On Monday, the General Assembly reconvened to start the process of adopting House and Senate redistricting plans. These plans are meant to "right-size" districts based on the 2010 Census. It appears that my district will experience a significant shift to the west. To see the latest proposal, visit the official General Assembly redistricting web site, go to "Plan List," and click on HB5001 Committee Substitute under House Plans. I will send out more information and a map later this week.
This Wednesday I will also be defending two of my bills during the reconvened session, which is when the General Assembly considers the Governor's amendments to legislation and whether to sustain or over-ride the Governor's vetoes.
Help Save the Tank Farm Bill
This session, Senator Petersen and I introduced companion bills (HB2103 and SB843) to require the Pickett Road Tank Farm to bring their above ground storage tanks into conformance with modern industry standards. Currently, the tanks, which store more than one million gallons of fuel, are grandfathered under old rules that afford very few protections. For instance, many of the tanks do not have double bottoms or release prevention barriers, meaning that any leak will go directly into the ground. These new standards are there for a reason - to protect public safety and the environment. Given the tank farm's age and history of leaks, including a new incident where the source of the petroleum has yet to be identified, such an upgrade doesn't seem unreasonable. Both bills passed the General Assembly unanimously.
Regrettably, the Governor has proposed amendments that significantly weaken the bills. Rather than accept legislation that is not likely to make the community safer, Senator Petersen and I are asking the General Assembly to reject the amendments and for the Governor to sign the bills as originally passed. Letters have already been sent to the Governor from the City of Fairfax and the Mantua Citizens Association.
You have an opportunity to make a difference! Assuming the General Assembly rejects the amendments on Wednesday, the Governor has seven days to decide whether to accept the original language or to veto the measures. If this issue is important to you, please consider emailing, writing, or calling the Governor's office and ask that he sign HB2103 and SB843 into law. Click here for contact information.
Water Supply Planning
When it rains, it pours! Earlier this past week, I received a call from the Governor's office informing me that he was vetoing my HB1738. This bill provides a mechanism for Virginia to enforce existing reporting requirements for those withdrawing more than one million gallons of water per month or an average of 10,000 gallon per day.
Anyone who has lived in Virginia long enough knows that we experience a major drought about once every 10 years. While droughts may be unavoidable, proper water supply planning can help mitigate the impacts to our citizens, industry, and farmers. As such, Virginia requires a permit for any new large withdrawal of water. However, if you were already withdrawing water before 1989, you do not need a permit - all the law says is that you must report the amount being withdrawn. So what is the problem? Under the current Code, there is no penalty for not reporting, and unfortunately, many people simply ignore the requirement. Not only does this mean we have inaccurate data for planning purposes, it is also unfair for those who play by the rules and puts all of us at risk during drought conditions. I have found very few people who believe that this simple reporting requirement isn't reasonable.
For two years, I worked with manufacturing and agricultural interests to craft a bill that allows for penalties, but only after the person withdrawing the water has received not just one, not just two, but three notices asking them to report the required information.
In his veto message, the Governor made the argument that "adding new financial penalties on commercial and agricultural water users is not the right solution." I would argue that by allowing those who withdrawal large amounts of water to ignore the law we are putting our businesses, farmers, and the general public at risk and punishing those who play by the rules. I am working to put together a bi-partisan coalition to over-ride the veto, and while I may not succeed, I look forward to making my case on the House floor. You can watch the proceedings online at by clicking here.
As always, it is an honor to represent you in the House of Delegates. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, or would like additional information on the reconvened session or redistricting.