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Legislative Update 2-1-12

Sorry to be late in reporting, but after my 5th meeting of the day, I went directly to the U of R basketball game and have just gotten home.

7:00 a.m. House Trans Sub 2 heard HB785, Del. Lopez’ following too closely bill with Del. Betsy Carr, the second D on the committee, absent so we had only 6 sub comm members, 5 Rs & 1 D, present. After Del. Lopez gave a good presentation, Del. Garrett (the MD from Lynchburg, who has been a very strong anti-bike & pedestrian voice ever since he joined the sub com — in giving him the benefit of the doubt, it might be that he is just very strongly pro motorist, and strongly opposed to anything that might possibly slow a motorist down, or inconvenience them) moved to TABLE (kill) the bill, which resulted in a 3-3 vote, with Garrett, Chairman Cox, & Comstock voting to table, Ward, Minchew, & Anderson opposed. This caused the Chairman some consternation, and all of the new members of the committee pulled out their yellow procedure cards to try to figure out what this meant. At length, Dr. Wambold, the Legislative Services advisor present, was called upon and he stated that 3-3 on a move to table meant that the bill was still alive. Then followed another motion, to pass the bill by for the day (which meant indefinitely, since this was the last time the committee was meeting prior to crossover) and this motion carried by a 4-2 vote, with Anderson changing his vote to a yea, to join Garrett, Cox, & Comstock, while Ward & Minchew voted nay. A little later, Del. Carr showed up, but the vote had been recorded so it was too late. I will certainly remind her to be there on time, when Sen. Ebbin’s identical bill comes over after having passed the Senate, since it certainly will land first in this Sub Comm.

Del. Lopez, as a brand new delegate patroning his very first bills, took his defeat hard, and wasn’t happy, but I commended him on a nice job of carrying the bill, and advised him not to take the defeat personally, as it probably wouldn’t be his last (as a D in an R dominated House).

After this, Chairman Cox announced that HB857, the bill to permit a contraflow bike lane in Blacksburg had been withdrawn by the patron (as we had heard that it would be) and then looked at me and announced, “Bud, I think you had something to do with this”. Requesting, and being granted, a chance to comment, I told him, and the other members of the committee, that we had heard from experts that this was “An accepted traffic engineering practice” although one that is not that commonly used, and, as such, should not require the passage of a law should a jurisdiction decide to install one. Del. Cox thanked me for the explanation, and I think I may have helped to forestall any such bills in the future.

The last item on the agenda was HB706/Motorists to Stop for Pedestrians in a marked crosswalk, but since the patron, Del. Filler-Corn, was not present, it was moved and unanimously passed to Pass the bill by indefinitely, so it too is gone for this session.

Then it was down stairs to the 8:30 session of House Ag where Del. Farrell’s HB1225 State Parks Campgrounds not to charge less than Private Campgrounds was not withdrawn, as some of his Emails had said it would be, but rather was listed as “Continued to 2013 Session” so we will have to be on the lookout for it next year.

Also announced at this meeting was that HB 522/Del. Farrell’s bill to permit powered wheelchairs “or other mobility devices” to be on trails was being “Passed by for the Week” in an effort to rework the language, after it had been reported out last week, but DCR had checked with the Attorney Generals office and something in the language was contrary to Federal Regulations, necessitating the re-working of the language, so we will see this reworked bill next Wed.

Then I had a 10 a.m. meeting elsewhere of the Region’s Long Range Transportation Plan Advisory Committee (which I have been appointed to serve on, representing RABA) but I will not extend this report by commenting on it.

Then, after lunch, it was down to Willis Church, in eastern Henrico county, near Malvern Hill Battlefield, with Champe Burnley, DCR’s Trails Coordinator Jennifer Wampler, and joined there by Tom Bowden for a called with very short notice “Town Meeting” on the topic of TOURISM, at which would be Gov. McDonnell, Secretary of the Interior Salazar, Director of the National Park Service Jarvis, and who knows who else. Turns out the official occasion, after the Town Meeting, was the announcement that the Malvern Hill Battlefield unit was the recipient of a $4 million Land & Water Conservation Fund grant that would be used to acquire 400 adjacent acres to add to the battlefield, and the Town Meeting was to be a “Stakeholders Discussion on Boosting Tourism & Travel to Virginia and its Parks”.

The historic church was packed, and after opening remarks by the Governor, Secretary Salazar also made remarks and proceeded to start the Meeting. I got his attention, was the first one recognized, and proceeded to tell him, the Governor, and everyone in attendance that the road right outside the church was IBR76 & the TransAmerica Trail, that all of the through riders we see, from overseas and from this country, are using Adventure Cycling maps (I held up mine, which Secretary Salazar called for and then immediately passed on to the Governor, so I’ll have to get a new one) and of VBF’s lapel pin that we had made up and had the Yorktown and Breaks Interstate Park offices distributing as a reward to riders who had completed the 570 miles in VA. All of this seemed to be news to almost everyone, and I was permitted to run a little long before the Secretary told me to wrap it up and proceeded to set the ground rules for subsequent speakers at 30 seconds. (I must have run 3 or 4 minutes) I certainly succeeded in making everyone aware of the trail, and I think we will get some official help in properly distributing the pins at Yorktown & at Breaks, and in mentioning the Adventure Cycling TransAmerica Route maps in the kits the overseas tourism missions distribute. Tom Bowden used his 30 seconds to mention the 2015 races, and I think we had a very successful showing of the colors, and meeting a lot of helpful folks, at the event (on an absolutely unbelievable 70 degree day). After the Town Meeting, we walked about 100 yards north on 156 to the National Cemetery, where Secy Salazar made the official announcement of the $4 million LWCF grant to the Gov. and donned his Cowboy hat for pictures with all the area Park Service staff, who were in attendance in force.

After this, it was back to the GAB for the 5 p.m. House Ag Sub Com that was to hear all of the 5 Sunday Hunting bills. Upon arrival, the lobby was quickly filling with folks wearing blaze orange caps who were being queued up by the Capitol Police. Turns out we were not being admitted to the Hearing Room because the House Finance Committee was running late with their afternoon meeting and weren’t finished yet. Champe arrived from parking the car, and assumed that all of those awaiting were FOR Sunday hunting. I said, No, most of them have “Save Our Sundays” stickers stuck on their shirts, & I think are OPPOSED to Sunday hunting. Eventually, we were admitted to the hearing room, and SubComm Chair Lee Ware from Powhatan opened the meeting by announcing that 4 of the 5 bills on the docket were being tabled at the request of their patrons. This left only HB 1002 patroned by Del. Ramadan of Loudon County, which would only apply to Fairfax, Arlington, Fauquier ,Loudon, & Prince William counties. He then proceeded to launch into a recital of problems with Lyme Disease in Loudon County, which was the result of over population by deer in the area, and which Sunday hunting would help reduce, even though their hunting season up in that area had already been extended into March. When it came time to be recognized, all of those in the orange caps that had been lined up in the lobby turned out to be OPPOSED to Sunday hunting, as were a long list of organizations who stood up and spoke in opposition. They probably totaled over 200, while those in support appeared to be less than 10. Champe spoke in opposition for the cyclists, and I refrained since the Chair had imposed a 15 minute limit on both For & Against speakers, and I thought it was better to let the others testify. At length the vote was taken and it was UNANIMOUS to table the bill. Obviously, the patrons of the 4 bills that were withdrawn realized that they didn’t have the votes, and only Del. Ramadan had decided to give it a try with his Lyme Disease approach (which no one seemed to buy). Thanks to everyone who weighed in in opposition.

One Sunday Hunting bill did pass the Senate but will have to come through this sub committee after crossover, and I can tell you it has no chance of coming out of there alive.

I’m off to bed after a busy day.

Bud Vye, RABA & VBF Advocacy Director

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