Civic Association Newsletter

December 1996 - Volume 20, No. 3

Arlington County Civic Federation 1997 Legislative Package

As Adopted, November 12, 1996

The Arlington County Civic Federation offers the following positions as its 1997 Legislative Package:

1. Education

A. Funding. Opposes any efforts to change the formula for state funding that would result in less funding for Arlington County Public Schools.

B. Higher Education. Supports maintaining higher education at 1 east at the current level, recognizing the vital link between education, good jobs and regional economic health.

2. Transportation

A. Funding. Supports utilization of Federal, state, and local funding and technical assistance for mass transit, transportation management associations, commuter bikeways, and alternative work schedule programs. The Federation urges the General Assembly to revise the state transportation funding formula to increase funding for growth areas such as Northern Virginia.

B. Streets and Highways. Continues to support more efficient use of existing highways and specific initiatives such as greater state awareness of bicycle safety issues, i.e., requiring the Virginia Department of Transportation to establish sufficient right-of-way for bicycles during planning and construction on state roadways and greater accommodation for bicycles on state roadways.

C. Truck Safety.

1) Supports requirement that truck owners must present proof of a valid current inspection when obtaining or renewing a truck license and continues to support increased fines for safety violations (to be based on vehicle weight), additional truck inspections, lane restrictions on trucks on multi-land highways, a rush-hour ban on transportation of hazardous materials, and a requirement of improved rearview mirrors.

2) Encourages stronger enforcement of speed limits.

3) Urges tougher requirements for commercial drivers' licenses.

3. Housing and Human Services

A. Housing. Supports continued General Assembly funding for the Virginia Housing Partnership.

B. Funding for Social Services. Supports appropriation of sufficient funding to local social service agencies to process food stamps, Medicaid, and AFDC applicants in a timely manner, contingent upon the jurisdiction's enforcement of existing housing occupancy and zoning codes.

C. Consolidated Services for At-Risk Youth. Supports changes that will enhance the existing system of services to at- risk youth through additional funds appropriated by the General Assembly. In addition, the Federation endorses development of a coordinated service delivery system to include social service, school district and judicial system resources which would result in more effectively meeting individual client needs.

D. Guardianship Law. Supports consolidation of scattered sections of laws into one strengthened guardianship law to provide uniformity, protect rights of vulnerable persons, and clarify the procedure to be followed by all participating persons and agencies.

4. Fiscal and Tax Policy

A. Consumer Use Tax. Supports repeal of this tax because it is inequitable and difficult to enforce.

B. Contract Rent Study. Requests legislation to study of contract rent should be considered an appropriate factor in determining value for assessments of commercial and residential rental property. The Supreme Court of Virginia has ruled that contract rent may be considered in addition to economic rent/fair market rent. The Federation has been opposed to the use of contract rent in the past because such use usually has lowered commercial assessments, shifting more the real estate tax burden to homeowners.

C. Revenue Impact Statements. Supports requiring a revenue impact statement to accompany any legislative proposal that would change local taxing authority.

D. Cigarette Tax. Supports the Arlington County proposal to authorize the County to increase the cigarette tax, in a manner similar to that of cities.

E. Local Income Tax. Opposes any legislation that would allow a local income tax.

F. Professional Sports Facilities. Supports Sen. Moynihan's proposed bill (currently S.B. 1880 "The Stop Tax-Exempt Arena Debt Issuance Act") to end Federal tax subsidy for professional sports facilities.

5. General Government

A. Retention of Local Zoning Authority. Supports legislation to prohibit Commonwealth agencies from overriding local jurisdictional use plans and zoning decision and ordinances.

B. Written Notice of Zoning Requests. Supports legislation to require the County to notify condominium, co-operative, and townhouse owners associations and all inclusive and adjacent civic associations located within 1/3 statute miles from the property for which a zoning, variance, or use permit change has been requested.

C. Initiative and Referendum. Supports a constitutional amendment to reserve power to the people to propose laws and amendments to the constitution and to adopt or reject any law or section of a state law. Required percentages to place items to referenda be 5 percent of the total vote cast for Governor in the previous gubernatorial election for statutory initiatives and referenda and 8 percent for state constitutional amendments.

D. Board of Zoning Appeals. Continues to support shifting the power of appointment of the Board of Zoning Appeals from the Circuit Court to the County Board, and, and in the alternative, legislation granting the County Board the power to define what constitutes the "hardships" which can be the basis for granting variances.

E. State Corporation Commission. Supports increasing the SCC's membership from three to five (a body as powerful as the SCC should have broader, more diverse representation) and encourages General Assembly members to ensure that confirmation of SCC candidates includes full review of relevant qualifications and records of prospective SCC members with regard to consumer issues.

F. Limited Partners-Access to Information. Supports legislation that would permit citizen access to names and addresses of limited partners and their financial investments or other contributions in limited partnerships which conduct business with state or local governments of at least $10,000 annually. Citizens must present bona-fide public interest reason for this information and the partnership or its agent must provide this information within ten business days at a reasonable cost to the requester.

G. Public Employee Ethics.

1) Supports legislation requiring that state ethics brochures be provided to public officials and employees before they assume their state or local government positions. These officials and employees should certify in writing that they have read and understand these ethics requirements as a condition of their employment.

2) Urges a legislative study on replacing the existing Virginia Senate and House Ethics Advisory Panels with a comprehensive state/local ethics commission.

H. Baseball Stadium Authority. Supports repeal of the Virginia Stadium Authority, Virginia Code section 15.1.227-71. I. County Board Compensation. Opposes any increases in compensation for County Board Members.

J. Amendment to the County Manager Form of Government. Supports enabling legislation to permit a referendum on the question of electing the governing body from single member districts with an at-large chairman and at-large vice chairman.

K. Office of Inspector General. Supports the establishment of an Office of Inspector General for the County to audit and review County performance in contracting, construction of facilities, purchasing, and the sale of land or other resources to assure appropriateness of expenditures. The Inspector General shall operate independently, but shall provide periodic reports to the County Board and the Courts as may be required.

6. Environment

A. Recycling Goal of 40% by 2000. Supports adoption of a state recycling goal of 40% by the year 2000 and comparative progress reports by jurisdictions.

B. Use of Recycled Goods. Supports allowing local governments to choose whether to employ recycled glass in the base layer of roads. The Federation opposes the use of recycled tires for any use which could expose the "rubber" to environmental pollution generated acids (such as Acid Rain), or naturally occurring ground water acids which might leach tire compounds into surface runoff, ground water and waterways, or contaminate natural aquifers since: 1) The reinforcing wire in tires is cadmium plated; 2) This plating is abraded from the wire during normal use and thus contaminates the "rubber" with a cadmium residue; and 3) Cadmium is a known carcinogen and endocrine system disruptor.

C. Water Quality Measurements. Supports the development and standardization of methods for the measurement of storm waters and waters that feed the Chesapeake Bay.

D. Notification of Use of Lawn Pesticides. Supports the adoption of a rule requiring commercial lawn care firms to post signs for 48 hours after chemical lawn treatment, similar to a pre-spray notification already in place for gypsy moth applications.

E. Requirement of State Industrial Facilities (Owned by the Commonwealth) to Develop Environmental Management Plans. Supports legislation to develop and implement pollution prevention plans, and to establish a state office to coordinate and provide technical assistance.

F. Illegal Dumping and Incineration of Waste. Supports legislation to allow raising of fines for illegal dumping and to enforce illegal dumping and bottle littering laws by means of other than direct police intervention.

G. Emission Test Values. Supports authority to make emission test values of the Ogden-Martin operated, Arlington County/Alexandria City-owned Waste-To-Energy facility available to the public.

H. Environmental Protection Programs. Strongly recommends that the state restore environmental programs to either pre "rollback" levels or to current and/or new EPA standards, whichever are more stringent, and that funding be restored to accomplish this.

7. Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority/Washington National Airport

The Federation recommends incorporating the following improvements in revised enabling legislation for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) and Washington National Airport;

A. Governance/Oversight. The directors of MWAA from the Commonwealth of Virginia should be selected by the Governor from a pool of candidates recommended by the governing bodies of Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun.

B. Regulatory Compliance. No waiver or exemption should be granted MWAA from federal or state procedures for metropolitan or regional planning and historic preservation. Development at MWAA-controlled airports should require completion and approval of Environmental Impact Statements in accordance with Environmental Protection Agency requirements and should be subject to the provisions of section 4(f) of the U.S. Department of Transportation Act regarding the use of public parks, recreational areas, wildlife refuges, and historic sites.

C. Safety and Airport Use.

1) A safety panel be established to recommend appropriate parameters for development at MWAA airports. Its members should be selected by a committee from the National Transportation Safety Board, the Air Line Pilots Association, the National Capital Planning Commission, the National Park Service, and the Washington Area Council of Governments.

2) As the smallest of MWAA's airports, National should be designated a short-range airport, with a nonstop flight perimeter of 650 statute miles.

3) A single Master Plan should be developed to coordinate efficient development and usage of MWAA airports according to the characteristics of each site, as is required by the existing legislation. Consideration should be given to incorporating Baltimore-Washington International Airport in the MWAA Master Plan.

4) Wide-bodied jets should be prohibited from National Airport.

5) In any calculation of the number of jet carrier operations permitted at MWAA airports, there should be no loopholes in the mandate that there be no more than 37 operations (the sum of take offs and landings) per any 60-minute period. Multiple sections of one flight shall not be counted as one operation only.

D. Noise.

1) The acoustical contour line for delineating the noise "footprint" of National Airport should be determined in consultation with the Metropolitan Council of Governments. Useful standards, such as single event loudness maxima, in addition to Ldn (Loudness, day/night) should be studied and incorporated in the final definition of National's noise impact. (Note: The currently applied measure Ldn, seriously underestimates the overall noise impact of Washington National Airport on surrounding jurisdictions as it is based on accumulation of noise data during the 16 hours of actual operation and then averages it over a full 24 hour day.).

2) The recommendations of the Council of Governments regarding nighttime flights should instituted.

8. Miscellaneous

A. Gun Control.

1) Supports obligatory firearms safety training and demonstrated proficiency from all purchasers of firearms.

2) Requests the Virginia State Crime Commission to study the types and numbers of weapons used in violent crime and to consider if strengthened penalties should be enacted.

B. Open Container Law. Supports enactment of a new law to make it a misdemeanor to possess an open container of an alcoholic drink in a public place, with a waiver for specifically permitted public events.

C. Courts.

1) Selection of Judges. Supports appointment of a commission to study and recommend a plan for merit selection of judges on a less partisan basis to ensure judicial independence and the appointment of the most qualified individuals based on legal experience and expertise.

2) Damages in Civic Cases. Supports modification of the doctrine of contributor negligence so that negligent defendants determined to be substantially at fault (for example, more than 75 percent) can be held liable for a proportionate share of damages and liable for the full award where the behavior of the defendants(s) has either been malicious or reckless. Arbitration should be explored as a reasonable, efficient, and fair means to avoid costly litigation.

D. Reports to Insurers. Supports a law to prohibit the Commonwealth from providing accident reports to insurers, except on request and notice to the insured, when the insured motorists in accidents are not adjudicated "at fault."

E. Telephone Solicitation. Supports enactment of a Telephony Solicitation Act to require registration and regulation of voice, data (i.e., e-mail and Internet-like messaging) and Facsimile telemarketers.

F. Sexual Orientation. Supports the addition of sexual orientation to the coverage of antidiscrimination laws. Sexual orientation should also be added to the Hate Crimes law.

G. Third-Party Notification. Supports plain-language provisions for third-party notification in long-term care insurance policies, so that incapacitated persons would not lose coverage automatically if they should inadvertently miss a payment.

H. Aggressive Panhandling. Requests that the Arlington County Board adopt an ordinance to make it unlawful for any person to panhandle in an aggressive manner, to panhandle within fifteen feet of an automatic teller machine, or to panhandle from any operator of a motor vehicle while standing in a roadway median or on a travel lane.

I. Audio Recording of Court Sessions. Supports audio recording of all court sessions.

J. Mental Health Commitment.

1) Supports changing the requirement for involuntary commitment from an imminent danger to oneself or others to a danger to oneself and others.

2) Supports allowing police officers or sheriff's deputies to detain and remove a person for involuntary commitment to a mental health facility or a hospital when they believe that the person is a danger to himself or others.

K. 21-Day Rule. Supports modification of the 21-Day Rule (Rule 1.1 of the Virginia Supreme Court) to permit courts to consider potentially exculpatory evidence which is submitted beyond the 21-day period currently allowed in capital cases.

L. Criminal Gangs. Urges legislation which would establish a state-wide definition of criminal gangs and legislation that would outlaw membership in a criminal gang (as defined).

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