VMA Post Legislative Session Update

Posted on May 10, 2019 · Posted in TMTA Flash

A group of TMTA leaders and members recently participated in VMA’s Port Day. This is an annual trip that allows members of the transportation industry to meet with members of the General Assembly. In reviewing the purposes of the “Call on Richmond”, the members fully backed the essence of the message relayed. This collaborative effort was received well by all legislators visited.

We would like to specifically draw your attention to the “Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Fund”, one suggestion is that the funding is provided by tolls. The TMTA is opposed to the tolling and will continue to share our concerns with the appropriate parties.

Below is the Post-Session Report from the Virginia Maritime Association:
2019 Legislative Report
The 2019 General Assembly Session has come to an end, and we wanted to share with you an update. The emphasis of this year’s Port Day was to thank the General Assembly for last year’s $350 Million investment in our “Wider, Deeper, Safer” dredging project. Additionally, we wanted to take the time to highlight the progress on projects currently underway that show the Commonwealth’s investment hard at work.
Of the 21 bills on our radar this year, there were five that we actively advocated for or against that are detailed below. If you’re interested in the other bills that were on our “watch” list, feel free to give us a call. There were also several budget amendments that we supported, which are also outlined below.

Bills we opposed would have established a moratorium on fossil fuel projects (HB 1635) and a reversal of waterfront worker’s compensation protections from duplicative coverage requirements (HB 1750); neither of these bills proceeded this session. However, we will be watching closely to see if they will resurface in 2020. Republicans currently hold one-seat majorities in both the House and the Senate, so with all 140 seats up for election this November a change of control of one or both chambers could happen.

The bills we supported included federal matching funds for rail enhancements (HB 1983), economic development grant sunset extensions (SB 1459), and an increase in testing facilities for commercial driving examinations (SB 1347); all three of these bills are heading to the Governor’s desk for signature and will improve the overall ability of our industry to move cargo through our ports.

Regarding this year’s budget, we supported Governor Northam’s proposal of $250,000 to create the Office of Offshore Wind, yet a push to curb discretionary spending hampered these efforts and the funds were not allocated this session. However, we will continue to advocate for this funding in the future and the progression of offshore wind development. Additionally, we supported Governor Northam’s introduced budget proposal of $20 million in Virginia Business-Ready Sites Program to improve infrastructure at the state’s mega-sites. The House and Senate budget included $5 million and $1 million respectively, yet the final allocation came to $2 million ($1 million for each year). Finally, we supported Senator Vogel’s budget language amendment which conveyed 65 acres of land owned and operated by the Department of Corrections, located in Clarke County, to the Virginia Port Authority, on behalf of the Virginia Inland Port for the purpose of collaborating with Clarke County representatives on the development of the land for economic development purposes.

We closely monitored other issues of interest during this session, including a funding increase of $1,000,000 from the general fund to the Virginia Removal or Rehabilitation of Derelict Structures Fund and designated for removing, renovating or modernizing port-related buildings and facilities in the cities of Portsmouth, Norfolk, Newport News, Richmond or Front Royal.

Of particular note was the high-profile debate on Interstate 81, with the creation of the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Fund (HB 2718, SB 1716), the establishment of the Interstate 81 Committee, and a directive for the Committee to work with the Transportation Board to develop an Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Program and to review the related Improvement Plan. What was not agreed upon, however, was a funding mechanism for the Improvement Fund, with tolls (SB 1716), local (SB 1322), and regional gas taxes debated (SB 1470, 1770). Instead, a committee of state legislators and local officials was created to provide an update, including a funding proposal, to the General Assembly by December 15th of this year.

While Session may be over, we have much work ahead of us. With the aforementioned election cycle coming up this fall, we will have our hands full with legislation-monitoring, educating, and advocating off-season for our greater port’s betterment.

Sincerely,
Will Fediw
Vice President, Industry & Government Affairs
Virginia Maritime Association
757-622-2639
will@vamaritime.com