Legislative Report 1/22/15 — Maintenance Funding, Cell Phone Restrictions, Following Too Closely

Another early day as House Trans Sub 4 met at 7 a.m. with the feature bill HB1887 going first and taking just about 2 hours. This is the Omnibus Transportation Funding bill which determines how which projects will be funded by the Commonwealth Trans Board now that the funds will be coming from the Sales Tax rather than the State gas tax. Lots of committee member and witnesses questions of Trans Secy Aubrey Lane & Deputy Secy Nick Donohue, both of whom had done their homework and had all the answers. At length, SubComm Chair Greg Habeeb of Salem called those proceedings to a close, stating that the bill would be voted on at next Thursday’s meeting, with no further questions or debate.

Then a few more bills before the three I was interested in were heard last of all. Del. Manoli Loupassi from the Fan District did a nice job of patroning HB 1402 (into which Del. Betsy Carr’s similar HB1501 had been combined) This bill would provide that the Jurisdictions that do their own Highway Maintenance rather than having VDOT do it for them (City of Richmond, Henrico county, and Town of Ashland are in this category) do not lose their maintenance reimbursement if they convert highway “lane miles” to bike lanes, as is now the case. This is a fairly big deal since the current reimbursement practice has been a big dis-incentive for the installation of bike lanes in those jurisdictions).

After some discussion, and some mild dissent from Del. Randy Minchew of Leesburg, the bill was REPORTED by a 6-1 vote, with only Minchew voting against, and now goes on to the full Trans Comm, probably on Tuesday morning at 8:30.

Last of all was Del. Carr with her HB1502, which would give the City of Richmond maintenance reimbursement at 1/2 that of highway mileage for that portion of the Capital Trail which was (and will be) built by VDOT in the City but will be the City’s to maintain (unlike the rest of the Trail, which was built by VDOT and will be maintained by them). With little sentiment by the panel members for helping the City in this way, the bill was TABLED by a 7-0 vote.

I had hoped to get up to the House Militia, Police and Public Safety SubComm meeting to support Del. Rich Anderson’s HB1926 restricting the use of Cell Phones by drivers which started at 7:30. In going up to the 4th Floor to one of the small Conf. Rooms I found all of the room’s seats and standing area jam packed, with about 20 more people out in the Hall trying to hear through the open doors. Interested, but not that interested, I went back down to Trans Sub Comm4 which was in one of the large meeting rooms with plenty of seats. After the meeting, I learned that HB 1926 had been TABLED on a voice vote, which will be a big disappointment to the Drive Smart people and the others working to reduce Distracted Driving, who had some hopes of getting it through. With that result, I don’t hold any hope for Sen. Wexton’s similar, but a little more strict SB1279, which will be heard next week.

Meanwhile, HB1342, the Following Too Closely bill got its 2nd reading today on the House Floor and probably will get voted on Tomorrow. If you haven’t done so, it’s not too late to contact YOUR Delegate and ask them to support it. I think its in good shape, but nothing is certain til the vote is tallied, so your contact will be a big help.

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