Emmett Hanger: Update on 2021 Virginia General Assembly work
“Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.” That famous line from the “Wizard of Oz” is quite apt for what our 2021 Session is like this year under COVID restrictions and precautions.
We have just hit our halfway point of this short session with our Crossover Day work. Actually, I think it is going quite well despite the challenges. Citizens and lobbyists are cramming our inboxes with useful information and input, staff are working dutifully to triage all critical information to us, and our technical glitches have been few and far between so far. It is not ideal and certainly not the same as a face-to-face session but the very long days and super fast pace remains. Ask any staffer and they will tell you Session often feels like an Oz-type tornado has dropped a house on them but we will get through and try to put forth some reasonable legislation for the betterment of Virginia. That said, there is legislation getting through that we simply don’t have the votes to provide the necessary backstop to prevent passage. Our work rolls on.
We have a tight bill limit this year, but I am carrying legislation to benefit our farmers utilizing agricultural best management practices (SB1162) and promoting conservation tillage and the use of precision agriculture equipment (SB1163). With a significant amount of work put in by stakeholders, I am proudly patroning probably the most important wastewater and Bay cleanup legislation in 16 years (when major mandated nutrient reductions were set in 2005). It’s not glamorous as it’s a rather technical bill but it’s a wastewater treatment roadmap to doing big projects and it includes regulatory, planning and budgeting certainty which all will benefit the state and local governments and the public by ensuring major nutrient reductions in affected wastewater treatment plants.(SB1354)
Two other bills I’d like to highlight at this time are the Eligible Health Care Provider Reserve Directory (SB1436) and a bill to eliminate the requirement that a “promise to appear” be signed on a summons from law enforcement (SB1437). First, SB1436 establishes a reserve directory of eligible health care providers in the Commonwealth who may be available to assist in the response to a public health emergency. After learning of dedicated nurses, fourth year medical students in good standing, EMT and other healthcare workers who volunteered to go to New York and other states when the virus broke out we determined that while the governor does have the ability to call up people to help there was no directory or uniform system to know who is actually available. That information will remain private but accessible to the Health Department and the governor in case it is needed. The second bill is another way to help de-escalate any potential confrontations between the police and a person getting a summons. It eliminates the requirement that a “promise to appear” be signed after the issuance of a summons for a misdemeanor offense or an administrative violation. The bill provides that an accused shall be released from custody after a summons has been issued hopefully alleviating additional confrontation and de-escalating potential violence or abuse.
And finally, I have worked several sessions now on the promotion of recycling and the reduction of waste. SB1164 is complementary to existing recycling options and clarifies the definition of Advanced Recycling in Virginia. Unfortunately, a lot of pro-environment people (of which I actually consider myself one) have misrepresented or misunderstand what the bill does.This bill codifies existing regulations (9VAC20-81-95 F). This process is not considered solid waste and there is no incineration or combustion. There are no exemptions in this bill to Virginia’s clean air, clean water, hazardous waste or solid waste regulations. And just six months ago the administration praised this recycling process and touted its expansive economic benefits while at the same time boasting about reducing carbon emissions and the overall carbon footprint with this specific manufacturing process. SB1164 will allow Virginia to be more competitive in this $120 billion industry. These manufacturing facilities are subject to DEQ regulation and one is currently being constructed in Cumberland County (Braven Environmental). Prospective facilities would have to comply with local zoning ordinances and public notice requirements. And they would have to comply with their state environmental permits. Recyclable material is essential to manufacturing new products under environmental sustainability goals and regulations. For Plastic “Purists” (those who want to ban the production of plastics altogether) this bill doesn’t get that far but what it does do is it redirects plastics from going into landfills and waterways and breaks them down into other manufactured products while complying with environmental permits and laws.
That’s a quick overview of much of my legislation. My main focus is our budget of course and we will be putting forth the Senate version Sunday and working toward the unified House and Senate budget to return to the Governor. It is my honor to serve each of you and the Commonwealth and I appreciate your interest in our continued efforts during Session.
Emmett Hanger represents the 24th District in the Virginia State Senate. Sign up for his newsletter here.