in Henrico, which is 2 percent less than were sold in the same timeframe in 2016.

Last year the median sale prices for Henrico homes was $219,975, whereas this month it's up to $232,500, a 6 percent increase. Which means half of the homes in Henrico are priced above $232,500 and half are priced below. > Read more.

Smither named director of Henrico’s Department of Finance

Henrico County Manager John A. Vithoulkas has appointed Edward N. “Ned” Smither Jr. to serve as director of the Department of Finance, effective July 1.

Smither has served Henrico since 2013 as director of the Accounting Division in Finance. He will succeed Eugene H. Walter, who has delayed his retirement until June 30 to ensure an orderly transition within the department.
> Read more.

State honors EMS officials this week

There were nearly 1.5 million emergency medical services calls and 4,063 incidents per day in Virginia just last year.

This week, May 21-27, declared as National EMS week by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, recognizes the more than 34,000 EMS personnel and 631 agencies in the state and commends their efforts and commitment to Commonwealth citizens.
> Read more.

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Richmond-area children will be able to receive dental treatments at no cost during Sharing Smiles Day, an annual day of free dental care hosted by children’s dental provider Kool Smiles. The event will take place from 9 a.m. to noon at Kool Smiles Southside Plaza, 4722 N. Southside Plaza St. in Richmond. Available treatments will include dental exams, limited emergency care, extractions, and restorative care. A limited number of appointments are available. Parents are strongly encouraged to register their children on the Kool Smiles website in advance of the event. Treatment is on a first-come, first-served basis and pre-registration does not guarantee treatment. Treatment offerings will be determined by the dentist. For details, visit http://www.mykoolsmiles.com/sharingsmiles or call 319-5665. Full text

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