2016 Legislative Program
Table of Contents
1. Fully fund the State’s portion of K-12 education costs, including the Cost of Competing.
1. Revenue Sharing.
2. Change projections to estimates for 5-year population updates.
1. Fees, Fines and Forfeitures.
3. Limitation of Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Drones)
4. Predatory Lending Practices.
5. Worker’s Compensation Medical Costs (VML and Alexandria position)
1. Reduce use of plastic bags.
1. The City opposes any legislation that would reduce the authority of local government on land use issues including planning, zoning, resource protection and neighborhood preservation.
3. Capitalize Virginia Housing Trust Fund.
4. Public Safety.
5. Public Safety/Courts Funding (Northern Virginia Regional position)
6. State Assistance to Local Law Enforcement HB599.
7. State Funding for Jails and Courts.
1. The City supports additional state resources to ensure School Readiness.
2. Local Regulation of Small Home Child Care Facilities in Northern Virginia (Northern Virginia Regional position).
3. Virginia Preschool Initiative.
4. Northern Virginia Training Center (Northern Virginia Regional Position)
1. Sexual Orientation.
Fully fund the State’s portion of K-12 education costs, including the Cost of Competing
(Restoration of Cost of Competing Adjustment and full funding for K-12 costs are also regional positions).
The City Council and City Schools along with Fairfax County strongly support:
- Realistic and fully-funded Standards of Quality;
- Recognition of cost of living variations in state funding formulas, to more accurately determine a locality’s true ability to pay, particularly for high cost of living areas;
- Restoration of full funding for Cost of Competing Adjustment (COCA) for support positions, a factor in the funding formula recognizing the competitive salaries required in high cost of living regions to attract and retain the highest quality instructional and support personnel;
- Appropriate recognition in state funding formulas of the increased costs required to serve children with higher level needs, including special education students (a category encompassing students with intellectual or physical disabilities as well as those with mental/behavioral health issues; costs are approximately 100 percent more than general education), those learning English as a second language (costs are approximately 30 percent more than general education), and those living in economically disadvantaged households (costs are approximately 10 percent more than general education); and,
- Increased state resources for early childhood education programs, which help young children enter kindergarten prepared to succeed.
Additionally, the City Council and Schools strongly oppose:
- State budget cuts that disproportionately target or affect Northern Virginia; and,
- Structural cuts or formula changes which further weaken the partnership between the state and localities.
Unfortunately, recent state budget decisions, like the elimination of COCA funding for support positions, exacerbate the stresses on the state-local K-12 partnership by making permanent, structural cuts in state funding. The effect of these enormous reductions artificially lowers what the state must pay for K-12, divorcing state funding from the actual costs of providing a quality public education. As a result, the funding burden for K-12 has increasingly shifted to local governments, in spite of the fact that the state has significantly more diverse revenue options than localities in order to meet those responsibilities. As the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) noted in its recent review of K-12 spending, localities provided a majority of total funding for school divisions in FY 2014, contributing an additional $3.6 billion beyond the minimum SOQ funding required. JLARC also noted that in FY 2013, Virginia ranked 23rd nationwide in total per-student spending, but 11th in the local share of this spending, reflecting Virginia’s reliance on local effort and a growing imbalance in this partnership.
Failure to adequately meet the needs of the youngest Virginians can create repercussions for individual families, the larger community, and the Commonwealth, while investments in early childhood and K-12 education can provide a foundation for learning and achievement, often reducing or eliminating the need for more costly interventions and remediation, and spurring the state’s economic development.
In virtually every General Assembly Session, legislation is introduced that seeks to alter existing transportation funding formulas. Some of these bills would be beneficial to the City, but some of them would reduce funds available for Fairfax’s transportation needs. City staff will carefully monitor any transportation funding legislation that is considered by the 2016 Session, and oppose any proposals that will lessen funds coming to Fairfax, or result in the City not receiving its fair share of any transportation revenues. (Northern Virginia Regional position)
The Commonwealth should continue to build upon the successful enactment of significant, new transportation revenues by the 2013 General Assembly.
The City of Fairfax is particularly concerned about efforts to substantially decrease funding for the Revenue Sharing program over the next six years. This program significantly leverages state transportation funds by encouraging local governments to spend their own money on transportation projects. This program has been a success in Northern Virginia, where our localities regularly apply for and are awarded these funds, several for the maximum amount allowed. By design, the Revenue Sharing program has allowed more projects throughout the Commonwealth to move forward through the leveraging of funds with local sources. Reducing the funding in this program will only slow the efforts to improve our transportation system.
Change projections to estimates for 5-year population updates.
When the legislation was enacted creating the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA), provisions were included that require voting in part to be based on NVTA’s jurisdictions’ populations. The population is to be determined by the most recent decennial census. Since populations can change significantly over ten years, a provision was included that was intended to use population estimates that are prepared by the Weldon Cooper Center in the fifth year following each census. Unfortunately, instead of calling for population estimates, the legislation that was enacted calls for population projections. Population estimates, with a fair amount of accuracy, give the population that actually exists in each locality in the year that falls halfway between each census. Population projections, on the other hand, are much less accurate (they are based in part on population changes that took place in a locality 25 or 30 years before). Furthermore, projections are not made for the fifth year after the census; the most recent ones (produced in 2012) are for 2020, 2030, and 2040.
The City recommends that a one-word change be made to the Virginia Code: change projections to estimates in the portion of the law that calls for 5-year population updates.
The City of Fairfax, along with localities throughout the state, continues to provide substantial local funds for transportation each year, and we must continue to work together to ensure that our infrastructure needs are met. A modern, efficient, multimodal transportation system is essential to the Commonwealth, and is intrinsically tied to continued economic development.
Fees, Fines and Forfeitures
Eliminate the provision in the State budget that allows the State to take a portion of the revenue from local fines. (Northern Virginia Regional Position)
Since 2012, the General Assembly approved language in the Appropriations Act that allowed the State to take a portion of local fines from localities when local fines exceed 50 percent of the state and local collections. This action was taken in response to the reported practice of the Hopewell Sheriff’s Office ticketing speeders in speed traps on the Interstate highway that runs through the City. The Appropriations Act requires all local collections to be deposited into the State Treasury; the State Treasurer then writes a check to the locality for any funds not retained by the State.
In a 2013 report, the State Inspector General noted that 2 of the 6 localities penalized under this system (the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church) had little State Police traffic enforcement. As a result, there was no way that these cities could avoid having local fines and fees exceed 50 percent of state and local collections.
In 2015, the General Assembly approved a budget amendment that expands that number of localities affected from 5 to 33; many of these, like the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, have little or no State Police traffic enforcement. The change significantly increased the amount of fines and forfeitures taken by the state.
The City of Fairfax asks its delegation to ensure that this language is not included in the upcoming biennial budget.
Support increased state aid to public libraries, which provide communities with critical services such as student homework support, research assistance, and public internet access. Approximately 5 million visits were made to Fairfax County public libraries (with which the City contracts) in FY 2014, with nearly 12.9 million items borrowed. State aid to libraries declined significantly during the recent recession; at a minimum, the state should avoid further reductions in aid. (Updates previous position shared with Fairfax County)
Limitation of Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Drones)
The City of Fairfax supports legislation to restrict use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) to one’s own property. Potential invasion of privacy from individuals who recreationally fly unmanned aerial vehicles exist as do potential risks to property and person from drones. This is a complicated issue without clear directives of how these drones are regulated. It is our understanding that regulatory legislation may be introduced this year.
The difficulty in balancing the rights of individuals with the desire to enable residents to enjoy this recreational use will surely increase given the exponential growth of privately- owned drones. The City of Fairfax supports any initiative to ensure that “good neighbor environment” the FAA had promulgated; that is, to avoid violation of privacy, commit trespass, damage property or injure people
Predatory Lending Practices
The City of Fairfax has grave concerns about the proliferation of Payday Lending and Car Title Loan programs whose practices may constitute usury. Payday and car title loans offer quick cash backed by the borrower’s paycheck or car titles. While most would assert that these lending programs exploit poor people, defenders say that they provide a necessary service to persons who could not qualify for loans from more established banking institutions. A 2009 Virginia law restricted payday loans to 36 percent annual interest but permitted two additional fees that increase the actual interest rate above this level. In 2012, according to the State Corporation Commission, the average annual interest rate for car title loans was 224 percent; for payday loans it was 305 percent.
Fifteen states (including neighbors Maryland, North Carolina, and West Virginia) and the District of Columbia currently ban high-cost, short-term loans by setting a maximum annual interest rate of 36 percent including fees. Under the federal Military Lending Act, military service members and their families are also protected from these expensive and predatory loans
The City supports legislation to cap the interest rate on short-term loans at 36 percent annual interest inclusive of all fees.
Worker’s Compensation Medical Costs (VML and Alexandria position)
Over the last decade, medical costs under Virginia’s Workers’ Compensation system have been substantially higher and growing much faster than workers' compensation medical costs in most other states, including all of our neighboring jurisdictions. A recent study (done by the Workers' Compensation Research Institute) showed that Virginia medical payments per claim were 25 percent higher than the median cost in 16 other states. The higher prices charged by providers were the main reason for the higher medical payments per claim. Costs per claim in Virginia grew 8 percent per year from 2005 to 2010.
Virginia employers such as the City of Fairfax have sought legislative relief from these rising and inequitable medical costs which have been opposed by the medical provider community. The Workmen’s Compensation Commission studied the issues and issued a report commonly referred to as the “Saslaw Report”. The Saslaw Report affirms that Virginia’s use of the prevailing community rate standard creates a gross disparity between what an employer pays on a worker’s compensation claim and what a health care provider is reimbursed under a health insurance or a Medicare claim for the exact same injury/service. However, the Commission accepted a medical provider’s statement of charges as prima facie evidence of the reasonableness and necessity of the charges and services.
The most common medical cost containment measures currently authorized by state law across the country include: limited initial provider choice, non-facility medical provider fee schedule, fee regulation, provider networks, utilization review and treatment guidelines. Forty-four states have adopted fee schedules and of those, thirty-two utilize Medicare based fee schedules. HB 1612 was introduced in 2013 to establish Medicare based fee schedule as did the medical provider community to preserve the status quo; both bills were left in the House Commerce and Labor Committee.
The City of Fairfax supports adoption of a Medicare based fee schedule for Worker’s Compensation cases
Reduce use of plastic bags.
For a number of years, General Assembly members have introduced legislation that attempts to reduce the use of plastic grocery bags. These bags cause a number of problems: they are harmful to marine life when they get into waterway and marine animals mistake them for food; they can foul up farm equipment and contaminate crops that are harvested mechanically, such as cotton; and they take up space in landfills, where they take many years (even centuries) to degrade. In the past, some of these problems were partially alleviated by recycling plastic bags. The machinery used by many recycling processors, however, is harmed by plastic bags (although they can still be taken to many grocery stores for recycling). Plastic bags have become an item that local governments are increasingly not wanting in their recycling stream, in part due to the processing issue, and in part due to their negative recycling value.
As it has in the past, the City will ask its delegation to support legislation to reduce the use of plastic grocery bags. Such legislation should include authorization for localities to determine appropriate methods to limit the use of plastic bags in their jurisdictions.
Any proposed legislation to streamline implementation should recognize the limitations of local governments with little, or no, construction activity to adequately fund and staff a local program. To that end, technical assistance should be made available to those localities from DEQ in reviewing the requirements for post construction stormwater runoff and provide training to local government.
In 2013 the General Assembly created the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF) grants to provide 50 percent matching funds to qualifying locality projects that reduce stormwater pollution as required by federal and state law. Over a three year period (2013-2015), the state has provided $60 million to help fund local stormwater projects. Meanwhile newly reissued federal permits project long term costs for Virginia localities in the billions of dollars to comply. Without adequate state financial assistance local governments will be forced to make difficult funding and tax choices affecting education, police, fire and safety, and taxpayers’ wallets.
The budget introduced this December should include sufficient appropriations to be deposited in the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF) to help local government in the upcoming biennium with costs associated with permit requirements tied to federal Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) and EPA mandated stormwater rules.
The City opposes any legislation that would reduce the authority of local government on land use issues including planning, zoning, resource protection and neighborhood preservation.
Existing local authority to accept cash and in-kind proffers from developers must be retained without restrictions to assist localities in providing the capital facilities and infrastructure needed to serve new development, and to maintain local community standards that keep and improve the quality of life, and encourage and spur economic development. Any proposal for replacing such proffer commitments with development impact fees must be at the option of each locality.
Capitalize Virginia Housing Trust Fund.
From time to time, the General Assembly has appropriated funds to capitalize a Virginia Housing Trust Fund. The Fund can be used for grants and loans to provide affordable housing.
The most recent major appropriation to this fund was $7 million in FY 2014. These funds came from a one-time source—the National Mortgage Settlement. This was a 2012 court settlement between the nation’s five largest mortgage servicing companies, the federal government, and 49 states. The mortgage servicing companies agreed to pay $26 billion to homeowners, the states, and the federal government to make up for mortgage servicing, foreclosure, and bankruptcy abuses for which they were responsible.
Unfortunately, no additional revenue has been appropriated to the Fund in the intervening years.
While the $7 million appropriation has been helpful, additional and ongoing funding is needed. The City recommends that the State provide an ongoing appropriation to the Housing Trust Fund. (Position shared with Alexandria)
Public Safety/Courts Funding (Northern Virginia Regional position)
Public safety is a core service for the Commonwealth, as it is for localities. Protecting the Commonwealth’s residents and ensuring the successful operation of all aspects of the justice system requires appropriate state funding for this state-local partnership, including law enforcement, the courts, and jails/corrections. Continued and substantial state cuts in recent years, in addition to the underfunding that already exists, have placed an increased burden on localities to fund these state responsibilities. To that end, the City of Fairfax supports reversing this trend through adequate state funding for the following:
State Assistance to Local Law Enforcement HB599
This critical source of state funding ensures a shared responsibility between state and local government for police departments as it has been for sheriff’s departments. However, funding has not increased with state revenues and concern about the state’s maintenance of their commitment to equalize funding for police departments with that of localities where law enforcement is provided by departments of the sheriff
State Funding for Jails and Courts
Localities should not continue to bear a disproportionate share of jail costs given the State’s shared responsibility for local jail operations. The court system continues to be underfunded by the Commonwealth placing additional fiscal burdens on localities to provide critical judicial functions.
The City supports additional state resources to ensure School Readiness.
Local Regulation of Small Home Child Care Facilities in Northern Virginia (Northern Virginia Regional position).
One of the major issues debated at the 2015 Session was the regulation of child day care facilities and home child care. In 2014, several high profile incidents occurred that resulted in the death of children who had been left at child day care homes or centers—the majority of which were unlicensed. As a result, a number of legislators made proposals in 2015 that sought to strengthen the Commonwealth’s child day care regulatory programs.
On the last day of Session, two bills were approved—HB 1570 and SB 1168, which were identical. The bills include these provisions:
- The threshold was lowered from 5 to 4 for the maximum number of non-family children that can be cared for in a family day home without being regulated by the State (effective July 1, 2016).
- Home child care facility operators, employees, and volunteers are required to undergo a national fingerprint background check beginning July 1, 2017.
- Those convicted of sex offenses and other barrier crimes are prohibited from working in a day care facility.
One of the issues that held up the final approval of the bills was whether the State should regulate family day homes that serve fewer than 5 children and receive government funds for that care. In Northern Virginia, Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church, the City of Fairfax, and Fairfax County already regulate any facility that is too small for State regulation, whether or not the provider receives government funds. No other localities regulate these small facilities—in the rest of the State they are unregulated.
These Northern Virginia localities believe that their regulatory programs are at least as effective as any State regulatory program, and in 2015 they successfully preserved their regulatory authority with respect to family day homes. These jurisdictions recommend that they continue to have this authority. Should legislation be introduced in 2016 to expand the State’s authority to regulate facilities that care for fewer than 5 children and receive government funds, the City recommends that such legislation apply only to localities that do not now regulate these small home child care facilities.
Virginia Preschool Initiative
Eliminate the funding formula change in the State budget for the Virginia Preschool Initiative which, if allowed to remain, would make many VPI families ineligible for the program.
For many years, the City of Fairfax has strongly supported the State’s efforts to boost school readiness, as evidenced by the steady growth in the number of children participating in the local Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) program instituted at Main Street Child Development Center in September. Unfortunately, language in the current biennial budget threatens to negatively impact the program.
In an effort to align all jurisdictions' VPI eligibility rules, language was included in the budget (Item 136#11c) to establish a state-wide eligibility level of 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) for families whose children participate in the VPI program.
Because of the high cost of living in Northern Virginia (25 to 35 percent higher than the rest of the Commonwealth), The City of Fairfax has followed Fairfax County and neighboring localities in setting other income limits for VPI participation.
For Northern Virginia jurisdictions, this change in the poverty level can result in a significant decrease in the number of families we can serve. We believe that approximately 17 percent of Fairfax families who would normally qualify for VPI will be disqualified. These families will also not qualify for Head Start and will not be able to afford the quality early care and education opportunities needed to prepare their children for school success.
Implementation of these new eligibility standards was suspended for the first year of the biennium. We ask that our delegation seek to amend the General Assembly’s poverty level language to allow Northern Virginia, with its higher cost of living, to accept children in the VPI program as long as their income does not exceed 250 percent of poverty.
Northern Virginia Training Center (Northern Virginia Regional Position)
Support additional state funding for community placements, including critically-needed housing, for individuals leaving the Northern Virginia Training Center. Also support additional state funding for increased Medicaid waiver rates to support those placements, to ensure the Commonwealth fulfills its responsibility to implement the federal settlement agreement.
As a result of a state decision following the settlement agreement negotiated with the U. S. Department of Justice, the Commonwealth will be closing four of the state’s five training centers, which provide residential treatment for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Ensuring the creation of sufficient and appropriate housing, employment and day supports for individuals leaving the training center, without shifting costs to localities, is essential to the implementation of this agreement. Unfortunately, in the three years since the agreement was reached, the Commonwealth has failed to create such housing and support options in Northern Virginia due to high real estate and service delivery costs paired with inflexible residency limits and insufficient waiver rates (providers have indicated that allowing five residents per group home would significantly improve their ability to offer these services, and that limiting group homes to four or fewer residents may not be economically viable). This has resulted in significant numbers of NVTC residents relocating far outside the Fairfax area. To that end, it is vital that proceeds of the planned sale of the NVTC property are dedicated to providing services in Northern Virginia, to meet the needs of both the NVTC population and other individuals on the community waiting list for Medicaid waivers.
Additionally, the Commonwealth has made only limited progress in redesigning related Medicaid waivers, even though that redesign and funding is essential to the Commonwealth’s implementation of the settlement agreement. Waiver rates are currently well below the cost of providing necessary services in Northern Virginia, and do not contain sufficient flexibility to meet the needs of the NVTC population. Support changes to waivers and services that would:
Increase reimbursement rates, provide affordable housing resources, integrate nursing care, mental health support and eldercare in residential and day settings.
Support legislation that would permit the City to prohibit discrimination in the areas of housing, real estate transactions, employment, public accommodations, credit, and education on the basis of sexual orientation. Fairfax County, the City’s provider of many health and human services programs, has already taken action pursuant to existing State enabling legislation to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, childbirth, and disability. Equality Virginia, which promotes rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will again seek to have this introduced in the 2016 session. Last year, Governor McAuliffe issued an executive order prohibiting discrimination on these grounds for state employees.