Loudoun County saw some of the controversial actions taken by previous General Assembly sessions—particularly on transportation and proffers—reversed in 2019, but not all.
County supervisors were briefed on the outcome of the session by their hired lobbyists, Roger Wiley and Jeff Gore, last week.
Loudoun’s representatives have been perennially unable to rein in tolls on the Dulles Greenway under a bill that guaranteed annual toll increases on the state’s only private highway. This year saw a new push, with an attempt to expand the State Corporation Commission’s authority to regulate the Greenway, and a different bill that would have continued guaranteed toll increases on the road, but all failed or were withdrawn. A bill from Sen. Richard H. Black (R-13) to conduct yet another study of the feasibility of the Virginia Department of Transportation buying the Greenway did pass.
The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, a major planner and funder of regional projects, last year saw a chunk of its funding stripped away to send to Metro. The NVTA is expected to lose out on more than $100 million per year, affecting projects in Loudoun that were scheduled to get some of that money.
This year, a bill to establish new fees and taxes around Interstate 81 to fund improvements on the interstate also included a provision that will distribute some of that revenue—estimated at $20 million—to the NVTA each year.
The county will also continue to labor under a 2016 law drafted by the Homebuilders Association of Virginia that drastically restricted the county’s negotiations with developers. By limiting proffer agreements, state legislators eroded one of the key tools Loudoun and other fast-growing localities use to build schools, roads and other infrastructure needed to serve the residents of large development projects.
This year, the General Assembly passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Barbara A. Favola (D-31) that makes the language of the 2016 bill somewhat less punitive to the locality—limiting what Loudoun’s county attorney saw as a legal risk—and allowing developers to voluntarily opt out of the 2016 legislation if they choose. When asked why the bill didn’t go farther to reverse the 2016 legislation, Favola said, “It was a compromise. Many builders did not want that removed.”
Another bill, pushed by Loudoun’s public safety officials and firefighters associations, expanded the list of cancers which are presumed to be work-related under the Virginia Worker’s Compensation Act. However, the bill only takes effect if re-enacted by the General Assembly next year.
Some other long-awaited projects made progress this year, including the years-long effort to bring a state park and a science center to Loudoun County.
This year, Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposed budget included language allowing the state to accept a gift of land to expand the planned state park in northwestern Loudoun. Although those plans were threatened when that language was deleted from the Senate’s version of the budget, 11th-hour negotiations restored it.
Northam had also proposed more than $3 million in planning funding for the Northern Virginia Regional Science Center, planned at Kincora. That funding, too, was a subject of debate, but ultimately the assembly approved $2.24 million in funding for the project.
This year, the General Assembly also passed legislation requiring local elected officials to take training courses on the Conflict of Interests Act and Freedom of Information Act at least once every two years while in office. That bill takes effect July 1, 2020.