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Alexandria lays out state legislative priorities as ‘house money’ days come to a close

After a few years of somewhat jubilant legislative sessions, the City Council is moving into preparation for a legislative package with a more grim outlook.

The legislative package is an annual list of asks and recommendations from the city to the state government. These sorts of legislative packages are particularly important in Virginia where, as a Dillon Rule state, the authority of the city is limited to only those areas explicitly granted by the state. With Republicans winning control of much of the state government in last week’s election, the all-Democrat City Council’s days of “playing with house money” could be coming to an end.

The biggest project involving state funding in Alexandria is the combined sewer overhaul, a $400 million project mandated by the state that comes with $45 in state funding. The top item on the 2022 legislative priorities list is maintaining funding for that project and offering more flexibility in how the city finances its infrastructure projects.

“The City supports a technical amendment to the budget to ensure funds already appropriated for the [combined sewer] project from the State’s American Rescue Plan Act funds are directed to AlexRenew/The Alexandria Sanitation Authority,” the legislative package draft said. “In addition, the City supports the General Assembly’s commitment to appropriating an additional $40 million in bonds in the next biennial budget to support Alexandria’s legislatively mandated combined sewer overflow project.”

Similarly, the legislative package also expresses support for:

  • Legislation to authorize a comprehensive, statewide workgroup and/or master planning process to consider issues related to inland flooding and recommend actionable short-term and long-term strategies and funding opportunities to prepare for and adapt to inland flooding, including policy changes, priority resiliency projects, funding and financing strategies, and a plan for coordination among state, federal, and local governments.
  • Budget language to direct [Department of Environmental Quality] to convene a work group to review and recommend modifications to current law regarding the limitations on local authority to regulate additions/modifications to single family detached residential structures where land disturbance is less than 2,500 square feet in order to review the land disturbing activity for potential stormwater impacts. (T&ES)

Following up on an area where Mayor Justin Wilson said the city shares some commonalities with Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin, the city is also pushing for more transparency from Dominion Power.

“The City supports legislation to require electric utilities in Virginia, including Dominion Power, to report and publish, on an annual basis, industry-standard electric reliability metrics to the State
Corporation Commission for its system and for individual localities, including Alexandria,” the package said.

Other items included in the legislative package include:

  • Increased funding for childcare support programs, along with adequate support for legal representation in child welfare cases
  • Support for universal and affordable broadband access
  • Stricter high-rise building safety regulations — a topic that became particularly relevant after the condominium collapse in Florida
  • The ability to locally regulate gas-powered leaf blowers
  • Expanded authority to implement automated traffic enforcement solutions, like red-light cameras
  • Reinstated authority for local law enforcement to regulate noise from vehicle exhaust
  • Support for low-to-no fare public transit programs, such as the one Alexandria recently implemented
  • Continued support for and funding to the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Prevention Fund

The legislative package also includes a series of requests, submitted by the Office of housing. for more protections against eviction at a state level, including:

  • Legislation requiring evictions be for cause;
  • Legislation allowing localities to establish a landlord registry;
  • Legislation limiting the percentage of annual rent increases for existing tenants;
  • Legislation requiring landlord notices and communications in languages other than English;
  • Legislation allowing a ten-day appeal period for all evictions even if the tenant is not present;
  • Legislation to allow tenants to file a tenant’s assertion to schedule a hearing on landlord violations of the lease without having to pay rent into court escrow;
  • Legislation eliminating the appeal bond or allowing indigent waivers for low income tenants;
  • Legislation establishing a tenant right to counsel.

The legislative package is scheduled for initial review at the upcoming Saturday, Nov. 13, City Council meeting.

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